4 Replies Latest reply on Aug 29, 2018 6:44 PM by Jim Malcolm

    Tail Numbers on WWII Aircraft


      During WWII, the town of Madison, NJ raised enough money to "purchase" a fighter plane for the Army Air Force. The Madison Historical Society has two photographs (one actual photograph and a newspaper article photo) of a single-engine fighter with "Spirit of Madison New Jersey" stenciled on the body. However, the tail number is different in the two photos (16164 versus 28051).

      I thought that a tail number is like a serial number or VIN number for an aircraft ... they were never changed. Is that true? What can you tell me about this aircraft.


      Jim Malcolm

        • Re: Tail Numbers on WWII Aircraft
          Rebecca Collier Ranger

          Dear Mr. Malcolm,


          Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


          The National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution has custody of a microfilm copy of the Air Force and Army Air Force aircraft history record cards.  The cards list a plane's serial number, place of manufacture, and manufacturer's contract number, and may include information for each month that the plane was in service, the place of assignment, cumulative flying hours, and any repairs or accidents.  They cover information from the date the plane was put into service to the date it was destroyed or withdrawn from service. For access to the microfilm, please contact the National Air and Space Museum Archives, 14390 Air & Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly, VA 20151 or email NASMRefDesk@si.edu.


          We hope this information is helpful. Best of luck with your research!


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          • Re: Tail Numbers on WWII Aircraft

            Mr. Malcolm,


            The site Aviation Archeology Investigation and Research (http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/default.htm ) lists Army serial 41-6164 (ground crews often left off the first digit of the serial when apply the number to the tail of the aircraft) as a Republic P-47C assigned to the 328th Fighter Squadron, 352nd Fighter Group stationed at Mitchel Field, New York.  If I read the codes right, it was written off in a landing accident on 4/10/1943.


            The same source lists Army serial 42-8051 as a Republic P-47D assigned to the 375th Fighter Squadron, 361st Fighter Group assigned to Langley Field, Virginia.  The plane crashed into Mobjack Bay, Virginia on 7/16/1943.


            I've not found an image of either aircraft online.  As to why there were two serials possibly assigned the same name I would conjecture that the P-47C was lost soon after naming, so a second aircraft was hastily named to take the place of its lost predecessor.  Accident rates were terribly high in squadrons equipped with new aircraft (P-47Bs, the first production model, only came into service during 1942).

            4 people found this helpful