squadron code call letter question
Does anybody know if the call letters for fighters were recycled for downed aircraft? I'm trying to research the call letter for a P-51B of the 353rd fighter squadron of the 354th fighter group, and am trying to figure out if I can narrow down the call letter by process of elimination from photos of known aircraft.
The short answer is yes.
Originally Posted by momoiro_kakaricho
the archeology/geneology aspect is sometimes pretty complicated. First thing to know is that the call sign generally belonged to the Crew Chief.. pilots come and go and a senior pilot traditionally had the 'right' to name the ship, but in general several pilots would fly that ship.
Check the various photos particularly around the cockpit - the id plate in front of windscreen will generally have the pilot and CC and sometimes asst crew chief.. when the CC matches, even if pilot is different, you will have a 95+% chance of matching squadron code even with the side view of the a/c..
Ditto for the serial number plate below the cockpit..if the crew chief is the same but serial number different the squadron code is probably the same.. so you know something happened to the prior a/c (shot down, crashed, damaged badly enough to replace but repairable)
Macr's and Accident Reports are great to match pilot to a/c serial number. Some Macr's will carry the Control officer Report from the Tower that will match the squadron code to the pilot missing - ditto accident reports.
Squadron Histories for some groups were better than others about detailing the squadron code and pilot and flight for a particular mission - then you can connect the sqdrn code to a Macr where a flying Control Report is absent.
Now the converse is not true. In the last example above, the prior ship, say AJ-C belly landed in and needed a week or so in the 'body shop'? Say a brand new ship came into the inventory - then it might emerge from the paint shop as AJ-C (new serial number, same crew chief, maybe same pilot if he wasn't wounded or killed in crash).. meanwhile AJ-X is badly damaged and needs a new wing and engine.. while it is being repaired, the AJ-X crew chief and pilot get the 'old' AJ-C, now re-coded AJ-C..
This is the HUGE reason that you cannot assume a guy went down in 'his' a/c..with specific code and serial number.
To COMPLICATE the deal, it is entirely possible that when a 'normal' assigned ship, say AJ-C goes down, and another ship is not ready to be re-coded with the lost ship's code, he may be assigned to a different crew chief and a/c code altogether and for the duration.. or he is a senior guy and gets the second P-51D in the squadron, but his old AJ-C P-51B is just fine.. then maybe he gets AJ-A because all the prior codes are in use. This happened with my father and he went from P-51B WR-O to P-51D WR-B for the next six ships the rest of the war.
This would be a typical Fighter Command practice.
I typically built my spreadsheets around a.) full size side elevation that had a sqdn code and tail number visible.. then match it to pilot and crew chief if known.. then later I get another pic that has just the ID plate w/pilot and crew chief. If crew chief matches the full side view/known pic then I have a probable squadron code match... (but not necessarily the same serial number unless I can see that also in the data field below the cockpit also)..
then as more "photo partial's" come into play I start grouping the knowns with the unknowns and gradually have enough data to piece together another match - even if I don't have all the info in one picture.
Hope this helps. Ihave a six hundred ship data base of 355th FG P-47s and P-51s that were put together with about 200 full side elevations, the rest with Squadron Histories/order of battle/Macrs/Accident Reports/Name plates, etc
Tell me what you have to deal with and I'll see if I can help.
Last edited by drgondog; 09-26-2007 at 04:01 PM.
Thanks for the great in-depth answer. Unfortunately I don't have much information to go on. The serial number of the plane in question is 43-12393, a P51B "Chinaman's Chance" flown by Wah Kau Kong that went down in Germany in 1944.
I have a picture of him with a P51B, but unfortunately it does not show any clear markings, so I can't even be sure it is the same plane. The picture came from a tribute book that Dean Sensui at the Honolulu Star so kindly sent me.
Unfortunately the author Mun Charn Wong had passed away (this was maybe four years ago), so I was unable to find out if he had any more information on his friend's plane.
Originally Posted by momoiro_kakaricho
No way to assume the pic you have is of the 51 that he went down in - you are right. The other complication beyond what we talked about is that when a new pilot came into a squadron the PRO would frquently have them pose in/on the first ship they could find - having nothing to do with the flight or ship he would fly with later.