By Kevin “K5” Michels
Our B-17 is named “
Texas Raiders”. This name was carefully chosen specifically because no previous B-17 had ever been named such. The intent is to honor all Texas veterans who served. The
Texas Raiders nose art has gone through no less than 6 revisions over the last 50 years. The current version was created by Gary Velasco in 2017.
Within the 8
th Air Force, the unit hierarchy was Division > Wing > Group > Squadron. The 1
st Division is represented by the triangle. The 1
st Bomb Wing is represented by the red rudder, wingtips, and stabilizers. The 381
st Bomb Group is represented by the “L”. “VP” is the recognition code for 533
rd Bomb Squadron. Every squadron in the ETO had a unique identifier. The “X” was a single letter used to identify individual aircraft within the squadron. This aircraft identifier appeared on both the tail and the fuselage. “X” was used on four different 533
rd Bomb Squadron aircraft over the course of the war, but never concurrently. When one “X” aircraft was lost, the next replacement B-17 received by the squadron inherited the “X”.
Below the “Triangle L” on the tail is the tail number, which is also the serial number of the aircraft. In this case, 44-83872. The “4” stands for 1944, the year this aircraft was ordered by the US Army Air Forces, not necessarily the year it was built (TR was completed in 1945).
The "Star & Bar" is the National Insignia carried by all United States military aircraft from September 1943 until 1947. Several modifications had been made to the US National from May 1942 to August 1943, but this is one most commonly associated with the WWII era.
The painted bombs on the nose denote completed missions for an individual aircraft. There is no difference between the red or yellow except to help keep count (every fifth bomb is red). During he war, B-17’s were flown on combat missions until they were shot down, lost, or were no longer repairable. Some aircraft flew just one mission while others survived over 100 missions. None of the flyable B-17’s today ever saw combat, and Texas Raiders is no different. We have painted 34 completed missions in homage to the many B-17’s that did.
The CAF wings identify our organization and owner of the
Texas Raiders, the Commemorative Air Force. The CAF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to Educate, Inspire, and Honor through Flight and Living History Experiences. The all-volunteer crews and support echelons are dedicated to the preservation of historical aircraft, honoring the veterans who gave us our freedoms, while inspiring and educating the public about these aircraft, their crews, and the resulting critical importance to our history and everyday lives.
Finally, the round logo under the pilot's window represents the 533
rd Bomb Squadron. The 381
st Bomb Group consisted of four Bomb Squadrons; the 532
th, and 535
th. At the beginning of the war, bomber squadrons fielded just twelve aircraft each, but by the end of 1944, they had increased in size to 24 planes each.