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Legacy Ladies - Nose Arts of the 100th Air Refuelling Wing

June 6, 2019


Amid the horrors of the Second World War, it was not uncommon to see colourful images emblazoned on the sides of Bombers and Fighters. The idea of naming Aircraft after icons of popular culture, poignant characters or simply humorously was to provide a morale boosting mascot to which crews and Squadrons could relate.


This article focuses on this aspect US Air Force heritage, specifically within the 'Bloody Hundredth' whose iconic Square D footprint provided the inspiration for the name of our project.



                          100th Bombardment Group, Thorpe Abbotts, Norfolk




349th Bombardment Squadron                        350th Bombardment Squadron


















351st Bombardment Squadron                      418th Bombardment Squadron


Formed in 1942, the 100th Bombardment Group (BG), Thorpe Abbotts, Norfolk was no exception as many of its B-17G's serving with four squadrons were named. Crews often spent hours drinking coffee and discussing names for their aircraft and looking for suitable artists within their units to help them create their 'painted ladies'.


Examples include 'My Gal Sal' named after the 1942 film starring GI's favourite Rita Heyworth; 'BigAssBird' named after the exploits of a local English lady and 'Wolff Pack' named after Captain Robert H Wolff and his crew following a mission to Regensburg, Germany on the 17th August 1943.



Today, the Century Bombers' legacy lives with the 100th Air Refuelling Wing at RAF Mildenhall. Crew Chiefs from the 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, responsible for the 15 KC-135s operated by the 351st ARS, have dedicated their aircraft to B-17s operated by the 100th BG between 1943-1945; these aircraft are a continuous memorial to all those who served with the 'Bloody Hundredth'.


Over the past year Square D Aviation has collected images of each of today's artworks and matched them to the original aircraft that flew with these names. They are listed below:



'High Life'  KC-135R 57-1440                   B-17F 42-30080/ EP-F,   350th BS

'The Savage'  KC-135R 61-0292             B-17G 42-31710/ XR-P,     349th BS

'Miss Irish' KC-135R 57-1474                   B-17G 42-31968, LN-D,     350th BS

'Big Gas Bird' (Bigassbird) KC-135R 57-2605          B-17F  42-30799/ XR-L,    349th BS

'All American Girl'  KC-135R 58-0113       B-17G 42-37936/ EP-M,   351st BS

'Sly Fox' KC-135R 60-0324                    B-17F 42-30278/ LD-R,       418th BS

'The Jester' KC-135R 60-0355                                                       Unidentified

'The Reluctant Dragon'  KC-135R 59-1513     B-17G 43-38011/ XR-L,    349th BS

'Wolff Pack'  KC-135R 57-1493             B-17F 42-30061LD-Q,         418th BS

'Homesick Angel'  KC-135R 60-0344                                            Unidentified

'Boss Lady' KC-135R 63-7999                B-17G 42-102611/ LN-E,    350th BS

'Our Gal Sal'  KC-135R 58-0001,            B-17G 42-31767/ EP-E,     351st BS


The Bloody Hundredth were also a vital aspect of D-Day as part of the Deception Plan as well as providing support to troops throughout the main assault in Normandy. As part of commemorations for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, two of the units KC-135s have also been marked with codes and stars and bars worn by bombers from the 351st BS. Due to the Century Bombers being a 'Heavy' (H) unit operating four-engined aircraft, the units airframes never carried the distinct black and white invasion stripes that are so synonymous with D-Day. 


The Wing Commanders aircraft, KC-135R 58-0100/ EP-A, is named 'Hundred Proof'. #0100 commemorates B-17G 42-98015/ XR-N which flew with the 349th BS. This aircraft was a Bloody Hundredth legend, surviving the war and latter being scrapped in Arizona. 


The aircraft was flown by a regular crew led by Captain Bob Akers. In letter home to his parents Capt. Akers explained to his father, a teetotaller, that he had been assigned to 'Hundred Proof'. His father subsequently presented a motion to the New Mexico House of Representatives that only 100 Proof Whiskey could be sold on Sundays. 


Whilst not matching the original codes worn by the Century Bomber #0100 is named after, EP-A represents the unit code for the 351st (EP) and the A defines the airframe as the lead aircraft in the fleet.



Additionally, 62-3551 carries the nose art 'Black Jack' commemorating B-17F 42-30086/EP-B, 351st BS that was severely flak damaged on raid to Trondhiem, Norway.


#3551's code matches that of the original 'Black Jack'.




The 100th BG was involved in some of the heaviest raids of the Second World war, therefore, tragically suffering some of the heaviest losses of the war - The reputation, stories and legacy of the 'Bloody Hundredth' stretch much further than the boundaries of East Anglia.


Today, the 100th ARW maintains strong links to its rich heritage and ensures that all the stories of the Square D will always be remembered.




                                             'The Legacy Lives.............'

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