Controversy over B-17G "909" color -please comment

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Lou IV, Sep 16, 2005.

  1. Lou IV

    Lou IV New Member

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    Hello:

    I've heard a lot of folks questioning the accuracy of the brownish/yellow paint job on the Collings Foundation's B-17G "Nine O Nine", a well-known operational warbird. It's been said that no B-17 was ever painted in that color.

    However, the few color photos of the original "909" that I've been able to find reveal that it was, in fact, very yellowish. The old color photos of 909 look even yellower than the Collings Foundation bird.

    (for reference please see www.collingsfoundation.org/images/image-b-17artlg.jpg and other photos on the Collings Foundation website)

    In addition, I've seen one color photo dated from WWII of another B-17 that wasn't 909 that also had a similar color (wish I would've jotted down the number of that bird!).

    Can anyone comment on this? Do you think that the current "909" color is inaccurate? Is it possible that "909" started out as olive drab and became extremely faded after its long career (after all, it did survive over 100 missions)? Has anyone seen a picture of a real WWII B-17 in a light brownish/yellow color? All comments welcome and extemely appreciated!
     

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  2. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    When you say "yellowish", are you reffering to the old color photo's that might have aged over the years and show an inaccurate color?
     
  3. Lou IV

    Lou IV New Member

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    That thought has occurred to me - but I have no way of knowing if it is the picture that is faded or the subject itself (B-17G Nine O'Nine). It's really hard to tell.

    I guess that is part of the controversy!
     
  4. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    never trust wartime colour photos for accuracy. the colorization process obviously is noway on par with what we have today and pics fade over the many years ~ 60 ~ including many wartime black and whites
     
  5. Paul Jones

    Paul Jones New Member

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    ALCON:

    The actual thing that got me interested in aviation (at age 12, 1959) was the photo of 909 in the April issue of National Geographic Magazine's article "Fun Helped Them Fight", to which you all refer. I have been unable to find that photo anywhere on the net. Can anyone help?

    As someone said, 909 in that photo may have looked yellowish due to the WWII color Kodachrome film used. Not only was early color primitive (we've all seen it in images of other WWII scenes), it was later discovered that war photographers tended to take photos then store them, sometimes for months, until they had a sufficient number to send back to the rear for processing. Time, heat, cold, temperature etc., affected the film's color tint. As you can tell from looking at 909, other objects, mechanics, ,trucks and such, also have some distortionu in their color.

    However, the color on 909 may also have just faded severely over time, since she flew 140 missions and survived the war. As an aviation artist, I've published prints, and over time, if they are hung in drect sunlight, the reds and yellows will fade out. The same is true for certain oil and acrylic commercial paint colors. Check out an old roadside billboard and you'll see the reds have faded, etc.

    As you all know, B-17s came out of the factory with a fresh coat of dark OD paint. Most of the 8th AF birds never survided enough missions to have their paint jobs fade. To support this, I refer all to Robert A. Watkins' book, Battle Colors, Insignia and Battle Colors of the Eighth Air Force in WWII, Volume 1: (VIII) Bomber Command. In the upper right corner of page 67 is a photo of a 381st BG (Triangle A) 533d BS (VP) B-17G that has obviously flown many missions. The engines are covered with black exhaust/oil stains, much paint has chipped and the a/c has had major battle damage repairs, with wing halves replaced showing old and new national insignia and different style tail and wing group markings. Its dorsal paint is also a tannish/yellow color like 909.

    I presume the Collings Foundation wanted to replicate as closely as possible the look of 909. Only they used gloss paint (less friction in flight and longer lasting) than WWII dull, non-reflective paints.

    I have built one of the old Revell 1:48 scale B-17G kits in 909's colors. If anyone would like to see it, contact me and give me yopur email address. I'll send it.

    Hope this helps, if its length didn't put you to sleep.

    Paul
     
  6. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Paul,

    The 2nd photo in post #1 is the photo from NG - It was in the Jan 1948 Issue Page 97.

    David
     

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  7. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Knowing what color the mechanics' uniforms *should* be, I think its safe to say that the color is off in this photo. The two on the ladders are definitely darker than the 909, but the guy in the sweater is almost the same shade as the plane itself.
     
  8. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The colour on that restoration looks like a perfectly good representation of olive drab. I'm sure the restorers would have matched their paint to the appropriate standard (FS23070 or FS34084).Olive drab was known to fade in some odd ways. I read of some P-40 pilots, operating in North Africa, who found themselves flying machines with a purple hue!
    Steve
     
  9. proton45

    proton45 Member

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    #9 proton45, Nov 1, 2009
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2009
    This photo looks re-touched or colorized to me...OR maybe the colors where effected by the process from which the book was printed. The picture looks like it was a copy, of a copy, of a copy (ect)...I think the weird color artifacts are more likely a result of a printing technique or some kind of color re-touching. Look at the color tones across the bottom of the photo...look how the color shades of the soil seem un-natural. Look at the somewhat uniform "gray scale" across the various objects regardless of "depth of field".
    :eating: :coffee:
     

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  10. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Regardless of which copy of this particular photo is being viewed, the aircraft displays a typical OD finish faded and abraded by the European climate. I'm only guessing, but I think the peserved B17 painted as '909' was done in such a way to replicate this look, but using more 'friendly' paints, to lessen the buil-up of dirt and stains etc. Not that many years ago, many 'warbird' ownes in Europe, the BBMF included, used gloss paints, purely to help preserve a clean finish, as the more authentic matt paints led to many hours being spent trying to keep the aircraft clean.
     
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