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1/48 scale Monogram
B-24D Assembly Ship

by Michael Chilestone

B-24D Assembly Ship
41-23683 "The Green Dragon"
389th BG "The Sky Scorpions", US 8th AAF, Hethel, Norfolk, 1944


Revell's 1/48 scale B-24D is available online from Squadron.com



Many years ago I found out about Assembly Ships, and was intrigued. Here were bombers painted in all sorts of weird and wonderful paint schemes, the very opposite of what camouflage normally tries to achieve. I determined to build a model of one someday, and have never lost the inspiration. However, other things got in the way, things like real life, other models, marriage, work, etc etc etc. Finally the right circumstances (enough time plus space to build and house the thing) came together, and here is the result.

Assembly Ships, also known as Formating Aircraft or Judas Goats, were used by the B-24 groups of the Eighth Air Force’s 2nd Air Division, whose airfields were concentrated around Norwich, Norfolk. The combination of new, inexperienced crews attempting to cope with precise formation procedures in crowded skies and often poor weather led to ships joining up with the wrong group and a high level of accidents. In 1943 the idea was conceived of issuing each B-24 group with a dedicated Assembly Ship. A war-weary B-24 was painted in a distinctive scheme unique to each Group, with additional lights in a group pattern, and armament generally removed. The assembly ship, flown by a minimal crew, was first off, and flew an orbit around the assembly area while the group formed up, the crew firing coloured flares. Normally it then returned home, although at least one is known to have accompanied its group on a raid on France.



This model represents the first Assembly Ship of the 389th BG, based at Hethel, Norfolk (now the home of Lotus Cars). The aircraft originally served with the 329th BS, 93rd BG, as "Jo-Jo's Special Delivery", with whom it flew just four combat missions before being declared “war-weary”. It was converted and reallocated as the 389th's Assembly ship in early 1944, and was re-named after a pub in the nearby town of Wymondham. The aircraft was subsequently written off after an undercarriage failure at RAF Manston on 25 July 1944, and was replaced by a B-24J.





My Assembly Ship was built using the Monogram 1/48 scale B-24D straight from the box, with the exception of replacement turrets from Koster. Great care is needed with these, particularly the tail turret, due to the depth and therefore the extreme thinness of the moulding.

The bomb doors were scribed to give the “roller blind” effect, but apart from that no rescribing was done. All armament was omitted, and I filled the various gun ports in the nose glazing, and in the rear turret gun slots, with tissue paper soaked in white glue to represent canvas covers.

Paints used were Tamiya and Humbrol acrylics. Decals came from the kit, Propagteam, Fantasy Printshop, Carpena and other spares. Significant quantities of masking tape, frisket, liquid mask and patience were also employed!

For a base I used an A3-size picture frame. Half was taken up with a “blurb” similar to the above, printed on nice paper. The other half I occupied with an old (1950s I think) road map of Norfolk. It was falling apart anyway so I extracted the relevant area and placed as the left half of the frame.



References and Sources


  • Bowman, Martin: B-24 Liberator 1939-1945 (PSL).

  • Dorr, Robert: B-24 Liberator Units of the 8th Air Force (Osprey).

  • Freeman, Roger: The Mighty Eighth (Janes).

  • Freeman, Roger: Mighty Eighth Warpaint and Heraldry (Arms and Armour).

  • Gray, Robert: Assembly Ships of the Second Air Division (Scale Aircraft Modelling, Vol 21 no 6 & Vol 21 no 12).

  • Ward, Richard & Mc Dowell, Ernest R: B-24D-M in USAAF, RAF, …. Service, Aircam Aviation Series No 11 Vol 1 (Osprey).

  • Army Air Forces in Europe: www.usaaf.com

  • Second Air Division Memorial Library: www.2ndair.org.uk

  • UK Control Tower & WW2 Airfield Photographs: www.controltowers.co.uk


Had the war in Europe continued, it was planned to replace the B-24s with B-29s.



Wonder if they’d have used assembly ships – hmmm – I can feel a what-if coming on …

B-24 Liberator Units of the Eighth Air Force
Combat Aircraft 28
Author: Robert Dorr
Illustrator: Mark Rolfe
US Price:
UK Price: £12.99
Publisher: Osprey Publishing
Publish Date:
 October 15, 1999
Details: 96 pages; ISBN: 1855329018
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Buy it from Osprey Publishing

Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2003 by Michael Chilestone
Page Created 04 June, 2004
Last Updated 04 June, 2004

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