Preparing to Do Battle at 25,000 Feet

Inspired by the 390th Memorial Museum’s extensive collection of recognition models, also known as spotter models, Preparing to Do Battle at 25,000 Feet is part one of a two-part digital exhibition that explored the academic side of combat training. Following the events of December 1941, an entire generation of men was called to war, many working with technology they’d never encountered before. Spotter models were produced and used in images, film reels, and hands-on discussions to help these men identify allies and enemies during flight combat.
This exhibit dives into the beginnings of the models and their initial uses, from who created them to who developed the systems that used them and finally to the point where bomber boys like the ones in the 390th interacted with them.

Exhibit Highlights

This exhibit sets the stage for part two, Spotter Models in Action, by providing online patrons with contextual information necessary to really understand how the models were used but also gain a deeper comprehension of what these young men were asked to do in such a short time and when the stakes had never been higher.

CROWDSOURCING Few know is the U.S. government crowdsourced hundreds of thousands of model airplanes during World War II; these “recognition” or “spotter models” helped keep bomber boys flying safely in the midst of battle and helped the Allies win the war.

THE WEFT SYSTEM Originally, training was performed with the WEFT System, where the wing, engine, fuselage and tail were studied. It unfortunately left airmen woefully unprepared for the realities of aircraft recognition in the field because they were too slow and too inaccurate in their judgments.

CIVILIAN SPOTTERS Enlisted personnel weren’t the only individuals with their noses to the grindstones! The Army Air Forces Ground Observer Corps was comprised of civilian plane spotters of both genders and all ages.

Preparing to Do Battle at 25,000 Feet

Begin the Presentation

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Begin the Presentation

Thank you to the following people for supporting this exhibit:

Research & Development Staff

This exhibition would not have been possible without the support, actions,
research and generosity of 390th staff members and volunteers.
Thank you so much for your efforts!

Keith Cook
Kate Doak-Keszler
Lori McCoy-Forsythe
Andrew Radloff
Holly Santoro
Charles Wacker
Eileen Wood


The 390th would like to thank the following resources for sharing digitized objects and photos.

Each of these institutions has much to offer and our exhibit would not have been possible without their help.

CollectAir Friend or Foe? Museum
Imperial War Museums
Library of Congress Digital Collections
San Francisco National Maritime Park Association
National Archives & Records Administration
National Museum of the United States Air Force
Naval History and Heritage Online Library of Selected Images
Prtizker Military Museum & Library
Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum Collection
State Archives of North Carolina
UNT Digital Collections

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