Spotter Models in Action

A look at any identification manual of this time period will demonstrate the baffling number of planes that took to the skies during World War II.  There were so many, in fact, that it would be impossible to delve into all of them without making this exhibition several hours long!  Instead, we dug into the backgrounds on the German fighters that, in some cases, gave the crews nightmares and, in other cases, were easily brushed off.  This exhibition examines interesting facts about plane names, the stories behind their development, and their success and failures.  While it is a unique examination of a only a small percentage of the planes flying during World War II, the information is highly relevant to those who want to better understand the realities of aerial combat for the men of the 390th Bombardment Group.

Exhibit Highlights

The sheer amount of information airmen had to learn – much less put into use in high pressure battle situations – is overwhelming.  Each plane had a unique and fascinating inception and role.  This exhibition really only gives viewers a small taste of the kind of preparation required to fight a successful air war.   The ability to recognize friends 390th air crews could rely on versus foes that were happy to shoot them down had literal life and death implications.

NUMBER 1 IN THEIR HEARTS The P-47 Thunderbolt, P-51 Mustang and Supermarine Spitfire held a special spot in crew members' hearts because these planes were fighter escorts that surrounded and protected them on the way to their targets.

VOLKSJÄGER The Heinkel He 162 was known as Volksjäger, or "People's Fighter" because it was the result of a public competition in Germany to design a lightweight, high speed plane made of easy to locate materials.

A "WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING" One of the German planes that regularly caused havoc and destruction for 390th crews was the Heinkel He 111. Nations were unconcerned when Germany began producing it because they thought it was a civilian airliner; really, the Germans had violated the Treaty of Versailles by producing this medium bomber.

Spotter Models in Action

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
San Francisco National Maritime Park Association
National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force
San Diego Air & Space Museum
State Archives of North Carolina

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