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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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Power of Tower: 1942

Power of Tower: 1942

May 1942. "Marine lieutenant by the power towing plane for the gliders at Parris Island, South Carolina." 35mm Kodachrome transparency by Alfred Palmer for the Office of War Information. View full size.

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Yellow Peril

The yellow was standard naval aviation color for a trainer plane. It was simply a conspicuous marking of a beginning pilot, to warn other pilots and ground crew not to necessarily expect normal or competent behavior!

Trainers were often referred to as "Yellow Perils." Tighten your seatbelt and helmet straps!

Combat gliders

Those were the helicopters of their day. And that must have been one of the most scary piloting jobs ever.

Landing an aircaft without propulsion, under enemy fire, in the dark, on unknwon (and next to invisible) terrain - sounds like a crash to everybody else. No second guesses (a.k.a. go-around), either. The US glider pilots had a "G" on their wings. And rightfully claimed "G is for guts".

There are two very good accounts, one by a Gerard M. Devlin (Silent Wings), and one by John L. Lowden (Silent Wings at War).

And the crazy things they did with medevac and bungees.

But all things considered recreational glider flying is much preferable.

Yellow Butyrate Dope

The yellow in this case is not zinc chromate primer. It's conventional yellow butyrate airplane dope. Zinc Chromate was used in some applications over aluminum to make the paint stick better by chemically interacting with the oxide layer that forms over bare aluminum. Dope doesn't stick to any non-porous material very well (except itself), so this was necessary to have it stick. It also reduces corrosion when exposed to salt water (which is relevant because the planes were delivered by ship - and corrosion damaged entire manufacturing runs of various airplanes). It's not a pure yellow, it's more greenish (as shown in the B-25 pictures).

This airplane had some area of aluminum, but a lot of it was covered with fabric (linen, probably) that needed to be painted with something to seal it up, hence, airplane dope. It would seal the material against moisture, and also shrink and draw the covering tight. Why they chose yellow, I don't know, but the standard paint scheme at the time was yellow and a medium-light blue. That is the yellow here, it's a Federal Standard paint color.

Popular color

Apparently that shade of yellow was very popular with the wartime suppliers. I have seen it multiple times on planes, jigs, and plant equipment. Wonder if there was some reason it was so widely used.

[It's a primer coat. -tterrace]


I love these Kodachromes! Please keep 'em coming. Great stuff.

Naval Aircraft Factory

Fairly sure this is an N3N primary trainer. Like many US biplanes from the interwar period, they were an attractive little machine.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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