As we’ve been following here at Warbirds News, The Hangar 11 Collection in North Weald, UK has been in the process of stripping their Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk G-KITT back to bare metal for a new paint scheme, but head honcho Peter Teichman went to great pains not to reveal what he was planning, only cryptically stating that the scheme would be unique, and that to the best of his knowledge, it would be one not seen since the war.
G-KITT has borne a number of different paint schemes over the years, most recently it was painted with a “Red Tail” paint scheme since 2009 for its featured role in the George Lucas movie “Red Tails” which was released in 2012 and dramatized the exploits of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen during the Second World War.
After months out of the public eye the plane was finally shown to supporters last Sunday and when the plane was unveiled it was revealed to have a stunning new look, well worth the wait. Now bearing the markings and paint of the plane that was the ride of 2nd Lieutenant Philip R. Adair, a pilot with the United States Army Air Force’s 89th Fighter Squadron, 80th Fighter Group, who flew his P-40N-1 Warhawk “Lulu Belle” in the China Burma India Theater.
The 80th Fighter Group’s main mission was defending military transport aircraft flying from India to China over the Himalayas via the treacherous air bridge that was nicknamed “The Hump,” and was the Allies’ primary means of providing resupply the the Chinese fighting the Japanese Invasion of their county. Reportedly the 89th painted their aircraft with their distinctive white skulls on each side their cowlings thinking it would play on Japanese superstitions about death and related symbology. The planes were also supplied 18″ air raid sirens to add psychological pressure to enemy units they were engaging while on ground attack missions. It is reported that it was the sirens that earned the group the nickname the “Burma Banshees.”
Lt Adair’s Warhawk was named “Lulu Belle” and the reproduction of his plane is fairly exacting, right down to the custom wheel covers, though it would seem they made the skull’s teeth a bit less menacing and certainly less bloody.* Adair flew 113 missions in “Lulu Belle” including one sortie in which he singlehandedly took on an incoming flight of 24 Japanese bombers and 40 Japanese Zeros heading to bomb the U.S. air base at Nagaghuli, India. Lt Adair managed to shoot down one bomber and one fighter, but his relentless harassment, even as his plane took hits so scattered the formation that they ended up dropping their payload inaccurately, only causing minor damage at the strategically critical base. Lulu has taken 16 hits in the process, and was severely damaged but nonetheless managed to get Lt. Adair back to base. Adair was awarded the Silver Star for his actions that day and went on to fly a total of 139 combat missions over the course of the war and returned to the United States and is to the best of our knowledge still alive.
* Steve Atkin of Warbird Colour Services contacted and corrected us, stating: “The applied artwork replicates the first Lulu Belle flown by Lt. Adair (42-104590) whereas your period (colorised) picture shows his second machine that had different artwork for the skull and somewhat more blood! Our artwork was precisely reproduced from photos of his first aircraft, a P-40N-1 – not altered or made ‘less menacing’ in any way!”
We learn something new EVERY day.