Northrop P-61A Black Widow

Nose Art

Personal Markings appeared on aircraft of every nationality.  They ranged from colorful stripes or accent marks, to lurid creations covering most of an air frame.  The most typically American way of personalizing aircraft was nose art.


There are a number of interesting pitfalls to recreating such artwork.  After the jump, I’ll look at one favorite example.

Almost every squadron had an artist or two who earned extra dollars by doing custom art, usually nose art, for the planes/crews in their squadron.  When the 6th Night Fighter Squadron was based in Saipan in 1944 they had the services of Sgt LeRoy F Miozzi, a gunner with the squadron.  He is responsible for several spectacular creations, I hope to present a few of them in the years to come.


The Pilot sits front and center between those huge propellers, the radar operator sits behind him.


My first example of his work is “Nightie Mission”.  This aircraft has been profiled countless times in books since the war, usually featuring a blue clad beauty.  Since most wartime photography was black and white, no one knew any better.  But several years back, Warren Thompson wrote the Osprey book “P-61 Black Widow Units of World War 2” and he was able to get a hold of Mr. Miozzi.  He set the record straight on several of his paint jobs, including his custom pink color that he used for Nightie Mission.


To this day, this aircraft is a popular subject for after market decal printers (no surprise!).  But blue remains the most common color for the gown.  So I chose this Superscale Decal sheet because the artwork looks most like that described by Mr. Miozzi.  And I caused myself another problem that I did not expect.  Army Air Force camouflage orders required Insignia Yellow serial numbers on camouflaged aircraft.  So I used the nice yellow numbers on the sheet and thought nothing of it.

IMG_8262 IMG_8261

Funny thing though.  When the first Black Widows were delivered the Army Air Force was in the process of writing a new order for night flying aircraft, and shortly, the Black Widow would indeed be all black as its name suggested.  Part of that new order included red serial numbers, as this was known to have lower visibility in the dark.  Northrop was forward thinking enough, and casual enough about Army Air Force regulations, that those first few P-61s delivered in Olive Drab, received the red numbers that would be required in the not yet issued night colors order.  I’ve seen the color photographs to prove it. Doh.

The main battery, four 20 mm cannon in the belly behind the nose gear

The main battery, four 20 mm cannon in the belly behind the nose gear


The top turret gunner sits in back. He has his own entry hatch separate from the front crew members.


The top turret contains four .50s and can be controlled by the gunner at the rear of the fuselage. Or it can be locked forward to fire along with the main battery.


This subject is from the Monogram kit.  This is another of those 1970s vintage kits.  It has good detail, and is a good likeness of a P-61.  But it has fit problems, I again used a lot of filler and did a lot of sanding.  A couple of funny things about this kit.  It is clearly meant to display the canopies and port engine cowling wide open.  Wouldn’t want to hide all that nice detail!  Well, I’m more interested in the clean look, so much time was spent trying to finesse (or force!) parts into a “buttoned up” condition.  I’m mostly satisfied with the result.  Except for the cowl flaps.  For some reason, the kit’s starboard side cowl flaps are molded open, while on the port side they’re closed.  It makes me laugh to think of the thousands (tens of thousands!) of Black Widow kits built all over the world that feature a well ventilated starboard engine but a closed up port one.



About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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12 Responses to Northrop P-61A Black Widow

  1. Theresa says:

    Lovely rendition of a classic nose art.

    • atcDave says:

      Thanks, I like that it’s subtle and understated….

      It seems like at the end of the war, the better things were going for the US, the more extravagant the art was.

  2. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Built one in the 70s, and one waiting in its box since the 90s.

  3. Dan says:

    I actually have an image of this plane. I bought some photos from a guy who’s grandfather served in WWII. He had a lot of photos on ebay I picked them up for my girlfriend. I was going through them today and I noticed this plane.

  4. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Reblogged this on My Forgotten Hobby and commented:
    While surfing the Internet I stumbled upon this!

  5. Pierre Lagacé says:

    I like your poste even better Dave

  6. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Correct typo….

  7. Pingback: Plane Dave’s P-61 | My Forgotten Hobby

  8. Pingback: Northrup P-61B Black Widow | Plane Dave

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