|Two P-61As are depicted on this Northrop-issued postcard. Compare to the|
same depiction on a press 8x10 further below.
|The lurid 1940s hype shines through in the description: "Big, venomous, |
secretly equipped, the BLACK WIDOW has what it takes to lurk in the darkened skies."
The rest of the images, below are all accompanied by the text of the mimeographed cut lines pasted to the backs.
|This appears to be a factory new plane; note lack of any markings other than the|
insignia, and the lack of an upper turret.
(Left) "Closeup of the deadly Northrop Black Widow, world's largest pursuit plane, designed specifically for night fighting, now in increased production at Northrop Aircraft Inc., Hawthorne, California. The Black Widow P-61 is quick and easy to 'spot' in flight or on the ground. Distinguishing features are the long nose of the crew nacelle and twin 2,000 horsepower Pratt and Whitney engines. Twin tail booms supporting two rudders are connected by a stabilizer and elevator group. The plane is as large as a medium bomber; it carries a crew of three fighting specialists. Photo by Northrop Aircraft Inc."
(Right) "Northrop Black Widows soar gracefully through the sky in test flights daily over Northrop Field, Hawthorne, California. These deadly night interceptors, now in increased production, are the world's largest and most powerful pursuit planes and were designed specifically for night fighting. The Black Widow P-61 is easily identified in flight. Look for the long nose of the crew nacelle extending far in front of the plane's two 2,000 horsepower Pratt and Whitney radial engines, and riding between twin booms. Capable of blasting apart anything that flies, the Black Widow packs 20 mm cannon and 50 cal. machine guns. Photo by Northrop Aircraft Inc."
(Left) "First official photo of the top turret of the Northrop Black Widow P-61 night fighter. While much of the equipment of the Black Widow is still highly restricted by the War Department, permission was granted to show the lethal, revolving turret, on top of crew nacelle, housing four .50 caliber machine guns. In addition to this armament, the Widow carries 20 millimeter cannon, a combined fire-power greater than that of any other fighter in the world and capable of blasting out of the sky anything that can fly. It is this terrific fire-power PLUS the inherent maneuverability and safety of the Black Widow that has enabled it to shoot down the best the Japs and Nazis could throw against it, without a single Black Widow being compromised or shot down in combat. Official Army Air Force Photograph."
The photo on the right is clearly not the same photo, nor the same aircraft, as shown above, but carries the exact same caption on the back, with the exception of the photo credit being given to Northrop. Which was first? Were they released on the same day? Well, who's counting. What is intriguing to me is the motivation for releasing two photos of early-production A-models, which were built just before the turrets became unavailable - and unused - on the next 363 aircraft. Could it be a little bit of psych-warfare, wanting the enemy to fear a weapon that was not actually available?
(Right) "Newest photo of the Black Widow P-61 night fighter, Army's most powerful, and still highly secret pursuit plane. Picture was taken to show the exceptional rate of climb of the Black Widow which takes off steeply and swiftly, as well as landing at low speeds, permitting it to be used on small airfields. In [this] picture, the Black Widow has attained considerable altitude although its landing wheels have barely started to retract. The plane is made by Northrop Aircraft, Inc. Hawthorne Calif., creator of the Flying Wing. Photo by Northrop Aircraft Inc."
The last photo is not part of the above collection, but is an 8x10 film positive that has been in the Archive for a while; the image itself is one of the more common P-61 photos out on the web. There is no caption accompanying it.
|The press print version of the post card includes lots of clouds, but somehow,|
the angles all seem wrong to me, as if a photo of the planes taken from the ground
was superimposed on a photo of clouds. Thoughts?
|Tail number 42-5501, the 16th A-model built.|
|Serial 42-39486 was a B-model, and had an 8-inch longer nose. Like many of the|
A-models, the first 200 (out of 450) B-models built didn't have an upper turret,
the lack of which might have been one reason this plane was shot from the bottom.