Friday, June 15, 2012

Lackland's Guardians

B-17G 44-83512 was initially put on display in 1956. Note post-1947 wing markings
Lackland Air Force Base, just to the west of San Antonio, Texas, is known as the "Gateway to the Air Force", since it serves as a training base that just about all new USAF personnel have to transit through. Lackland has, for years, cultivated a large collection of display aircraft which have been located at different places around the base, and most of which today line the perimeter of the base's parade grounds (see the overhead photo at the bottom of this post). It's thus no real surprise that when one of the new arrivals wanted to send a photo back home to his parents or buddies, the old planes were a natural backdrop, and a few of these photos have found there way into our Archive.

This photo is unmarked and unrelated to the three below (which are dated June
1951). Since the grounds have not been prepared, it would be my guess that this
photo was taken earlier than the others.
Three of the Lackland aircraft are featured this week, the B-17G above, a Republic P-47N Thunderbolt and a very rare North American P-82E Twin Mustang.

B-17G 44-83512 was initially put on display in 1956, and for a time, it was painted to represent the B-17 Princess Pat, (at least one source says that it was also displayed as Sentimental Journey for a time) but has since been repainted as Heaven's Above (I've tried to determine if this actually was Heaven's Above, or only wears the colors...results of my research are inconclusive...and I welcome reader's input!)A 1959 color shot of it can be seen here (note the lack of the upper turret). A fairly current view can be seen here.

Though it isn't entirely clear when P-47N 44-89348 was put on display, The photo on the left indicates that it has been at least 61 years as of next week. what is known is that it is still there, exactly 61 years (as of tomorrow) later, although not looking at all like it did in 1951 (it's painted in the colors of a P-47D; a modern photo of it can be seen here, and one that's a bit older can be seen here). At least six N-model Thunderbolts have survived, three (includeing 348) are on display, two are airworthy, and one more is being restored.

The back of the photo has some extensive notes hand-written in blue ink which read:

"Saturday, June 23, 1951, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas
This is a picture of the F-47 Thunderbolt. It's said to go over 500 mph. In 1945, this fighter was the only plane of its type to exceed 500 mph. It's a long-range fighter-bomber. It was used in European Theater + Pacific. Armament consist of 8 - 50 cal. machine guns, 10 rockets + 2 - 2000# bombs. Gross Wt. with auxiliary belly tank is approx 16,000 pounds."

Possibly the rarest of the aircraft on display at Lackland is P-82E 46-262, which was once one of two such aircraft on display at Lackland. The other, 44-65162 was restored to flying condition by the CAF and flew at airshows until it suffered a gear-up landing. After much legal wrangling, the Air Force took it back, and it sits, only partially complete, in storage at Dayton. Out of the five surviving P-82s, there are only two complete airframes, 46-262 and P-82A 44-65186, which resides at the Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton.

The back of the photo above reads: "Taken Saturday June 23, 1951 Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio Texas. This is a picture of me next to a twin Mustang. It's said that this plane goes very fast."

Some current photos detailing the aircraft's condition can be seen here. Note, in comparison, that in 1951 the canopy was still clear, and the hard-points can still be seen under the wings.


The Lackland AFB parade grounds as seen in Google Earth. The P-82 is in the lower right corner, and the P-47 is just one
aircraft up from it. The B-17 is in the upper left corner.


  1. F-82B 44-65162 is now restored for display at the National Museum of the USAF, and part of their Korean War section.

    1. Thanks for the update and for sharing the link to your photos of it! My understanding was that it was considered impossible to find a left-hand prop for the you know where they obtained one? Or is it a fiberglass replica?