This ad in the November 22, 1943 edition of Life Magazine caught my eye.
The art work is neat; just the kind of thing to catch your eye and have you buy more war bonds. The insignia is supposed to be the insignia of the 332nd Fighter Squadron. The description in the upper right of the photo reads as follows:
The double-bodied dragon-fly represents the twin-engine flying power of the P-38 fighter planes. The lighting flash stands for the relentless striking power of their fast-firing aerial cannon.
Below the insignia we see a P-38 Lighting aircraft. The P-38 saw service primarily in the Pacific Theater of WW2. The paragraph just under the insignia on the left reads as follows:
Miles high in the sky, miles higher than the Himalaya’s highest peak, that’s where the “Lightning Bugs” slug it out with the enemy. They’re high steppers, high flyers, hard hitters-these sluggers of the 332nd Fighter Squadron who sweep through the stratosphere in Lightning Interceptor planes armed with aerial cannon. Good luck and good hunting, men of the 332nd, and happy landing always!
So far, the ad is accurate. Consider this entry from Wikipedia:
The P-38 was used most successfully in the Pacific Theater of Operations and the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations as the aircraft of America’s top aces, Richard Bong (40 victories), Thomas McGuire (38 victories) and Charles H. MacDonald (27 victories). In the South West Pacific theater, the P-38 was the primary long-range fighter of United States Army Air Forces until the appearance of large numbers of P-51D Mustangs toward the end of the war.
(Footnote: Richard Bong was from my home State of Wisconsin. There is a state park just down the road named for him. A P-38 with his markings is a frequent guest at the air show in Oshkosh, WI.)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_P-38_Lightning
So, what is the problem?
The problem is there was not a 332nd Fighter Squadron equipped with P-38 Lightning aircraft. Seeing as the ad appeared in wartime it’s not really a mystery that the insignia would be ascribed to a fictional air group. Those things tended be secrets. A quick image search on Google shows the graphic above on Pinterest but that’s it. Clearly, the Oldsmobile Division of General Motors in co-operation with Army Air Force was just trying to sell war bonds with a cool insignia\logo.
If you search for 332nd Fighter Squadron you will find that it was a real squadron. It was the squadron of the famous Red Tails, the all African-American squadron that won fame for their record and for the fact they were all black in the still segregated U.S. Military.
The designation of 332nd rang a bell with me. Recently, I purchased for the sum of $2.00 the below marketing promo:
The promo speaks for itself-Tuskegee Airmen-Red Tail Project. So. what was (is) the Red Tail project?
The Red Tail Project is America’s tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen. It’s a museum. The card above is actually a puzzle for kids and simply served as a promotion for the Red Tail Project. The welcome on the website reads as follows:
The CAF Red Tail Squadron is committed to telling the inspirational story of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel.
They are on a mission to educate people of all ages about these important American icons so their strength of character and ability to triumph over adversity may serve as a means to inspire others to rise above obstacles in their own lives and achieve their goals.
We invite you take a deeper dive to learn more about the remarkable Tuskegee Airmen, and be inspired to tap into the ability within yourself to overcome barriers and find success.
The men of the 332nd Fighter Group did not fly the P-38. When the squadron was first assigned to North Africa and then Italy they flew the P-40 (Curtiss Warhawk, Kittyhawk to the Brits) a fine early war fighter that by 1943 was inferior to the German Messerschmidt’s and Focke-Wulf’s.
The 332nd eventually received the excellent P-51 Mustang, the fastest fighter from WW2 that was not a jet (German Me-262 was the world’s first operational jet fighter).
I enjoy looking at the war ads from Life Magazine. Many of the companies involved in the war effort are still in existence today. General Motors is one of the best examples as they produced aerial cannon for the P-38 as well as other parts for airplanes and of course, motor vehicles!
The misidentification of the 332nd is not a big deal and is only misleading if a person does not know the true story or anything about war time secrecy.
It was fun for me to put this all together and to recognize the contributions of the Tuskegee Airmen-the real pilots of the 332nd Fighter Squadron.