Northrop's Lethal Spider: The P-61 Black Widow
Part One: The European Theatre
At the time of introduction the Northrop P-61 was the largest fighter
in US inventory. It was also the first twin-engined dedicated night
fighter designed by Northrop and proved to be an excellent weapons platform.
The heavy armament of fixed cannons in the belly and machine guns in
the top turret made getting kills easy, when they could be found, that
is. By the time the P-61 entered service, the skies were pretty much
owned by the Allies and pickings were pretty slim for the night fighter
422nd NFS, France, 1944
Lt. Paul A. Smith
"Lady GEN" was a popular P-61A and was flown by at least
two crews. This example is the first crew that racked up the rather
impressive scoreboard seen here. Later it was flown by Captain Leonard
F. Koehler, but it didn't add anything to its score under his command.
Perhaps that was because they removed the upper turret with the new
crew, but more likely it was because of the total lack of Luftwaffe
opposition at night during the last stages of the war.
P-61A-10 "Wabash Cannon-Ball IV"
425th NFS, A-58 (Coulommiers), France, 1945
Major Leon Gilly Lewis
Yes, this Black Widow was named after the train that ran between Detroit
and St. Louis and for which that country song was written. It was flown
by the 425th NFS Squadron Commander, Major Leon Lewis.
425th NFS, France, 1944
Capt. Hardin Ross
"Tabitha" was one of the 425ths P-61s that met with an early
fate, crashing on October 27, 1944. At the time it was being flown by
Lt. Bruce Hefling and F/O Bill Broach, both of whom were killed in the
417th NFS, Giebelstadt, Germany, 1945
"Markey" was a P-61 flying mainly in the MTO, finally ending
up in Germany in summer of 1945. The name "Markey" was carried
on both sides, although the starboard side was smaller than the port.
The name "Hade's Lady" was given by a Northrop employee as
part of a War Bond drive. The last two numbers of the s/n are carried
on the engine nacelle.
P-61A "Double Trouble"
422nd NFS, France, 1944
Lt. Bolinder & Lt. Graham
Lts. Bolinder and Graham scored their first of four kills flying this
P-61A named "Double Trouble". This particular P-61 is one
of the most photographed Black Widows and clearly shows the application
of invasion stripes. Contrary to most other P-61s, this one had the
data block and tail number in white rather than red.
Northrop P-61 Black Widow, Warren Thompson, Wings of Fame Volume
Black Widow, Warren E. Thompson, Combat Aircraft, November
P-61 Black Widow in Action, Squadron-Signal Publications