Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   www.SilverHawkAuthor.com   
 
Warplanes of the Second World War preserved in the United States of America, Northrop P-61 Black Widow

Northrop P-61 Black Widow

The aim of this website is to locate, identify and document Warplanes from the Second World War preserved in the USA.  Many contributors have assisted in the hunt for these aircraft to provide and update the data on this website.  Photos are as credited.  Any errors found here are by the author, and any additions, corrections or amendments to this list of Warplane Survivors of the Second World War in the United States of America would be most welcome and may be e-mailed to the author at hskaarup@rogers.com.

Data current to 14 Feb 2020.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61 Black Widow (Serial No. 42-39754), coded PK-754.

The Northrop P-61 Black Widow was the first operational American warplane designed as a night fighter, and the first aircraft designed to use radar The P-61 had a crew of three: pilot, gunner, and radar operator.  It was armed with four 20-mm (.79 in) Hispano M2 forward-firing cannon mounted in the lower fuselage, and four .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns mounted in a remote-controlled dorsal gun turret.

It was an all-metal, twin-engine, twin-boom design developed during the Second World War The first test flight was made on 26 May 1942, with the first production aircraft rolling off the assembly line in October 1943.  The last aircraft was retired from government service in 1954.

The Black Widow served as an effective night-fighter with the USAAF in the European, Pacific, China-Burma-India and Mediterranean theatres during the war.  It replaced earlier British-designed night-fighter aircraft that had been updated to incorporate radar when it became available.  After the war, the P-61 was redesignated the F-61, and served with the USAF as a long-range, all-weather, day/night interceptor for Air Defence Command until 1948, and with the 5th Air Force until 1950.

On the night of 14 August 1945, a P-61B of the 548th Night Fight Squadron named Lady in the Dark was unofficially credited with the last Allied air victory before VJ Day The P-61 was also modified to create the F-15 Reporter photo-reconnaissance aircraft for the USAAF and was subsequently used by the USAF.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61 Black Widow (Serial No. 42-39600), coded PK500.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61 Black Widow (Serial No. 38333).

 (City of Vancouver Archives Photo, AM640-S1-: CVA 260-1526)

Northrop P-61B Black Widow (Serial No.), coded 13, visiting Richmond, British Columbia, ca Aug 1945.

 (City of Vancouver Archives Photo, AM640-S1-: CVA 260-1525)

Northrop P-61B Black Widow (Serial No.), coded 13, visiting Richmond, British Columbia, ca Aug 1945.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61B Black Widow, coded 5.

 (Kebabremover193 Photo, 2016)

Northrop P-61B-NO Black Widow (Serial No. 42-39445), c/n 964, 13th AF, 13th FG, 550th NFS, Reg. No. N550NF.  This aircraft is one of only four known to survive.  It was recovered in 1989 from Mount Cyclops in Papua, New Guinea, where it had crashed on 10 Jan 1945.  It is being restored to airworthy status by the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania.  When finished, it is expected it will be over 70% new construction. By May 2011, 80% of the restoration had been completed, with only the installationof the wings and engines remaining. As of June 2019, both engines have been overhauled and two brand new props have been hung. The museum has also started painting the aircraft.

 (Author Photo)

Northrop P-61B-NO Black Widow (Serial No. 42-39445), under restoration at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania.

 (Author Photo)

Northrop P-61B-NO Black Widow (Serial No. 42-39445), under restoration at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61 Black Widow formation flight.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61 Black Widow night firing to range the forward guns.

 (NMUSAF Photo)

Northrop P-61C-1NO Black Widow c/n 1399, USAAF (Serial No. 43-8353), on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force (NMUSAF) at Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio It is painted as P-61B-1NO (Serial No. 42-39468) to represent "Moon Light Serenade" of the 550th Night Fighter Squadron.  A reproduction turret fabricated by the Museum's restoration group has been installed.

 (NMUSAF Photo)

Northrop P-61C-1NO Black Widow c/n 1399, USAAF (Serial No. 43-8353), "Moon Light Serenade", NMUSAF.

 (NMUSAF Photo)

Northrop P-61C-1NO Black Widow c/n 1399, USAAF (Serial No. 43-8353), "Moon Light Serenade", NMUSAF.

 (Rogerd Photo)

Northrop P-61C-1NO Black Widow c/n 1399, USAAF (Serial No. 43-8353), "Moon Light Serenade", NMUSAF.

 (USAF Photo)

Northrop P-61B Black Widow, Novato, California, 23 June 1948. 

  (Jarek Tuszynski Photo)

Northrop P-61C-1NOBlack Widow c/n 1376, USAAF (Serial No. 43-8330), on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, of the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Chantilly, Virginia This P-61 was delivered to the USAAF on 28 July 1945.  By 18 October, it was flying at Ladd Field in Alaska, conducting cold weather tests, where it remained until 30 March 1946.  43-8330 was later moved to Pinecastle AAFB in Florida for participation in the National Thunderstorm Project.  Pinecastle AAF personnel removed the guns and turret from 43-8330 in July 1946 to make room for new equipment.  In September the aircraft moved to Clinton County AABF in Ohio, where it remained until January 1948.  The Air Force then reassigned the aircraft to the Flight Test Division at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.  After being declared surplus in 1950 it was donated by the U.S. Air Force to the National Air Museum in Washington, D.C. (which became the National Air and Space Museum in 1966).

 (USAF/DoD Photo)

Northrop P-61C-1NOBlack Widow c/n 1376, USAAF (Serial No. 43-8330), coded FK-330, 1950-1954, now on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, of the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Chantilly, Virginia.

On 3 October 1950, this P-61C was transferred to Park Ridge, Illinois, where it was stored along with other important aircraft destined for eventual display at the museum.  The aircraft was moved temporarily to the museum's storage facility at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, but before the museum could arrange to ferry the aircraft to Washington, D.C. the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics asked to borrow it.  In a letter to museum director Paul E. Garber dated 30 November 1950, NACA director for research I.H. Abbott described his agency's "urgent" need for the P-61 to use as a high-altitude research craft.  Garber agreed to an indefinite loan of the aircraft, and the Black Widow arrived at the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, at Naval Air Station Moffett Field in California, on 14 February 1951.  When NACA returned the aircraft to the Smithsonian in 1954 it had accumulated only 530 total flight hours.  From 1951 to 1954 the Black Widow was flown on roughly 50 flights as a mothership, dropping recoverable swept-wing test bodies as part of a National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics program to test swept-wing aerodynamics.  NACA test pilot Donovan Heinle made the aircraft's last flight when he ferried it from Moffett Field to Andrews AFB, arriving on 10 August 1954.  The aircraft was stored there for seven years before Smithsonian personnel trucked it to the museum's Garber storage facility in Suitland, Maryland (where this author first saw it). In January 2006 the P-61C was moved into Building 10 so that Garber's 19 restoration specialists, three conservationists and three shop volunteers could work exclusively on the aircraft for its unveiling at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on 8 June.  The aircraft was restored to its configuration as a flight test aircraft for swept-wing aeronautics, so the armament and turret were not replaced.  A group of former P-61 air crews were present at the aircraft's unveiling, including former Northrop test pilot John Myers.

 (Marcus Smith Photo)

Northrop P-61B-15NO Black Widow c/n 1234, USAAF (Serial No. 42-39715), on static display inside the Beijing Air and Space Museum, Beihang University, in Beijing, China.  This aircraft was manufactured by Northrop Aircraft, Hawthorne, California, and accepted by the USAAF on 5 February 1945.  It was sent to Newark, New Jersey, on 16 February 1945 and departed the US ten days later for the China Burma India Theatre.  It was then assigned to the 10th Air Force, being allotted to the 427th Night Fighter Squadron on 3 March 1945.  At the end of the war the Communist Chinese came to one of the forward airfields in Sichuan Province and ordered the Americans out, but instructed them to leave their aircraft.

It has been reported that there had been three P-61s taken and sometime later the Chinese wrecked two of them.  P-61B-15NO c/n 1234 was stricken off charge by the USAAF on 31 December 1945.  P-61B-15NO c/n 1234 was turned over to the Chengdu Institute of Aeronautical Engineering in 1947.  When the institute moved to its present location, it did not take this aircraft with them, instead shipping it to BUAA (then called Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics) in 1954 where it was placed on outside display with other aircraft as part of a museum.  Sometime in 2008–2009 the museum closed and the display aircraft were moved to a parking lot approximately 200 meters south.  The outer wing sections of P-61B-15NO c/n 1234 were removed during this transfer.  By April 2013 the P-61 had been reassembled and repainted in the new BASM building with the other aircraft that were previously outside.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop YP-61-NO Black Widow (Serial No. 41-18882),  348th Night Fighter Squadron , 1943.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop YP-61-NO Black Widow (Serial No. 41-1887), 420th Night Fighter Squadron, 1943.

 (USGOV-PD Photo)

Northrop P-61B-1NO Black Widow (Serial No. 42-39440), "Swing Shift Skipper", from the 547th Night Fighter Squadron, 5th Air Force, landing on Lingayen airstrip, Luzon, Philippines on 17 May 1945.

 (USGOV-PD Photo)

13th AF Northrop P-61B-15-NO Black Widow (Serial No. 42-39682) at Clark Field, Philippines, August 1945, probably from 419th or 550th Night Fighter Squadron Condemned salvage 29 Oct 1945.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61A Black Widow (Serial No. 43-5226), 6th Night Fighter Squadron, Saipan, 1945.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61A Black Widow, coded 312, 419th Night Fighter Squadron, Guadalcanal 1944.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61A Black Widow (Serial No. 42-5560), "The Creep", 425th Night Fighter Squadron  (Serial No. 42-5585), Europe.

 (USGOV-PD Photo)

548th Night Fighter Squadron Northrop P-61B-1-NO Black Widow (Serial No. 42-39403), "The Spook".

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61B Black Widows of the 548th Night Fight Squadron.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61B Black Widow, "Beautiful Ass", 414th Night Fighter Squadron.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61A-10-NO Black Widow (Serial No. 42-5619), "Satan 16", 426th Night Fighter Squadron.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61A-10-NO Black Widow (Serial No. 42-39385), "Snuggle Bunny" visible.  Flight of 547th Night Fighter Squadron P-61s at Lingayned Airfield, early 1945. 

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61A-1-NO Black Widow (Serial No. 42-5506), 419th Night Fighter Squadron, taxiing at Carney Airfield, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, shortly after the P-61's arrival in early 1944.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61A-10-NO Black Widow (Serial No. 42-5628), 427th Night Fighter Squadron in flight over Northern Burma, 1944.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61 Black Widow view from above.

 (USGOV-PD Photo)

Northrop P-61 Black Widow, NACA Test Aircraft, NAS Moffett Field, California, 1948.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61A Black Widow (Serial No. 42-5569), 425th Night Fighter Squadro, RAF Scorton, UK, with D-Day invasion stripes, June 1944.

 (USAAF Photo)

422d Night Fighter Squadron P-61A Black Widows in formation with Invasion Markings, June 1944.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61A-1-NO Black Widow (Serial No. 42-5524), of the 6th Night Fighter Squadron.  Being readied for a mission, East Field, Saipan, Mariana Islands, September 1944.  The SCR-720 radar's parabolic dish antenna can be clearly seen through the partially transparent radome.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrup P-61A Black Widow (Serial No. 42-5598), "Sleepy Time Gal", 6th Night Fighter Squadron, 1944.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop YP-61 Black Widow (Serial No. 118877), pre-production prototype.

 (USGOV-PD Photo)

Northrop P-61B-15-NO Black Widow (Serial No. 42-39684), 416th Night Fighter Squadron, 12th Air Force, in flight over Italy. This plane crashed on take-off from Linz-Horsching, Austria on 30 Oct 1945.

 (USGOV-PD Photo)

318th Fighter-All Weather Squadron Northrop P-61B-20-NO Black Widow (Serial No. 43-8293), 1947 Hamilton Field, California.  One of Air Defense Command's first interceptor aircraft.

 (USN Photo)

Northrop F2T1 Black Widow, coded 39, MCAS Miramar, California.  The Northrop F2T-1 was the designation given to twelve surplus US Army Air Corps P-61A Black Widows used as training aircraft by the US Marine Corps.  The aircraft were un-armed training aircraft that had been used at Hammer Field, California, before being realized to the Marines in September 1945.  They were used to train Marine night-fighter crews in the use of radar before they moved on to the new Grumman F7F Tigercat.  This was a short-lived venture, and ended on 1 May 1946.

 (USAAF Photo)

5th Fighter Squadron Northrop P-61B-10-NO Black Widow (Serial No. 42-39567).  This aircraft was sent to reclamation at Brookley Field, Alabama, 22 June 1949.

 (USAAF Photo)

Northrop P-61 Black Widow, banking.

 (USGOV-PD Photo)

Northrop P-61B-15-NO Black Widow (Serial No. 42-39728), over California.