Assembly ships were retired bombers that were still flyable. They were painted in unique paint schemes so large groups of bombers could find them in the air and form up their flight formations on a bombing run.
Once the bomb group formed up, the Assembly ships returned to base.
We’ve searched the web for the best pictures we could find, in color where possible!
The Little Gramper, a B-24D, was the first Lead Assembly Ship of 491st Bombardment Group. She wore one of the brightest and most visible schemes of all the assembly ships. [Via]
B-24H Liberator bomber ‘Lil’ Cookie’, Lead Assembly Ship of 489th Bomber Group, US 845th Bomber Squadron, RAF Halesworth, Suffolk, England, United Kingdom, Apr-Nov 1944 [Via]
An ex 389th BG and originally 44th BG aircraft. The Group’s first Assembly ship, it was salvaged at Rackheath in October 44 following a landing accident with the nose wheel retracted. [Via]
B-17F Flying Fortress aircraft ‘Spotted Cow’, assembly ship of 384th Bomber Group, 547th Bomber Squadron, based in RAF Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire, England, UK, 1943. [Via]
Spotted Ape, Spotted Ass Ape, or Wonder Bread were but a few of the names for the 458th Bomb Group’s second assembly ship. [Via]
Spotted Ass Ape leads Liberators of the 458th Bombardment Group. [Via]
B-24D Liberator aircraft ‘Wham Bam’ lead assembly ship of the 453rd Bomber Group, US 735th Bomber Squadron based at RAF Old Buckenham, Norfolk, England, UK, Jan-Apr 1945 [Via]
B-24D Liberator bomber ‘Striped Ape’, lead assembly ship for the 448th Bomber Group, US 712th Bomber Squadron based at RAF Seething, Norfolk, England, UK, Oct 1944-Feb 1945 [Via]