Researching Invaders

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The process of researching Invaders and their crews is rarely straightforward. On this page we will explain some of the methods that we use to discover clues about these planes and the people who flew them.

The foundational starting point of our work revolves around a pair of documents. The first of these documents is the US Air Force Serial Number list. This list enumerates all of the Invaders that the Air Force accepted into their inventory; 2,453. The second document is the production list from Douglas. This list notates all of the Invaders that Douglas manufactured; 2,503. Right off the bat it seems like there is a discrepancy, however, both of these numbers are accurate. Douglas produced more Invaders than the Air Force accepted. Approximately 50 Invaders were built at the close of World War II during the time when the US Army Air Corps was cancelling contracts to build more. Not wanting to take on additional costs in maintenance and upkeep, these last Invaders were completed by Douglas, but not accepted by the Air Fore.

With these serial number lists as a starting point, we then turn to the inventory records for these planes. The military kept records of when different planes were accepted into service, transferred to another unit, or stricken from the inventory. These military record cards are useful for showing macro-level movement, but do not show squadron-level assignments. For cases where the plane was sold to a civilian entity the Federal Aviation Administration maintains records of ownership. Some of these planes were given to other nations on a permanent or temporary basis. Finding Inventory records for those planes is slightly more problematic.

Neither the Air Force inventory records, nor the FAA registry information tell the complete picture. For example, any accidents that these planes have been in are not reported on these records. Luckily, there are accident reports maintained by both the military and the FAA that can shed more light on those. That is one area where we see a lot of errors. Some places, like Joe Baugher's site, incorrectly list many invaders as "Class 26'd" (written off) due to damage from an accident. Much of this seems to stem from a damage code on the accident report. To be fair to Mr. Baugher, the code isn't well thought out. We have seen cases where there is a damage code of "5", which means "destroyed" by this scale, but then the plane is involved in another accident later. As with the inventory records, finding accident reports of foreign Invaders is difficult.

The inventory records also do not tell of the specific mission history of a particular plane. For that information we turn to mission logs, loading lists, and the units war journals. As with crash records, this information is harder to come by for invaders in foreign service.

There are a number of ways by which we identify Invaders. Primary source documents include missions lists (when available), monthly unit summaries, and photographs. Sometimes we will get lucky and the whole plane is clearly visible in the photo. Other times a Mission Log or Loading List will identify the plane's serial number and fuselage code. That code then helps us to identify that plane in other pictures. Sometimes we will stumble upon a secondary source, like the recollections of servicemen who worked on Invaders. These lists are helpful, but often have some gaps. People get rotated home and then planes get named or reassigned after that person is gone. After that, we begin to piece things together through process of elimination. Sometimes we can see a partial serial number or Buzz Code. By looking at only planes that match those buzz code and eliminating planes that we know are named or we know have been shot down or destroyed prior to the photo, we can sometimes identify the plane. Sometimes we can identify a plane based on accounts of family history. For example, we saw a photo of a nose of an Invader. There were no markings visible, only the name "The Big Black Noop Gnat". The story that accompanied this photo explained that this was the plane of their family member, Captain Claude Batty, Jr, who went missing in Korea. By cross referencing other records we were able to learn the serial number of Captain Batty's plane, and the identity of the Noop Gnat. Sometimes it works out the opposite, where we can identify a plane based on a personal account of a crew member and identifying photos that the person is in.

The last part of our research mission is the most challening; researching Invader crews. We can pull this data from several sources, including: accident reports, mission logs, loading lists, casualty reports (MACR/KORWALD), unit monthly summaries, photographic evidence, and personal accounts. In some cases we have a list of which people were with a unit, but not which people were crewed together or served on a given plane.