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This was Merkling's first nose art painting and was undertaken for John Wooten and his crew. The F-7A was flown overseas from Hunter Field, GA, on 10th February 1944 but en route to Australia Wooten ran into some heavy turbulence. So rough was the trip that the crew were forced to divert to the Air Depot at New Caledonia for repairs. The crew deemed the ship was unfit for combat flying due to the buckling of one of the bulkheads.
When the plane finally arrived at Nadzab, Wooten's crew had already thought up a name for their ship -- "Patched Up Piece" -- since it had already been patched up even before seeing any action. Al Merkling was offered an Australian dollar a piece from each of the crew to do his painting which he found to be a welcome relief from his tedious work in the photo lab. The aircraft was flown overseas painted in a blue drab finish common to most camera-equipped B24s and Merkling painted his magnificient artwork onto this surface. Later, "Patched Up Piece" was selected to be one of the first B24s of the unit to be stripped back to a natural metal finish of shiny aluminium. During this work, part of the titling was removed, necessitating a re-working by Merkling but the figure painting seems to have been left unscathed.
Wooten's first combat photo mission in the aircraft to Hollandia on 5th April 1944 was successful and he went on the complete a further sixteen sorties in "Patched Up Piece". Several other crews also flew missions in the plane with mixed success completing a total of 31 by 2nd September 1944.
No mission listing is currently available for this aircraft
© Ray Bowden 23 January 2018