B-24s of one of the Far East Air Force's last bombing missions against the Empire of Japan.
Seen here leaving the target, the city of Oita on the Japanese home island of Kyushu, elements of the 64th Bomb Squadron, 43 Bomb Group, 10 August, 1945 were part of a twenty-plus B-24 raid by the 43 Bomb Group on a mission dubbed a "milk-run" due to the light-to-nil defensive opposition generated by the Japanese. In the foreground, #973 bears the flamboyant artwork covering the complete port side of the aircraft which would immortalize it and its creator S/Sgt. Sarkis E. Bartigian, who was assigned to the 64th Bomb Squadron ground echelon. Bartigian's exuberant creations decorated the sides of a number of 43rd Bomb Group B-24s late in the war, but this one, The Dragon and His Tail was the most well known and photographed. After meeting an ignominious end in the smelters at Kingman, Arizona following the war's end, #973 recently was reincarnated in all its glory on the port side of the Collings Foundation's B-24, flouting Seargent Bartigian's provocative artwork at air shows around the U.S.