I have been unable to match this USAAF biplane with a similar photo mainly due to the cockpit canopy. I've found no other like it. I believe the photo was taken at Madison, WI or Chicago, IL in the 1930s. Written on the photo was "Douglas Military Observation Plane." I am hoping to find out the make, model, version, and if possible the Military Unit.

enter image description here


1 Answer 1


That is a Douglas O-38E, with sliding cockpit windows and rounded tail.

The tail on the right of the picture is also a Douglas O-38, but another version (standard, B,C & F had such tails)

Members of the 110th Observation Squadron, Missouri National Guard, fly a Douglas O-38E observation plan with pilot and photographer onboard, circa 1936. The photographer is using a K-17 Observation camera.

Source: wikimedia Photographer: USAF

It seems that the picture in the question is damaged; there are some stains covering the area below the horizontal tailplane and also the arms crest on the fuselage. It seems that the arms crest is a circle with a cross in it. This is the insignia of the 33rd division, Illinois National Guard.

Some of their other O-38's are pictured here

A picture of possibly the same aircraft with the insignia clearly visible can be found on alamy.com O-38E with similar markings on alamy.com

  • $\begingroup$ Dear DeltaLima, you nailed another one for me, and so quickly too. Please know that I really try to identify these planes myself and not bother others for what I feel I should be able to do. But I get so frustrated when I spend an hour or two trying to identify a plane online with every description I can think of yet I come up empty-handed. Your knowledge of aircraft is exceptional. And yes, my photograph is damaged as you described. I never would have figured out the insignia was a cross like in the photo you posted above. Once again, my sincere appreciation for all the help you have given. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 11:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @FreshBreeze you're very welcome. I enjoy doing a little search like this. The insignia was the most difficult part of this one. Before I realised the picture was damaged, I thought I was looking at an eagle! Question for you: your profile shows that you are in Pattaya. Are you there now? What is the situation there regarding covid? $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 11:39
  • $\begingroup$ Like you, I thought the insignia was an eagle also. I knew it was damaged, but so closely resembled a bird that I assumed the same. Funny how some things can be very misleading. Yes, I'm living in Pattaya, one of the few leftovers. It's been my home for 19 years. Last year we were locked down for at least 6 months. Then restrictions were eased up and we got through Christmas. But right at NYE some illegals from Myanmar brought some cases in and we were locked down again until Feb 1st. A few bars and restaurants are open, but it is a ghost town. Still heavy travel restrictions & no tourists. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2021 at 7:15
  • $\begingroup$ @FreshBreeze I hope you can stick around and help others with your knowledge too - if not here then perhaps on photography.se $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Commented Feb 3, 2021 at 10:22
  • $\begingroup$ @FreshBreeze thank you for the info. My wife spent most of here childhood in Pattaya and her parents still live there for most of the year. Like most foreigners, they have left during spring and are now basically unable to return. Pattaya without tourists and foreigners must be a strange experience and I imagine the economic consequences for many Thai people are terrible. We're planning to visit after things return to normal. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Commented Feb 3, 2021 at 10:38

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .