The PV-2 Harpoon was the most specialized and successful of Lockheed’s World War II bombers. Whereas the Hudson and Ventura had been adapted from airliners in ways that impaired their operational effectiveness, the Harpoon — though still based on the Model 18 airliner — was redesigned to the specifications of a single customer, the U.S. Navy, with larger wings and tail surfaces, greater fuel capacity, and weapons capabilities optimized to the Navy’s needs. It first flew December 3, 1943, and 938 were built. Entry into service was delayed by structural issues that required redesign of the wings, and the aircraft saw operational service only in the final months of the war, from March to August 1945, primarily in the Aleutian Islands which by that time were no longer seriously contested. The Navy was sufficiently satisfied that it kept PV-2s in service in reserve units until 1948.
After the war, the Harpoon found favor with civilian spraying operators, and most — possibly all — of the 25 or so aircraft that survive today served in this capacity. Of the survivors, three or four are airworthy and restored to military configuration, a few are static displays in museums such as the National Naval Aviation Museum, American Airpower Heritage Museum and Pima Air Museum, and the rest are scattered around airports in the U.S., still in unrestored spraying configuration and awaiting the attentions of restorers.
Currently under restoration at Chino, California, 37202, registered N7483C, eventually will be a pristine restoration with Fantasy of Flight in Florida.
PV-2 37230 is preserved as a static display at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. Previously it used the civil registration N7459C.
PV-2 37257 is displayed at the Pima Air Museum near Tucson, Arizona. It is finished accurately as an aircraft serving in the Naval Reserve post-1948, although its paint has taken some punishment from the desert sun in Arizona. Besides this and the blanked-off windows to protect the interior, it is an accurate representation of the type in postwar service.
BuNo 37375 “Rose’s Raiders”
The Erickson Aircraft Collection in Oregon, displays PV-2D 37375, registered N11559 and reportedly airworthy although it may not have flown in recent years. The aircraft is restored to military configuration with partial armament and wears 1945 overall gloss blue U.S. Navy paint. It is generally accurate except for the nose art and name “Rose’s Raiders”, which is a vanity reference to the previous owner who restored it, Neil Rose. Like many preserved PV-2s, “Rose’s Raiders” owes its survival to its use as a tanker/sprayer aircraft in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
BuNo 37396 “Hot Stuff”
“Hot Stuff” is an airworthy PV-2, registered N7265C, based in Mount Comfort, Indiana, and operated by the American Military Heritage Foundation (click here for its website). Registered N7625C, it served as a sprayer from the 1950s through the mid-1980s. It is a meticulously restored PV-2 with fully replicated armament and ordnance. It was built in 1945 and did not see combat service, but is painted and marked as an operational aircraft in 1944. The colors and markings are generally accurate but that the blues are too bright, the U.S. national insignia is not quite properly constructed and the “Hot Stuff” nose art is not authentic. Unusually for an aircraft, “Hot Stuff” is registered with the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It appears at airshows in the midwestern United States.
BuNo 37472 “Attu Warrior”
“Attu Warrior” is a flyable PV-2 restored to military configuration, although it does not have the full complement of ordnance. It is registered N7670C and is painted as a PV-2 serving in the Aleutian Islands campaign (Attu was a key strategic island among the Aleutians, being the largest island near the far end of the chain, closer to Tokyo than to Seattle). It is more accurately painted and marked than “Hot Stuff” although the “Attu Warrior” name and nose art are not authentic. “Attu Warrior” is owned by the Warbird Warriors Foundation (to see its site click here) in Heber City, Utah, and appears at airshows in the southwestern United States.
PV-2D 37537 is owned by the National Naval Aviation Museum and is on loan to the American Airpower Heritage Museum, where it is displayed in Midland, Texas.
This PV-2D is operated by the Stockton Field Aviation Museum in Stockton, California (click here) and is registered N6657D. The aircraft served as a forest fire tanker from the 1960s into the 1990s, then sat derelict for a time. Recently it has been returned to flying status while it is progessively restored with authentic equipment, including working World War II-era radios. Since the photos below were taken, it has been painted in an authentic 1945 overall dark blue U.S. Navy color scheme.
These two PV-2s, then in active service with the U.S. Navy, were photographed in 1948 at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone.
This PV-2 is stored for eventual restoration at Chino, California.