WWII Photo Restore Project

I was looking at some old photos that my uncle had taken when he was in the Army Air Force during WWII. He was an armorer in the 84th Airdrome of the 5th AAF. I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to them when I first received them after he had passed away but as I was “rediscovering” them I began to realize there was something special about this photo. I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed this P-38 before, perhaps because it was so faded, but this time the 26 victories on the side of the fuselage caught my attention!

There is a simple notation by my uncle on the back of the picture: “One of our ace flyer’s plane” and an Army Examiner approval stamp, but who was this ace?
After some internet research I found out that this P-38, “Putt Putt Maru”, was flown by Colonel Charles H. MacDonald, the 3rd ranking ace of the Pacific during WWII. (He would eventually have a total of 27 victories by March 13, 1945.) I believe this picture was taken in 1944 and most likely on Dulag, Leyte, Philippine Islands because that is where the 84th Airdrome and the 475th Fighter Group could have been stationed together at the same time. (There isn’t much information on the airdrome squadrons so anyone having any info on the 84th Airdrome send me an email.)
One of the things I do as a graphic artist is retouch photos so I thought it would be fun to restore this photo in my spare time and post the results as the project progresses.
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The first thing I did was adjust the “levels” of the photo. This corrects the lightness and darkness of a photo to an optimum value. Then I applied a “sharpness” filter to help with the focus.
(As you can see, some of the details are beginning to show.)
Here I added a blue background for some color and replaced the dingy photo border with a “clean” white one. The sky background has been cleared up and the edges of the picture have been “squared up”.
If you look at the propellers and spinner they have been darkened and adjusted in value.
The top of the fuselage nose section has been darkened and the side of the fuselage where the air victories are has been adjusted with Col. MacDonald’s name and Japanese flags symbolizing air victories (five will qualify a pilot as ace). “Putt Putt Maru” has been adjusted as well.
The fuselage and engine nacelles are beginning to be “cleaned up”, the unit number 100 has been enhanced, and some details on the spinner and tail fin are added.
Here the tail fin has been cleaned up and some of the nacelle shading has been smoothed out. Additionally, the marston matting on which the aircraft is sitting on has been added (the original marston matting was faded too much to be usable so this sample from another photo was substituted).
Here you can see that the marston matting has been skewed to match the angle of the original picture. An aircraft shadow has been added, (it was hard to see in the original photo), and there has been work done to focus the nose gear door. The left main landing gear door has been “touched up” as well.
The tires and wheel hubs have been added from another P-38 for a better, sharper look. The nose gear strut and fork have been adjusted for brightness with the result of “crisper” lines.
In this photo the nosegear opening has been corrected, the engine intakes have been darkened, and the main landing gear strut has been refined. The landing gear door behind the main gear strut has been added.
Well, here is the final version. All of the details have been added and I applied a sepia photo filter and film grain to give the finished product an aged look.
Here is what the photo would have looked like when it was first taken, no sepia filter with this one.
If you would like to see my online art portfolios, click here…