Sunday, August 9, 2015

Flying!, Something Out of the Ordinary, Pirates, Hold That Tiger!, Charlie in Kentucky, and Some Scary Days

Tighten Up!

You'd never know it just by looking, but in theory this project is one heavily related to scale modeling, so scale modeling is what we're going to talk about today, or at least we're going to talk about one aspect of it---getting better at doing it.

Scale modeling is one of those learn-as-you-go things. No amount of reading the modeling boards, buying the overpriced how-to-build-the-whatever-it-is books, or buying the most expensive kits and tools can make up for a lack of basic skills. Nope; the only way you're going to learn how to build good models is to build until you acquire the skill-sets necessary to get you where you want to go. As a corollary, you're going to have to build "crummy" kits, or short-run kits (often the same as "crummy", in case you were wondering about that) as well as the latest whiz-bang marvels from the "good" manufacturers in order to develop the skill sets necessary to become a journeyman or expert modeler. There's no substitute for time in the saddle on this one---you have to put in the time to become a good modeler.

That said, here's a little trick that will help you more than you can possibly imagine in your ongoing search for improved skills: Change your modeling philosophy! That's right---change the whole way you look at the hobby.

To get to the point, most of us build unified models, for want of a better word, detailing them as we go along but always working on the philosophy that the model is the model and everything else goes into it or on it. It's one. It's a Whole. It's a model, but what's that model made of?

What if, instead of building a model, one each, of the object of your affection, we built a whole bunch of little models instead, and then put them all together in the big model? What if we made the cockpit a model, a project in and of itself, and then did the same thing for the gear wells, the gear doors, the landing gear, the wheels and tires, or anything else that's part of the greater assembly that becomes what you see on the shelf as a completed project? What if we built up a pair of 250lb GP bombs for our P-47 and made them models in and of themselves, stand-alone bomb models, properly assembled, painted, decalled, and weathered and capable of being added to said Thunderbolt, laid on the ground beside it in a diorama, or just displayed separately?

What if, instead of building an interior, we made the seat a stand-alone model that could be displayed outside the aircraft if desired? What if we did the same thing to the control stick that goes in that interior?

What if we did that with each and every subassembly of the model, in essence creating a scale model made up of many smaller scale models? Holy cow! That's revolutionary! Then again, maybe it isn't.

The simple fact of the matter is that those guys and girls who win the contests, most of them anyway, use that technique and pretty much always have. There's a reason those folks build models that look better than yours or mine; they're putting in the time to build up everything that's going to be seen when the model is finished and they're doing it one step at a time, as a series of mini-projects. You can call it super-detailing, and a lot of people do, but at the end of the day all those folks are really doing is building up a bunch of little models to the highest standard they're capable of and then installing them in the object that will become the completed model. That's it. That's all there is to it.

Of course, you're still going to have to learn all the basic skills in order to do things that way, and that takes us right back to the learning curve we were obliquely discussing at the beginning of this ramble. There's no getting around that one. On the other hand, that simple change of approach we just discussed will make things happen a lot more quickly for you as you progress with the hobby. It'll make you a better modeler, and it'll make you better faster than any other way we can think of. It's a win/win, if you catch my drift.

I rest my case!

Just For the Fun of It

Our first image for the day comes from Rick Morgan, who sent it out to a consortium of people with the comment that there was once a time when a military aviator could, within reason, jump into an airplane and just go flying.

And here's what that looks like! The airplane is a well-worn Reserve F4U-4 from Los Alamitos, the time period is 1948-49, and the pilot is to all appearances just enjoying the day! To be fair about things, it would appear that there are practice rockets on the wing stations so it's entirely reasonable to presume that he's heading out to the range to make smoke and noise, but we wouldn't be too surprised if he didn't have a cigarette en route or maybe on his way back to the home drome while enjoying a gorgeous day in the air. In any event, this photo is one of those that embodies the spirit of flight and we're grateful to Rick for sharing it with us.   Navy via R Morgan

A Little Known Invader

A while back we ran a couple of B-26C images from John Horne's collection that were of a variant unknown to a lot of folks; the RB-26C. Some 46 aircraft of that sub-type were available to the USAF's tactical recon wings at the start of the Korean conflict and were used extensively for night reconnaissance work therein, and more than a few went in hard in that most dangerous of occupations. The antenna suite of those aircraft make them unique among the Invader family, and John's been kind enough to mark up a photo of an 11th TRS bird to help us understand what's going on there.

 The airplane is 44-35825, built initially as a straight A-26C-50-DT and subsequently converted to RB-26C configuration. The 11th TRS was operating her out of Kimpo when this image was taken, and it depicts the aircraft's antenna suite in sufficient detail to allow us a pretty good idea of what's happening in that regard. Also of interest is the exhaust staining on the aircraft's nacelles; it's very typical of the A-26 and therefore an essential component of an accurate scale model of the type.   John Horne Collection

Here, also from John's collection, is a shot of the AN/APA-17B:

Many thanks to john for taking the time to dig up the AN/APA-17B image, and for marking up that view of 44-35825, so we could better understand the airplane.   John Horne Collection

I Wish We Knew

As has been mentioned a great many times before, Bobby Rocker is a constant contributor to this project. Most of the photography he provides to us is well-documented, but every once in a while he comes across images that aren't. That's the case today, as we look at several PB4Y-1 Privateer shots. Bobby doesn't know the unit or location, although we suspect they're stationed somewhere in or near Morotai or the Philippines in early 1945 (although that's an educated guess!). If you know what's going on, we'd like to hear from you! That address is, as always (just ask any of those spam dudes!)  .

Let's start off with "Doc's Delight". Besides that classic artwork, check out the names of crew member's wives and sweethearts painted adjacent to their respective locations in the aircraft. A nice touch, we think!   Rocker Collection

And here's "The Snooper" for your edification. Also of interest in this shot is the internal detail of the bomb bay doors, the aux fuel tank in the forward bomb bay, and the extraordinarily coarse tread on that nosewheel tire. The background information on this photo says "Morotai" so there's a good chance that where it was taken, but then again maybe not. Bobby wasn't any too certain so we're not either!   Rocker Collection

And here's "Reputation Cloudy". The artwork is a little rowdier on this aircraft, and there's a fair amount of over-painting of side numbers on her nose.   Rocker Collection

Here's our final image, "Rugged Beloved". We get another look at the forward bomb-bay fuel tank installation in this shot, as well as an exceptional depiction of the way the bomb-bay doors rolled upwards on the Privateer and Liberator families of aircraft. We all know about the exploits of the PB4Y-1's younger brother, the PB4Y-2, but the -1 did yeoman service in the Pacific and is well worth investigation and documentation.   Rocker Collection

Thanks again to Bobby for his unselfish sharing of the images of one of the most remarkable periods in our history!

Shark Mouthed Cats

Those of you who are fans of naval aviation are probably well aware that VF-21 flew the Grumman F11F-1 Tiger operationally before becoming the East Coast RAG for the type. Rick Morgan recently came by a couple of fascinating photographs courtesy of naval aviation photography and historian Bob Lawson, and is sharing them with us today. Here are his comments about the photos:

Phil- a couple of shots for the blog. I got these through Bob Lawson; they show VF-21 F11Fs on Forrestal during a 3-month period with CVG-8 in Forrestal (CVA 59) off the East Coast in 1958. They were filling the ‘day fighter’ role within CVG-8 for this at sea period with VF-82, flying F3H Demons, holding the ‘night fighter’ slot. Within a few months the “Mach Busters” would be moved to the new Replacement Air Group, RCVG-4 and become a training squadron for east coast F11Fs and redesignated VF-43.

Pretty maids all in a row! Bet you've never seen this many Tigers on a boat at one time, have you? The F11F was a gorgeous airplane no matter how you looked at it, and Fighting 21 flew the prettiest markings (as well as the most aggressive!) of them all.  Lawson via R Morgan

The F11F was unique in so many ways, it's easy to lose track of them all. One look at this photo shows one of the more obvious anomalies; the wings folded downwards instead of up and, if memory serves, they were manually folded. The vertical stab had a small fuel cell in it to facilitate taxiing without having to use up precious JP-5 from the main tanks (few 1950s jets could boast of much in the way of range, and the Tiger was quite possibly the worst of them all---video killed the radio star and short legs did in the prettiest of the Grumman fighters), and the arresting hook folded forward into the fuselage, upside down, rather than aft. It was an innovative design to say the least!   Lawson via R Morgan.

There's so much more we could say about the Tiger, but today's not going to be the day. Stay tuned, though; you just never know what might show up on these pages!

And We Thought We Had It Figured Out

It wasn't all that long ago that we were showing you a couple of straight up F-101C Voodoos that were serving with the Nevada ANG. That was an amazing thing because Nevada never officially flew the Charlie (their 101s were all of the converted RF-101H variety) and we duly published the photos at hand and moved on, saving another batch of photos for another day. We should've looked a little more closely at the photos, because there was another "real" F-101C lurking in the stack! Without further ado, but with a little bit of embarrassment, is an image of that aircraft:

Holy cow, ya'll! Where'd that come from! Kentucky's 165th TRS/123rd TRW was a National Guard outfit that was tasked with the photo recon mission and that, much like those Nevada birds, never had a tactical fighter mission with the 101, which makes F-101C-40-MC 54-1488 that much more of an oddball. We suspect she was in the same situation as those Reno birds, marked for the unit prior to conversion but never actually operated in the fighter role while there. She's not much for markings, just a pilot's name above the U.S. AIR FORCE logo on her nose and the word "Kentucky" on her vertical, but that state name is enough to make her stand out. She ended up at MASDC in the early 70s, as did so many of her sisters but was around long enough to provide us with a unique image to treasure while she was active.    RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

And in the spirit of Better Late Than Never, Doug Barbier was apparently on line when we pushed the Magic Twanger to publish this edition of the blog---he came back almost immediately with an obvious answer to the reason those two ANG units had straight-up fighter variant F-101Cs on strength. Let's let him explain and spare everyone the wait for another edition and its Relief Tube entry!

Phil, If I had to guess, those F-101Cs assigned to Nevada were there for proficiency trainers while the fleet was converted to the H model. The Michigan Guard had half a dozen plain jane F-84F models at Detroit Metro back in the late 1950s for the same reason - there just were not enough of the recces available so they drove the basic fighter versions around just to get some flying time. And speaking of just jumping in and going - that is exactly the way it used to be. In interviewing one of our old Michigan Guard pilots, he told me that in 1949 he came out to interview with the squadron commander, was hired on the spot & the boss told him to go downstairs, grab a parachute, pick out a Mustang on the flight line & get himself current again. No paperwork, no verification, no I.D. badge, no nothing - just pick one & go. Even through the RF-101 era in the early 70s, we used to keep at least one RF-101C parked on the Guard ramp at O'Hare for our airline pilots to fly. Rather than get in off of a trip & have to go over to Detroit, there was a Voodoo sitting there waiting for them. When it was time for the UTA weekend, they flipped a coin to see who got to fly it over to Detroit. On Sunday, maintenance would have another jet ready to go back. It was a different time.... Doug

Thanks, Doug!

Where Were You in '62?

October of 1962 was one of the scariest times in American history, a month in which the Soviet Union and the United States looked each other in the eye, each waiting for the other to blink. There's a lot to that story, far more than we're able to cover in this modest effort, but we can show you a couple of pictures you probably haven't seen before that date back to that time and, more specifically, to The Cuban Missile Crisis. The possibility of Armageddon came in many forms in the Fall of 1962.

 Cocked, locked, and ready to rock, these Boeing B-47Es from the 307th BW sit loaded on the ramp ready to go. The B-47 was such a pretty aircraft that it was easy to overlook its original purpose. The type finished out its career as a weather and ELINT platform, but there were still quite a few bombers around in 1962 that were on active duty when the call came.    USAF via Mark Morgan

That sign in the foreground is telling would-be kibitzers to stay away from the airplanes or get shot. The fate of the world hung in the balance during that terrible month, and the guys in the blue suits weren't taking any chances!   USAF via Mark Morgan

Here's 52-0417 on the ramp, ready to go. The 307th dispersed to various civilian fields throughout the CONUS during the crisis in order to complicate targeting for the other side, resulting in one instance in an aircraft commander of the wing paying for fuel with his personal credit card. A quick visit to the 307th Association's web site (  ) can provide some interesting details of this period in the wing's history.   USAF via Mark Morgan

Let's go out the way we came in, with a ramp shot of a 4-ship det from the 307th sitting in the sunshine in what could have been the last days of peace. We can all be grateful to the guys in the wing for being there when they were needed the most, and equally glad that the call never came!   USAF via Mark Morgan

The Relief Tube

We've received several comments of interest in the past few weeks and it's time to share! First up is a clarification from reader Tom Smith:

Dear Phil, I just recently discovered the Replica in Scale blog and could not be happier. I am one of those "of a certain age" who remembers the original magazines as I bought them new at the local hobby shop. Finding the blog is like coming upon a long lost family heirloom. The medium has changed, the content is refreshingly familiar. I spent some time looking through past blogs and came upon a picture that brought a bit of a smile to my face. In the September 16, 2014 blog there was a picture from the archives of John Horne showing an A-26C on the ramp at Iwakuni AB circa 1951, tail number 44-34535. The name on the nose was "Noop Gnat II". Your description referred to the "Gnat". Don't know if anyone else commented on the name but it actually refers to one of the primary sources of inspiration for military men wherever they are (the order of these inspirations change depending on the then current situation). Take the name Noop Gnat and reverse the spelling for each. QED.    Tom Smith

Here's the photo in question:

Thanks for explaining this one, Tom! I'm a little embarrassed to say that you're the first one to catch this, or at least the first to write in about it. It gives a whole different spin to that old National Geographic article "Fun Helped Them Fight"!   Photo via John Horne Collection

Here's a clarification we received a couple of weeks ago regarding that photo of "Little Sir Echo"that might be of interest:

About "Little Sir Echo" - this P-39 was flown in New Guinea by Lyndall Tate, a friend of my father's in the 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group. I have been editing my father's diary and researching the history around it, and can add this to the discussion: Tate's wife was named Echo. (Back to Greek mythology: Echo was a nymph who was cursed by Zeus's wife Hera so that she could no longer speak except to repeat words. . . . I don't know why she was named Echo, but she was.) This makes the name on Tate's warplane of a piece with the names for the rest of the squadron (Maxine, Ruby etc). Tate may also have had a daughter named for her mother. I have read your blog before, while working on the diary, and it has been helpful. I do not know if the message that I posted (above) made it to your blog page, so if you can put it up, maybe other readers will be interested. The Pacific Wrecks speaks of two victory flags being painted on this aircraft, but I do not think Tate made any such claims or was awarded any victories. The earliest victory for the 82nd Squadron was by Delta Graham, in I think December 1943. (I think you have posted, or Robert Rocker has collected, a photo of Lt. Graham standing beside his P-39, "Maxine.) Tate stayed in the Air Force after the war, and eventually retired as a colonel or lieutenant-colonel. He was on a champion skeet-shooting team in the European area in 1956. In the earlier 1950's, they were at air bases in Texas, and in the 1960's in and around Bakersfield. Tate died in 2008. Echo I have not been able to trace but she may have died much earlier.   Thanks, Allen Boyer

Thanks for the insight, Allen, and for your kind comments regarding the blog!

Every once in a while we'll receive a request for information from a reader that we can't field. Here's one such inquiry, regarding a post-War 49th FG P-51D:

Hi Phillip,.....I'm looking for some photographs of P-51s in the 49th from April 30, 1947 to May 27, 1948. My Dad's P-51 (from the 40th FS, 35th FG) was transferred to the 49th during that time frame. In May of 1948 it was sold/given to the IDF and served there till it was really obsolete. Long story but it is NOW being restored in CA. I visited it a month ago, it's in pieces but about 70% original. I want to give the owner some options of the final markings of his a/c. I have photos of it while in the 40th FS....but none while it was in the 49th FG. I don't know which squadron it was assigned to in the 49th. My Dad was in the 7th FS of the 49th FG from late '48 to early '50 but was flying the F-80 then. Anyway....any assistance or advice you could give would be much appreciated. 

Here's the history card of the Mustang in question.

The comings and goings of any and all of the 5th AF units during the immediate post-War period is of considerable interest to us as well. If you can help, please drop us a line at  . Spammers need not apply!!!

And one final note before we go: We're constantly on the lookout for previously unpublished F-104 material around here, and have recently had an inquiry regarding testing of the AIR-2 Genie missile on an F-104A bailed to the NAV at NAS Point Mugu. Photos would be great, but any information at all would be of considerable help. By now you surely know the address...

That's it for this thrilling installment, but with any luck we'll see you again soon. Until then, be good to your neighbor!


Saturday, July 4, 2015

An Enigma, An Unusual Voodoo, Georgia Hogs, Able Mabel, Bugsuckers in the Corps, Oopsie, and Some Mystery Meat

A Very Long Time Ago

Some of us are survivors, and it's recently occurred to me that I am him. A survivor. Not quite older than dirt but not far from it, if you catch my drift; a man with occasional perspective. For the purposes of this blog, most of my perspective tends to lead me towards comments regarding something or other I've read on one of those modeling sites I'm always talking about, but today's going to be different, sortof, because today I'm going to ramble on in an entirely mindless way about certain of the cherished model airplanes of my past. Please feel free to come along for the ride if you'd like, or jump right to the next section if you'd rather not do that.

We've already discussed my very first I Built It Myself plastic model airplane, that Me109-Something-Or-Other that my mother bought for me way back in 1956. It was a game-changer for me in terms of setting the stage for an interest in Things Polystyrene, but it was far from the only model I ever "put together" back in that childhood of the 1950s, so we'll leave it in the back pages of Replica and go on to other things. With any luck we'll get you thinking about the old models in your own lives.

After that first seminal plastic kit there were others, and a great many of the earlier ones had "Aurora" printed on the box. Those Aurora kits were really something if you were a little kid in the mid-1950s, because they had few pieces, were molded in colors, and could be put together and subsequently played with in the space of an hour or less. My very first Aurora kit was their infamous Yellow Zero, and I honestly can't remember a whole lot about it except that after it was completed I showed it to my dad, a man who had first-hand experience with wrecked Zeros on the ground at Buna and Lae, and who promptly told me he couldn't remember any yellow ones but anything was possible since the ones he'd seen were all shot to pieces and it was hard to determine the colors. That modest success and parental acceptance led me to my next yellow airplane, an Aurora SNJ, which turned out to be a tough date in comparison to the Zero because it had a lot more pieces to put together, a few of which were beyond the capabilities of a budding six-year-old modeler. At the end of the day it did get assembled, mostly, but my recollection is that it was by and large a collection of glue shapes rather than plastic parts.

At that point in things I was one for one (if we don't count that very first 109) and ready for another challenge, albeit something a little simpler to build than that botched-up Texan, so I got an Aurora P-40E. That P-40, in common with most of Aurora's other single-engined WW2 fighters, was a simple kit so my confidence in my own abilities was somewhat restored, which is probably why my next effort was a Lindberg Ju87. That green "Stuka" was a quantum leap ahead of any of the Aurora kits I'd built previously, but it had a lot of pieces, several of which were involved with the construction of the flaps and bombs. You can guess the rest, I suspect, but at the end of the day it really didn't matter much in the world of backyard dogfights, and I was happy, more or less, with the results.

Next up was a revelation---my first Monogram kit. That silver Invader looked better than anything else I'd built up to that point, and was easy to get together. It was just the sort of reassurance I needed in order to continue building, and was a sight easier to put together than the tan Revell B-24 ("Buffalo Bill", remember?) that followed it into my "collection".

Another favorite kit was the Hawk SBD/A-24 (the SBDs were molded in blue and the A-24s in silver, but they were both the same kit). Easy to assemble and relatively sturdy, they were the queens of the fleet in those swirling backyard dogfights we all indulged in back in those days. In that same vein, the Hawk SNJ (yellow) and T-6 (silver) were also favorites with the added bonus that the Hawk SNJ could be a Japanese airplane too, since it was yellow just like the Aurora Zero. That made it a multi-threat kind of a model, just what a Little Kid needed for his air force.

There were two game-changers in all of that, kits that took all of us way past our simplistic starting places. The first came in 1958, when Monogram released their mostly 1/48th scale TBM. It was a challenge to build since every single thing on it that could work did work, which made assembly tough for a kid, but the end result was amazing. That kit was, simply stated, an epiphany; a model that took those of us who were interested into an entirely different world of modeling.

The other game changer came in 1962 when Revell added a 1/72nd scale B-17F (the "Memphis Belle") to its then-limited catalog of same-scale airplanes (as opposed to the previous box scale that was where they hung out). That kit had it all if you were a kid; it was relatively big (although not quite as big as Lindberg's older 1/64th scale B-17G) and was relatively easy to build. In addition to that, the model drove me to discover Revell's new (thanks to Revell GB) line of 1/72nd scale fighters. I was already a devoted modeler by then, but after 1962 there was absolutely no turning back for me.

There were other kits in between that primordial 109 and the "Belle", of course; Revell P-39s and B-57s, Strombecker Temco TT-1s, Monogram C-47s and Blue Angel F11F sets, an Aurora P-51H, the big Aurora bombers, and a myriad of tiny Comet kits to flesh things out. There were Hawk and Aurora biplanes too, although in my world they all ended up being monoplanes until Revell made it easy with their little Sopwith Camel.

The point to be taken here, if indeed there is a point, is that most of my life has been spent with polystyrene in it in some way or another. I built when I was a kid, when I was in high school, and when I was in college; not every day, of course, but the hobby was a constant in my life. It still is, right up to and including This Very Moment, and I can't say enough good about it. All those kits taught me patience, and how to think things through. They honed my motor skills, and led me to a life-long passion for history. They introduced me to serious photography and ultimately led me to an assortment of friends that I wouldn't trade for all the money in the world. Like any good hobby, modeling made me a better person as well (or at least I think so; your mileage may differ in that regard!).

There's a nascent movement afoot in our modeling world these days, one that involves the assembly and painting of vintage kits for use as display models on stands, as they were originally intended to be way back there in the late 40s and early 50s. That movement is called Retro-Modeling, I think, and it looks like a lot of fun to me. A cleaned-up, painted and decalled Aurora P-38 would look awfully nice on a plinth, sitting here on my writing desk.

I think I'm going back
To the days I knew so well in my youth.

I truly do love this hobby of ours!

OK; What IS That Stuff?

Back in the late 1960s a San Antonio friend of mine, Bob Angel, and I used to play a game we called Stump the Champs. It was a simple game---all you had to do was correctly identify the airplane in a photograph or recall and recite some sort of aviation trivia---and it's one that leads us to today's first photo.

A couple of things are obvious in the photo---we think the airplane is an RA-24B (we say that because of the data block presentation under the windscreen, although it could also be an SBD-5 or -6), and it's in a somewhat atypical scheme whichever type it may be. Of more interest to us, however, is that pod attached to the center section (which is presumed to be for some sort of camera installation) and those bulges on the upper cowling. Our first thought was that it might be a weather research aircraft, or maybe a chase plane of some sort (although the SBD was far too slow to be much good at that sort of thing!). In any event it's a Mystery Ship of the highest order and one that we're interested in. If you know what's going on here why don't you drop us a line at and let us know what we're looking at?   Rocker Collection

And the electrons were scarcely dry on the page when I started receiving explanations of the "mystery gear" on that Banshee. The most comprehensive answer came from Our Man in Argentina, Pablo Ziegler, so that's the one we're going to include to explain what's going on here:

Dear Mr. Friddell, I have been scratching my head looking at that Dauntless picture. I didn't know anything about the purpose of the ventral pod or the cowling bulges, but after a while I came across this, now I know the aircraft is 42-6783, and the picture is from the early 50's. A little more research lead me to (a link that states) "QF-24A-DE Dauntless c/n 1538, originally A-24A-DE 42-6783 was re-manufactured as drone aircraft, redesignated RA-24A in 1948." I get more information from another source: "One A-24A-DE (42-6783) was modified at Wright field as a radio-controlled drone and designated RA-24A-DE. This aircraft was still in service in 1948, when the A designation category was dropped by the USAF. At that time, the aircraft was redesignated QF-24A-DE (in the fighter sequence) and given a new serial number of 48-044." So, may be I can be proven wrong, but it seems the mystery is solved! Warmest regards from Buenos Aires, PZ

Please note that Pablo had provided links to the first two web sites but for whatever reason I couldn't get them to properly copy and paste here---if you want to try them for yourself drop me an e-mail and I'll send them to you.

Many thanks to Pablo, and also to Mike McMurtrey and Norman Camou for writing in as well.

Bet You Haven't Seen This Before!

On the face of things it couldn't be easier---the 192nd TRS/152nd TRG of the Nevada ANG operated McDonnell RF-101Gs and Hs beginning in the late 1960s and running into the mid-70s. Here's a shot of one of those recce Voodoos, but there's a catch!

56-0016 was built as an F-101C-45-MC and was subsequently converted to RF-101H configuration, but therein lies the rub, to get all Shakespearean about the deal. The conversion from heavy fighter to photo bird consisted primarily of the replacement of the existing gun nose with a dedicated camera nose and included appropriate modification of the cockpit to accommodate the new mission, but that sort of work was generally done by a depot or civilian contractor. 0016 is shown here, on the ramp at Reno Municipal on 23 September 1966, in Nevada ANG markings but with gun nose intact and in natural metal finish to boot! We presume she's about to be modded and is awaiting a trip to somewhere besides her squadron area for that to occur, but we truly don't know. Still, it's a beautiful photograph and a fine reminder of The Silver Air Force that was in transition when this shot was taken.   RA Burgess Collection via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Or maybe there's more to the story than meets the eye! Here's 56-0012, also on the ramp at Reno and also in straight fighter configuration, but in a really sloppy application of SEA camouflage! If you're a modeler, brave enough to tackle that new 1/48th scale F-101C kit, and not especially good with an airbrush, here's the bird for you! Holy Voodoos, Batman!!!   RA Burgess Collection via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

This is that those 192nd RF-101s are supposed to look like! 56-0029 has been modified into full RF-101H configuration and is wearing the appropriate modified SEA camo. The paintwork has, once again, been very obviously applied freehand but someone at the depot. Yes; there's a defined camouflage pattern for the F-101 (see last issues page from the 1-1-4 for proof of that!) but it wasn't always followed, and there seems to have been at least one major variation in the case of the Voodoo (thanks to Ben Brown for the tip on that one!).   RA Burgess Collection via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Here's a view of 56-0019 in its completed scheme including ANG badge and Nevada painted on the tail. In theory, but obviously not in practice, this is the way all of the 192nd's RF-101Hs should look. Of interest here is the handiwork of The Phantom Painter who, once again, has been at the camouflage with a vengeance. The scale modeling Paint Pedantics would never buy into this sort of thing but here's proof positive that sloppy overspray existed on real airplanes!   RA Burgess Collection via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

And a parting shot, if you will. This port-side view of 0019 gives you both sides of the airplane (both images were taken on 20 May, 1967), which in turn gives the modelers among our readership a complete airplane to replicate. Note once again the overspray on that camouflage, as well as the heat-related weathering on the a/b cans. Our personal taste runs more to the RF-101A and C family, but these modified recce birds are most assuredly worth a second look!   RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Before we leave this particular piece we'd like to extend a word of thanks to Ben Brown, who pointed out that there was a second, not-quite-per-spec camouflage scheme for the RF-101G/H that didn't match the F-101 scheme specified in T.O. 1-1-4. Our conclusion is that the scheme was a depot-level and non-standard interpretation of the authorized pattern. It's a neat addendum to the Voodoo story and we're pleased to be able to present it here.

U-Birds in Georgia

You'd think that I'd have learned by now---I'm always receiving these really neat photos and I publish them, then wait for an acknowledged authority on that particular airplane to contact me and tell me what's going on. Today's a new day, and it's no different than any other in most respects, so here are some F4U-1A shots for your perusal and edification. They're here via the kindness of Bobby Rocker and illustrate Corsairs on the transient ramp at Robbins AB in Georgia during the 1940s. Enjoy!

The war was over when this photo of the transient ramp at Robbins AB near Macon, Georgia, was taken, but this photo could have been taken during 1944 or 45; the airplanes haven't changed all that much since the close of hostilities. We have no idea what any of the units might be, but we love the shot for its glimpse into the immediate post-War era.   Rocker Collection

Here's a closeup of one of those F4U-1s for you. We're guessing these birds are from a training or NavRes unit given their markings, but we've been wrong before.   Rocker Collection

How's that for a set of markings? We're presuming there's some sort of command connection with 2-CGS, but our archives aren't much help in identifying the unit. We'll just sit back and wait for the letters...   Rocker Collection

And here's a final shot to whet your appetite for Things Post-War! It's our guess that most of these aircraft are F4U-1Ds and we know they're at Robbins, but that's the extent of our knowledge. If you'd like to make us all a little smarter and know something about these birds, drop us a line at  . We don't know if you'll be glad you did, but we sure will be!   Rocker Collection.

A Polka Dot Surprise

Last issue we showed you a few RF-101Cs from the 45th Tac Recon Squadron taken during their camouflaged days in Vietnam, and we mentioned their first excursion into that theater, at least in the Voodoo, occurred in December of 1961 during the Air Force's Able Mable deployment to the region. Mention of that program caused us to think back to things we'd seen but couldn't quite place, and a subsequent search turned up this image:

Now THIS is what we're talking about! The time is December, 1961, the place is Thailand, and the aircraft is a 45th TRS RF-101C-65-MC, s/n 56-0079,  nick-named "Mary Ann Burns". A quick glance to the left side of the shot shows us the 45th's blue with white polka dots nose stripe, which means the vertical tail is almost certainly carrying the 45th's patented "Polka Dots" paintwork as well. We don't know about you, but this image really has us pumped up!   National Museum of the US Air Force

Phantoms of a Different Pheather

VMF-232 is one of those squadrons that goes Way Back, tracing its lineage to its establishment in 1925 as VF-3M, followed by a series of designation changes and running through assignment to Tsientsin in the late 20s, the ZI (San Diego) in the 30s, Pearl Harbor (as VMSB-232) in 1941, Guadalcanal, and Esprito Santo (as VMTB-232). A series of assignments throughout the Central Pacific found them on Okinawa at war's end, after which they were decommissioned for a short period of time, only to be stood up again as a Marine Reserve fighter unit, VMF-232, a designation that has taken them into the 21st Century.

We're not interested in any of that at the moment, however. Today we're more concerned with what they were doing in November of 1982, when they were flying the McDonnell Douglas F-4S on a det at Nellis. Thanks to the kindness of reader Scott Wilson we've got a few unusual examples of "Double Ugly" to share with you today.

Let's start off with this study of 155858, an F-4S that represents what a great many Marine and NAVAIR aircraft looked like during the early 1980s. TPS had begun to work its way into the community, and aircraft wearing their older Easter Egg colors were becoming an endangered species, but a few were still around. The place is Nellis Air Force Base, where Scott photographed a fair portion of the squadron during the course of a TDY. Originally an F-4J-36-MC, 858 ended up in the Boneyard in 1986.   Scott Wilson

Top Gun, and ACM in general, was in full force in '82, and the year found a great many aircraft painted in color schemes reflecting the mission even though some of them, such as those you'll see in this piece, were of a strictly temporary nature. BuNo 155836 was one such bird. She was built as an F-4J-35-MC and is shown here wearing a scheme with markings that could only be described as "extremely toned down". Rebuilt as an F-4S, she crashed to destruction in 1985 while flying with VF-201. Her 1982 paint scheme looks deceptively easy to paint, but we're willing to bet it's a booger-bear to replicate!   Scott Wilson

Here's a 3/4 rear view of 155836 to further illustrate just what we mean when we say the paint job would be tough to model. It feathers in places you wouldn't expect it too, and the modest amount of weathering the aircraft is carrying is deceptive, changing hues and values in ways you wouldn't expect. It's a neat scheme, but...   Scott Wilson

Here's a view of 153825 to further prove the point, as if that point needed proving at all! All of the aircraft illustrated here today are carrying an absolute bare minimum of markings, generally just a Bureau number in the usual place and a modex number on the nose. Once again, the paintwork feathers in and out in a manner that makes us think you could get close to the scheme if you were painting a model, but this is one of the few aircraft we've seen that very nearly defies replication. Like so many of her sisters, she was ultimately brought up to F-4S standard. She ended up at DM in 1985.   Scott Wilson

This 3/4 nose view of 153825's starboard side shows how the temporary camouflage looks over the full-size national insignia the aircraft is wearing. All of these aircraft are configured with Sidewinder rails on the inboard pylons and a centerline tank---they're ready to go at it air-to-air!   Scott Wilson

153833, an F-4J-30-MC, provides yet another example of 232's temporary ACM TPS paintwork. She's tidier than some of the other aircraft in this essay but that paintwork is still soft-edged; we're guessing the guys in Corrosion Control had a lot of fun painting these aircraft! 833 was converted to F-4S standard in 1990 and became a QF-4S in 2004. The Department of the Navy got their money's worth out of some of their F-4 fleet!   Scott Wilson

This view defines her paintwork a little better, and also shows off her inert AIM-9 to advantage. Her paint job was done to a higher standard than that of several of her sister birds, but it would still be a little bit of a challenge to model.   Scott Wilson

And now for something a little bit different! Those 1980s ACM schemes were all over the place in terms of color and pattern, a prime example of which is F-4J-31-MC 153860, which is done up in shades of terracotta. Her original 16440 Light Gull Grey upper surface paintwork peeks out from her BuNo and tail number, while the gloss white on her horizontal stabilators has become part of the paint scheme. We like the other airplanes, the ones done up in shades of grey, quite a bit better, but you have to admit she's different! She ended up in storage at MCAS Cherry Point.   Scott Wilson

We'll close today's look at 232 with this shot of BuNo 153810. She's an F-4J-30-MC and is wearing a spiffy set of desert camo, appropriate paint work for her 1982 ACM det at Nellis. Of interest is the white paintwork on her horizontal stabs, which has been only minimally over-painted. She went to VMFA-312 in 1984, and was subsequently scrapped out, a sad end...   Scott Wilson

Many thanks to Scott for his kindness in sharing these images with us today!

Addendum: Shortly after publishing this we heard from Rick Morgan, who assured us that most of the aircraft that we identified as Js were, in fact, early conversions of the F-4S. Thanks, Morgo!

So That's How They Worked!

17 May, 1941, was a special day in the service career of a young Ensign Tennes, who got to try out the flotation gear installed in his F4F-3. Let's take a look:

If that side number is to be believed, this Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat was assigned to the Enterprise's Fighting Six at the time she took her swim in San Diego Bay. Her flotation bags have deployed as designed and she's bobbing gently in that bay awaiting recovery, while an amused station officer looks on from his gig. Most of those flotation bags on US naval aircraft went away before the beginning of the war, but they were still installed in the Spring of '41. That monochromatic non-specular light grey makes for a pretty airplane, albeit one that's difficult to model since it's so clean! We're just never satisfied, are we?   Rocker Collection

Thanks as always to Bobby Rocker for this fascinating look into our past.

OK; What Does It Mean?

Those of our readers who aren't familiar with the way things are done in military aviation may not be aware that most aircraft evolve over their service lives, and that sometimes that evolution involves experimentation. Here's an example of what we mean:

At first glance this is an ordinary photograph, one of VA-55's Charlie-model A-4s on the ground at DaNang during 1967 while taking part in the late Southeast Asia War Games. In fact, she's about as Plain Jane as she can be until you take a look inside her port-side flap, where the word "Boron" appears in large white letters. Original speculation, mine included, was that the name was somehow attached to some peculiarity of the pilot nominally assigned to the aircraft, but further investigation showed that the NAV and McAir were mutually involved in testing boron-composite flaps on Naval aircraft during 1966, and this aircraft is therefore a prime candidate (don't understate the obvious, Phillip!) for that program. 149551 would make a fascinating model in this configuration, something a little unique in the combat zone.  Many thanks to Rick Morgan for sharing the original image and to Tommy Thomason for putting us all on the track of the boron project. Check out Tommy's blog at for further details of the program.

The Relief Tube

Yep, that's right! We've got a couple of comments to publish this time, so without further ado...

Last time around we showed you a few U-birds, with a comment on one photo regarding the paintwork. Pat Donahue was able to fill in the blanks for us:

Phil, I think that you are looking at a weathered "graded tone" application. To only areas with intermediate sea blue were the vertical tail and outer wing panel bottoms. The sides of the fuselage and cowl were painted using 2 colors: a base white application and a hazy overspray of dark sea blue to APPROXIMATE the intermediate sea blue then a solid application of dark sea blue on the upper surfaces. With this application it seems that the swath of paint approximating intermediate sea blue is pretty narrow especially noticeable on the cowl. Dana Bell has done some work on this in his first volume of the F4U. I think this application was more prevalent among Goodyear produced machines and like the haze painted recon P-38s it did not weather well.... A couple of other shots of this paint application. Cheers, Pat Donahue

Way back in the beginnings of this project we ran more than a few shots of 1940s-vintage NavRes birds, and asked for clarification from our readers in a couple of instances. We received this response a couple of weeks ago to one of those questions:

Phil, (regarding) Your 2011/07/some-turkeys-splitter-art-its-about (article), it includes the following paragraph (and question): "This TBM-3E was caught running up at NAS Squantum in 1947 and, like 91433 above, she's well on her way to being all used up. There's a badge under the windscreen, but we can't quite make it out, and we've been through all our assets and are stumped by that Zulu Alpha tail code. If you know the unit please drop us a line at . J. Sullivan Collection "You may have already discovered the meaning of the ZA tail code mentioned above. However, if not, I found the following information at this webpage:    Here are the codes through 1949:

 A Anacostia
 B Atlanta
 C Columbus
 D Dallas
 E Minneapolis
 F Jacksonville (also used by Oakland 1948)
 G Oakland
 H Miami
 I Grosse Ile
 K Olathe
 L Los Alamitos (also used by Akron 1948)
 M Memphis
 N Spokane (1948)
 P Denver
 R New York (Brooklyn)
 S Norfolk
 T Seattle
 U St Louis
 V Glenview
 W Willow Grove
 X New Orleans
 Z Squantum

 Also in 1946 a second letter was used to indicate squadron type:

 A Attack
 F Fighter
 P Patrol
 R Transport
 U Utility

 David Elliot

Thanks, David, and thanks for taking the time to provide that list!

One more thing before we go---if you read any of those modeling boards you've probably read by now that Jerry Campbell, the founder and long-time owner of the Squadron Shop, has passed. His contributions to our hobby are considerable, and it's difficult to imagine how our hobby would be had he not had the vision he had. Like so many others we had a direct link to him---he was an early advertiser on the original RIS project, and a major distributor as well. Those things are pretty well-known to those who happen to own an early copy of the magazine. What's not generally known is that Jerry once tried to buy the project to use as Squadron's in-house magazine. We didn't want to sell it, so the deal never went through, but you have to wonder where our extraordinarily modest publication would have ended up if we've done it.

That said, one of the giants of our hobby is gone, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude. His vision, and the actions he took to realize it, improved plastic modeling beyond all recognition. Thanks, Jerry, for what you gave to the hobby! You'll be missed.

And that's it for today. We're already working on our next issue, so maybe (hopefully?) you won't have to wait another month and a half for our next thrilling episode, but until then be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!


Friday, May 15, 2015

Better Than You Thought, A Couple From Eniwetok, Some Door Art, Phollowing a Phantom, Classy Dogs, and Voodoos in The 'Nam

Everything Old is New Again

I think I've said that before but, if I haven't, I should have. After all, most things in life are repetitive, and whether or not they're new to any of us really comes down to our own personal perspective on things---the title of an old Byrd's song, Funny How the Circle is a Wheel, comes to mind in this context. That circular evolution, to coin a phrase that somebody else probably came up with long before I ever thought of it, can explain a lot in The Big Picture of Life. It can also explain quite a bit in regard to The Far Smaller Big Picture of Plastic Modeling.

Take, for example, the ubiquitous Messerschmitt Bf/Me109 family of Second World War fighters, a collection of aircraft variants about which everything there is to know is known. We've figured that one out, and we've got all the bases covered, or at least we thought we did. Just a couple of weeks ago, back towards the end of March, several of those ubiquitous scale modeling boards I'm always mentioning discovered a Brand New 109 Variant; the Me109K-6. It's an airplane that looks like the far-more-common Me109K-4 except that it's carrying a 30mm cannon buried in each wing, along with a permanently-installed gun camera. That's right; a late-war 109 built with a pair of cannon inside the wings rather than slung underneath in gondolas. It was a revelation!

That revelation came to light in a photograph of American GIs sitting on the hulk of one of the aircraft, and the news of that photo spread far and wide and being disseminated somewhat faster than a speeding bullet, to steal an old expression. That dissemination was rather quickly followed by an illustration of the sub-type, a 3-dimensional inboard profile that showed the location of the significant components of that variation to include the somewhat astounding wing gun installation, which in turn caused the expenditure of a great many electrons as both common folk and authorities pounced on The New 109 Variant with both feet. A New 109 Variant! Shazbot!!!

Or is it really new? The gun installation in those wings was uncomfortably familiar, as was the drawing that was offered in a forum or two as corroboration of the installation as a "standard" feature, projected or actual, in the never-produced in quantity (as far as we know) Me109K-6. That discomfort led me to the bookshelves, to a 1973-vintage Monogram Aviation Publications work by Tom Hitchcock entitled Messerschmitt 'O-Nine Gallery. There, residing in all its splendor on page 49 of that once-cherished but now largely debunked study, was the same 3/4-view inboard profile of an Me109K-6 (and, to throw a little fuel on the fire, a follow-on Me109K-8 to go with it!). We'd known about that "new variant" since 1973!

It's pretty normal these days for certain segments of those who reside within our hobby to discredit the older works that live out there in Reference Land. Often that's for good reason, since nowadays we all have information at our fingertips, via the Internet, that only the most hard-core collector, scholar, or enthusiast had at their disposal Back in the Day. Anybody can go on the 'net nowadays and glean information that was impossible for most of us to access a mere 20 years ago (presuming, of course, that said information is accurate in the first place, but that's a topic for another day...), which in turn means that a lot of the information that was published way back then is considered suspect by a great many enthusiasts, particularly the younger ones. The "Thorpe Books" come to mind when we consider that point, as do several other volumes that were once standard references but are now largely ignored by most modelers. It's a mistake to do that.

Consider this if you will: Serious research did not lie fallow for decades awaiting the invention of the Internet to come along and legitimatize it, and the foundation of a great deal of the information now available to us all came about as the result of the labor of a great many historians and authors who only had printed references to work with, and often had limited access to those. While it's true that a great many of those older publications were, and still are, flawed to some extent, that was never for lack of trying and, contrary to contemporary popular opinion, a great many of those older and now ignored references actually do have something to offer. Take that old Hitchcock 109 reference, for example. It's true that a lot of what's in it is flawed, but it's equally true that a lot of what's in there isn't. Funny how that works, isn't it?

Should we all run out and buy every old aviation book we can find, then? No probably not; the newer stuff truly is better in most respects than anything that came before. What we should do is be a little less quick to jump on the old stuff as worthless, because a great deal of it is far from that, and almost all of it laid the foundations our modern researchers and writers use every day as they create the new references we look on with wide-eyed amazement. Think about it and, while you're at it, think about Thomas Hitchcock, and John Beaman, and Don Thorpe, and all those other guys who led the way with the references they had available at the time. Long ago, in a faraway land...

That Other Wildcat

When most of us think of the Grumman Wildcat family, we tend to think of F4F-3s holding the line in those Bad Old Days of early 1942, or of F4F-4s clinging to a muddy Henderson Field and doing the best they could against overwhelming odds. Those things are an essential part of the Wildcat story, but they're far from being the only part of it. The last of the American service variant of the type was intended to be built as the F4F-8, but ended up being constructed by General Motors and named the FM-2 instead. It was a pip of an airplane too; slightly lighter than the F4F-4 and with a bigger motor and a paddle-blade propeller to go with it (and a larger vertical stab to offset torque). Its gun suite was reduced to the F4F-3's original two guns per wing, which offered both reduced weight as well as the opportunity to carry more rounds per gun, and it was plumbed for a pair of 58-gallon auxiliary tanks right from the factory. It was in every respect the best of its breed, and thanks to Jim Sullivan we're going to take a quick look at it today.

The FM-2 was painted in a variety of camouflage schemes depending upon the theater of operations. It made its operational debut in the Pacific in what we now call Tri-Scheme, as typified by this aircraft from VC-14, sitting on the flight deck of the USS Hoggatt Bay (CVE-75) in November of 1944. This particular aircraft is almost a Plain Jane but not quite; note the nickname "Judy" painted on the cowling. The FM-2 often operated without the wheel covers so prevalent on the F4F-3 and -4, and its silver-painted spoked wheels are well-illustrated in this image.  Sullivan Collection

Here's another example of the FM-2 in Tri-Scheme, this time sitting on the deck of CVE-30 USS Charger in November of 1943, presumably working up prior to delivery to the Fleet. Note the delivery numbers chalked on her cowling and vertical stabilizer, the plated-over fuselage windows, and the wheel covers. This photograph was almost certainly taken during carrier qualifications and provides us with a fine example of an early, and almost brand new, FM-2.  Sullivan Collection

Here's an FM-2 that's most assuredly not on carrier trials! The aircraft is assigned to  Gambier Bay's
VC-10 in June of 1944, and has apparently done a bit of a headstand on the flight deck. In some situations the damage would have been deemed repairable, but by mid-1944 there was no shortage of fighters aboard American aircraft carriers and it would appear that B19 is on her way over the side. Note her missing canopy and the various panels removed from the fuselage and wings, although the engine and prop are still on the airframe---the engine would have required a complete inspection and overhaul after a prop strike and the effort just wasn't worth it, so she's taking the plunge with her powerplant installed. The NAV had a lot of airplanes in 1944!   Sullivan Collection

In 1944 the Navy changed the paint scheme of its tactical aircraft to overall Glossy Sea Blue, as exemplified by this extremely faded example sitting on the ramp at NAS Whidbey Island that same year. While the Grumman F6F Hellcat often featured national insignia applied as white on GSB, that practice was never done to the FM-2. This photo provides an excellent example of that; a full Insignia Blue and Insignia White star and bar applied to the fuselage and wings in textbook fashion. The aircraft has obviously seen better days but is still in service, at least for a while.   Sullivan Collection

In this photo we get to see an FM-2 from Rudyard Bay's VC-96 illustrating the way GSB appeared when it was relatively new, and it shows off the national insignia to advantage. The shot is useful to the modeler in a number of other respects as well. Note the under-wing rocket stubs, and the white-painted 58-gallon gas bags---the Tri-Scheme FM-2s had white aux tanks, and a large number of those found their way onto GSB-painted aircraft when the Fleet repainted its fighters in GSB. The wheel covers are worth a look as well, as is the tailhook, and the badly-weathered propeller is certainly worth a second take. We consider this bird to be well worth modeling!   Sullivan Collection

Whoa, Nelly! This VC-70 aircraft is coming aboard the USS Salamaua during flight operations, and is giving its driver quite a run for his money. Drama notwithstanding, the photo is once again worthwhile for the details it offers to the modeler; the white-painted gas bags, rockets mounted to the zero-length launching stubs on the wings. silver-painted spoked wheels, and white arrestor hook. The FM-2 was in its prime as a secondary fighter when this photo was taken.  Sullivan Collection

This FM-2 appears to be on a flight deck somewhere in the Pacific during 1945, but appearances can be deceiving! She's actually sitting on the training carrier USS Sable and is operating in the Great Lakes. Judging from those bent prop blades her pilot, Ensign John Hood, has just successfully performed an aviator's headstand and survived the experience. There were no easy days, even in the training command.   Sullivan Collection

The FM-2 spent its combat carrier operating off the escort carriers and was effectively obsolescent at the end of the war. A few aircraft managed to survive a few years into the post-War era, as typified by this battered example sitting on the ground in 1948, but most were dumped over the side at the end of the war or scrapped out shortly thereafter. It was a sad end to a great airplane, but a handful of examples have survived and are showing the folks what the Last of the Wildcats could do on the airshow circuit. If you ever get a chance to see one in the flesh you need to do it. Take a long look at her, and think back to her glory days with Taffy Three. She was quite an airplane!   Clay Jansson via Sullivan Collection

Old Hose-Nose Again

Bobby Rocker's been sending us some interesting photos of late, two of which are presented here today. Let's go to Eniwetok Atoll in mid-1944 and take a look at the goings-on there.

These Corsairs are from VMF-113 and are undergoing maintenance on Engebi Island at Eniwetok. The aircraft are F4U-1As, and appear to be perfectly normal, right up to the point where you start looking at their paintwork. Those birds should be in either Tri-Scheme or maybe, just maybe, in GSB, but their fuselages at the least appear to be in the old non-specular blue-grey over light grey, a paint job that they should most assuredly not be wearing! Your guess is as good as ours as to why they're painted like that, and the e-mail channels are open at . Drop us a line if you know what's going on here!   National Archives via Rocker Collection

This is a little more like we'd expect---a Glossy Sea Blue Corsair sitting on the ground at Engebi. The airplane is interesting, of course, but take a minute and look at those Marine pilots standing beside her. Combat in The Pacific was a Tough Date right up until the shooting stopped, and it's guaranteed that at least a couple of those guys never made it back to the ZI to celebrate the victory. They answered they call and they went to war knowing full-well the possible consequences. They were a special breed. Let's raise a glass!

Thanks as always to Bobby Rocker for these images; his collection never ceases to amaze us and we're extremely grateful for his participation in this project.  Thanks, Bobby!

So Where's the Rest of It?

Sometimes we find photos that prompt us to look for other photos, and this is one of them:

We were going through some old F-4 shots the other day (imagine that!) and found this image of the gear door art worn by F-4D 66-7515 of the 507th TFS. John Dienst shot the artwork and, we presume, the aircraft it was applied to, back on 02 June 1983, but we've got a problem! We've got a photo of this artwork but nothing, nada, zip, of the entire aircraft. We can tell you that she went to Davis Monthan for storage in 1987, and that she was scrapped out in 1989, but we can't show you a picture of the whole airplane, so if you've got one, well; you know the drill:  is the address and we'd love to hear from you!   John Dienst

They Rarely Stay in Just One Place

It's a common misunderstanding regarding military aircraft, I think. A lot of people have it in their heads that an airplane leaves the factory, gets itself assigned to a squadron of some sort, and stays there until it's either pranged, shot down, or sent off to the scrapper to become pots and pans. The truth of the matter is quite a different story---those airplanes move around from unit to unit much like their pilots do. Even the trainers bounce around a bit, and the tactical aircraft tend to go from unit to unit far more frequently than you might imagine. Reader Scott Wilson has been sending us a great deal of photography lately (a practice that we strongly encourage, I might add), one group of which tailed a specific F-4C-18-MC from its service with Kelly AFB's 182nd TFS/149th TFG to its final duty station with Oregon's 123rd FIS/142nd FIG. Scott's documentation effectively followed her tracks throughout her post-USAF service with the Guard and thus provides us with an interesting look at one of our favorite airplanes.

63-7517 was rather obviously contracted in FY 1963, but our essay skips her active-duty USAF career and picks her up with her assignment to the Guard at Kelly AFB in July of 1981. In this view, she's painted in the conventional SEA tactical camouflage and is part of a three-ship, taxiing out to go move some sand dunes at the Matagorda Island bombing range, a normal activity for the 182nd TFS during the time they operated Phantoms. 7517 must have recently left corrosion control, because she's absolutely spotless in this photo. Then again, the 183rd always took good care of their airplanes...    Scott Wilson

1983 saw a change in mission as well as station. 7517 spend a portion of the early 80s at Ellington AFB outside of Houston, where she served with the 111th FIS/147th FIG, one of the complement of Phantoms that replaced Ellington's now-famous F-101Bs. Her tactical scheme had changed to the overall "ADC Grey" (Aircraft Grey) worn by the Guard's interceptors, and there were no more trips to Matagorda. Once again she was a Clean Machine, although those SEA-camo'd F-4s behind her would seem to indicate a recent visit to the paint shop that the other ships in that lineup had yet to experience.  Scott Wilson

By July of 1989 she'd reached her final station, being transferred to Oregon's 123rd FIS, and her paintwork had changed once again, reflecting the Air Force's painting directives of the era. Her subdued greys looked just fine, thank you very much, but didn't have quite the snap of her previous clothing---it's really tough to make an assortment of flat greys look pretty. Still, a Phantom's a Phantom no matter how she's painted, and old "Double Ugly" was an effective, if aging, platform right up to her final days of service. 7517 retired to the desert shortly after this photo was taken, a sad, if normal, end to a fine airplane.   Scott Wilson

There's one more thing we should mention prior to leaving this particular piece; Scott moved around quite a bit during his time with the Air Force and the Guard and rather obviously knows how to use a camera. There's a lot more of his photography where this came from, so stay tuned!

Just Can't Get Enough of Those Iron Dogs

Particularly not when they look like these do. At first glance our next photo looks pretty normal, and we suspect most of you have seen at least one of these airplanes before. What you haven't seen are the way they're marked, so sit back and get ready to be amazed!

OK, so what's so new about these airplanes, you might rightly ask yourself. After all, everybody has seen at least one photo of the 82nd TRS' P-39Ns, and everybody has seen "Little Sir Echo/Texas", so what's the Big Deal? Well, don't go getting all uppity on us and we'll explain, and for your part you can prepare to be modestly amazed! First things first; there are indications that "Little Sir Echo" might have bagged a pair of Ki-43s at some point in its career which certainly makes it worth a second look, but that ain't all! Let's start with the obvious; those beat-up gas bags, pretty normal except for the sharkmouth on the one "Echo" is carrying. As you marvel at that somewhat aggressive-looking drop tank, shift your eyes slightly to the right and check out the main landing gear doors. Shazbot! Those doors are scalloped in the best tradition of 1930s American air racers! Holy cow; who would've expected that! And that's not all! Slide your glance over to the aircraft on the far left, because "Ruthie II" has the same treatment on her doors, although in a lighter color. (She also carries the earlier, small diameter nose wheel, but that's a story for another day.) Holy Cow! We told you we'd be impressed!  Rocker Collection

Maybe you're smarter than we are and knew it all along, but those scallops are news to us. As nearly as we can recall we first saw a photo of "Little Sir Echo" (named after Bing Crosby's 1939 song by that title) sometime back in the late 1960s, and we'd never noticed those scallops until just recently. That proves something about the fine art of paying attention, we think, and it also reminds us once again how fortunate we are that Bobby Rocker has spent the better part of his adult life collecting photographs of American military airplanes!

It Was Big and It Was LOUD, But the Polka Dots Were All Covered Up

And, up until it was replaced by its more effective younger brother, the RF-4C, it was also the best photo recce platform the USAF had ever possessed. It was big and it was heavy, and it most assuredly wasn't much at turning, but by the time McDonnell had gotten around to the Charlie variant of its RF-101 family they'd pretty much figured out the photo recon thing and the Voodoo was the perfect airplane for the mission. The RF-101C was available and in service in the Far East when the United States first began air operations over Laos and the Republic of Vietnam, and was heavily involved in the Able Mable operations begun by TDY Voodoos of Misawa's 45th TRS and operating out of Thailand during December of 1961.

By the time The Big War had begun, the 45th had changed stations and moved from its long-time home on Northern Honshu to Tan Son Nhut AB in Vietnam. Photographer Rick Burgess spent some time at that base, and we're privileged to share some of his photography from those days courtesy the kindness of Mark Nankivil and the Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum.

It's March 20, 1968, and 56-0061, an RF-101C-65-MC, touches down at Tan San Nhut after a sortie. Those gas bags slowed her down a bit and the added weight and drag of her paintwork didn't help things either, but she was still fast. Simple speed wasn't enough, though, and Voodoo losses were significant throughout the type's use in theater. It's hard to imagine how things would have worked out if the 45th had taken the 101's immediate predecessor, the Republic RF-84F, to war instead.  RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

May 22nd, 1968, saw Rick Burgess beside the active at Tan Son Nhut once again, catching aircraft as they recovered from missions to Points Northwest. This time the aircraft was 56-0061, an airplane that proves a point of sorts. Modelers should note that none of these 101s are particularly weathered and are obviously well-cared for, even though they're in the middle of a shooting war. The Insignia Red interiors of the speed brake and landing gears wells are worth a second look too.  RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Although nose art was no stranger to the Air Force of the Vietnam era, it was officially discouraged for a fair part of the war. The sharp-eyed reader will note that only one of the aircraft illustrated in this essay carries any sort of nose art at all, and 56-0071 illustrates that point to a tee. It's not that the aircraft of the 45th never had nose art, because there was a point in their SEA career when a great many did, but there was a substantial period of time during their service there when their aircraft went largely unmarked. One more thing to note about this shot (aside from that interesting B-57 parked behind 0071); Most of the Air Force's second-generation fast jets had aircraft-specific boarding ladders as part of their ground support equipment, and the one for the Voodoo is well illustrated here. That may seem mundane at first glance, but a picture's worth a thousand words to the scale modeler.   RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

And here's 0041 taken on the same ramp during June of 1968, just a month after 0071 posed for her photo. This shot is similar to the one immediately above but the lighting on it is different, which gives us a chance to look at the way the camouflage paint was applied. Notice how the demarcation of the greens over the tan appear to have been sprayed separately? It's almost as though these were big model airplanes rather than the real thing! This method of paint application gives those modelers known as Paint Pedantics something else to obsess over when they get together and talk about airplanes. Beauty!   RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Our next three shots are all pretty much the same photo from some perspectives, but they're all interesting in and of themselves so we're going to run them all. If you don't particularly care for RF-101s this might be a good time to skip to a different part of the blog!

Our final three images were all taken at the same spot beside the active on 26 June, 1968, and all show Voodoos of the 45th in the act of recovering from a mission or missions over Laos, Cambodia, or within Vietnam, Republic Of. We're guessing there was some sort of drama going on with 0047 during this particular landing since her barrier arresting gear is deployed, but we have no idea what that drama might have been. There's one thing for certain, though; there were no easy days up North.   RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum.

Here's 0071 again, this time returning from a mission. Like all of its Century Series stablemates, the RF-101C was equipped by a drogue chute, which is shown deployed in all of these recovery shots, but it was common to perform the first part of the landing evolution with the aircraft in a fairly steep nose-up attitude in order to take advantage of aerodynamic braking.The Voodoo was big and she was heavy, and needed all the help she could get on a short runway!   RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

We'll finish up our photo essay today with this shot of 56-0083 touching down. Note that she appears to have a name of some sort painted on her nose, but it's small and we have no idea what it might be. Drop us a line if you know what it is!   RA Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

And now it's Bonus time here at Replica in Scale, at least for the modelers among our readership. If you're interested in building your very own Vietnam-era RF-101C you might have an interest in the next couple of images.

If you're a modeler and want to build yourself a Voodoo from the SouthEast Asia Wargames, sooner or later you're going to want to paint it. Here's something to help you do that---the appropriate page from T.O. 1-1-4. Our copy is dated 19 January, 1967, and is therefore appropriate to a 1968-vintage RF-101C (not that the paintwork changed all that much once those early experimental schemes had been left behind). Keep in mind that variations will exist from aircraft to aircraft when painted in the SEA camouflage; it's highly doubtful that any of the Voodoos illustrated on these pages conformed 100% to the painting directives!

Here's something for the detail freaks among us. Sargent-Fletcher manufactured gas bags, pods, and various and sundry other under-the-airplane thingies during the golden age of the Silver and Vietnam-era Air Force. This illustration is from one of their early-70s catalogs and provides us with details of the 450-gallon aux tanks used by the Voodoo. It may or may not be of interest to you, but we like it so we're sharing it. Feel free not to use it if you don't care about such things.

Here's a scan of a real, honest to Goodness 45th TRS patch I bought at the base exchange in Misawa, during 1964, just for your edification. I kept it all those years so I could show it to you today!

And that's it for today's look at the Voodoo, but we're a long way from done with the type. Stay tuned!

Under the Radar

Since we haven't talked much about books lately (or much of anything else, for that matter), we probably ought to get back in the groove before you begin to think we no longer know how to read! Today we're going to look at not one, but three---count 'em, THREE---volumes, because they're essentially one book, and we're going to say right from the start that you'll be doing yourself a considerable disservice if you only read one of them. It's a continuity thing if you will.

Invasion Rabaul, Zenith Press, 2006 and 2014, 270 pp plus notes and indices, illustrated. Bruce Gamble is a retired NFO with a passion for history, and his three-volume treatise on the struggle for the Japanese Fortress at Rabaul is without question the definitive work on the subject. This first volume, originally published in 2006 as Darkest Hour and republished under its current title in 2014, covers the Australian base at Rabaul and its loss to the Japanese during January of 1942. This particular volume has relatively little coverage of aviation because the Australian forces at Rabaul had virtually no air assets to speak of prior to the Japanese assault, but rather addresses the creation, activities, and loss of Lark Force, the under-manned and under-equipped garrison sent to Rabaul and left hung out to dry there by the Australian government of the time. Readers of this blog may not be particularly attracted to this volume since it's so thin on aviation, but we advise reading it before reading the other two books because of the background and perspective it puts on the entire campaign.

Fortress Rabaul, Zenith Press, 2010, 350 pp plus notes and indices, illustrated. Of the three volumes of this history, this one is the one most likely to be acquired and read by enthusiasts, since it covers the 5th AF's and Navy's operations against Rabaul up until April of 1943. Those air operations are covered in considerable detail and the "classic" ops against the Japanese bastion are explained in such a way that a complicated and easily misunderstood aerial campaign becomes simple to understand. This volume made me pull down and start an Accurate Miniatures B-25D...

Target: Rabaul, Zenith Press, 2013, 362 pp plus notes and indices, illustrated. This volume covers operations against Rabaul from March of 1943 up to the end of the war, and continues in the same scholarly yet reader-friendly style employed by Gamble in his first two volumes. Once again air operations are the star of the show, but this book also provides a great deal of detail regarding the fate of those Allied airmen (and soldiers, since there were a handful of Lark Force survivors at Rabaul as well) unfortunate enough to fall into Japanese hands as prisoners of war. In point of fact all three books of this remarkable work detail the plight of the Allied POWs and their brutal treatment by their captors; this volume ties it all together for the reader and helps to provide additional insight into one of the many facets of the bloodiest aerial campaign of the Pacific War.

We purchased these books together and read them in sequence over a period of a couple of weeks. We recommend that you do the same, because the three volumes are essentially one book that's broken down into three manageable parts. They are, without question, essential to any library that focuses on the air war in the Pacific. Bruce Gamble is a remarkable and gifted writer and we can easily see these books remaining the go-to references on the subject for a great many years to come.

Not Quite a Happy Snap

Every once in a while we receive a photograph that we know had to come from some sort of official source rather than one of our readers, but that fits into our Happy Snaps section anyway. This is one of those shots:

We had to take a severe second look at this photo when we received it from Mark Nankivil a few months ago. It's unusual, it's remarkable, and more importantly, no naval aviators were harmed in its making, unless you count damaged pride, of course! It's a fitting way to end this edition, and we hope you all enjoy it. We sure did!

The Relief Tube

It's been 5 weeks, give or take, since last we met, and most of our letters have been of the "where are you and why aren't you publishing" variety so once again we're going to slide right past offering anything in the way of corrections. On the other hand, there are a lot of photographs up there for you to look at, which means there are many opportunities for me to make a mistake! That address once again is . If all those spam dudes can find the address then so can you, so don't be shy!

And that's it for today. Be good to your neighbor and with any luck we'll meet again soon!