Tales of Misawa: The Scaredest I've Ever Been
As you all may remember (and Lord knows you should, since I've told you about it often enough!) I spent a considerable portion of my high-school days at Misawa AB in northern Japan. It was, all in all, a teenage boy's dream come true; no responsibilities other than school to worry about, a foreign country to explore, a motorcycle to explore it on, and, perhaps most importantly lots and lots of airplanes to look at.
Misawa during my time there (1962 until 1965) was home to the 39th Air Division and was charged with the protection of that end of Japan, among other duties (we aren't going to discuss the Other Duties the 39th performed that caused F-100Ds of the 531st TFS to rotate deployments out of South Korea on a regular basis), and until late 1964 the place was literally swarming with airplanes. The JASDF was there of course, with T-6Gs and C-46s from time to time, while the 39th was mother to the 4th FIS (F-102As), the 45th TRS (RF-101Cs), and, for the greater part of 1964, their very own pair of F-100D squadrons (the 416th and 531st TFSs). Add in a hefty dose of transients and you can well understand why a teenage kid who was hooked on military aviation and enjoyed building model airplanes was quite literally living the dream!
There was a serious side to it, though, since there was only one reason why we were there at all. The Cold War was ever-present, and a thermonuclear confrontation with those bad guys was quite literally just the push of a button away. My dad's assignment to Misawa began in October of 1962, and I'm going to presume I don't have to explain the significance of that particular month and year. We dependents led a relatively carefree life, but our fathers were quite literally on the front lines of The End of the World. Sometimes that reality came crashing home to us and gave even the most frivolous of us something to think about. At that point in my life (and in most others as well) I was frivolous, quite possibly to the extreme, but one night in 1964 came the closest to changing things away from frivolity that I've ever personally experienced.
Now that the stage is set, and before we get to The Good Part, I probably ought to explain that Drama is often in the eye of the beholder and/or participant, and one person's drama may well be another's amusement or, quite possibly, boredom. You get to pick whichever you prefer once you've finished reading, but I'm going to tell you right now, and without embarrassment, that I was scared that night; the most scared I've ever been in all my years on the planet. Here's what happened:
If you grew up on Air Force bases during the 1950s and 60s, you crew up with a phenomenon known as The Alert. That didn't mean all that much on training bases, but on a SAC, TAC, ADC, USAFE, or PACAF base it was an event often accompanied by high drama because of the ever-present possibility that the alert wasn't for practice but was in fact The Real Thing (I've personally seen people, women and children, nearly trampled when the alert horn went off in the BX on a SAC base), and there was no way to know which one it was, at least for a dependent, until after the whole thing was over and done with. It was a normal part of life.
That particular normalcy was an ongoing thing at Misawa in those days. Vladivostok was an easy flight away, as was North Korea, and alerts were an ongoing part of the adventure until that one night when the base siren went off in the wee hours. My dad, along with every other service member on base, responded to the sound by jumping out of bed, throwing on his uniform, and running out the door to get to his squadron area. All the racket woke me up, of course, and I lay there listening for The Good Part, because the 39th AD often launched the duty pair of "Deuces" when such festivities occurred and it was fun, if you liked airplanes, to listen to them get off the ground. That night wasn't a disappointment, but on that occasion there was a whole lot more to it than just a couple of F-102s getting into the air.
If you're around airplanes very much at all, you soon begin to recognize different types simply by their sound. The F-102s were unique in that respect, as were the RF-101s, and nobody who's ever heard a "Hun" launch can forget the sound it makes when it goes into burner, so it was relatively easy to figure out what was getting in the air that night, and when.
The 102s got off the ground first, as to be expected, and then there was a lull. It was just another alert, or at least that's what I thought until eight or ten minutes later, when a pair of "Huns" launched, followed by another pair, and then another, and then another. The air around the base was filled with jet engine noise as fighter after fighter was started, run up, taxied, and launched, mostly F-100s but with a 102 or two in the mix, along with at least one "Voodoo", and it quickly became abundantly clear that everything capable of getting airborne that night was being launched. It took a few minutes for the significance of it all to settle in, and I didn't go back to sleep until I heard the first aircraft recover an hour or so later.
My dad didn't come home the next morning the way he normally would have, but returned to our quarters around midday, for lunch. I was there too, and I asked what was going on the night before; his response was "you don't need to know". One of our neighbors was an armament and electronics type assigned to the 4th FIS, and he was the next adult I ran into as I left our house on my way back to school. My question to him got pretty much the same response I'd received from my dad, and he looked spooked when he told me not to ask about it. Similar questions to other GIs in my acquaintance got me pretty much the same answer and I still, to this day, don't know what happened that night. I do know that it brought home The Cold War, and my dad's part in the whole business, in a manner that nothing else short of nuclear conflict could have.
Why am I telling you this? Easy; because the incident drove home, to me at least, the reason those airplanes existed in the first place, and it brought clarity to the reason my dad, and all those other men and women, were standing on the wall every night ready to protect us all. That night clarified, as nothing before ever had, what those plastic models I loved to build actually represented. It was a wake-up call of sorts.
Let's raise a glass...
Kickin' It Old School Just One More Time
It's easy to get really spoiled with this hobby of ours, and it seems like not a week goes by without some new wonder kit hitting the shelves, or some new decal sheet, or some amazingly-detailed resin or photo-etched bits. It's all there, it's all for us and it's mostly all new. All we have to do is buy it, often for a pretty penny, but it's all worth it because it's new, right? Well, ok; maybe it's a re-issue and not exactly new, or maybe it's new but not exactly good---the current generation of UberKits come in all sorts of flavors, don't they? Today's flavor isn't a brand new kit, though. It's an old friend, at least to some of us: Monogram's 1/48th scale Lockheed F-80A. Originally released in 1977, it's a dinosaur to a great many of today's modelers, and a virtually unbuildable dinosaur at that; a kit characterized by poor fit and difficult assembly. It's a model totally unworthy of our attention, right? WRONG!
As things turn out, that ancient old F-80 from Morton Grove just happens to be, Right Now This Very Minute, the most accurate F-80 kit available in any scale and guess what? It's perfectly buildable too! Yep; all those pieces that allegedly don't fit each other go together just fine, thank you very much; all you need to get the kit together is patience and a little bit of basic modeling ability. Just watch and see!
firstname.lastname@example.org . Spammers need not apply! Esposito Collection via Kerr
Just How Cold IS It?
Plenty cold, at least if you take this image into account:
At any rate, this photo could be THE photograph describing the hardships our guys faced during the Second World War, particularly since things are obviously so lousy and they aren't even in combat! It makes you think, doesn't it? Many thanks to Bobby Rocker for the image, and to those guys in the picture for being there when they were needed the most. Let's raise a glass!
One Man's Camera
Jim Sullivan is an old friend, one that's been around since the very beginning of the original print Replica in Scale project. Mostly you've seen photos from his collections of historical Navy and Air Force images (they don't call him Mister Corsair for nothing!), but it's a known fact that he's also a superior photographer in his own right, as these images prove:
The Bad Thing on the Block
Every neighborhood's got a tough guy, the junkyard dog you just don't mess around with. When Scott Wilson sent this photo a few months ago there was no doubt that it portrayed that junkyard dog thing to a tee:
And, to put the wrap on the story, here's Scott's account of the incident:
Right after I went on active duty in February 1982 and was assigned to George Airplane Patch in California, I found a road alongside the taxiway where I could park and get a few photos of jets taxiing out. I shot one of 67-0250 on a cold blustery day. I actually threw this slide in the garbage because I didn't think it was worth keeping, but heard that day that 250 had crashed so I fished the slide back out of the garbage. A week later the accident investigation was completed and I was "volunteered" to help clean up the wreckage. When we arrived at the site I immediately took some photos of the wreck.
A couple years ago someone sent me a scan of a photocopy of the accident report which confirmed a rumor I'd heard. The rumor was that a C-141 navigator from Norton AFB had been camping in the desert near the accident site. The site was on a hillside in the Panamint Valley between China Lake and Death Valley. It was many miles to the nearest town, way out in the desert wilderness. Anyway, I'd heard he got photos of the jet coming down and talked to several people who claimed to have seen them. I never saw them, but a composite of his photos was attached to the accident report. It's very difficult to pick out the airplane as it spun in and the parachutes at the top, hopefully you can find them. (We aren't running the accident report here, and Scott's right about the poor quality of the photos.)
It's been quite a while since we've run anything in this department, which means it's time to break the fast!
The Relief Tube
Letters; we get Letters:
First off, in the We Shoulda Known Better Department, comes a letter from Ken Holston regarding a photo we ran a few years back of an Air Force A-1E pilot who was unknown to us at the time. As it happens, the individual in the photograph was a remarkable aviator and warrior, and you need to know more about him.
I'm a retired modern-era (1990-2012) USAF C-130H pilot whose passion is USAF Skyraider history. I came across the photo of the unknown pilot in your June 2010 blog and got this answer from the Skyraider Assoc:You might enjoy these links:
"The Skyraider pilot was identified as Earl Trimble. One of the guys who recognized him was at Udorn with the 602nd in '67."
"The Skyraider pilot was identified as Earl Trimble. One of the guys who recognized him was at Udorn with the 602nd in '67."
Thanks, Ken, for helping provide us with insight on an amazing individual. A quick visit back to June of 2010 (use the little-known "search" function at the bottom of this page) will show you the original photo. USAF Photo
We ran a really neat air-to-air shot of a late-1940s Navy Reserve Corsair an issue or two back and received this comment from David Collier, a man who was there:
You comment on the rocket rails shown on a VMF-323 Corsair. The Corsair was equipped with rocket launching capability during late WWII. The photo shows the an early rocket launcher mounted on the Corsair, officially known as the "Aircraft Launcher Mk 5 Mod 1". The rail is actually part of the "Adapter, Aircraft Launcher Mk 6", which is attached to two post rocket rack. The adapter allows the aircraft to carry and fire the 2.25" Sub-caliber Aircraft Rocket used in training. The bare metal showing on the bottom side of adapter was the the lower half of the rail that was made of stainless steel. The metal was kept coated with a light coat of grease since a rocket being jammed on the rail after firing could spoil your whole day.
Having worked on the F4U-4 for a couple of years i can tell you that it was a hard plane to keep clean, in fact I think this aircraft's Plane Captain was doing a great job.
Notice #6 A/C behind the moving plane has a some paint missing from the forward edge of its right wing just above the landing gear. That is because most of the ground crew would get up on the wing by standing on the tire and then boosting themselves onto the wing. The climb up to the cockpit involve using the cutouts on the right wing flap and fuselage but the climb up the oily wing incline was usually avoided by those fueling the aircraft or working on its wing guns.
Thanks, David, both for your comments and for your insight into a remarkable era of American military aviation!
And that's it for this time. In theory we'll be a little further along with that F-80 project the next time we convene and there's lots of other neat stuff waiting in the wings as well, so stay tuned! Be good to your neighbor until we meet again!