Monday, April 19, 2010

A Brief Message, Guns A Go-Go, A Neat Idea For a Diorama, A Phine Phine Phantom, and A Thought About Wire

But First, A Brief Message

Look for a change in frequency of these things for a while. I've been cranking out an installment a day for most of the time I've been doing this but I've decided to back things off to a couple of times a week, at least for a while. Don't be concerned 'cause I'm definitely not going away, just changing a schedule or two so I can accomplish some additional stuff. And keep those cards, letters, and photos coming to !

Beating the Air Into Submission

That's how helos do it. They don't really fly, you know; they just beat the air to death. (Then again, bumblebees and C-124s aren't supposed to be able to fly either, so go figure...) Most of the aviators I know are of the fixed-wing variety, but a few of my friends are rotary-wing guys too. I was talking to one of them this past weekend and came to the conclusion during the course of that conversation that I ought to run a helo or two, which means this one's for you, Brian! We're not going to do just any helo either, but that most unlikely of helicopter gunships, the ACH-47 Chinook (aka S***hook to those of you who remember green suits and jungles).

Once again, the pictures are courtesy of a former co-worker of mine. This time around it's Antonio "Tony" Cortez, who was with the 53rd Aviation Detachment/178th Combat Support Helicopter Company during 1966. Tony was involved with the operation of the aircraft during evaluation of the CH-47A as a gunship and took these photos:

The Army decided to try the CH-47A in the gunship role in 1966, and had three Boeing-Vertol produced items in-country by May of that year serving with the 53rd Aviation Detachment. These aircraft were attached to the 228th Assault Helicopter Battalion (1st Aviation Detachment, Provisional) at the conclusion of the evaluation period and served until attrition retired the force in early 1968. In theory the Armed and Armored (A/A) Chinooks were there to evaluate interim systems until the AH-56 Cheyenne could be introduced into the inventory but as things turned out Cheyenne was still-born and the CH-47s had issues ("They shook themselves to death every time they fired those fifties", according to Tony Cortez; "we spent a lot of time tightening things and replacing rivets.") In this photo you can barely see one of the M24A-1 20mm cannon (!) attached to the fuselage sponson above the XM-159 rocket pods. Those cannon, plus the cabin-mounted .50s and rocket pods, made the Chinook an extremely well-armed aircraft.   Tony Cortez

A slightly better shot of the M24 installation. While the 178th's Chinooks (nicknamed "Guns-a-Go-Go")packed a tremendous whallop, the CH-47 was far more useful as a utility bird, even though it was substantially faster than the UH-1 series in the gunship role. Advent of the AH-1 HueyCobra pretty much put the lid on the whole deal, since the Cobra was equally useful but far cheaper to produce and maintain than was the armed Chinook.  The aircraft was originally designated A/ACH-47A, which was quickly changed to ACH-47A.  Tony Cortez

If you've got a ramp, you'd may as well stick a gun on it! Armor shielding was limited in this position, and the ammunition cans were out in the open. Even though the mod was performed at the factory the Guns-a-Go-Go installation could best be described as ad hoc. The gunship Chinooks could carry either AN-M2 .50 caliber guns or 7.62mm M60s on the ramp and in the fuselage, but every photograph I've seen of the type in the field has shown them fitted with M2s. This aircraft was definitely the Bad Thing On the Block!  Tony Cortez

The three aircraft of the intial detachment were all named:  64-13149 was "Easy Money", 64-13151 was called "Stump Jumper", and 64-64-13154 was "Birth Control". The program consisted of four aircraft total, the first of which (64-13145 "Cost of Living") stayed in the ZI until required to replace 13151, which was destroyed in an accident.

By the end of February of 1968 the Guns-a-Go-Go force had been reduced to one aircraft and that, plus the fact the the Chinook was far more useful as an airlifter, caused the end of the program. It was an interesting experiment that created a unique aircraft.

Things They Won't Let You Do Anymore

Let me state right off the bat that I know next-to-nothing about this photograph, except that the aircraft shown was involved in the Louisiana War Games during 1941 while the type was undergoing evaluation by the Army. It's a Piper J-3 "Cub", and is a civil aircraft under evaluation; note the partially painted-over NC number on the starboard wing. A highly-sophisticated refueling system is in use while a troop of probably-bemused horse cavalry trot past. A Colonel named Dwight Eisenhower made several flights in the "Cub" during these maneuvers. Of particular interest is the grasshopper painted in yellow on the side of the fuselage. Is this a neat idea for a diorama or what?!   National Archives Neg No. Unknown via John Kerr

Another Shot From Gandy

Here's another shot from the Gandara collection to round out the photo portion of our day:

AF 66-8702, an F-4D-32-MC of the 13th TFS/432nd TRW named "My Snoopy", prepares to start at DaNang AB during March of 1968---love that nose art! The aircraft is transient at DaNang and was normally based out of Udorn, Thailand. The serial number is an anomaly; the corrosion control guys must've mis-read the tail code directive since its application makes it appear as though the aircraft was built in 1968 rather than 1966. This sort of thing happened more frequently than you might imagine during the early days of tailcode use during the Vietnam War.  I. Gandara

A Neat Discovery, Or I Shoulda Listened to Her in the First Place

You find things to help with your modeling in the strangest of places. Once, back when I was in college in the late 60s, I was walking down LBJ Drive in San Marcos, Texas, when I glanced down at the sidewalk and saw an amber-yellow plastic comb lying in the dirt on the sidewalk. I picked it up, determined it was indeed made of polystyrene, did a little jig in my mind (but not in fact, being long-haired and therefore Far Too Cool to do such a thing in public), and shoved it in my pocket. By that weekend two of the teeth had been cut from that comb, flattened on one side, and applied to the nose of an Airfix Bf109G-6 to complete its conversion into an Avia S99. That's a lesson in adaptability and thinking outside the box that produced what was arguably the best part of my Avia conversion.

Shortly after Jenny moved down here from Rhode Island she asked me if I wanted some of her beading wire for my models. I smiled, shook my head, and said probably not---I use annealled brass wire for almost everything I do that requires that sort of stuff, and there was just no point to adding something else to keep track of to my collection of modeling supplies.

Around that same time (and in complete contradiction to what I just said) I mail-ordered some colored wire from one of the myriad specialty guys that serve our hobby. It was thin (28-ga, I think); it was red, which was what I needed; and it cost five bucks for about three feet of the stuff. Jenny took one look at it, went to her beading box, and brought me a spool of the exact same thing with enough wire on it to last me several lifetimes. I looked at it and said something that rhymes with "oh smit".

"This is beading wire, isn't it?"

"Yep!" (She was grinning, but it wasn't malicious.)

"I messed up, huh?"


Darn the luck!!!

That little Expedition Into Ego on my part wasn't all that expensive in monetary terms, except for the enormous disparity in price between what I bought and what I could've had for free.  Beading wire comes in all sorts of diameters (called "gauge" in the wire industry; the bigger the number the thinner the wire), all sorts of colors, is extremely malleable (that means you can bend it easily in case you didn't know that), costs next to nothing, and can be found in any store that sells beading supplies. (You might have to mail-order the really super-thin stuff but it's still dirt cheap; a lot less costly than that three feet of wire I bought!)

Think, for a minute, about the enormous disparity in my thought processes between the time I pounced on that filthy comb on the sidewalk and the day I rejected Jenny's offer to use her beading wire. Somewhere in-between the two events I got complacent and decided I knew more than I really did, and it caused me to ignore something that turned out to be really useful to me. How many other useful things have I ignored by my same blissful presumption that I already knew about that, whatever "that" might have happened to be?

There's a Major Lesson to be learned here and no; I'm not going to explain it to you. I suspect you've already figured it out anyway, and continued discussion of the subject will just make me feel sillier than I already do. The point to be taken is this: It's a big world, and there's a lot of stuff in it. Never say no until you're sure that's really the answer, and think about it first. It's the right thing to do!

At the End of It All

That's it for now, Gang. I'll see you again in a couple of days. Meanwhile, be good to your neighbor!

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