Saturday, September 25, 2010

Misawa Memories, Mystery Meat, Stranger in a Strange Land, and That Big Warhawk

Long Ago and Far Away

Or at least it seems that way sometimes. My dad was career Air Force and was assigned to the 39th Air Division at Misawa AB, Japan, in October of 1962. Coincidentally, or maybe not, since the USAF of the 50s and 60s was pretty much a family affair where everybody's paths crossed everybody else's sooner or later, a young airman named Dave Menard had been assigned to that very same base just a few months earlier. I was in high school at the time and spent my leisure hours messing around with motorcycles, while Dave, even then, was photographing and collecting pictures of airplanes. The following images are from his collection and depict some of the aircraft from Misawa in the early and mid-50s. They give us a fascinating glimpse into how it was in The Silver Air Force, at least in PACAF, during those magical days.

A lot of folks don't know it, but the P-61 Black Widow lasted far longer in PACAF than in the other USAF commands. This tantalizing shot was taken on the ramp at Misawa in the early 1950s. The name "My Joan" appears to be in yellow, or possibly white, but the insignia red serial number of the aircraft is invisible against the overall Jet (that's what the Air Force called that gloss black) of the airframe. The unit is not known, and reader comments are invited!  Menard Collection

Here's another shot of "My Joan". That tower and hangar were there when Dave arrived in early '62, and were still there when I left in late '65. As for the airplane; we just don't know much about it!  Menard Collection

The 49th FG was associated with Misawa for a number of years, and operated several types of aircraft from that base during their tenure there. F-80C-10-LO 49-0557 sits on a typically snowy Misawa ramp prior to her assignment to Korea, where she crashed to destruction during a training flight in January, 1951. Although there are no markings to show it, she was assigned to the 7th FBS at the time.  Menard Collection

"Lady Hades", another ship from the 7th FBS, poses for her portrait. That serial number can make you crazy if you don't know what you're looking at; 44-85262 was built as a P-80A-5-LO, then reconfigured to F-80C-11-LO standard prior to assignment to the 49th. Pretty confusing at first, huh? She's almost a Plain Jane except for that nose flash and the name. The 7th started out being called the "Bunyaps" (after a mythical Australian creature), later changed to the more familiar "Screaming Demons". Me, I prefer "Bunyap". It's a P-40 thing, I guess...   Menard Collection

There was a time when you could paint a name on an airplane without it becoming the object of a congressional, or at least a command, investigation. Here's a really spiffy example of same: "Sassy Lass", another P-80A rebuilt to "C" standard sitting on the ramp at Misawa. Do you think that pilot's proud of his bird?   Menard Collection

Sittin' on the ramp in Northern Honshu. This unidentified F-80C is probably from the 9th FBS but it's hard to tell from this angle, tail stripe notwithstanding. Those underwing tanks are a treat, and something that's infrequently modeled. Check out the paintwork on the generator sitting behind the starboard wing!  Menard Collection

49-0550, a 9th FBS F-80C, sits on the ramp prior to preflight and launch. This may well be the same aircraft depicted in the shot immediately above, but it's hard to tell. The photo provides a far better view of the pylon tanks.  This one went down at Pyongyang, Korea in May of 1951.  Menard Collection

This red-trimmed "Flying Knights" F-80C is about ten kinds of pretty, although the name "Stinky" does make you wonder (it does fit in with the skunk's head nose art immediately below the name). We'll probably never know for certain, but it makes for a classy airplane all the same. This is yet another P-80A-5-LO upgraded to F-80C standard, in this case as an F-80C-11-LO. Menard Collection

"Ali-Baba II", 56-8315, a P-80A-5-LO rebuilt to F-80C standard, shows off its 7th FBS livery for the camera. Note the thin black cheat line on the blue nose flash and gear door. How about that Eisenhower jacket on the Amn 3C standing in front of the airplane?   Menard Collection

Me, I could look at PACAF F-80s all day long, but it's just barely possible that some of you have had enough for one day. Just in case that's true, let's change the water a little bit and see what the 49th's straight-winged F-84s looked like during the Misawa period:

Given the paint job, I'd have to guess this to be the 49th FBW commanding officer's aircraft. 51-1327 was an F-84G-25-RE and was posed getting ready to launch when this shot was taken. Note the boarding ladder and APU by the nose, and the RATO bottles positioned aft. This was shot at Misawa, where the F-84s of the 49th performed an air-defense mission, but 1327 appears to be carrying a pair of 500-lb GP bombs. It must be time for a trip to the bombing range!   Menard Collection

Getting there is half the fun! These Forty-niners from the 9th FBS are passing gas over the mountains of Northern Honshu during an excercise---note the 250-lb GP bomb on the pylon under 240. Of particular interest is the dark anodic finish to the aft fuselage of that airplane. Makes you wish for a color picture, doesn't it?  Menard Collection

If it's color you want, it's color you'll get! Unfortunately, it's not a color shot of that 9th FBS bird above, but it's still interesting. Here's 52-3197, an F-84G-25-RE of the 8th FBS sitting on the ramp. Check out the refuelling probes on the wing tanks; the one on the port wing is in natural metal, while that on the starboard wing is yellow. The underwing pylons are yellow as well, and the name "Cynthia II" adds class to the shot. (That ramp full of 8th TFW "Huns" in the background ain't too shabby either!)  Menard Collection

Let's go to the air show! Armed Forces Day in Japan used to be pretty much like Armed Forces Day any place else where the Air Force had a facility. In this shot we see a Japanese father and his young son in the process of checking out a "Blacksheep" F-84G. Those were the days!   Menard Collection

Comin' home. An 8th FBS F-84G recovers at Misawa, date unknown. Gotta love those silver airplanes! Menard Collection

Now then, you've seen the Shooting Stars, and you've seen the Thunderjets. What more can there be? Well, since it's almost closing time for this particular segment, why don't we show a couple of 49th FG birds you probably didn't expect to see? Here then, without further ado:

Yep, it's fuzzy. Sometimes slides can be like that. Whatever this picture may lack in clarity, it certainly makes up for in interest. When's the last time you saw a 7th FS F-86 with a big honkin' name on the nose? "Fantasy" poses for the camera, a little bit the worse for wear but providing a tantalizing look at a really pretty airplane. Focus. FOCUS!   Menard Collection

"Tuck it in, Two!" Formation shots are always neat, and this one's especially pretty. "Portland Rose", an F-86F-30-NA Sabre of the 7th FBS, lies alongside the photographer's ship in this gorgeous air-to-air shot. These aircraft are clean; no tanks or pylons. Oh, that silver Air Force!  Menard Collection

So you want 7th FBS Sabres in close formation, eh? Far be it for me to deny you that simple pleasure. These guys are dragging along their gas bags, but it just don't get much prettier, does it?   Menard Collection

Feet wet and they aren't even in the Navy! Here's a parting shot of the 49ers for you; "Maria", a 7th FBS F-86F, climbs out on a training hop. Do you think that pilot's enjoying his day?  Menard Collection

OK, OK, that's enough of the post-War 49th for tonight. Thanks to Dave Menard for sharing these marvelous images with us. Wow!

Every Now and Then You Just Lose Track of Things

Which is exactly what happened here. I received these T-Bird shots way back when I first started this project, and I downloaded the pictures for use (thank goodness!). Then I accidentally deleted the original file, thus losing the original contributor's name. I think, and I stress think (not that I ever do very much of that) that the shots came from Don Jay, or maybe Mark Nankivil, but I'm honestly not sure which! They've been on my list of photos to run for months now but I never did because I couldn't credit them. It's finally time. If they're yours, please e-mail me at and I'll put a credit line on them. Please! (And a unit ID wouldn't hurt either!)

If it's gotta be a mystery, at least it's a pretty one! Here's 56-3679, an Alaskan Air Command T-33A, sitting on the ramp at Elmendorf in all her natural metal and Conspicuity Red splendor. That red panel on the nose gear doors is particularly tasty...  Unknown, but hopefully not for long!

And a view of 56-3681 from the same unit. Note that this aircraft is in Aircraft Grey with the usual arctic conspicuity markings. The gas bags are a little the worse for wear, but otherwise it's a Clean Machine.  Unknown, but hopefully not for long!

Remember those names on the 49th FG birds? Well, thing got a whole lot more subdued in that regard as the 50s passed into history. -3681 is carrying nose art, but you'd never know it without taking a really close look. Snoopy just shows up everywhere, doesn't he? I bet we'd know the story behind those kill markings if I hadn't dumped the original file!  Unknown, but hopefully not for long!

And more kills! Repeat after me: Don't dump files. Don't dump files. Don't dump files...   Unknown, but hopefully not for long!

Holy Cow, Ya'll; It's a Rooski!

Texas is a big place, and you just never know what you might find if you keep your eyes open. Here's an example of that:

In the town of Forney, Texas, east of Dallas on US Highway 80, is this MiG-17, parked just off the westbound frontage/service road in front of DeRidder Antiques. According to the employee on duty, the airplane was purchased from a museum in the Netherlands "about 15 years ago." The wings were removed and the disassembled aircraft was placed in a standard 40-foot container for shipment to the US. The owner is not really interested in selling it, according to the employee. These photos were shot on September 18, 2010 by yours truly...  Note the stanchions placed to guard the starboard wingtip from further damage.  Mike

Protecting a wing tip, Texas style. That lamp post provides a really nice touch!  Mike McMurtrey

The view from the road. That "home furnishings" sign on the building in the background puts an interesting spin on things, don't you think?  Mike McMurtrey

And here's where it lives. That "Southpark" school bus in the background is just about ten kinds of choice. Don't mess with Texas, ya'll!  Mike McMurtrey

Bunyap From a Different Day

A few pictures ago we looked at some 7th FS F-80s, F-84s, and F-86s. Here's another 7th FS 49er to end the day with; the 1/32nd scale Hasegawa P-40N-5 that's on my work bench right now. We've made some progress:

"Daddy Please"/"Milk Wagon Express" is zipping right along, albeit far more slowly than I'd like. Here's the starboard side more-or-less showing how it'll look if it ever gets done. That spinner should, I repeat should, have been easy to paint, but once again I managed to snatch defeat straight from the jaws of Victory. That happens when you rush things, and I rushed things on that spinner. The situation is easy to salvage, though, and that'll be my next chore for this project. There's a little more canopy painting to do, and some seam-sealing (I use white glue for that sort of thing; on this model it'll mostly be done on the landing gear knuckles), then the airframe will be done. The big Hase Warhawks really look the part, don't they? 

And the Other Side. The N-model had tell-tales sticking out of the wings to show that the mains were down and locked, and I need to drill a couple of holes so I can add those. There's the usual touch-up to be done, and weathering, and so on and so forth, and blah blah blah (as Jimi was wont to say in concert), but we're getting close. Remember last time around when I said this airplane had the usual 49th FG oddities about it? This is as good a time as any to talk about 'em. First, this was two different airplanes at two different times, Side Number 10 and then later on, Side Number 00. When it was #10 it had a white spinner; those blue areas were added when it became 00. And that blue around the intake lip is peculiar too; the pin stripe on the nose is definitely in all the photos of this ship, as either 10 or 00, and the area in front of it appears to be darker than the OD/Neutral Gray around it, which leads me to believe it was dark blue. I could be wrong, and this is most assuredly an Educated Guess on my part, but I'm sufficiently convinced of the notion to paint the airplane that way. Feel free to not do it on your model if you so desire. And if you can prove, not conjecturize but actually prove, that it was one way or another, please get in touch with me! Lordy, I like P-40s!

And that's what I know. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!

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