Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Unglamorous Guppy, The Hog in the Corps, and Mo Mustangs

Gotta Love That Buckeye

If you were around American naval aviation in the 1970s, 80s, or 90s, you probably saw a whole bunch of North American T-2 Buckeyes flying around. Several hundred were built, and a fair number of my friends learned to fly jets on them. They were, to put it mildly, a ubiquitous airplane.

Unfortunately, they were also an airplane that was badly neglected by the modeling world, with the only injected representation of it being the now-aging (but still perfectly buildable) Matchbox kit in 1/72nd scale. Anyway, that's how it was until now. Our Czech friends over at Special Hobby have just released what appears to be an absolutely gorgeous kit of one of our favorite airplanes, although we have to admit that gorgeous part is an in-the-box assessment; the truth is yet to be told (which in translation means we have to build the thing!). Anyway, we/me/I got pretty excited last weekend when I saw the kit on the shelf at King's , and grabbed it immediately. Once we/me/I got home from that adventure we drug out some slides, not for ourselves but for our readers. Here, Friends o' Mine, are a whole bunch of reasons to build yourself a "Guppy". With any luck we can consider it to be Inspiration!

The month was June, the year was 1983, and this VT-26 Buckeye (158583) was getting a going-over before being hooked to a tug and taken back to the line at Chase Field. The airplane typifies the T-2C in squadron service; most of them were pretty plain aircraft once you got past the orange trim. If you wanted to build yourself a straight-up, everyday working TraCom bird, this one would be a pretty good choice.  Friddell

Here's a variation on the theme, this time from Kingsville's VT-23. She wasn't a fast mover in the traditional sense, and she wasn't a combat veteran either, but the "Guppy" produced a whole pack of Navy and Marine aviators who went on to get themselves in harm's way, as the cable news folks love to say. My friend Frank Garcia had a good eye, don't you think? I really like what he did with this shot, and wish he were still with us. We lost a pretty good photographer when Frank went West, ya'll.  Frank Garcia

Somebody (Verlinden, maybe?) used to make a tug and towbar set that would allow an enterprising modeler to duplicate 158594 from VT-26 being towed back to the line. We've seen more than a few dioramas of jet aircraft being towed with only a crewman on the tug, completely ignoring the fact that there's always someone in the cockpit on the brakes, at least at naval air stations. It's a point worth remembering.  Friddell

Every once in a while you'd find a "Guppy" with a little extra color. 156703, a Charlie-model from VT-19, is wearing a cheat line and a squadron badge while transient at Selfridge, where Ron Kowalzyk shot her in April of 1984. Once again note how simple the markings are, and how pretty the airplane is.  The "Guppy" was a pretty neat airplane, ya'll.  Kowalzyk

Of course, you don't have to stop with cheat lines and squadron badges---you can get a little whimsical too, as demonstrated by this VT-9 bird. We've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating---this airplane was not assigned to the Lexington. This particular aircraft was used for CarQuals, and ended up with the boat's name on the side as a result. In actual fact the "Lex" didn't have fixed-wing assets permanently assigned to her while she was a training carrier. It's something to remember. Oh yeah, and 064 was from VT-9 and was photographed on VA-45's ramp at NAS Key West in 1981.  R. Morgan

It's a fact that a swept-wing jet can't turn with a straight-winged jet, which may have been a small measure of justification for assigning the "Guppy" to VA-43 for use as an adversary back in 1983. Whatever the rational, it made for an unusual-looking airplane, to say the least. Friddell Collection

Here's a different flavor of camo on yet another VA-43 bird. She was getting ready to go up to play with that "Scooter" that's beginning to taxi out behind her when Rick Morgan took this study at Oceana in November of 1989 while he was flying as ECMO 1 in a Prowler. In our opinion this is one seriously neat photo!  R. Morgan

Then again, maybe you don't care much for camo, but prefer a somewhat more colorful aircraft. If that's the case, this "Guppy's" for you! 157057 was a BiCi bird from VT-26, photographed during 1979, and is wearing a name ("City of Beeville") in addition to her red, white, and blue paint job. This airplane could be The Test of All Tests as far as a modeler's painting skills are concerned. Anybody game?  Frank Garcia

1986 saw the 75th anniversary of naval aviation, and more than a few airplanes ended up with commemorative paintwork as a result, as demonstrated by this Buckeye I photographed at NAS Corpus Christi during April of 1986. She was a looker!  Friddell

This particular "Guppy" was a dual-purpose commemorative aircraft, celebrating both the 75th anniversary of naval aviation and the Texas Sesquicentennial all at the same time. She was from TraWing 2 and was flying out of Beeville when I photographed her at a Bergstrom air show in 1986. Kinda pretty, don't you think?  Friddell

So, what's the Buckeye all about? Ask any naval aviator who was trained during the last three decades of the last century. He or she'll tell you. Or maybe you can figure it out by looking at this picture.  D. Balcer

Or maybe this one.  R. Morgan

There was a time when she was the Big Thing in a young naval aviator's life.  Friddell

She's gone now, like so many fine airplanes before her. Time and technology did her in, but she's a lasting memory for thousands of Navy and Marine aviators. Go build that kit, ya'll, and pay a little tribute to The Mighty "Guppy". She was quite an airplane.  Friddell

Wartime "Hogs"

This isn't really a naval aviation issue, although you may be thinking it is given our choice of topics so far. Look at from the perspective that we're on a roll and everything's ok, right? Right! That said, it's time to take a look at one of our favorite Naval fighters from the Second World War, the Chance Vought F4U Corsair. Some of the images you're about to see are unique and, so far as we know, previously unpublished. They're all photos of Marine birds (always a Good Thing) and come from the Rocker archives. Let's see what we've got!

Guadalcanal was a relatively calm place by the time the Corsair began operations from the island, but it was still far from being a rest area. If you were an aviator Adventure was always close at hand, and the "Hog" was kept busy flying combat missions over the Solomons until well into 1943. In this photo we see Marine Major Weissenberger manning up at Fighter Two on that stinking island. Since we don't know the date we don't know the unit either, but the picture definitely tells a story. Check out the strap hanging out of the cockpit and the missing tailhook, both points to consider for a model. Rocker Collection

Every once in a while we run into a photograph that's simply exceptional in every way, and this is one of them. The caption identifies the aircraft as being from VMF-213, but the badge on her fuselage is that of VMF-122, who weren't at Munda. Smart money says she was transferred from -122 to -214 after a stint at The Canal. However she got there, she's been pretty badly shot up; take a look at her wing and aft canopy. Somebody brought this one home after a really bad day at the office. The "Hog" could take it! Oh yeah, and check out her cowling too---the name "George" is barely visible there. What a neat airplane!  Rocker Collection

VMF-218 had their Birdcage -1s at Borakoma when this photo was taken in 1943. The Japanese were a foe to be taken seriously from the first day of the war until the very last, but there were other enemies out there as well. One look at 465 shows how quickly the climate and operational conditions could wear out a perfectly good fighter. Those of you who model might want to check out the leading edges of those prop blades for an idea of how they wear in an abrasive environment. It's easy to get that one wrong.  Rocker Collection

So you say you want to weather your model? OK, then; here's your chance. Check out this Birdcage sitting on the deck at the Turtle Bay airstrip on Espiritu Santo, paying particular attention to the lower sides of her aft fuselage. Can you spell "MUDDY"? Yes, Virginia; the SWPAC was a muddy place. Here's the proof!  Rocker Collection

Greg Boyington was a legend during the war and became even more of one in post-War years, although revisionist historians have tried to diminish that legend as time has passed. He was hard-drinking, and a little bit of a brawler. There were times when he stretched the truth. And there were times when he proved himself a remarkably successful fighter pilot in one of the toughest arenas of the war. This F4U-1A was assigned to Boyington's VMF-214 and was apparently flown in combat by him---it was photographed at Bougainville during 214's stay there, and is a great illustration of a typical Corsair in operational conditions. They weren't all beat to pieces, you know.  Rocker Collection

Here's the Man himself; Greg Boyington is preparing to man up 883 at Barakoma strip on Vella LaVella. A lot of people thought him a hero, although it's doubtful he ever felt that he was one. He was an effective squadron commander and was thoroughly exhausted, quite literally all used up, when he was shot down and became a prisoner of the Japanese. Even heros get tired sometimes.  Rocker Collection

VMF-216 spent some time on Bougainville, flying out of the airstrip at Torokina. These F4U-1As are well used but obviously in good shape and ready to rumble. The "Hog's" personality comes through in every photograph we've ever seen of her; some airplanes were born to be classics!  Rocker Collection

When you weren't slogging through ankle-deep mud you were choking on dust! These "Hogs" from an unidentified unit are getting ready to taxi out for a strike from their base on Majuro in 1944. They're fairly clean and appear to be new airplanes. Those side numbers are unusual---it's rare to find them that far forward on an airplane in a combat zone.  Rocker Collection

Here's a fine example of how coral dust could ruin the paint (not to mention the engine, guns, and all the other mechanical components) of an airplane. This VMF-222 F4U-1D is sitting on the ground at Green Island and is pretty much beat to snot, although odds are she was a relatively new aircraft. Check out the ground crewman sitting behind her---time to read was where you could find it in the Pacific.  Rocker Collection

Here's another well-used "Hog", this time from VMF-221 at Bougainville. Modelers take note that there are grease and gun stains aft of the cartridge case ejection chutes, but none around the gun ports. There's a lesson there, folks!  Rocker Collection

If you're going to be in a fight you're going to get a little bloody sometimes. This F4U-1A is from an unidentified unit on Torokina and has been recently savaged by a Japanese fighter. This one got home, but a lot of them didn't.  How do you spell "valor"?  Rocker Collection

The Corps called it Bloody Pelelieu, and when they'd captured the place they built an airfield there. This F4U-1D was from VMF-114 and was lugging a drop tank full of nape when this photo was taken. The Corsair was superb at air-to-air and equally at home moving mud. She had evolved into a true fighter-bomber by the time the -1D entered service, and rapidly became the sweetheart of the mud Marines.  Rocker Collection

The "Hog" got around. These birds are shown on the ground at Iwo after the island was more or less secured. Paint jobs are a mix of GSB and tri-scheme, and the airplanes are fairly clean. That wouldn't last for very long.  Rocker Collection
They fought in two American wars and performed superbly. They served until the mid-1950s, when the last AU-1 was retired from service, and more than a few went on to join the Warbird circuit. We can only hope that these F4U-1Ds, derelect at Miami in 1964, were among those that made the jump to a second life in the civilian world.

Many thanks to Bobby Rocker for this remarkable essay on that most remarkable of Second World War fighters. Semper Fi!

'Stangs From the MOANG

As long as we're doing something on the Corsair today we'd may as well give The Other Guys equal time. We'd normally do that with another F-106 installment, but the simple fact is that we've been sitting on a pile of Missouri ANG P-51 photos courtesy of Mark Nankivil and it's time to show them to you.

The 110th FS operated their P-51Ds out of Lambert Field in St Louis. This snow-bound lineup was photographed on the ground there in the winter of 1952; the 110th's birds were never flamboyantly marked, generally featuring only a colored spinner and, on occasion, a name. Note the retractable tailwheels; they went away after the USAF's experience with the mud encountered during operations in Korea, but these aircraft still have their retractable units in place.  Nankivil Collection

The 110th had Mustangs for several years and bridged the changeover from the AAF to the Air Force. This P-51D is still carrying its PF-prefixed buzz number---that would change in 1947. 44-73187 is essentially a World War 2 P-51D, and wouldn't have been at all out of place in the skies over Hitler's Europe.  Nankivil Collection

This shot of a MOANG P-51 undergoing maintenance gives us an excellent view of the airframe structure surrounding the engine, as well as the typical attire worn by the squadron's line personnel. That Ike jacket on the pilot standing in the center of the photo is pretty classy, don't you think?  Nankivil Collection

The 110th also operated a couple of RF-51Ds for a while. This excellent study of 45-11660 shows that variant's camera ports to advantage, as well as its DF loop and late canopy. Most iterations of the Mustang were subtle in nature, but the classic lines of the airplane remained right up to the H-model (never flown by the 110th, before you ask!).  Nankivil Collection

The P-51 was a gorgeous aircraft when cleaned up and in flight. There's not much here in the way of markings, but it really doesn't matter---pretty is pretty. Check out that oil streak just aft of the "2" in the aircraft's nose number. If the P-51's engine was running that streak was there---modelers take note!  Nankivil Collection

Guard pilots are former active duty pilots, and the Guard units of the late '40s and early 50s all contained quite a few WW2 retreads in their ranks. You can easily imagine this flight winging its way over Germany or Japan, but in point of fact they're over rural Missouri. The photo is fascinating because it shows three completely different forms of fuselage markings, all of which were the norm for Guard birds at the time this photo was taken.  Nankivil Collection

And speaking of gorgeous air-to-air photos, it's pretty hard to top this one for sheer beauty. These aircraft are identically marked, which takes some of the fun out of things, but they sure show off the classic lines of that airplane. We like it!  Nankivil Collection

If it goes up, it will come down. There's nothing that says it has to come down in any sort of a dignified manner, though. This bird has apparently endured a classic example of an aviator's headstand and mostly survived the experience. The aircraft appears to be salvageable. That wasn't always the case.  Nankivil Collection

If it goes up it will come down, Part Two. It's considered to be good practice to put your airplane down on the same runway you left from or, if that's not in the game plan, to put your airplane down some place some how. Most folks don't choose a neighborhood for that down-putting, but sometimes that's how it works out. The Packard-Merlin is a wonderful engine right up to the point where it quits working---that's when you stick the airplane any place you can. This pilot was lucky...  Nankivil Collection

If it goes up it will come down, Part Three. This 110th P-51D suffered an unknown in-flight emergency and came down outside of Mt Vernon, Illinois. This appears to be a text-book belly landing, all things considered, but we're guessing the airplane was a write-off. Any landing you can walk away from...  Nankivil Collection

Happy Snaps

We didn't do anything with our F-106 project this time around, but to partially make amends we'd like to offer up this photo by ADC authority Marty Isham as a consolation prize of sorts:

Every once in a while you get to take a ride in a tub, which is what Marty was doing when he shot this portrait of 59-0149 from New Jersey's 49th FIS/177th FIG on 9 June, 1988. You can't tell from this photo, but the GIB (that's Guy In Back, in case you weren't familiar with that acronym) is astronaut Gordon Cooper. Our readers take some pretty neat photos, don't they?  Marty Isham

The Relief Tube

Today's the day you get to ask What's Going On Over There? We've had a couple of abbreviated editions of this missive in a row, and they've both been late, which makes that a Fair Question. The answer is simple. Between work and family I've been really busy of late. I apologize for the abbreviated editions and ask your patience---we'll be back to normal before you know it!

You might have also notice some issues with our photography over the last week or two; it went goofy on us, and a number of older photographs de-linked themselves to boot. Our blog host has corrected that issues and the photos now work the way they always have, and all those broken links have been fixed---thanks to Google for the quick repair, and apologies to our readership for the lapse in quality.

Finally, although we do have several entries for the Relief Tube we aren't going to run them today because your editor has just about run out of steam and it's time to get this issue launched. We'll catch up next time. Meanwhile, be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon. We will. I promise!

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