Saturday, September 21, 2013

Some More 'Saders, A Sad Fort, What Followed the Jugs, and A Famous Visitor

Kind of a Drag

We've all had those days. You know the ones; the kind where you get the urge to go start something, get all the stuff out so you can do just that, and get to work, only to discover that you can't stay motivated. (We're talking about scale modeling here---if you're thinking cutting the grass or painting the house, you're on your own!) I've had a couple of those days lately and I thought I'd share the experience with you.

Aerial combat on the Eastern Front during the Second World War has held a fascination for me for a great many years, and those who know me well also know that there are a great many finished models of VVS and Luftwaffe aircraft sitting in the collection. That said, it should come as no surprise to anyone that there would currently be a project on the bench that would reflect that interest. There are, in point of fact, not one but two of them sitting there, and they're both dead as a duck at the moment, almost finished but interminably stalled. One of them has gone back into its box (it's a big box), and the other presently resides on The Shelf of Opportunity, where it may well live for quite a while to come. Allow me to 'splain, Lucy...

The first of the Great Stalled Projects of 2013 is an Eduard Fw190F-8, done in a set of truly unique colors worn by one of the aircraft assigned to SG11 and carrying a Panzerblitz installation under each wing. It's sitting there almost finished, requiring only a cowl and prop, plus all those tiny little rockets (twelve of them, to be exact), to be called Done. The problem with it, and it's a Big One, is that Eduard royally pooched the cowlings on all of their Fw190s and it's not an easy fix. The kit looks ok if you open everything up (the way we suspect it was intended to be built), but when you look at it in profile with everything buttoned up the upper line of the nose is straight as a board and parallel to the lower cowl line when it should, in point of fact, be slightly tapered downwards. It's no big deal if you don't know it's there, but it just screams out "Look at me---I'm WRONG!" if you do. QuickBoost makes a correction cowl for that very kit, presumably because so many people can't seem to cope with closing up the one that comes in the kit, but that correction cowl is missing the taper too. The Bottom Line: I can't bring myself to try to figure out how to fix the thing so it's sitting, completely assembled, painted, and decalled, inside its box sans clear parts and cowling. It's probably going to sit there a very long time.

The next GSP is yet another Fw190, this time a Hasegawa A-4 done up in one of those tasty JG54 winter schemes. It's completely done, painted, and decalled. It's weathered. All it needs is its transparencies and a seat to be called Finished, but the kit seat is too wide to fit in the cockpit tub with Eduard belts attached to it. I've thinned out the seat sides and it fits now; all that remains to be done is to paint it, install the belts, and drop the thing into the cockpit so the windscreen and canopy can be added. That's it, that's all there is to it, but I just can't work up the enthusiasm to finish it so it's sitting up there on the aforementioned Shelf of Opportunity, just waiting for the final few things to be done so it can go on the display shelf. (Hasegawa boxes are a lot smaller than Eduard boxes, so it can't go back in there.) I suspect that it too will sit there for a Very Long Time because, once again, I just can't find the inspiration to finish the darned thing.

So why is that, you might say? What deeply-rooted psychological issue stemming from my childhood is causing me to procrastinate and continually avoid finishing those models? What's the reason?
(Keep in mind that in this modern age of ours there's an underlying reason for just about everything.) What unsaid thing is it that's keeping me from finishing those two kits? There's only one answer: I don't know!

The point to be taken here is a simple one. Not everything we build gets finished. I know people who go a little bit nuts if they get a model almost finished and then can't find the inspiration to put it on the shelf. I also have a friend who's got an unfinished 1/48th scale Bell X-2 (not an easy date, that one) sitting on the shelf ready for paint and decals. It's been there since at least 2004, and from what I can tell it's likely to sit there a few more years before it's completed if, in fact, it ever is. The modeler in question thinks that's a fine state of affairs and so do I. At the end of the day this whole deal is a hobby, something we do for relaxation and fun. If some aspect of it becomes Less Than Fun and we choose to put it away for a while, or even forever, that's ok. Keep that in mind as you sit at your workbench and this wonderful hobby of ours will remain just that. Obsess on it because you don't finish a project and you'll likely end up playing video games, with plastic modeling becoming just a distant paint and solvent-soaked memory of the fun you used to have.

That's my story and, as usual, I'm sticking with it!

That Gorgeous F-8

Yep, that one. Chance-Vought's immortal F8U Crusader. The F-8 was a revolutionary aircraft in virtually every respect, and it was pretty, too. Mark Nankivil recently supplied us with a number of images that were bound for the Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum Collection (a facility we highly endorse), and we'd like to share them with you today.

If ever an aircraft required a transition trainer the F8U was it, so Chance-Vought piddled with the notion of a two-seater for a while. The aircraft you see before you is the result of that piddling. Initially designated the F8U-1T and becoming the TF-8A during the McNamara-inspired I Don't Know What All Those Letters and Numbers Mean So I'm Going to Change Them So I Can Understand Them redesignation of American military aircraft during 1962, the aircraft got an extra seat and accompanying set of controls and lost two of its 20mm cannon. The result (in this case designated as an NTF-8A to avoid designation confusion with the existing single-seat TF-8A) is the aircraft you see before you.  BuNo 143710 was originally built as a straight-up single-seater and later converted to TF standard. It's seen here in August of 1974 when assigned to the Navy Test Pilot School. What a pretty airplane!  D Ostrowski via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

And here's the other side, showing how graceful the aircraft looked with the canopy closed. Very few people actually flew 143710 before it crashed to destruction in August of 1978 (both crew members escaped that particular encounter with Grave Misfortune). You might want to check out the radome treatment; although the aircraft was converted from an Alpha model it received the later, substantially larger radome treatment of subsequent F-8 variants. Modelers might want to check out the way that speedboard is sitting on the ground too; it was a characteristic of the entire F-8 family!   D Ostrowski via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

The RF-8 branch of the Crusader family ironically ended up being the last of the type in US service. As with all the photo 'Saders, 146856 was originally built as an F8U-1P and converted into RF-8G configuration late in life. This particular airframe is apparently about to head to the NARF(photographed at Scott AFB in 1975) but still looks every inch the thoroughbred even though she's apparently all used up. We could be mistaken (and will most assuredly hear about it if we are!) but we're pretty certain the RF-8 series was the last purpose-built photo-recon aircraft used by the NAV, subsequent aircraft types making do with dedicated pods instead of built-in cameras. It was a different era.  LH Reynolds via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

VF-124 was the West Coast F-8 Rag, and F-8E 149222 was assigned to the unit when this photo was taken in May of 1971. She spent a number of years in the role of transition trainer before going to the MASDC facility in 1987. The name on the vertical stab tip is "Snuffy" and there's surely a story there; do any of you know what it is? That address is !  R Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

If you get through the RAG you'll eventually end up on a boat. F-8E 150855 was assigned to the Ticonderoga when this photo was taken in September of 1968. The war in Southeast Asia virtually guaranteed she wouldn't stay this way for very long, but she was absolutely pristine when Rick Burgess shot her portrait in 1968. Note the red paint inside the gun ports, a colorful if somewhat impractical way to show the squadron colors.  R Burgess via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

Can anybody say "Show us the Pretty"? 150898, an F-8J of VF-24, was caught on the ground at Miramar in November of 1969. She ended up in MASDC but was wearing one of the more colorful Crusader schemes when this photo was taken. She was a Fleet bird, assigned to the Hancock, and almost certainly had seen the elephant over North Vietnam. Sharp-eyed modelers will note that the inside of that speedboard is painted Insignia Red.  T Gibson via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

The F-8 was a hotrod if ever there was one, and a fair number of them ended up with the NAV's test and evaluation squadrons. 150898, an F-8J, was performing exactly that function with VX-4 when Fred Roos shot here in January of 1975. She's beautifully painted but obviously very well worn. She was eventually retired and sent to MASDC, but was still blowin' and goin' when this evocative photo was taken.  F Roos via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

The Marines made extensive use of the F-8 too.146963 was an F-8K, re-built from an F-8C and assigned to VMF-351 when this photo was taken in October of 1963. Note the staining all over her airframe and, in particular, streaming back from the control surfaces on her wings. The sit of tailplanes is entirely characteristic of the F-8 when the aircraft is shut down.  F Roos via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

145419 was an F-8L assigned to the NATF when this shot was taken in June of 1972. You've probably already noticed (and equally-probably already knew) that the NAV rarely operated the type with any sort of stores hanging under the wings. 419 could be the Poster Child for that configuration. Anybody out there know what this airframe was doing in '72?  D Ostrowski via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

We'll run a few more Crusaders another day. Meanwhile, many thanks as always to Mark Nankivil for sharing images from his remarkable collection with us!

No Easy Days in the SWPAC

I think we can safely say we've all seen to many movies and read way too many books about the combat aircraft of the Second World War. Our next photo shows just how dangerous it could be even for the guys who weren't flying combat:

This uniquely-camouflaged B-17E was assigned to the 29th Air Service Squadron but had been reduced to a hulk when our photo was taken. She's uniquely-painted and carries the name "Buzz-Flies" on her nose, but we don't know a whole lot more about her than that. We do know that the sea of mud she's resting in was all too typical of operational conditions in the Southwest Pacific. Imagine, if you will, the heat and humidity, the mud, and the mosquitos all present in that photo. There were no easy days for anyone in the SWPAC.  Rocker Collection

Neel Would've Been Proud

When we think of the 348th Fighter Group during World War II we inevitably think of the P-47D Thunderbolt, and with good reason. The group, led by Neel Kearby, took a fighter that was, at least on the face of things, totally unsuited to combat in the Pacific and turned it into a finely-honed killing machine through the simple tactic of playing the game in a manner that favored the P-47 instead of simply reacting to the way the Japanese wanted to do things. As a direct result of their tactical doctrine the 348th quickly became the highest scoring (and by a considerable margin) P-47 group in the theater. Still, the immortal "Jug" really wasn't the best fighter for flying the not-inconsiderable distances required to take the war to the enemy in that oceanic theater of operations, and by the time the 348th reached the Philippines they had acquired a more suitable aircraft for the long-distance war they were waging; the P-51D Mustang. Through the kindness of Johnathan Watson we're going to take a look at some of those P-51s today. Enjoy!

This aircraft summarizes the popular view of the 1945 edition of the air war in the Pacific; a clean airplane basking in the sunshine of a tropical island. The actual situation couldn't have been further from the truth. This aircraft, from the 340th FS/348th FG (note the red-on-white spiral treatment to the spinner), was relatively clean when this photo was taken, but all you have to do is look at the paintwork on her fuselage stripes or the staining on her fuselage to know she's been worked pretty hard. Still, the Philippines basked in sunshine a good portion of the time.  Watson Collection

Of course, sometimes that sunshine was what happened when it stopped raining. The 341st's"Jenny" is sitting on a nice, sunny ramp, and there's even dust on the runway, but she's parked in front of a bog. Field conditions were a whole lot better than they had been in New Guinea, but a tropical island is a tropical island and mud is mud, no matter where you are. Speaking of primitive conditions, check out the pump attached to the drop tank that's sitting in that trailer. Those guys worked hard for each and every mission.  Watson Collection

Captain Sam Denmark flew with the 460th FS, and "Six Shooter" was his bird. The squadron insignia and kill markings, along with the spinner treatment, make his aircraft a natural for a scale model should you be so inclined. Check out her battered paintwork and the mud all over her mains---she's a pretty airplane but she could sure use a bath.  Watson Collection

"Minute Men" of the 460th FS was another well-worn ship from the 348th---note the paint missing from the tip of her spinner and her generally weary appearance. You might also take note of the condition of her tires; they're well worn and probably substantially past their service life due to that wear, but they're still on the airplane. Sometimes you just had to go with what you had...  Watson Collection

If you're familiar with any of the 348th's Mustangs this is the one---Bill "Dingy" Dunham's "Mrs. Bonnie". She's sitting on the ground at Ie Shima in this view, and at first glance she's well cared for. A closer look at her paintwork will prove that's not really the case; she was worked just as hard as any of the group's other aircraft were, and it showed. There were no easy days.  Watson Collection

And here's "The Rollicking Rouge" from the 341st in all her glory, a fitting aircraft with which to end this piece. She's airborne and ready to rumble, bad news for the Japanese fighters that might encounter her in the air. Still, the Japanese were possessed of some extremely capable aircraft and pilots right up to the last day of the war, and it was as easy to die in a P-51 in 1945 as it was in a P-39 or P-40 during 1942 or 43. Let's raise a glass!  Watson Collection

Kearby and The Duke

Everybody did what they could back in the Bad Old Days of the Second World War, and a number of Hollywood celebrities visited the combat zones as members of various USO troupes. This next photo illustrates one of those visits.

Neel Kearby was, by all indications, a 100% professional and a man with a serious demeanor. This photo, taken during a USO tour that had stopped over at Saidor, shows him in a happy mood as John Wayne tries out the cockpit of one of the 348th's "Jugs". Although Wayne never served in the military he performed an invaluable service to the war effort by touring the combat zones in support of the guys on the sharp end of things. Kearby's smiling in this shot, but he looks spent and all used up. The war took a toll on everybody who fought in it, and Neel Kearby would eventually pay the price.   National Archives via Bobby Rocker Collection

Under the Radar

Top Cover for America, John Haile Cloe and Michael F Monaghan, Anchorage Chapter, Air Force Association with Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., Missoula, MT, 1984, 262pp, illustrated.

When we think of the USAF during almost any phase of its existence we tend to think of airplanes flying over the Pacific, or over Europe or maybe Korea, or even the CONUS. It rarely occurs to anyone that the Air Force and Air National Guard have had a substantial, if sometimes small, presence in Alaska for virtually their entire history. Beginning with the pioneering flights of the 1920s and extending until the present day, the USAF and its associated ANG units have quite literally flown "top cover for America". This volume covers the history of that effort from inception until its publication date of 1984 and does so in a highly readable and detailed style. Photo reproduction isn't the best, and the book comes across as distinctly low-budget in many respects, but the information contained within is of the highest order. It's one of those volumes that is well worth seeking out and it belongs on the shelves of any enthusiast who has an interest in the United States Air Force. Long out of print, it's still available if you look for it, and is worth the effort when you find it. Recommended.

The Relief Tube

Today we're going to start out with a comment from Rick Morgan. It's not a correction this time, although we do appreciate that sort of thing if you're so inclined, and it points out some interesting information on that last batch of A-7Es we ran.

Phil: I was impressed by your selection of A-7E shots in the last installment. Three of them were truly rare shots of squadrons in short-lived (about a year or less) Air Wing markings. While most AirPac VAL units stayed with their air wings over several deployments. The VA-195 bird (NL413) was in CVW-15 markings (NL) for only a few months, Jan to Oct 1982, and never cruised with them. The Blue Diamonds (in this case NE312) made only one deployment with CVW-2 in 1984 between 14+ trips with CVW-9 (NG). The ‘Golden Worm” of VA-192 (NG300) is shown in CVW-9 code; and they only did one trip with NINE after many years with CVW-11 (NH). I’m CCing two of the only guys I know who seem to think stuff like this is important (!). As you say- Neat Stuff !  Rick

Thanks, Morgo!

A blog member known to us only as Space Ranger has left this comment regarding the clanger we dropped last issue when we were attempting (with pathetic success, as things turned out) to describe the Douglas successor to the F4D:

Re: "Douglas F6D Skylancer." I think you mean Douglas F5D Skylancer. The F6D was that clunky ol' "Missileer" proposal.

Thanks, Space Ranger and no; we're not going to do an F-6D piece, just in case any of you were wondering!

About a hundred years ago (or at least it seems that way) we ran a piece that included some TBMs wearing a ZA tailcode. Periodically one of our newer readers will have a comment on one of those older pieces as in this instance, thanks to Marc Frattasio and Peter Jardim:

A while back ago you asked about the "ZA" tail code and the small circular insignia under the cockpit of the TBM shown on The "ZA" stands for attack aircraft assigned to NAS Squantum and the insignia is the Squantum witch insignia. Prior to 1970 the individual naval air reserve squadrons did not actually "own" the aircraft that they flew. All the reserve aircraft on a reserve base were maintained in a pool from which the various reserve units on that base drew on their drill weekends or annual training periods. The base identification code letter assigned to NAS Squantum was the letter Z. During the period between 1947 and 1950 reserve aircraft in these pools also had a code letter that identified the type of aircraft. For example, A for attack, P for patrol, F for fighter, T for trainer, R for transport, etc. So "ZA" in the case of that TBM stood for an attack aircraft assigned to NAS Squantum. There were probably three or four naval air reserve attack or composite ASW squadrons at NAS Squantum at that time that flew this exact same aircraft. In 1950 the type code was dropped and all aircraft assigned to NAS Squantum just carried the Z on their wings and tails. To see what the Squantum witch insignia looked like go to Take care.   Marc J. Frattasio

I just came across the page doing a search on Squantum and saw the TBM-3E Avenger. The "Z" is the Squantum station code and the "A" was designated for attach. Squantum had plenty of aircraft types and for a period of time before they switched to just having the "Z" on the tail they carried the type designator. I can't say for sure about the badge but chances are it was the Squantum Witch that some aircraft carried. At the bottom of this page where the patches are is an image of the witch. hope this helps, Peter Jardim

Thanks very much, Marc and Peter, and thanks for that link.

We got a number of comments from a group of folks that we choose to call The Usual Suspects regarding that appendage hanging off the "Ford" last time, but we also received the same information from another of our readers whom we don't hear from often enough. Here's a description of our former Mystery Structure from Rex, the Accidental CAG:

Hi, Phil. In regards to " That's quite an apparatus she's got strapped to her aft section but, as usual, we're clueless as to its purpose. (Tommy?)". Well, I'm not Tommy, but I nitpick every word he types online",(just kidding). That device is not attached to the aft section, you can see that it is mounted to the outer pylon. It is the Red gear for a towed target system, in this case the Del Mar target. Your pic is a neat companion to a color shot that Mr Olson must have taken at the same time, from a slightly different angle and then had published in the Ginter book. (we see less of the BuNo in the Ginter photo). One thing I don't see in either photo is any sort of Motor Unit, but, I don't know at what point the RMU would be installed on an aircraft---maybe they were installed the same time as a target? Hope this is of help.  Rex

Thanks Rex, and I'm certain that Tommy extends his thanks as well! (And it goes without saying that we'd also like to thank Tommy Thomason and Rick Morgan for writing us with the correct description of that goofy-looking rig!)

And that's it for this time. Many thanks to all of your for your patience while we got our heads straight on that Picture Pirate thing, and special thanks to John Mollison for kick-starting us by way of his current "Hun" project. And, while we're thanking people, a special vote of appreciation needs to go out to Jenny, who repeatedly told us to stop 'cessing on the Picture Cretins and get back into the game!

Until next time, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!


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