Everything Old is New Again
I think I've said that before but, if I haven't, I should have. After all, most things in life are repetitive, and whether or not they're new to any of us really comes down to our own personal perspective on things---the title of an old Byrd's song, Funny How the Circle is a Wheel, comes to mind in this context. That circular evolution, to coin a phrase that somebody else probably came up with long before I ever thought of it, can explain a lot in The Big Picture of Life. It can also explain quite a bit in regard to The Far Smaller Big Picture of Plastic Modeling.
Take, for example, the ubiquitous Messerschmitt Bf/Me109 family of Second World War fighters, a collection of aircraft variants about which everything there is to know is known. We've figured that one out, and we've got all the bases covered, or at least we thought we did. Just a couple of weeks ago, back towards the end of March, several of those ubiquitous scale modeling boards I'm always mentioning discovered a Brand New 109 Variant; the Me109K-6. It's an airplane that looks like the far-more-common Me109K-4 except that it's carrying a 30mm cannon buried in each wing, along with a permanently-installed gun camera. That's right; a late-war 109 built with a pair of cannon inside the wings rather than slung underneath in gondolas. It was a revelation!
That revelation came to light in a photograph of American GIs sitting on the hulk of one of the aircraft, and the news of that photo spread far and wide and being disseminated somewhat faster than a speeding bullet, to steal an old expression. That dissemination was rather quickly followed by an illustration of the sub-type, a 3-dimensional inboard profile that showed the location of the significant components of that variation to include the somewhat astounding wing gun installation, which in turn caused the expenditure of a great many electrons as both common folk and authorities pounced on The New 109 Variant with both feet. A New 109 Variant! Shazbot!!!
Or is it really new? The gun installation in those wings was uncomfortably familiar, as was the drawing that was offered in a forum or two as corroboration of the installation as a "standard" feature, projected or actual, in the never-produced in quantity (as far as we know) Me109K-6. That discomfort led me to the bookshelves, to a 1973-vintage Monogram Aviation Publications work by Tom Hitchcock entitled Messerschmitt 'O-Nine Gallery. There, residing in all its splendor on page 49 of that once-cherished but now largely debunked study, was the same 3/4-view inboard profile of an Me109K-6 (and, to throw a little fuel on the fire, a follow-on Me109K-8 to go with it!). We'd known about that "new variant" since 1973!
It's pretty normal these days for certain segments of those who reside within our hobby to discredit the older works that live out there in Reference Land. Often that's for good reason, since nowadays we all have information at our fingertips, via the Internet, that only the most hard-core collector, scholar, or enthusiast had at their disposal Back in the Day. Anybody can go on the 'net nowadays and glean information that was impossible for most of us to access a mere 20 years ago (presuming, of course, that said information is accurate in the first place, but that's a topic for another day...), which in turn means that a lot of the information that was published way back then is considered suspect by a great many enthusiasts, particularly the younger ones. The "Thorpe Books" come to mind when we consider that point, as do several other volumes that were once standard references but are now largely ignored by most modelers. It's a mistake to do that.
Consider this if you will: Serious research did not lie fallow for decades awaiting the invention of the Internet to come along and legitimatize it, and the foundation of a great deal of the information now available to us all came about as the result of the labor of a great many historians and authors who only had printed references to work with, and often had limited access to those. While it's true that a great many of those older publications were, and still are, flawed to some extent, that was never for lack of trying and, contrary to contemporary popular opinion, a great many of those older and now ignored references actually do have something to offer. Take that old Hitchcock 109 reference, for example. It's true that a lot of what's in it is flawed, but it's equally true that a lot of what's in there isn't. Funny how that works, isn't it?
Should we all run out and buy every old aviation book we can find, then? No probably not; the newer stuff truly is better in most respects than anything that came before. What we should do is be a little less quick to jump on the old stuff as worthless, because a great deal of it is far from that, and almost all of it laid the foundations our modern researchers and writers use every day as they create the new references we look on with wide-eyed amazement. Think about it and, while you're at it, think about Thomas Hitchcock, and John Beaman, and Don Thorpe, and all those other guys who led the way with the references they had available at the time. Long ago, in a faraway land...
That Other Wildcat
When most of us think of the Grumman Wildcat family, we tend to think of F4F-3s holding the line in those Bad Old Days of early 1942, or of F4F-4s clinging to a muddy Henderson Field and doing the best they could against overwhelming odds. Those things are an essential part of the Wildcat story, but they're far from being the only part of it. The last of the American service variant of the type was intended to be built as the F4F-8, but ended up being constructed by General Motors and named the FM-2 instead. It was a pip of an airplane too; slightly lighter than the F4F-4 and with a bigger motor and a paddle-blade propeller to go with it (and a larger vertical stab to offset torque). Its gun suite was reduced to the F4F-3's original two guns per wing, which offered both reduced weight as well as the opportunity to carry more rounds per gun, and it was plumbed for a pair of 58-gallon auxiliary tanks right from the factory. It was in every respect the best of its breed, and thanks to Jim Sullivan we're going to take a quick look at it today.
VC-10 in June of 1944, and has apparently done a bit of a headstand on the flight deck. In some situations the damage would have been deemed repairable, but by mid-1944 there was no shortage of fighters aboard American aircraft carriers and it would appear that B19 is on her way over the side. Note her missing canopy and the various panels removed from the fuselage and wings, although the engine and prop are still on the airframe---the engine would have required a complete inspection and overhaul after a prop strike and the effort just wasn't worth it, so she's taking the plunge with her powerplant installed. The NAV had a lot of airplanes in 1944! Sullivan Collection
Old Hose-Nose Again
Bobby Rocker's been sending us some interesting photos of late, two of which are presented here today. Let's go to Eniwetok Atoll in mid-1944 and take a look at the goings-on there.
email@example.com . Drop us a line if you know what's going on here! National Archives via Rocker Collection
Thanks as always to Bobby Rocker for these images; his collection never ceases to amaze us and we're extremely grateful for his participation in this project. Thanks, Bobby!
So Where's the Rest of It?
Sometimes we find photos that prompt us to look for other photos, and this is one of them:
firstname.lastname@example.org is the address and we'd love to hear from you! John Dienst
They Rarely Stay in Just One Place
It's a common misunderstanding regarding military aircraft, I think. A lot of people have it in their heads that an airplane leaves the factory, gets itself assigned to a squadron of some sort, and stays there until it's either pranged, shot down, or sent off to the scrapper to become pots and pans. The truth of the matter is quite a different story---those airplanes move around from unit to unit much like their pilots do. Even the trainers bounce around a bit, and the tactical aircraft tend to go from unit to unit far more frequently than you might imagine. Reader Scott Wilson has been sending us a great deal of photography lately (a practice that we strongly encourage, I might add), one group of which tailed a specific F-4C-18-MC from its service with Kelly AFB's 182nd TFS/149th TFG to its final duty station with Oregon's 123rd FIS/142nd FIG. Scott's documentation effectively followed her tracks throughout her post-USAF service with the Guard and thus provides us with an interesting look at one of our favorite airplanes.
There's one more thing we should mention prior to leaving this particular piece; Scott moved around quite a bit during his time with the Air Force and the Guard and rather obviously knows how to use a camera. There's a lot more of his photography where this came from, so stay tuned!
Just Can't Get Enough of Those Iron Dogs
Particularly not when they look like these do. At first glance our next photo looks pretty normal, and we suspect most of you have seen at least one of these airplanes before. What you haven't seen are the way they're marked, so sit back and get ready to be amazed!
Maybe you're smarter than we are and knew it all along, but those scallops are news to us. As nearly as we can recall we first saw a photo of "Little Sir Echo" (named after Bing Crosby's 1939 song by that title) sometime back in the late 1960s, and we'd never noticed those scallops until just recently. That proves something about the fine art of paying attention, we think, and it also reminds us once again how fortunate we are that Bobby Rocker has spent the better part of his adult life collecting photographs of American military airplanes!
It Was Big and It Was LOUD, But the Polka Dots Were All Covered Up
And, up until it was replaced by its more effective younger brother, the RF-4C, it was also the best photo recce platform the USAF had ever possessed. It was big and it was heavy, and it most assuredly wasn't much at turning, but by the time McDonnell had gotten around to the Charlie variant of its RF-101 family they'd pretty much figured out the photo recon thing and the Voodoo was the perfect airplane for the mission. The RF-101C was available and in service in the Far East when the United States first began air operations over Laos and the Republic of Vietnam, and was heavily involved in the Able Mable operations begun by TDY Voodoos of Misawa's 45th TRS and operating out of Thailand during December of 1961.
By the time The Big War had begun, the 45th had changed stations and moved from its long-time home on Northern Honshu to Tan Son Nhut AB in Vietnam. Photographer Rick Burgess spent some time at that base, and we're privileged to share some of his photography from those days courtesy the kindness of Mark Nankivil and the Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum.
Our next three shots are all pretty much the same photo from some perspectives, but they're all interesting in and of themselves so we're going to run them all. If you don't particularly care for RF-101s this might be a good time to skip to a different part of the blog!
And now it's Bonus time here at Replica in Scale, at least for the modelers among our readership. If you're interested in building your very own Vietnam-era RF-101C you might have an interest in the next couple of images.
Here's a scan of a real, honest to Goodness 45th TRS patch I bought at the base exchange in Misawa, during 1964, just for your edification. I kept it all those years so I could show it to you today!
And that's it for today's look at the Voodoo, but we're a long way from done with the type. Stay tuned!
Under the Radar
Since we haven't talked much about books lately (or much of anything else, for that matter), we probably ought to get back in the groove before you begin to think we no longer know how to read! Today we're going to look at not one, but three---count 'em, THREE---volumes, because they're essentially one book, and we're going to say right from the start that you'll be doing yourself a considerable disservice if you only read one of them. It's a continuity thing if you will.
We purchased these books together and read them in sequence over a period of a couple of weeks. We recommend that you do the same, because the three volumes are essentially one book that's broken down into three manageable parts. They are, without question, essential to any library that focuses on the air war in the Pacific. Bruce Gamble is a remarkable and gifted writer and we can easily see these books remaining the go-to references on the subject for a great many years to come.
Not Quite a Happy Snap
Every once in a while we receive a photograph that we know had to come from some sort of official source rather than one of our readers, but that fits into our Happy Snaps section anyway. This is one of those shots:
The Relief Tube
It's been 5 weeks, give or take, since last we met, and most of our letters have been of the "where are you and why aren't you publishing" variety so once again we're going to slide right past offering anything in the way of corrections. On the other hand, there are a lot of photographs up there for you to look at, which means there are many opportunities for me to make a mistake! That address once again is email@example.com . If all those spam dudes can find the address then so can you, so don't be shy!
And that's it for today. Be good to your neighbor and with any luck we'll meet again soon!