Saturday, July 4, 2015
An Enigma, An Unusual Voodoo, Georgia Hogs, Able Mabel, Bugsuckers in the Corps, Oopsie, and Some Mystery Meat
A Very Long Time Ago
Some of us are survivors, and it's recently occurred to me that I am him. A survivor. Not quite older than dirt but not far from it, if you catch my drift; a man with occasional perspective. For the purposes of this blog, most of my perspective tends to lead me towards comments regarding something or other I've read on one of those modeling sites I'm always talking about, but today's going to be different, sortof, because today I'm going to ramble on in an entirely mindless way about certain of the cherished model airplanes of my past. Please feel free to come along for the ride if you'd like, or jump right to the next section if you'd rather not do that.
We've already discussed my very first I Built It Myself plastic model airplane, that Me109-Something-Or-Other that my mother bought for me way back in 1956. It was a game-changer for me in terms of setting the stage for an interest in Things Polystyrene, but it was far from the only model I ever "put together" back in that childhood of the 1950s, so we'll leave it in the back pages of Replica and go on to other things. With any luck we'll get you thinking about the old models in your own lives.
After that first seminal plastic kit there were others, and a great many of the earlier ones had "Aurora" printed on the box. Those Aurora kits were really something if you were a little kid in the mid-1950s, because they had few pieces, were molded in colors, and could be put together and subsequently played with in the space of an hour or less. My very first Aurora kit was their infamous Yellow Zero, and I honestly can't remember a whole lot about it except that after it was completed I showed it to my dad, a man who had first-hand experience with wrecked Zeros on the ground at Buna and Lae, and who promptly told me he couldn't remember any yellow ones but anything was possible since the ones he'd seen were all shot to pieces and it was hard to determine the colors. That modest success and parental acceptance led me to my next yellow airplane, an Aurora SNJ, which turned out to be a tough date in comparison to the Zero because it had a lot more pieces to put together, a few of which were beyond the capabilities of a budding six-year-old modeler. At the end of the day it did get assembled, mostly, but my recollection is that it was by and large a collection of glue shapes rather than plastic parts.
At that point in things I was one for one (if we don't count that very first 109) and ready for another challenge, albeit something a little simpler to build than that botched-up Texan, so I got an Aurora P-40E. That P-40, in common with most of Aurora's other single-engined WW2 fighters, was a simple kit so my confidence in my own abilities was somewhat restored, which is probably why my next effort was a Lindberg Ju87. That green "Stuka" was a quantum leap ahead of any of the Aurora kits I'd built previously, but it had a lot of pieces, several of which were involved with the construction of the flaps and bombs. You can guess the rest, I suspect, but at the end of the day it really didn't matter much in the world of backyard dogfights, and I was happy, more or less, with the results.
Next up was a revelation---my first Monogram kit. That silver Invader looked better than anything else I'd built up to that point, and was easy to get together. It was just the sort of reassurance I needed in order to continue building, and was a sight easier to put together than the tan Revell B-24 ("Buffalo Bill", remember?) that followed it into my "collection".
Another favorite kit was the Hawk SBD/A-24 (the SBDs were molded in blue and the A-24s in silver, but they were both the same kit). Easy to assemble and relatively sturdy, they were the queens of the fleet in those swirling backyard dogfights we all indulged in back in those days. In that same vein, the Hawk SNJ (yellow) and T-6 (silver) were also favorites with the added bonus that the Hawk SNJ could be a Japanese airplane too, since it was yellow just like the Aurora Zero. That made it a multi-threat kind of a model, just what a Little Kid needed for his air force.
There were two game-changers in all of that, kits that took all of us way past our simplistic starting places. The first came in 1958, when Monogram released their mostly 1/48th scale TBM. It was a challenge to build since every single thing on it that could work did work, which made assembly tough for a kid, but the end result was amazing. That kit was, simply stated, an epiphany; a model that took those of us who were interested into an entirely different world of modeling.
The other game changer came in 1962 when Revell added a 1/72nd scale B-17F (the "Memphis Belle") to its then-limited catalog of same-scale airplanes (as opposed to the previous box scale that was where they hung out). That kit had it all if you were a kid; it was relatively big (although not quite as big as Lindberg's older 1/64th scale B-17G) and was relatively easy to build. In addition to that, the model drove me to discover Revell's new (thanks to Revell GB) line of 1/72nd scale fighters. I was already a devoted modeler by then, but after 1962 there was absolutely no turning back for me.
There were other kits in between that primordial 109 and the "Belle", of course; Revell P-39s and B-57s, Strombecker Temco TT-1s, Monogram C-47s and Blue Angel F11F sets, an Aurora P-51H, the big Aurora bombers, and a myriad of tiny Comet kits to flesh things out. There were Hawk and Aurora biplanes too, although in my world they all ended up being monoplanes until Revell made it easy with their little Sopwith Camel.
The point to be taken here, if indeed there is a point, is that most of my life has been spent with polystyrene in it in some way or another. I built when I was a kid, when I was in high school, and when I was in college; not every day, of course, but the hobby was a constant in my life. It still is, right up to and including This Very Moment, and I can't say enough good about it. All those kits taught me patience, and how to think things through. They honed my motor skills, and led me to a life-long passion for history. They introduced me to serious photography and ultimately led me to an assortment of friends that I wouldn't trade for all the money in the world. Like any good hobby, modeling made me a better person as well (or at least I think so; your mileage may differ in that regard!).
There's a nascent movement afoot in our modeling world these days, one that involves the assembly and painting of vintage kits for use as display models on stands, as they were originally intended to be way back there in the late 40s and early 50s. That movement is called Retro-Modeling, I think, and it looks like a lot of fun to me. A cleaned-up, painted and decalled Aurora P-38 would look awfully nice on a plinth, sitting here on my writing desk.
I think I'm going back
To the days I knew so well in my youth.
I truly do love this hobby of ours!
OK; What IS That Stuff?
Back in the late 1960s a San Antonio friend of mine, Bob Angel, and I used to play a game we called Stump the Champs. It was a simple game---all you had to do was correctly identify the airplane in a photograph or recall and recite some sort of aviation trivia---and it's one that leads us to today's first photo.
email@example.com and let us know what we're looking at? Rocker Collection
And the electrons were scarcely dry on the page when I started receiving explanations of the "mystery gear" on that Banshee. The most comprehensive answer came from Our Man in Argentina, Pablo Ziegler, so that's the one we're going to include to explain what's going on here:
Dear Mr. Friddell, I have been scratching my head looking at that Dauntless picture. I didn't know anything about the purpose of the ventral pod or the cowling bulges, but after a while I came across this picture...so, now I know the aircraft is 42-6783, and the picture is from the early 50's. A little more research lead me to (a link that states) "QF-24A-DE Dauntless c/n 1538, originally A-24A-DE 42-6783 was re-manufactured as drone aircraft, redesignated RA-24A in 1948." I get more information from another source: http://www.joebaugher.com/usattack/a24_3.html "One A-24A-DE (42-6783) was modified at Wright field as a radio-controlled drone and designated RA-24A-DE. This aircraft was still in service in 1948, when the A designation category was dropped by the USAF. At that time, the aircraft was redesignated QF-24A-DE (in the fighter sequence) and given a new serial number of 48-044." So, may be I can be proven wrong, but it seems the mystery is solved! Warmest regards from Buenos Aires, PZ
Please note that Pablo had provided links to the first two web sites but for whatever reason I couldn't get them to properly copy and paste here---if you want to try them for yourself drop me an e-mail and I'll send them to you.
Many thanks to Pablo, and also to Mike McMurtrey and Norman Camou for writing in as well.
Bet You Haven't Seen This Before!
On the face of things it couldn't be easier---the 192nd TRS/152nd TRG of the Nevada ANG operated McDonnell RF-101Gs and Hs beginning in the late 1960s and running into the mid-70s. Here's a shot of one of those recce Voodoos, but there's a catch!
Before we leave this particular piece we'd like to extend a word of thanks to Ben Brown, who pointed out that there was a second, not-quite-per-spec camouflage scheme for the RF-101G/H that didn't match the F-101 scheme specified in T.O. 1-1-4. Our conclusion is that the scheme was a depot-level and non-standard interpretation of the authorized pattern. It's a neat addendum to the Voodoo story and we're pleased to be able to present it here.
U-Birds in Georgia
You'd think that I'd have learned by now---I'm always receiving these really neat photos and I publish them, then wait for an acknowledged authority on that particular airplane to contact me and tell me what's going on. Today's a new day, and it's no different than any other in most respects, so here are some F4U-1A shots for your perusal and edification. They're here via the kindness of Bobby Rocker and illustrate Corsairs on the transient ramp at Robbins AB in Georgia during the 1940s. Enjoy!
firstname.lastname@example.org . We don't know if you'll be glad you did, but we sure will be! Rocker Collection.
A Polka Dot Surprise
Last issue we showed you a few RF-101Cs from the 45th Tac Recon Squadron taken during their camouflaged days in Vietnam, and we mentioned their first excursion into that theater, at least in the Voodoo, occurred in December of 1961 during the Air Force's Able Mable deployment to the region. Mention of that program caused us to think back to things we'd seen but couldn't quite place, and a subsequent search turned up this image:
Phantoms of a Different Pheather
VMF-232 is one of those squadrons that goes Way Back, tracing its lineage to its establishment in 1925 as VF-3M, followed by a series of designation changes and running through assignment to Tsientsin in the late 20s, the ZI (San Diego) in the 30s, Pearl Harbor (as VMSB-232) in 1941, Guadalcanal, and Esprito Santo (as VMTB-232). A series of assignments throughout the Central Pacific found them on Okinawa at war's end, after which they were decommissioned for a short period of time, only to be stood up again as a Marine Reserve fighter unit, VMF-232, a designation that has taken them into the 21st Century.
We're not interested in any of that at the moment, however. Today we're more concerned with what they were doing in November of 1982, when they were flying the McDonnell Douglas F-4S on a det at Nellis. Thanks to the kindness of reader Scott Wilson we've got a few unusual examples of "Double Ugly" to share with you today.
Many thanks to Scott for his kindness in sharing these images with us today!
Addendum: Shortly after publishing this we heard from Rick Morgan, who assured us that most of the aircraft that we identified as Js were, in fact, early conversions of the F-4S. Thanks, Morgo!
So That's How They Worked!
17 May, 1941, was a special day in the service career of a young Ensign Tennes, who got to try out the flotation gear installed in his F4F-3. Let's take a look:
Thanks as always to Bobby Rocker for this fascinating look into our past.
OK; What Does It Mean?
Those of our readers who aren't familiar with the way things are done in military aviation may not be aware that most aircraft evolve over their service lives, and that sometimes that evolution involves experimentation. Here's an example of what we mean:
http://thanlont.blogspot.com/2015/07/call-sign-boron.html for further details of the program.
The Relief Tube
Yep, that's right! We've got a couple of comments to publish this time, so without further ado...
Last time around we showed you a few U-birds, with a comment on one photo regarding the paintwork. Pat Donahue was able to fill in the blanks for us:
Phil, I think that you are looking at a weathered "graded tone" application. To only areas with intermediate sea blue were the vertical tail and outer wing panel bottoms. The sides of the fuselage and cowl were painted using 2 colors: a base white application and a hazy overspray of dark sea blue to APPROXIMATE the intermediate sea blue then a solid application of dark sea blue on the upper surfaces. With this application it seems that the swath of paint approximating intermediate sea blue is pretty narrow especially noticeable on the cowl. Dana Bell has done some work on this in his first volume of the F4U. I think this application was more prevalent among Goodyear produced machines and like the haze painted recon P-38s it did not weather well.... A couple of other shots of this paint application. Cheers, Pat Donahue
Way back in the beginnings of this project we ran more than a few shots of 1940s-vintage NavRes birds, and asked for clarification from our readers in a couple of instances. We received this response a couple of weeks ago to one of those questions:
Phil, (regarding) Your 2011/07/some-turkeys-splitter-art-its-about (article), it includes the following paragraph (and question): "This TBM-3E was caught running up at NAS Squantum in 1947 and, like 91433 above, she's well on her way to being all used up. There's a badge under the windscreen, but we can't quite make it out, and we've been through all our assets and are stumped by that Zulu Alpha tail code. If you know the unit please drop us a line at email@example.com . J. Sullivan Collection "You may have already discovered the meaning of the ZA tail code mentioned above. However, if not, I found the following information at this webpage: http://www.airtalk.org/tail-codes-for-1940s-early-1950s-reserve-airfields-vt27077.html. Here are the codes through 1949:
F Jacksonville (also used by Oakland 1948)
I Grosse Ile
L Los Alamitos (also used by Akron 1948)
N Spokane (1948)
R New York (Brooklyn)
U St Louis
W Willow Grove
X New Orleans
Also in 1946 a second letter was used to indicate squadron type:
Thanks, David, and thanks for taking the time to provide that list!
One more thing before we go---if you read any of those modeling boards you've probably read by now that Jerry Campbell, the founder and long-time owner of the Squadron Shop, has passed. His contributions to our hobby are considerable, and it's difficult to imagine how our hobby would be had he not had the vision he had. Like so many others we had a direct link to him---he was an early advertiser on the original RIS project, and a major distributor as well. Those things are pretty well-known to those who happen to own an early copy of the magazine. What's not generally known is that Jerry once tried to buy the project to use as Squadron's in-house magazine. We didn't want to sell it, so the deal never went through, but you have to wonder where our extraordinarily modest publication would have ended up if we've done it.
That said, one of the giants of our hobby is gone, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude. His vision, and the actions he took to realize it, improved plastic modeling beyond all recognition. Thanks, Jerry, for what you gave to the hobby! You'll be missed.
And that's it for today. We're already working on our next issue, so maybe (hopefully?) you won't have to wait another month and a half for our next thrilling episode, but until then be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!