Monday, February 4, 2019

9th AF Jugs On Film, Yokota in the 50s, A Cat, Something to Think About, Oscar, A Couple of F-4s, Images From Townsville, and A Salute to Winter

Long Time Coming

Or to put it another way: Yikes!

The past 3 months have been seriously crazy around here; lots of changes, lots of visitors, and a great many unexpected situations that required immediate and personal attention. It wasn't like I didn't try; the opening piece ("Follow Ahab") was written and put into the blog back in early October, but the follow-on essays that would have helped to create a typical issue (if there is such a thing around here) didn't exactly cascade into place. Nope, not this time, but I honestly didn't notice it, being heavily distracted and all.

There were signs, of course, that all was not well---Frank Emmett's frequent "when are you going to publish something again" inquiries each and every time we saw or corresponded with each other could have been a dead give-away, as could a similar inquiry from Eric, a fellow enthusiast I met in Hill Country Hobby back before Christmas. The e-mails, some of which were of the "Hey! Are you ok?" variety should've served as a clue as well but, like I said, I've been severely distracted for the past couple of months. I'll try not to let it happen again. I promise.

One final thing. My old friends, of which a few still survive, all know how to get hold of me via the miracles of electronics, but a lot of other folks don't. That's probably because I only put the blog contact information in place once, or maybe twice, in each issue, and when I do it's always semi-encoded to keep the Spam Creeps at bay. There's a comments page for the blog, of course, but to be honest with you I never look at it. That's because I don't append any sort of forum to this site. I probably could, and there are most assuredly folks out there who think I should, but I've chosen not to, because I've seen the way such things have gone on other electronic publications and have made the conscious decision not to make myself into a referee tryng to mediate the flame wars that seem to be part and parcel of such endeavors.

I'd still like to hear from you, however, so here's the e-mail address to use. It's gimmicked up a little bit to discourage all those folks out there who want to sell me ball bearings, ocean vacations on cruise liners, or maybe send me the twenty million dollars I just won, funds being available after I've sent the originators of such an incredible kindness a couple of thousand bucks to cover their processing and handling charges. You'll need to do a little bit of figuring-out to use that address, but all that involves is substituting an actual dot where I say "dot" and the symbol for "at" where I say (dare I actually say it?) "at". Are you ready, then? After all, there's no challenge too great!


Pretty easy, huh? Oh, and there's one more thing; I actually answer the mail around here unless you're an obvious spammer or are trying to sell me something. If you've got a question or comment, or maybe would like to offer a correction to something we've published or contribute photography or information, I'll read your message and I'll respond to it. Ok? OK!!!

And now, back to our regular programming!

Follow Ahab

Do any of you remember that classic 1956 cinematic version of Herman Melville's timeless Moby Dick? Maybe you read the book instead; probably somewhat less likely but still a possibility, or maybe you even had the old Dell comic book about the movie that was released in conjunction with it, or maybe you don't have a clue what I'm talking about. It almost doesn't matter no matter whether you have an acquaintance with that classic work or not because I'm going to explain it to you anyway, but it helps if you've got imagery to go with it and imagery just never gets any better than Gregory Peck portraying Captain Ahab trapped against the side of an enormous (and highly whizzed-off) white whale his crew have just harpooned multiple times in that primordial tale of Man against Nature, his arm flopping back and forth as though summoning to join him:

"Look! Look! He beckons! Follow! Follow Ahab!"

It's one of the most memorable scenes in a highly memorable movie, it's a captivating passage in Melville's novel, and No, Virginia; I'm not trying to imply that anything a plastic modeler could do would ever come close to anything described in that book, but there is a comparison we can make should you be so inclined.

Let's think about it for a minute. Ahab, a dark and convoluted character, has lost a leg and, for all intents and purposes his mortal soul, to an enormous edification of nature that he can never best. He tries; Lord knows he tries, but all he manages to do is beguile others into his madness and drag them off on his campaign against the great white whale. There's no way he can win but that doesn't stop him from making the effort and at the end of it all his loses his ship, all but one of his crew, and his own life. The whale wins not once but each and every time.

Whew! Ok; now we're past that let's see where it takes us, because we can apply, albeit in an extremely limited and admittedly obtuse manner, a lesson from that novel to our very own hobby. Let's think about it for a minute...

We're going to need a Moby Dick, or something close to it, if we're going to make this discussion work, so let's pick something that fills that bill, something large, ubiquitous, and seemingly omnipotent. With that as a premise, let's pick the Model Kit of Your Choice for our Great White Whale. We'll need an Ahab too, so let's pick an imaginery scale modeler to play his role, keeping in mind that said modeler has to have a dedicated and highly obsessive interest in whatever the subject at hand might be. We're also going to need a ship, so let's pick a metaphor for that purpose, say; an internet modeling web site of any flavor, any old web site at all. You can even include this one if you want to. I won't mind.

There; we've got everything in place, in a silly sort of way, so what do we do with our whale, our Ahab, and our ship? That answer should be obvious by now, shouldn't it? Look! Look! It's a new piece of resin to correct a problem on our ship that nobody will ever notice and I didn't even know about it before yesterday but I gotta have one for Moby! Look! It's a 300-piece interior detail set for a model of a bomber that has a tiny cockpit opening, two turrets, and a couple of side windows that will ensure nobody ever sees any of my work once I've installed all those itty-bitty pieces but I've gotta have one! Look! It's a new decal sheet that will let me replicate a model of Moby Airplane as it sat in the mud on the 27th of September, 1943, immediately after it had been towed over the left foot of the squadron's new commanding officer and nobody honestly cares including me but I gotta have one because---you got it---Ahab beckons!

Yep; some internet guy has just reviewed that new whiz-bang whatever-it-is and said everyone has to have it so a whole bunch of people magically see the light, go out and buy one, then either put it away and forget all about it or, conversely, actually use it and then come to the conclusion that they didn't need it after all, nor did they need to spend all that money which could have easily gone towards another kit, and all because some guy in an Ahab suit told them they needed to do it. That, inevitably, takes us once again to The Point:

Aftermarket is fun to use and can provide both detail and satisfaction when used in the creation of a model, and aftermarket decals can really bring an otherwise mundane model to life. Such things can add a lot to our hobby and are an integral part of it, not to be dismissed out of hand or ignored but, if we're going to use them there ought to be some sort of a rationale to it.

Let's start with accuracy. Is our whale accurate, or is Ahab just at it again with whatever the Newest Shiny Object might be? "It's new, after all, so you have to have it! I said so! Follow Ahab!"

How about practicality? If our whale is a set of aftermarket parts, can all those itty-bitty pieces actually be seen once you've encased them in the fuselage of an airplane or the hull of a tank? It's got a lot of pieces and it's new, after all, so you have to have it, right? Right! Follow Ahab!

We can go on and on with our premise but, at the end of it all, it comes down to just two things: Do you need it because you actually do need it, or do you need it because somebody you don't know has persuaded you to believe you've got to have it? Yes; there's a difference, even if your scale modeling friends all begin to call you Ishmael because you've begun to go your own way and, in so doing, left that pitifully derainged captain to his own devices. Yes; he beckons, but you don't have to go there.

Follow Ahab? I think not!

Thunderbolts in Color

Norman Camou has been at it again, mining the aviation footage hidden within the depths of YouTube, and has come up with this jewel for us:

It 45 minutes long, more or less, and is about P-47 operations in Europe, all filmed on the instruction from the War Department and all in color. Our primary interest around here is, and probably always will be, the Pacific War, but this sort of thing simply can't be ignored and needs to be shared! Many thanks to Norm for sending it to us!

Another Movie From Norm

This one falls under the heading of Not At All What You Expected, but it provides an insight into the way Air Force bases were in Japan during the 40s and 50s. There's not much of anything here in the way of airplanes but it's a true time machine for those of us who spent time in Japan prior to the late 1960s.

If you want to understand the way things were, this video is invaluable---it's got everything but the smell of the post-War Far East!  Thanks once again to Norm...

An Old Standby

That would have been a pretty good nickname for Consolidated's now-immortal PBY family of flying boats and amphibians. Here's one you may not have seen before:

This VP-23 PBY-5 was ostensibly photographed at Midway sometime during 1942. The ramp in the background strongly suggests that to be true, although we don't know for certain. What we do know is that the photograph provides a classic study of a Catalina with early Yagi radar antennae and ordnance, quite probably depth charges, under the wings. From its blue-grey over light grey paint to the details of its radar suite, this photograph defines the early-War P-boats to a tee. Many thanks to the Cactus project and Bobby Rocker for sharing it with us!   CACTUS Collection via Bobby Rocker

Words to Live By for the Scale Modeler

'Nuff said!                                                                         via Ken McPheeters

A Token Model

We don't have a modeling feature for you this time around, so here's a token model photo to use as a place holder. It's a 1/48th scale Hasegawa P-40E done up in the markings of the RAAF's 75 squadron in early 1942, about the time they had moved to New Guinea. The paint is that much-maligned Testor ModelMaster, a product that unfortunately seems to be going extinct, while the markings are from Montex set 48288, which provides a combination of both paint masks and decals, thus allowing the modeler to get an easy entry into the use of paint masks. And no; those fuselage ID lights shouldn't be there. Big sigh. Move on...

That Other Mitchell Group

Months ago, way back in September, we received an e-mail from Shawn Marquardt regarding some B-25 photographs in his family:


This may be a bit random, BUT....After finding rolls and rolls of film from my grandfather, who was a B-25J pilot in the Philippines late in WW2 (13th AAF, 42nd BG, 75 BS [Crusaders]) there were very few planes I could make out nose art and such on. There were three or four pictures of a nose with “Doc’s Delight” painted on the side with the pin-up girl. The only picture I could find of that same plane and nose art is the one you posted 3 years ago. The picture was almost identical to the one included in your post, with the windshield being covered and everything. It’s odd to think that there are so few pictures out there, but at least two people took one of that very plane. I know there was a question of the location of the picture on your post (not that I’m sure it matters 3 years later) but I’m guessing it was in the Philippines as the one I have of it was from. Sadly I can’t help with any other info since my grandfather passed long before I was interested in anything and could ask him questions. I just wanted to reach out and thank you for giving me some insight on one of the few things I could identify in his pictures with your post. Have a great day. -Shawn M

First, we'd like to say thank you to Shawn for the kind words, for being one of our readers and, most of all, for sending along the following photographs. The images have suffered somewhat with the passage of time but that in no way diminishes their value as historical documents. Let's take a look:

The calm before the storm! Here's a whole lot of trouble lined up on a ramp, most likely in the Philippines. The image is tantalizing in the extreme since we can almost, but not quite, make out some of the details in the shot, one of which being the opened fuselage escape hatch seen on the starboard side of the aft fuselage, just in front of the national insignia, on most of the aircraft in the left-hand lineup, and the missing guns in the waist positions. Keep those things in mind, because we'll talk about them a little more in just a minute.   Marquardt Collection

Yet another photo that's so near yet so far away because we know practically nothing about the airplane shown. If you've got a better photo of this bird we'd love to hear from you!   Marquardt Collection

 Shawn's grandfather, Lt Longin J. Sonski, in front of his B-25J. Of interest in this photo is the silhouette of the fuselage package guns, which were apparently removed from many, if not all, of the 75th's B-25s. Take a look at the mud, the well-used condition of that Mitchell, and Lt Sonski's youth. Those guys were a special breed, weren't they? Let's raise a glass!   Marquardt Collection

One thing that never changed in the Pacific was the incredibly miserable conditions the maintenance crews had to endure, even during the late stages of the war, and trying to deal with any sort of major repair in situ was even worse. You can take your pick in this photo; B-25 or P-38, both are being maintained, although it's probably overly-kind to refer to that mangled Mitchell as being involved in a repair, and in the usual SWPAC miserable conditions of mud, heat, and high humidity. Did it ever get better? Maybe, once the conflict was over and those guys were on their way home, but even then there were the memories that wouldn't all go away. The term "special breed" doesn't apply only to aviators...   Marquardt Collection

Sometimes it didn't rain and there wasn't any mud to contend with, which left only the mosquitos, flies, heat, and infrequent air raid to plague the maintenance troops. These guys were in pretty high cotton since they had honest-to-Goodness real maintenance stands to work from. Sometimes...   Marquardt Collection

Of course, they were there to fight. Here's an element of the 75th en route to some mischief, as photographed from the cockpit by Lt. Sonski.    Marquardt Collection

"Close it up, you guys!" 44-29583 survived the war to be scrapped in 1949. Not all of her sisters came to that peaceful an end---between the elements and the Japanese, every day was a tough one!   Marquardt Collection

"I said close it up!" We strongly suspect this photo was taken during a bombing mission rather than one directed towards strafing. It really doesn't matter; the aviators among our readership can tell you how tough it is to fly a big airplane with manual controls this closely to another one for any length of time. We should probably add that to our ever-growing list of things that could kill you if your profession happened to be that of crewing a medium bomber in the Pacific. Oh, and remember the comment from a couple of pictures ago about the escape hatch and side window guns? Take a close look at this photo; the airplane is definitely armed but there are no side guns (or package guns either, for that matter) and the escape panel is missing. We presume that's for ventilation since it gets pretty warm around the Philippines, but we have to admit we're a little surprised by their absence, particularly since the practice seems to have been fairly well standardized within the squadron.   Marquardt Collection

Here's a different airplane showing the same lack of hatch and guns---see what we mean? Oh yeah; are those guys flying tight form at a fairly low altitude? Are they close? Yep! Is it dangerous? You bet, and those guys did it every time they went up. Every stinkin' time...   Marquardt Collection

"Rosie" was a good looking girl, and was hitching a ride on a natural metal airplane to boot, but those guys are cutting it a little too close. Don't think so? Ask your nearest military aviator friend, but be sure to show him this picture first, and don't forget to mention the considerable heat and the manual controls on those B-25s!   Marquardt Collection

It all looks so peaceful, and sometimes it was, but the brief terror of combat more than made up for any sort of tranquility! Remember that part about no easy days? And this time the escape panel is there, but still no side guns!  Marquardt Collection

Let's end this essay with a final shot of Lt Sonski in the cockpit of his B-25J. It's small, loud, and one heck of an office. Most of those guys are gone now, but they're most assuredly not forgotten. We owe them, and all the others like them. Long ago and far away...   Marquardt Collection

Many thanks to Shawn Marquardt for sending us these fascinating images!

Oscar, But Not the One You Were Expecting to See

There's Oscar and then there's Oscar. Here's the Oscar you're not going to see today!

This Oscar is a Nakajima Ki-43b of the 11th Sentai, taken at Cape Gloucester in New Britain late in the war, but it's not the Oscar we're talking about this time! Nope; it's not the one, but read on!   Rocker Collection

We did an article on George Laven's F-84B a couple of months ago---OK; a whole bunch of months ago, Thanks to the kindness of Ed "The Original Mr Ed" Ellickson. Ed has an interest in Laven and his colorful airplanes so the photos we ran were all concerned with Laven, but there was one shot that was just a little bit different:

We commented at the time we ran the shot that "Meat Chopper" was a different airplane than any of Laven's mounts, but we didn't elaborate, nor did we bother to do any research regarding the name---that would have been entirely too easy and obvious---we just ran the photo and moved on, but not for long! Reader Herb Arnold was in touch with us almost as soon as we'd run the article with this to say:

Hi Phil. Apologies if this has already been pointed out, but your latest blog post on F-84Bs had an interesting photo of a Thunderjet named "Meat Chopper". The pilot in it sure looks like Oscar Perdomo, the last ace-in-a-day of WWII. 1LT Perdomo flew a P-47N with a similar name for that mission. Same guy? Cheers, Herb

Further investigation, and our next photograph (provided by Herb), clinched the deal:

Pedromo was the AAF's last "ace in a day", four Ki-84s and a KY5 trainer destroyed on the 13th of August, 1945, while flying P-47Ns with the 507th FG. The El Paso native, a little-known yet significant fighter ace, stayed in after the end of the war, leaving the Air Force in 1958 as a major. He passed away far too early, dying in March of 1976.   Herb Arnold Collection

Thanks to Herb for pointing this out to us, apologies to the family of Major Perdomo, and a heartfelt self-inflicted slap to the forhead for dropping such an obvious clanger. We should've known better!

USAFE Phantooms

Or, perhaps more properly, Phantom IIs, but we aren't going to squabble about it! Instead, we'd like to share a couple of photographs Don Jay sent to us shortly before Christmas. Here's some background:

Hi Phil. 

 Trust this finds you well and in the midst of producing an end of year ‘RIS’ issue. Both F-4Ds were taken in Dec of 72 while trying to get out of Frankfurt on space-available. Since I had some downtime, I flew with the ANG KC-97 that was TDY to Rhein-Main AB at this time. The KC-97s were part of the “Creek Party” support to USAFE providing air-to-air refueling training to USAE units. Great bunch of guys that were more than happy to oblige a wayward troop although they found it funny that I wanted to photograph ac versus spending my time downtown enjoying German culture (aka beer/wine). Anyway, captured several shots of Phantoms from the 50 TFW at Hahn and the boys at Spang., the 52 TFW. Attached are two examples. Hope you can use them in any future publications. Cheers for now and Merry Christmas. DJ 

 PS: The KC-97 was moded with bunks and couches plus they had a round card table mounted in the middle of the pax deck. Hell of a way to fly and fight!!

Some people just have an eye for photography, and Don Jay is one of them! 66-7504 was built as an F-4D-29-MC and survived active service to ultimately be converted in to a ground training airframe, re-designated as a GF-4D and assigned to Homestead in 1986. She was in her prime here, though, and was flying with the 52nd TFW's 23rd TFS when she posed for Don's camera in 1972.   Don Jay

Every once in a while we see a photograph that ought to be on the box art of a model airplane, and this one surely qualifies for that honor! 65-0685, an F-4D-28MC, was with the 10th TFS of the 50th TFW in 1972. She was at her best when Don photographed her but was getting a little old and tired when she met her demise crashing into the Gulf of Mexico in 1980. Nobody ever said military aviation was safe...   Don Jay

Thanks as always to Don for sharing his remarkable photography with us!

It Wasn't Always Combat

In some ways it's a sad thing, but few of us ever consider the aviation-related activities that don't involve tales of derring-do in combat. That approach to things can leave quite a bit of aviation history completely un-touched, but think about just one thing for a minute: How did all those airplanes get into combat? Where did they come from, especially the shorter-ranged aircraft such as fighters and liaison types?

The answer is simple. Most of the airplanes we're interested in got to the various combat theaters in crates, transported by ship. (We're not referring to the Navy or Marine Corps this time, just the AAC.) That means that somebody had to put those airplanes together and test them which, in the case of the 5th Air Force, meant the 4th Air Depot Group.

The 4th was activated at Patterson Field in Ohio on 01 April, 1941, and participated in both the Louisiana and Carolina War Games prior to the outbreak of war. They were transferred to Melbourne, Australia, and sailed for that destination on 15 November, 1941, aboard the President Coolidge. By 2 October, 1942, they had set up shop in Townsville, where the following images were taken:

A great many American fighters, as well as other types, passed through the 4th's hands on their way to the operational units. It's both possible, and even probable, that the P-39 in this photo was destined for the 8th FG, while the P-40E would almost certainly have ended up with the 49th. The image is interesting from another aspect as well, in that the P-39 appears to still be at least partially taped up, presumably from transport to Townsville via ship, while the P-40 seems to be ready for delivery. Every picture tells a story, and we wish we knew with certainty what was going on with this one!  Rocker Collection

We suspect these Airacobras to be P-39Ds rather than P-400s since they're painted in OD over Neutral Grey, and the pre-War corcardes could establish the approximate date date as March or April of 1942, although that is admittedly speculative on our part. We do know that they've been assembled and are ready for delivery; once again the 8th FG would seem to be their destination.    Rocker Collection

Thanks as always to Bobby Rocker's continuing support for this project, and for his preservation of these images from our past!

Baby It's COLD Outside!

This winter has been a tough one for a lot of folks in the United States this year. We've escaped almost all of it down here in Sunny South Texas, for the time being, anyway, but not all of our friends have been so lucky. Let us show you what we mean!

Long-time contributor Don Jay started the ball (snow-ball, maybe?) rolling a couple of weeks ago when he sent us this Grumman Albatross sitting gear-up in a very cold place. The photo got us thinking but there honestly wasn't any thought of using it in the project. Not yet, anyway...   Jay Collection

Then this little jewel, simply titled "Hercsickles", showed up. The photo actually dates from 1995, but cold is cold, right?   National Archives via Don Jay

We had begun to think about it by this time, and then Mark Morgan clinched the deal with this grab from a St Louis newspaper:

Yep; that's contributor Mark Nankivil in action just a couple of weeks ago, foregoing his normal aerospace activities in order to get all that sloppy white stuff off his sidewalks! That might be a portable snow-blower but we've honestly never actually seen one so we can't be certain. It's a South Texas thing, Ya'll, so roll with it, ok?   St Louis Post-Dispatch via Mark Morgan

And that was the photo that tipped it over the edge. Inspiration struck almost immediately and we cranked out an email to Don Jay, who responded with the following from his collection:

Let's start with this A-10A, a gate guard up at Elmendorf, a place known to experience cold weather from time to time. Gate guards are generally missing a whole of of the equipment, to include engines, that reside inside the airframe, but it still shouldn't be this easy to tip the darned thing over!   Don Jay

Yes; the T-37 was a pretty lightweight little airplane. No; the engines weren't all that heavy either. And no! It shouldn't be this easy to tip one back on its haunches, but it can be done, as demonstrated by this "Tweet" the day after a winter "event" at Vance back in the 1980s! Don titled the shot "Ice Tweet".   Don Jay

You would expect things to be a bit chilly in Alaska, and especially so if you were up there in 1976 participating in the second annual "Jack Frost" exercises. Don shot this C-130E taxiing in from the active runway. There's a note with the photo saying it was 15 below in the sun that day. (That's -15F, by the way; we don't do Centigrade around here! Look on it as an old habit that's hard to break and humor us please...)   Don Jay

Let's end this particular essay with a photo that could quite literally be the very last thing you'd expect to see. We don't mean the snow, particularly, and we don't even mean the MiG kill, although that's certainly something to take notice of. Nope; we're talking about the location, because Don shot this VF-31 Phantoom on the ground at NAS Oceana! Yes, they can get snow there but no; they don't get it that often!   Don Jay

Special thanks to Don and Mark for brightening up this chilly winter for us all!

The Relief Tube

We could've, and probably should've, had one this time, but the information we could have published ended up in the main body as small articles. That doesn't signify any sort of change of format, just in case you're inclined to wonder about such things. It's just how I did it this time.

So that's it for this time. As always, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!