Saturday, April 18, 2015

Iconic Aircraft

Spitfire Mk Vb #AB910, built in 1941, she is painted in the colors of the Polish 303 Squadron;
the Donald Duck symbol is the personal logo of Squadron Leader Jan Zumbach.

Photo by Adrian Pingstone (Arpingstone) - Own Work. (Source)
Those of you who have been following the blog for a while will know of my absolute love for the Supermarine Spitfire and all of its lovely variants. Some of you have taken me to task for this love.

"What about the P-51 Mustang?" they would ask. How could I possibly favor the British Spitfire over the P-51 Mustang? Well, that's a tough question.

Both are beautiful aircraft, deadly in the hands of a skilled pilot as many foes discovered during the years when World War Two raged. Both are solid designs, the P-51 perhaps a bit better as regards armament and certainly far superior in range.

No Spitfire would fly to Berlin and back. Many a Mustang did.

I do recall that the P-51 started out as a bit of a dog. (Hush now. It's true, read your history.) We gave (sold?) them to the Brits and it was they, our cousins across the pond, who had the inspiration to mount in that lovely airframe the engine they used for their own top of the line fighter.

The Rolls Royce Merlin.

"Rolls-Royce Merlin"
Photo by JAW at English Wikipedia - Own work. CC

So while I do have a deep and abiding affection for the magnificent P-51 Mustang (and all it's lovely variants), my first love is that elliptical-winged beauty designed by Mr. Mitchell.

The Spitfire.

Recently a comrade-in-arms of mine posted a video of an event which took place at Duxford back in 2010. A flyby of Spitfires in squadron strength.

Sixteen Spitfires, in formation, a sight seldom seen since the late summer and early fall of 1940. When a relative handful of brave young men in their Spitfires and Hurricanes stood tall against the might of the Deutsches Luftwaffe.

And won.

I love the sound of that Merlin engine, regardless of which aircraft it's mounted in!

Friday, April 17, 2015

C'est la Guerre

Winfield Scott leads his infantry brigade forward.
Chippewa - H. Charles McBarron (US Army Center of Military History, Public Domain)
In the paintings the uniforms are virtually spotless, the ranks perfectly aligned. The grass is green and there is but a hint of smoke in the background. Men who have become casualties drop to the ground as if they have but stumbled.

That is art. Not war.

Actual battle in the time of Wellington, Scott, Suvorov and Napoléon was seldom, if ever, so picturesque.

The night before the battle the troops, the lucky ones that is, usually slept under the open sky. In a fast moving campaign, tents and other baggage, even if an army used them, seldom could keep pace. More stress was laid on making sure ammunition was available. Shot and powder were much more important on a battlefield than creature comforts. Such as food and shelter.

The unlucky may have spent long hours in the night on the march. Driven by their officers to arrive on the field before the fighting commenced. Often times, many troops were still on the march when the fighting began. In the distance the powder smoke might be seen rising over the tree line or the next ridge.

The thump of artillery could be heard at quite a distance if the wind was right. Legend has it that the cannon fire on the field of Waterloo could be heard at Dover, over 170 miles away. But that was a large battle with over 400 cannon on the field.

Prussian Artillery Reenactors

Commanders learned early to "march to the sound of the guns." The troops no doubt sweated and grumbled as they hurried onward. No matter how tired and footsore they might be, their officers and sergeants drove them on.

While battles did happen in winter, no one who survived would ever forget the frozen hell of Preußisch Eylau, most battles were fought in warmer weather.

The blazing heat of the march into Russia in 1812 killed thousands of men and horses. Try marching at a steady pace of 2 to 3 miles an hour, wearing a wool uniform and carrying upwards of 60 pounds of equipment. In the blazing sun, day after day, then offering battle. Sometimes the march would be in the pouring rain, the road muddy. Each time a battery of artillery needed to pass, the troops would have to move off the road, and then be splattered by the wheels of the limbers and guns passing by.

"Ingenieros" - Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau (Source CC)
The Spanish royal regiment of sappers (Regimiento Real de Minadores-Zapadores)
abandon Alcalá de Henares on May 24, 1808, to join the loyalist cause in Valencia.

The troops would often be tired, hungry and filthy at the start of a battle. Uniforms might be muddy and soaked through. Shoes might be worn through or falling apart entirely. These were mass produced items and could be expensive, as always the army would buy from the cheapest bidder. And always it was the fighting man who suffered his government's parsimony. (I say men here because women generally did not fight. Though some did, from time to time, dress as men and fight in the ranks. And died.)

French Fusilier Grenadiers and Fusilier Chasseurs
Richard Knötel (Public Domain)

Fancy plumes would be stowed in one's pack, fancy shakos would be wrapped in oilskin. The bright colors called for in the regulations would be faded and irregular.

The bright red of the British infantry might be a muddy looking sort of red, almost brown. The dark blue of the French could be anywhere from a sick looking bottle green to a faded grey-blue. Quality blue dye was so hard to come by that Napoléon actually planned on re-uniforming his infantry in white.

The cost of new uniforms for hundreds of thousands of troops, the horror of bloody wounds showing so well against a light colored uniform and the absolute disdain of the troops for white led the Emperor to back off on that particular uniform change. (The troops hated the idea of white uniforms because their hated foe, the Austrian white mice of the Hapsburgs wore white. And they always defeated the Austrians!)

So the men stand, and wait. They would normally be in column on the battlefield when not actually engaged. Each company of 60 to 120 men in three deep line, one company lined up behind another to form a battalion column. (There were four to ten companies per battalion depending on the nationality.)

Sometimes, if the army expected to be on the defense, the battalions in the front line would be in line formation. The companies formed as before, only now side by side. Most armies employed three-deep line, three men, one behind the other. The British allegedly preferred two deep line (though this may have been due to shortages in manpower more than a desire to cover more frontage). Theoretically, every man in a line formation would be able to fire his musket at once. Ofttimes though the fire of the third would only injure, deafen and annoy the men in the first two ranks.

(Note: There were essentially two types of column. One for the battlefield, 20 to 40 men across and four to six companies deep and another for the march. Just like nowadays, column of fours, forward march!)

So there they stand. It may be blisteringly hot, it might be pouring rain, it might even be freezing and snowy. But you stand in ranks and you wait.

The artillery opens the contest. Men must watch as the iron balls fly, ripping into the ranks and literally tearing men to pieces. Soldiers are splattered with blood and tissue from the men standing near them. There are recorded instances of troops being badly wounded, not by an enemy projectile but by bits of bone, teeth and stones thrown up from the solid shot of the artillery.

Standard practice was to bounce the shot into the enemy formations. If the ground was hard this would throw up dirt and stone and wound even more men. A ball which bounced after traveling 500 yards would, in theory, travel another 250 before it bounced again, then another 125 yards and so on.

Cannon shot, near the end of their run, could look most innocuous rolling threw the grass. Many a rookie soldier would put his foot out to stop the ball rolling. Only to have his foot torn off and then be left to bleed to death in the grass.

There were no medics or corpsmen to attend to you if you were hit. If you weren't killed outright, it could be a day or more before someone got around to hauling you back to a very rudimentary aid station. Back then, if a wound was in an extremity, they amputated it. In the torso anywhere, they might try to dig it out if it wasn't too deep, or they moved on to someone they could save. Military medicine was very crude and simple.

Eventually the battlefield became clouded by powder smoke. This smoke (I have seen it and experienced it on a small scale) varies from a dirty white to a dark gray, no billowing clouds of black smoke. That's for the movies.

Ponder that, hundreds of cannon firing, nearly continuously, followed by thousands of smoothbore muskets firing, all using black powder. That makes for a lot of smoke. There were instances in battle of opposing units nearly marching into each other out of the smoke.

Soon one could hear the drums of the enemy's advance, or one was in a formation marching to massed military drums towards a probably unseen enemy. Out there somewhere in the powder smoke.

When in effective range, which for a smoothbore musket was no more than a hundred yards, the infantry volleys would begin.

The Storming of La Haye Sainte
Richard Knötel (Public Domain)

Men would be falling all around, soon one side or the other might attempt to bring the battle to bayonet point but this seldom occurred. Usually one side or the other would have had enough of being shot at and give way, retreating back into the smoke.

Or the cavalry would dash in, out of nowhere, and smash into a wavering line of exhausted soldiers.

Battle of Albuhera
William Barnes Wollen (Public Domain)

The battle would seesaw back and forth until exhaustion, death and fear overcame the army. Sometimes both armies in the fight would be nearly finished, their reserves all in, ammunition running low, unit strength dwindling. You might notice other soldiers starting to slip to the rear, by ones and twos. Sometimes five or six men "helping" a wounded comrade off the field.

Officers would exhort their men to one more effort. One more push, one more volley.

Stand fast!

Les Grenadiers à Cheval de la Garde Impériale à Eylau
Édouard Detaille (Public Domain)

Wellington at Waterloo
Robert Alexander Hillingford (Public Domain)

Then one side would break...

And the slaughter would begin.

Battle of Salamanca
Artist Unknown (Public Domain)

The Aftermath of Battle

The victorious army might pursue the defeated army but often most of the victors would spend the night on the field where they fought all day. Fresh reserves, if there were any, would pursue the beaten foe.

Men would not stray far from the campfires, for in the dark was horror.

Looters would stalk through the bodies, some still living were "helped on their way" by the thieves in the night. Sometimes they were civilians, sometimes they were soldiers. It was not the custom for the troops to help bring in the wounded. In those days discipline was fierce, a soldier allowed away from his sergeants and officers might not come back. You stayed with your unit.

One could also hear the moans and screams of the wounded. Not just men either. At Waterloo 10,000 horses were killed or injured. Artillery horses, cavalry horses, officers' horses, an army did not move without their equine comrades. They too suffered, they too died.

In the morning the sight of the field would be dreadful, if one were lucky, the unit would take to the road to chase after the enemy. If one were unlucky one would help to bury and/or burn the dead. Injured horses would be dispatched. Serviceable equipment would be collected, the wounded would be loaded on carts (or ambulances in the French army) for transport back to the surgeons. Who would already be exhausted by then.

War in the time of Wellington, Scott, Suvorov and Napoléon was brutal. It was nothing glorious like the paintings show. It was dirty, bloody and pitiless.

But then again, war is still that way. War has always been that way.

There is no glory, only death and suffering.

Sometimes war is necessary. Sometimes war is forced upon a nation. Then it must be fought to the utmost to bring things to a speedy conclusion. Make it as brutal and as violent as possible for your enemy. Make them regret the day they forced war upon you.

Lest they try again.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Primum non nocere

A recent post by The Skipper and another recent post by our very own Tuna kind of inspired me. I know the "kind of" seems rather like "damning with faint praise," but it goes beyond those two posts.

There is much in the world that troubles me these days.

The ever growing incivility in modern society.

The ever lessening impact of the Word of God in modern society.

The ever growing violence in certain parts of the world.

The ever growing incompetence in government at nearly every level.

Wouldn't it be a great thing, if everyone awoke in the morning, stretched, yawned and then, before considering the day ahead, said to themselves, "First, I will do no harm..."?

The Latin phrase Primum no nocere ("first, do no harm) is not actually a part of the Hippocratic Oath. Before starting this post, as part of my (ahem) due diligence I researched that oath, thinking that that's where the phrase came from.

Nope. No one seems to really know the exact origin of that phrase. Ganz egal...

While I have to admit that I'm not entirely comfortable with the "turn the other cheek" philosophy (from Matthew 5, Verse 39 - But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.) I will give someone a second chance, not always, which I suppose isn't right, but usually.

I also firmly believe in the old proverb (origin unknown) "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

Now I fear we shall all be made fools of once again. Why?

Well, election season, regrettably, seems to have begun already.

It seems as if the same tired and trite promises are being offered to an ever more uncaring populace. Some not caring because they are uninformed, some not caring because they are tired of it all. Tired of the lies and the broken promises.

What does the political establishment offer in the way of candidates?

I do see some interesting prospects on the Republican side, though I'm sure that they will be weeded out by the time it comes to actually vote and we'll be left with the same tired choices put forth by those who move behind the scenes. The puppet masters who never step into the arena but hide in the shadows, deciding what is best for us.

The Democrats? They too have their puppet masters and they seem to be very good at making us all dance to their tune. Look at what they last offered us. And now?

Seriously, Hilary Clinton?

Just what we need another completely unqualified candidate who will garner votes simply because of gender. As the last garnered votes because of the color of his skin.

I care not for a candidate's gender, the color of their skin or the nation their forebears sprang from. I only care that he or she has the best interests of the United States and her true allies in mind.

The United States and her natural, true allies are the last, best hope of this tired world.

Beyond lies chaos, never ending war and a new Dark Age.

First, do no harm.

If that cannot be accomplished?

Then I hope we would have the will to crush our enemies, see them driven before us, and hear the lamentations of their women...

Otherwise, we will be crushed. There will be no one left to lament.

This, I fear.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pour encourager les autres...

"Admiral Byng's fleet getting underway from Spithead"
(John Cleveley the Elder circa 1712 - 1777)
There is little in human behavior which is new. Though there is much which could be called, unexpected.

The group of folks with whom I associate most closely are former military. They are my tribe, we swore an oath together. We served the same masters, under the same flag.

There has been much of late in military circles regarding officers being relieved of their positions and/or commands. There is truth to the old saw that it "is lonely at the top." One must needs be very judicious in what one says and what one does. People notice. People clamor that "something must be done!"

But as I mentioned above, this is nothing new. As the Teacher said,

What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV)

Now I'm on something of an historical kick lately, particularly that period "between Agincourt and the Marne." Both of those places are in la belle France, physically some 162 miles apart, the significant historical events which took place in those locations being separated by nearly 500 years. We will get to both, eventually. Just not today.

Today I want to talk about an event which took place near the beginning of the Seven Years' War. That war, by the way, is known in my native land as the French and Indian War.

This particular war started out with the English attacking disputed French possessions in North America. Events which gave a certain colonial by the name of George Washington a great deal of military experience.

On the continent of Europe an English officer by the name of George Germain, Viscount Sackville was accused of refusing to obey orders at the battle of Minden. The same man, then known as Lord George Germain, became the Secretary of State for America in the cabinet of Lord North.

That particular ministry, during the reign of George III, was widely held responsible for the loss of the Thirteen American Colonies.

Sackville, by the way,  was court-martialed for his behavior at Minden and was found guilty of the charges.
The court found him guilty, and imposed one of the strangest and strongest verdicts ever rendered against a general officer. The court's verdict not only upheld his discharge, but ruled that he was "...unfit to serve his Majesty in any military capacity whatsoever", then ordered that their verdict be read to and entered in the orderly book of every regiment in the Army. The king had his name struck from the Privy Council rolls. W
I guess that being cashiered and declared unfit for military service was no obstacle to later government service. Nothing new under the sun, neh?

But that's not the man I wish to speak of today. No, this other fellow was an Admiral in the Royal Navy. He too was court-martialed and...

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The first sea battle of the Seven Years' War took place between the English and the French off the Mediterranean island of Minorca.

Google Maps
Twelve sail-of-the-line and five frigates under the command of Amiral Roland-Michel Barrin de La Galissonière, Marquis de la Galissonnière met a squadron of 12 sail-of-the-line and seven frigates under the command of Admiral John Byng.

John Byng
by Thomas Hudson (Public Domain)

La Galissonière
French school 18th century (Public Domain)

The French had had their eye on Minorca and it's British garrison for some time. Probably since 1708 when perfide Albion had seized the island during the War of the Spanish Succession. (You might note that the kings of Europe would go to war at the drop of a hat, or the loss of an ear and you'd be right.) So the French commenced to threaten Minorca and it's garrison.

The British government belatedly put together a force to counter the French move on Minorca. (It's worth noting that at the time things were not going well for the Crown in North America.)

On the 19th of May, 1756 Admiral Byng's force arrived off Minorca to find the island overrun by the French, with only the garrison of Fort St Philip at Port Mahon still holding out...
Facing 12 French ships of the line, Byng formed his 12 largest ships into a single line of battle and approached the head of the French line on a parallel course while maintaining the weather gage. He then ordered his ships to go about and come alongside their opposite numbers in the French fleet. However, the poor signalling capability of the times caused confusion and delay in closing. The British van took a considerable pounding from their more heavily armed French adversaries, while the rear of the line, including Byng's flagship, failed to come within effective cannon range. During the battle Byng displayed considerable caution and an over-reliance on standard fighting procedures, and several of his ships were seriously damaged, while no ships were lost by the French. Following a Council of War, at which all the senior officers present concurred, it was agreed the fleet stood no chance of further damaging the French ships or of relieving the garrison. Byng therefore gave orders to return to Gibraltar. W
(For those who might be interested, here is Admiral Byng's own account of the Battle of Minorca.)

Needless to say, London was most displeased by the outcome. Let us just say that they had "lost confidence" in Admiral Byng's ability to command. The admiral was brought back to England to be tried by court-martial for breach of the Articles of War, which had recently been revised to mandate capital punishment for officers who did not do their utmost against the enemy, either in battle or pursuit.
The revision to the Articles followed an event in 1745 during the War of the Austrian Succession, when a young lieutenant named Baker Phillips was court-martialed and shot after his ship was captured by the French. His captain, who had done nothing to prepare the vessel for action, was killed almost immediately by a broadside. Taking command, the inexperienced junior officer was forced to surrender the ship when she could no longer be defended. Although the negligent behavior of Phillips's captain was noted by the subsequent court martial and a recommendation for mercy entered, Phillips' sentence was approved by the Lords Justices of Appeal. This sentence angered some of parliament, who felt that an officer of higher rank would likely have been spared or else given a light punishment, and that Phillips had been executed because he was a powerless junior officer and thus a useful scapegoat. The Articles of War were amended to become one law for all: the death penalty for any officer of any rank who did not do his utmost against the enemy in battle or pursuit.
The court martial sitting in judgement on Byng acquitted him of personal cowardice and disaffection, and convicted him only for not having done his utmost, since he chose not to pursue the superior French fleet, instead deciding to protect his own. Once the court determined that Byng had "failed to do his utmost", it had no discretion over punishment under the Articles of War, and therefore condemned Byng to death. However, its members recommended that the Lords of the Admiralty ask King George II to exercise his royal prerogative of mercy. W
Following sentencing the Admiral was taken to HMS Monarch, anchored in the Solent*, and there on the 17th of March 1757, Admiral John Byng was shot by a firing party of Marines.

Twenty-two years after the Admiral's execution, the Articles of War were amended to provide "such other punishment as the nature and degree of the offence shall be found to deserve" as an alternative to capital punishment.

Many have decried the execution of Admiral Byng as a crime. His descendants still seek a pardon for him from Her Majesty's government which has already been denied once as recently as 2007.

There may have been one beneficial outcome from the Admiral's death -
Naval historian N. A. M. Rodger believes it may have influenced the behaviour of later naval officers by helping inculcate:

"a culture of aggressive determination which set British officers apart from their foreign contemporaries, and which in time gave them a steadily mounting psychological ascendancy. More and more in the course of the century, and for long afterwards, British officers encountered opponents who expected to be attacked, and more than half expected to be beaten, so that [the latter] went into action with an invisible disadvantage which no amount of personal courage or numerical strength could entirely make up for." W
Ever wonder where that phrase "Pour encourager les autres..." (to encourage the others) came from?
Byng's execution is referred to in Voltaire's novel Candide with the line: Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres – "In this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others." W
The Execution of Admiral Byng (Source)

Is that why we relieve commanders these days with the dreaded "loss of confidence"?

Does it encourage the others? Or does it simply discourage good men and women from seeking command?

I can't say. I wonder what Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson would say. I'm sure he, and all officers in the Royal Navy, knew of Admiral Byng. How could they not?

The only admiral of the Royal Navy to ever be executed.

* The Solent is the strait between the coast of England and the Isle of Mann, long an anchorage for the Royal Navy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Trivia Tuesday

How long has it been since I've posted one of these?  Yes, it's been a while.  I suppose that trivia is plentiful, but finding interesting enough material that won't bore Sarge's audience to tears?  That's a little tougher to come by.   So today there's a little something for everyone.  We'll start with some stuff that has a little broad appeal- cars and movies, then I'll toss in some tougher trivia questions after each.  For the cars, just name the movie or TV show that they were featured in.

1. This is a 1975 Pontiac Firebird Esprit, but I don't know if you'll remember who drove it.   I'd bet some of you will, but I'm not much of a gambler.

2. A generation ago, everyone did this. Today, 1/3 of adults say they have never done this. Can you guess what it is?

3. The 1939 Buick Roadmaster was an excellent car, especially for an excellent driver.  

4. Between 1900 and 1920, this picnic game was an Olympic event.  What was it?

5. This one is probably a little tougher.  This is a 1971 McClaren M6GT Coyote, a pretty obscure car from a fairly short lived series featuring an ex-con racecar driver and a judge.

6. What substance sold for babies in 19th Century Britain was marketed under the name "Quietness."

7.  Ford Falcon Interceptor.  'Nuff said.

8.  Name the famous world leader who had an American mother named Jeanette Jerome. 
Jeanette Jerome        (Pinterest)
She was one of many American women who left the US in search of status elsewhere, becoming engaged a mere three days after meeting her husband, and giving birth less than 8 months after marriage, most likely at full term.

9.  This is a 1979 Porsche 928 which looks completely dried out to me.

10.  In 1999, the US Government paid $16 million for a film you've probably seen a hundred times.  What film was it?

11.  I'm sure this car, a 1967 Chevy Camaro RS/SS 350 costs significantly more than 2 dollars.  

12.  Which car sold more than 1 million units in the US in 1965.

a. Ford Falcon
b. Chevy Impala
c. VW Beetle
d. Ford Mustang

13. These are from a semi-buono remake in 2003 of a 1969 film of the same name. 

14.  What is the most shoplifted item in the US?  How about in Europe?

15.  This is a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California.  Fortunately, the one that was wrecked in a 1986 film was one of 3 replicas built for it.

16. Name this candy bar which was originally split into 3 separately flavored pieces- chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.  When the other flavors became harder to come by during WWII, Mars decided to go with chocolate only.

17. This one is almost too easy.  It's from a 1968 film that was the same name as the lead character, and featured one of the most famous car chase scenes in movie history.  Extra credit if you can name the year, make and model.

 18. True or False.  Hydrox Cookies are a knock-off of the Oreo Cookie.

19.  A 1984 Porsche 944 like this was in a film during that same year that featured a geek driving a Rolls Royce, even though he wasn't the age required to get a license.

20.  The name of this state can be typed using only one row of keys. 

21.  I swear, there's not a single original thought in Hollywood- one remake after another. This is a 1970 Dodge Challenger RT which was in a 1971 movie about a Medal of Honor Viet Nam vet and ex-racecar driver who is hired to transport this car across the country.  The film was remade for Fox TV in 1997 updated with a Gulf War vet played by Viggo Mortensen.


So how'd you do?  I expect that many of the movies were easy to name since a lot of those cars are fairly iconic.  The other questions are probably a little tougher, although the hints make it easier.

1. The Rockford Files
2. Written a check
3. Rain Man
4. Tug O' War
5. Hardcastle and McCormick
6. Opium
7. Mad Max
8. Sir Winston Churchill
9. Risky Business
10. The Zapruder Film (JFK assassination)
11. Better Off Dead
12. b. Chevy Impala, a record which still stands today.
13. The Italian Job
14. Candy and Cheese
15. Ferris Bueller
16. Three Musketeers Bar
17. Bullitt starring Steve McQueen
18. False. While many people think Hydrox are an Oreo knock-off, they actually came first in 1908, 4 years before the Oreo.
19. Sixteen Candles
20. Alaska
21. Vanishing Point

Monday, April 13, 2015

Nine O Nine

So,  There I was…..* At home, Holy Saturday, having just  finished reading Sarge’s post on the subject, I’ve gone out to my workshop to find some interesting method of turning beautiful wood into sawdust.  I’ve decided my method of choice today will be the table saw and have happily commenced operations.

Sawdust is accumulating at a satisfactory pace when I hear, above the table saw I might add, the hum of an aviation engine.  Now, this is not an altogether rare occurrence, as my property is about 5 miles from the local airfield and is just north of a Military Low Level route.  I’ve got airplanes flying over my house with great regularity.

Included in that Aerial Activity is a guy flying a Stearman and another guy flying a Pitts Special. One or both perform aerobatics over my house pretty much every Sunday.  I’m expecting them any minute.  Not sure if I feel tormented by those two, or envious.  I think the answer is “Yes”.  But, as usual, I digress.

To recap, I’ve got an aircraft within aural range of my workshop.  That’s certainly enough justification for me to take a break and step outside for a look see. 

So I do.

Just in time to see a P-51 come buzzing by about 500 feet in the air.  Close enough to see the red stripes on the tail as well as determine that it is a P-51C, given that it does not have a bubble canopy.  

I race back into the shop to grab my camera (AKA my phone) and by the time I get it disconnected from my speaker system and back outside, the picture I take is of a small speck on a cloudy gray background.
Not wanting to have my veracity in telling these stories questioned, I wait around for quite a while hoping for a recurrence, alas, it was not to be.

I'm afraid I'll have to resort to Internet photos.
Like these
Source: Commons.Wikimedia

Shortly after this, my Son and Daughter-In Law come driving onto Rancho Juvat, intending to spend Easter Weekend with us.  My Daughter was also home for the Holy Day.  It was a great time, but I’ve already used my one authorized digression per post, so I’ll continue on with the story.  Little Juvat gets out of his car with a brand new camera (not a phone) complete with one of those long lens thingies that make things look up close and personal.

I asked him where he was 15 minutes ago. When I needed that.

I tell him about the P-51 and ask him if he’d like to go to the local airport and see if it’s there. 

So, off we go…


So, we drive to the Airport.  As we’re approaching, we see a Huey take off.  Not an unusual occurrence, although this one has Marine markings.  Come on to the Airport proper, and see a B-17 and a B-24 parked on the ramp.  Seems the Collings Foundation is in town.

Alrighty then!  This is going to be a great day!

We pay the requested donation of $12 per person and walk in.  

Underneath the right wing of the B-17 stands a guy and as we're walking around looking at the wing, he asks if my Dad flew these.  Now, while I'm ancient in my children's opinion, I'm not that old.  I say "No, why?"  He tells me his Uncle had flown them in the WWII.  

I say "Oh?" , feeling that there's more to the story.  He tells me he's just finished a book on his efforts to find the remains of his Uncle, his crew and the aircraft.  They'd been shot down over Europe.

I told him I'd buy a copy but only if he signed it.  

There'll be a book review and rating using Sarge's new and approved rating system shortly.  I figure anybody who's willing to spend 14 years looking for a relative lost in combat is worth spending a few bucks to support.  Besides he was pretty affable.

Book in hand, we decide we're going to climb through the B-17.  Suffice it to say, B-17's could not possibly have been crewed by large men.  There were several spots that my slim, svelte figure gave me concern on whether I'd be able to exit the aircraft. "That guy stuck over there?  Picked him up in Juvatville two weeks ago.  Another couple pounds and he'll slip right on out of there." 

Once inside the front hatch, getting to the Bombardier's compartment would have been comparatively easy.

While the view from there would have been spectacular, I'm not sure I'd want to be up there with flak going off all round.
Source: Wikipedia
Next up we poked our nose in the cockpit.  
Who knew it was that advanced? With GPS even.

I didn't realize that the Bomb Bay was directly behind the cockpit.  Which kinda surprised me, as that meant if anyone other that the Pilots, or Bombardier and Nav needed to come up front, they had to cross it, via a very narrow path.

My son's thinking "Wish this Bald Guy would get out of the shot"
I don't know if the V was original equipment or Collings Foundation had added it.  But that was a TIGHT fit.
Behind the Bomb Bay is the Radio Room and Upper Turret.  The upper turret was so small my shoulders were touching either side.  Additionally, the turret was in the stowed position, facing aft and the glass looking that way was very bad.  Cracked or scratched.  Between that and the thing with the shoulders, we didn't get any pics.

Further back was the Ball turret.  

It's always difficult to get dimensions from a photo.  So....

That's a size 10 shoe.  These guys were small and could not have had a shred of claustrophobia.  Oh, and while this was called the Ball Turret, I think it should actually be named the Balls Turret, because, well, you know.

Finally we get to the Waist Section.

But, Juvat where's the other Waist Gun?  I didn't realise this until we actually went on board, but because of the tight spaces, the guns are staggered.  That would allow the gunners to maneuver and shoot without bumping into each other.  Pretty smart, those Boeing Engineers!

BTW the "Seats" are Collings addition.  You can purchase a ticket to ride in one for only $432 each.  I was sorely tempted.
This could be You. (or me)

Behind this was the tail gunner's compartment.  Unfortunately, it was filled with crew equipment and parts, so was unaccessible.

Exited out the rear door, a much more knowledgeable and appreciative man.
"Nine-O-Nine was a Boeing B-17G-30-BO Flying Fortress heavy bomber, of the 323rd Bomb Squadron91st Bomb Group, that completed 140 combat missions during World War II, believed to be the Eighth Air Force record for most missions, without loss to the crews that flew it." Source
Next Week the Liberator