Monday, July 18, 2016

Things I didn't know about the Air Force in WW II (but do now)

I mean really!  The number of things I don't know about a lot of different subjects approaches infinity.  But, being raised an Air Force Brat, going through indoctrination  ROTC in College and then pulling 20+, I thought I was fairly well versed in USAF history.  

I know I don't know as much as I'd like about the Air Force's Medal of Honor winners, but am working towards that goal.  Had an interesting observation on that threat vector whilst on vacation.  Post to follow.

Anyhoo.....

My infinitely patient wife humored me by accompanying me to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright Patterson AFB, Dayton Ohio.  All I had to do in return was build a display box for the Memorial Flag presented to her family at the funeral of her Uncle.  Proud to do it.
Worried a lot less about my first Check Ride than I did over this box.  Glad it turned out ok though.
So, Familial duties complete, Mrs Juvat and I hopped in our rental Toyota and drove from Beloit to Dayton with an interim overnight in Indy.  Aside from a little 4 wheeling time, courtesy of an 18-wheeler, the journey was enjoyable.  (No, we did not go through Chicago.)


The following morning we hit the museum as it opened.  That was really nice as there was about a 3 hour window where there was virtually no one in the place.  Pictures were much easier to take.  The school buses with children showed up around noon, which was fine, we were deeper in the museum and quickly running out of steam, space on the SD card and sensory overload.  

We made a chronological error on beginning.  Upon entry, the museum is to your right and the WWI and prior section is to the right again, but upon making the initial right, my eye was caught by the sight of an intact B-29.  Like a moth to a flame, I grabbed Mrs Juvat's arm and off we go (It is the AF Museum!).

We enter the exhibit from the rear of the bomber and as we start to walk around it, I see this
P-61C Black Widow
Back when I was a kid, I built models and this was one of my favorites.  (As a side note, I had several favorites and was able to actually see most of them in this museum).

The museum has partnered with a software company who has built an application that will allow you to virtually climb into the cockpit of many of the aircraft and scan around.  The app (IOS and Android) is cockpit360.  It's pretty cool and, since they don't allow you to climb into, or on, most of the exhibits (Murph!), it allows you to experience that view.
The view scrolls around and pans up and down as you wish.


Cockpit View  P-61C.  Bock's Car is just off the nose.  A Catalina is at right 1 o'clock.
We finally make our way around the nose of Bock's Car (for those who don't know, this was the actual aircraft that dropped the bomb on Nagasaki).  The nose art was intact, and I noticed something a bit odd about it.



I got the Fat Man silhouette and even made an assumption on why one was a different color than the rest, but didn't understand the 4 black silhouettes.  Asked one of the docents walking around the place.  Nice gentleman, and knowledgeable, said they represented "pumpkin" bomb missions.  Evidently, they had dropped 4 conventionally armed bombs with the same shape as the actual nuke.  This was done to validate aerodynamics as well as other procedures.  He also provided quite a bit of insight into the drama that went on during their return to base.  Suffice it to say, landing with less than 5 minutes fuel, and stomping on one brake to turn the aircraft to avoid running off the end of the runway is high drama.  BTW Yontan airfield was about a mile from where we lived off base at Kadena.  

Didn't know any of that.

Proceeded a bit further into the WWII wing.  Saw an A-20, a PBY with mission markings indicating 42 saves, a C-46 and then an FW-190.  I thought that was pretty cool and I could get relatively close to it.  I'm walking around taking pictures of it and see a supplemental exhibit.  



This was one of the first attempts at a Air to Air guided Missile.  Carried on the FW-190 and launched from behind the target, it was guided by the launching aircraft via a 4 mile long wire.  This would obviously minimize it's effectiveness against a maneuvering aircraft, but could be used against a bomber.  The missile was fused with both a timed fuse and an acoustic proximity fuse (tuned to the pitch of the bomber's propellers).  Fortunately, it did not reach production prior to the war's end.

Didn't know that either.

Walked further around Bock's Car (we've already been in the museum an hour), and found a wall mounted exhibit.  I knew WWII was called a World War because there were many nations involved on both sides.  However, I did not know that both Mexico and Brazil actually declared war on the Axis Powers and provided combat troops to include pilots.  Pilots from the Mexican Air Force actually fought in the South Pacific while their counterparts from Brazil fought in the Italian theater.  Who knew?


Mrs. Juvat tore one of her contacts and is actively avoiding looking at the camera.


About two hours into the visit, I'm about halfway down the first row of exhibits.  I'm starting to wonder if I can't sweet talk my boss into a couple of extra days, you know, for research!  I round the corner and see this little jewel.

When Sarge starts sending back pay, I want this!
At first glance, I think it's a P-51B, but then I notice the dive brakes on the wings.  No, it's an A-36A Apache.  Purpose made as an Air to Ground aircraft, the Apache saw action in the Mediterranean and was part of the action that caused the first surrender of a ground force (on the island of Pantellaria) based solely on air action.  Powered by the Allison engine, it was replaced later in the war by dual tasked P-51s

Another hour and I've rounded the third corner and headed back to the finish line, (for this wing, there are 8 total).  Mrs. Juvat is somewhere in the building, but I've lost visual.  No worries, I've got the keys to the rental.

I see the B-25 Doolittle's Raiders exhibit up ahead.  In college, I'd worked at an FBO at Lubbock International and pumped gas into aircraft.  One of the owners had a partial ownership of a B-25 which I'd refueled a few times. (Yes, he'd promised to take me up, No, he never did.)  So, I've been in B-25s before.  Thought the exhibit was pretty cool, and by now, the School Bus crowd has caught up with me.
Fairly young, but well behaved and asking good questions.
Did see something I found interesting though in this exhibit.  The attack took place very early in the war and wasn't expected to be all that highly successful.  The Norden Bombsight was one of our highly classified devices.  I'd always wondered whether they would have carried that on board.  Turns out they didn't, for a couple of reasons, primarily weight, but probability of compromise was also a consideration.  I liked what they came up with as an alternative.
American Ingenuity at its finest!
Essentially, it's a protractor.  As long as the aircraft height over the ground and airspeed is constant, the bombing problem quickly boils down to a geometry problem figuring out when you are at the right distance from the target.  Since the attack was primarily a political attack, pin point accuracy wasn't required.  For all intents and purposes, this is the same site we used in teaching air to ground at LIFT in the AT-38B.

As I turned around to move on to the next exhibit, I glance at this and think, cool, SBD.  Must be the other side of the Hornet's deck, then I look a LITTLE bit closer.



The ARMY on the bottom of the wing is a big indicator that this isn't an SBD.  Turns out, it was a A-24 and the only modification from the Navy's version is the removal of the tail hook.  Can't be a "hooker" in the USAAF!


Somewhere around here was one of my other Favorites.  
A Mosquito.
It's now about 2:30 in the PM, the concrete floors have taken a toll on the knees, and we need a break.  We walk out of the museum and head for the hotel.  Tomorrow (or next Monday) is another day.




38 comments:

  1. Ernie Pyle spent some time with an A-36 squadron in the Mediterranean theater and wrote about it in his book "Here Is Your War." That's the only place I ever heard any mention of such an aircraft, and your picture is the only one I've ever seen of one. Thanks.
    The Mexican Air Force's 209 Squadron flew U.S.-supplied P-47s in the campaign against Formosa (Taiwan). That's the sum total of my knowledge regarding that subject.
    Great pictures, and it had to be an enjoyable trip. My only trip to that museum was around 1966, and the only thing I remember is a P-26A and a Douglas B-26.
    Thanks a lot. Now I have to go back.

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    1. Thanks. It was. I'm pretty sure there have been some updates since '66. They've even got an F-22 on display. Plus a lot of satellites that had I even mentioned their name while on Active Duty....Well, since my last name isn't Clinton, I'd probably be in jail for ever.
      Highly recommend a revisit.

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  2. Nicely done on the flag Display Box Juvat. I had not heard of German A-A missile either. That could have been quite a threat to the bombers had the Germans been able to produce them in quantity, especially if they were reasonably reliable in combat. The wire guidance would have been limiting though with our insistence that bombers stay in formation, who knows?

    Thanks,

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    1. Thanks. I had missed the part about Acoustic Proximity fusing while at the museum, so left thinking that a "Hit-tile" would not be very effective when trying to be steered from a single seat fighter and presumably trying to avoid Allied fighters. Proximity fuzing would ease that up somewhat. I agree. Bomber Command's "Stay in Formation" tactic probably would have been modified had this been deployed and effective. Maybe.

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  3. Hahaha You wrote: "off we go (It is the AF Museum!) and I hear in my head "off we go into the AF mus-e-um" with a band and everything!

    Which FBO in Lubbock? I worked at Avtech Aviation washing the training fleet, itinerants, and worked my way up to fueling Air Mid-West (Air Mistake- they were ALWAYS late). My buddy worked across the parking lot at Lubbock Aero(??) Funny story about that guy.

    I just about burned my breakfast writing this, couldn't wait when I saw Lubbock....

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    1. I was part of the initial cadre of line guys at Avtech when it was built in 76 or so. Schlepped gas there until heading off to UPT in early 78. Learned to drive a stick, by driving the gas truck. Tower would get very upset if you stalled it out after getting cleared to cross the runway, but expedite. BTDT.

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    2. I missed you by a year. I worked there the summer of '79. That was the summer of the bug invasion. The sink next to the parts washer was almost a foot deep in beetles when I started there. I still remember the smell.

      Fifi was parked at the competition across the parking lot once, got to climb up in the cockpit. Saw the Norden sight that was donated by Tennessee Ernie Ford (IIRC). I was amazed at the room in the office.

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    3. Interesting. It was a fun job and got to see a lot of neat planes. Was the Falcon 10 owned by Furrs still hangared there? Got to go up in that one once. Sweet Ride.

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    4. When I worked there, they had a Falcon. I don't know if it was Furr's. I thought it was Avtech's. They dropped it off the wing jacks. One side of the Tee tail hit a perlin in the hanger and bent up at quite an angle. There had been a hard landing that blew the mains on one side. The rubber flew up and rippled the skin under the wing. And one engine was always off for maint. Look like someone pulled an arm off and left the tendons flopping around. Hangar queen. I didn't like the bird. When you went up the stairs, there was a brass and wood falcon. I had to Brasso that buzzard and condition the leather seats all the time. It never flew while I was there. I think it sold in August 79.

      We had an entire line of Citation jets one day. And the day the Chinook came in for fuel was definitely cool. There was a baby blue Queen Air with short stacks that I kid-gloved. He promised me a ride, but I never got it. He went to El Paso and back rountinely. An MU-2 was there, last of the tail # was GP. That guy was a piece of work. There were more girly mags in the Moo2 than a 7-11.

      I got promised rides a lot, but never got one. I was just a schlub I guess. But I had a ball working there. Except running a chamois after a wash. That was tiring. "No water spots..... EVER!"

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    5. That was the one. I was towing it out by the line shack and misjudged the clearance. Just the slightest tap on the wingtip light cover. Shattered. I was mortified. My boss was fairly cool about it though (i.e. I kept my job). I heard Furrs had some financial difficulty around the end of the 70s, so you're probably right. I also remember the MU-2. Small world.

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    6. One of the line guys was restacking the big hangar one dark and stormy night. He caught a Piper's wingtip on the hangar door. I was a bit surprised at the damage. He put a noose on the wing to kind of lighten the mood. But you could tell it was gallows humor. He was moping around. I don't think they fired him either.

      Take care neighbor!

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  4. Juvat, Next time you go try to go on a Friday and make the pre-arrangements now required to go on a Behind the Scenes Tour. They'll bus you over to the Restoration facility which is a good trip in itself.
    Worked with a man who was a radio operator in the A-24 in the Philippines. He was part of the Death March and said he believed the only reason he was still alive was because the Japanese were trying to get info on the A-24.
    Live about 35 minutes from the Museum. Went one day and saw two men working inside the B-24. Asked if they'd take some photos of the Crew Chief's area and they actually let me in and walked me around (this was 20 years ago... different atmosphere) and was amazed at how crowded it was inside. the Museum is indeed a treasure and free!

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    1. Thanks, good info. Tried to synchronize this visit with Sarge, but we could have aligned the moons of Jupiter easier. I'll dangle the Behind the Scenes Tour as added incentive to get him to go. Interesting the part about your co-worker, life does take some dips and turns. I've been inside the Collings Foundations Lib. It is indeed crowded.

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    2. The A-24 was used extensively in MacArthurs command to very good effect--not a widely known fact.

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    3. It was an effective weapon, Admiral Nagumo gave it his seal of approval.

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  5. Back pay? (Damn, the quartermaster was supposed to explain that to you. It's tough getting quality staff.)

    I had forgotten all about the A-36, what an awesome bird. As to the A-24? As Buck would have said, "I had no ideer."

    Excellent work Juvat. I'll have to talk to the paymaster again. (Once I hire one. Tee-hee...)

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    1. Yes, well...The other perks of the job, health insurance, a new car, air fare, 5 star hotels, and 6 days/week PTO (not allowed to call it Vacation) more than make up the difference.

      Thanks

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    2. Now Tuna will want the same thing...

      Nah, I "gave" him the Sandy Eggo branch, he has it made!

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    3. Other than that "in California" thing, Sandy Eggo would be ok.

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  6. When I saw the title I hoped you'd find an A-24 in there. My favorite WWII Army airplane as it won me more than a few reebs from various "experts" over the years. Then there were the USN B-47's...

    Looks like you had a fun time and I sure appreciate your efforts to share the experience.

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    1. "Hello, Mr. Google? Can you tell me something about B-47s in the NAVY?"
      "B-47E 52-0410 and 52-0412 were converted to EB-47Es in the mid-1960s for service with U.S. Navy's Fleet Electronic Warfare Support Group (FEWSG). Considered to be on indefinite loan from USAF, these aircraft were unlike the USAF EB-47Es, with some of their ECM gear fitted into pods carried on the external fuel tank pylons. They were used for tests of naval ECM systems and as "electronic aggressors" in naval and joint exercises. These two aircraft were the last B-47s in operational service, and 52-0410 performed the very last operational flight of a B-47 on 20 December 1977, when it was flown to Pease AFB, NH and put on display at the main gate. Following the closure/realignment of Pease AFB in 1991 and its conversion to Pease International Tradeport and Pease ANGB, this aircraft was disassembled and trucked to Ellsworth AFB, SD where it donated its nose and engines to RB-47H 53-4299, which is in the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, OH."

      Think I've got a picture of that very airplane.

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  7. You can also do the 360 cockpit view (using your computer) in a bunch of aircraft at the museum here.

    Just spent an hour playing (virtually) in a bunch of aircraft.

    Good stuff!

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    1. Oh, Nuts!!!!! There went any office productivity. BTW, the camera in the Eagle is about belly button level. The bidability be much betta' than dat!

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    2. In a lot of them the camera is too low. Almost as if Tyrion Lannister was in the cockpit.

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    3. "Hello, Mr. Google? Give me the low down on Tyrion Lannister, please?
      "Tyrion Lannister is a member of House Lannister and is the third and youngest child of Lord Tywin Lannister and the late Joanna Lannister. His older siblings are Cersei Lannister, the queen of King Robert Baratheon, and Ser Jaime Lannister, a knight of Robert's Kingsguard.

      "Tyrion is a dwarf; because of this he is sometimes mockingly called the Imp and the Halfman. He is one of the major POV characters in the books. In the television adaptation Game of Thrones, Tyrion is played by Peter Dinklage."

      I don't get out much, obviously.

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  8. juvat:

    "Medal of Honor winners"? Did they win them in individual or team competitions?

    Please, you know better than that, surely.

    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. Yeah, sorry. Recipients of course.

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  9. P.S. Other than that, it is a great post, thanks.

    Paul

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  10. FWIW IMHO the A-20 was probably one of the most widely modified, versatile and useful/effective ac we and the Allies flew in WW II..

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    1. Yeah, the nose art and mission credits on the pilot's side made that point clear.

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  11. You need to pick up the pace, you've got seven more wings to go...LOL Great pics! And they're STILL SDBs... :-P

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    1. Well, that was exactly my thought when I spun around. What is an SBD doing in the Air Force Museum? Kinda cool though.

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  12. Beloit, hmm. I went to school there. Flew out of 44C after I got my PPL.

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    1. It was an interesting little town. Liked the river areas. Had dinner at the grille next door to the hotel. The wife asked what they had in a white wine. The answer? White Zin! She then asked if they had any beer like Guinness, but made in Wisconsin. The waitress said they had a local beer named "Spotted Cow". She ordered that. It was a light lager. All that having been said, we had fun at the restaurant and enjoyed chatting with the locals. Usual questions about Texas, though.

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    2. Back in the day, most of the river frontage was industrial. That tall brick stack was an operating coal-fired generating plant. The Beloit Corp was making paper-machines and exporting around the world. Fairbanks Morse was making diesel engines.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)