Monday, January 19, 2015

Two Bits and Two Cents

In the comments after last week's post on the Nimitz Museum (actually The National Museum of the Pacific War), Sarge asked if there was a back story to the picture of the banged up Wildcat.  

Turns out there was, and that will be the first of the "Two Bits".

During WWII, there was obviously a great need to train our rapidly expanding military. (Note the photo in the above mentioned post showing Texas' share of bases.) As has been noted on this site numerous times, aviation is a dangerous activity and requires extensive training.  Naval Aviators seem to require considerably more training in takeoffs and landings than their USAF Brethren (IKBIL...Thanks Shaun).  I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that their runway is moving in many different directions at the same time.

Anyhow, they needed to practice landing on Aircraft Carriers.  The problem was the German U-Boats were having pretty good success sinking ships in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Seaboards and Japanese submarines were operating in the Pacific.  The Navy needed a place that was free of enemy activity to train their Carrier crews.  Enter USS Wolverine (IX-64) and USS Sable (IX-81) (what does IX stand for you may ask?  Beats me, go ask Old NFO.  He was there. IKBIL...Thanks Shaun).
USS Sable

Well, even though they had eliminated the threat of enemy action, they still had to contend with the myriad other ways that taking off and landing on a carrier could get screwed up.  Hence there are a large number of WWII aircraft at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

What I had originally thought was an F-4F Wildcat was actually an FM-2 (Bu. No. 74161). 
BU. No. 74161 after spending some time in Lake Michigan

 The distinction was the F-4F was made by Grumman while the FM-2 was made by General Motors.  The FM-2 had slightly more horsepower and could go about 10 Knots faster.  In any case, 74161 was fished out of Lake Michigan sometime in the 70's, is owned by the US Navy and is on loan to the Museum.  According to my source, the Museum has offered to restore it to display quality, but the Navy has declined wanting it to remain as is.  Not sure why that would be, but it is what it is.

The Second of "Two Bits"

The proprietor of this blog has graciously allowed me to post in "prime time" one time only next Saturday, and I thank him for that opportunity.  A photo of mine will factor in that post.  While I won't go into the subject of the post, the manner in which this photo came into being is worth a short vignette.

So, There I was.....* Assistant Ops Officer of an F-15C Squadron at Kadena AB Japan.  It's a beautiful winter day just prior to Christmas.  The weather outside was a coolish 80 degrees, a few low clouds, winds down the runway at about 10 knots.  In short, a great day to commit aviation.  I've got a flight scheduled in a few hours and so am manning the duty desk until brief time. (Since I am the junior of the three people authorized to man the duty desk, I do that a lot.) Anyhow, I'm sitting there watching paint dry when in walks the Boss's Boss, the Wing King.  (Actually a great guy and leader, went on to three stars and even then was a credible threat in the Eagle).  I quickly call the Squadron to attention and as quickly get the "At Ease".  He's got a CMSgt in tow whom I don't recognize.  He introduces him to me and I promptly started calling him by his first name.  I guess his parents must have been Native Americans, why else would he be called "Chief"? Anyhow, Chief is in a flight suit which is somewhat unusual.  BDUs or Blues and I wouldn't have batted an eye, but flight suit, that was unusual.  He's got the PACAF chest patch that we all wore, but a PACAF HQ patch where a Squadron patch would be.  So, he's a headquarters wienie.  HMMMM.

I ask the Wing King what I can do for them.  He says he's would like to rearrange our next go (the one I'm leading) and instead of the 2 v 4 that was scheduled, he'd like it to be a 5 ship and an advanced handling ride.  My confusion factor is going up, we don't "do" 5 ships.  He says he's also talked to our maintenance to make sure one of the squadron's F-15D two-seaters is in that flight.  Obviously, Chief is going for a ride. Questions are running furiously through my mind, but "Yes, Sir".  He then says "Chief is the head of the PACAF HQ photographic detachment and would like to take pictures of Eagles in flight for a recruiting campaign".  AHHH!

"Do whatever he tells you. General McPeak has approved the mission."

The Wing King exits the building.

I take Chief into my office and start to ask him details of what he wants to do.  "Oh the usual stuff, formation, dropping flares, pitch outs, rejoins.  You know...The usual!"

I apologize for the quality of the picture, I didn't think the scan would pick up the dust.

 "Oh, and by the way, can we do an over the top?"

"Sure, after we get all your pictures, I'll do a loop."

"Not exactly what we were looking for, Major.  We would like pictures of the four ship going over the top."

"Hmm, never done that.  Shouldn't be hard, just never done it.  The General himself approved this mission?"

"Yes Sir, he approved the mission."

I get with the 4 ship lead and talk about how we're going to do all this.  Get it all worked out and brief the rest of the guys.

We launch and take the usual pictures and then get ready to do the loop. Over the top we go, just like the Thunderbirds.

Come back in and land and am in the Squadron when in walks the Wing King who asks how it went.  I tell him it went great and pictures of the loop should be spectacular.  He goes white as a sheet.  "What Loop?"  

A couple of months later, I get a package in the mail containing a couple of very high quality pictures and a thank you letter from Chief (USAF ret). He thanked me for giving him the best retirement present he could have gotten and advised me NOT to hang this picture in my office.
Note the horizon on the top left of the picture. This may be the ONLY picture of 4 Eagles in this attitude ever taken.  I'm pretty sure a retired Lt Gen has a copy as well as a retired CMSgt.

Two Cents

Lot's of commentary lately about whether or not the Air Force is going to retire the A-10 and whether discussing that as an Active Duty Member with your Congressional Representative constitutes "Treason".

Folks are saying that the USAF doesn't want to do CAS and doesn't want the A-10 because it's not fast, pointy or doesn't do Air to Air.  IMHO, none of that is true.  To coin a phrase, it's all about the Benjamins.  The USAF has been cutting programs across the board to fund the F-35, and has been doing so since I was working budget at the Pentagon almost 20 years ago.  There are very few programs left that have enough money to fund the F-35. The only option left open being retire a system.  Great, which one? They're ALL needed. Cut the F-15?  OK there aren't enough F-22s to do it alone.  The F-16s could swing, yes, unless they're needed in Air to Ground.  Should there be a public discussion on whether we need the F-35?  Absolutely.  

XBradTC absolutely nailed the argument here.  People have been saying the USAF should just give the A-10 to the Army.  He says the Army doesn't want it.  They, just like the USAF, would have to give something up to pay for it.

No, Folks, there's no such thing as a free lunch.  If the population of the US wants the military capability and protections they've had in the past, they're going to have to pay for it.  Which means no more Obama Phones, EBT cards, ObamaCare and all the rest of the gummint handouts.

Now, on to "Treason".  I knew Jim Post.  His Tactical Call Sign was "Bull", as in "Bull in a China Shop."  The Bull Post I knew was entirely capable of using "Treason" when he meant "Disloyal" or "Nonsupportive".  However, John Q. Public makes some very good points about USAF Brass reaction to his speech. ~20 years having past, people could change and Bull could have gone all in to the USAF dark side. Without a doubt, JQP makes it clear, and I agree, speaking in a non-official basis with your Representative, and not supporting the USAF official position, is not treason. I think the telling point on what HQ USAF really thinks will be whether Bull retires shortly or goes on to more stars.  I wish him the best of luck in his retirement.

*SJC (You didn't really think I was going to leave it out did ya?)


  1. Good stuff. Odd that the Navy doesn't want the bird restored.

    Heh. "What loop?" Now that's a classic.

    I await with bated breath the outcome of the Post thing. Should tell us a lot about Big Air Force's mindset.

    (Juvat, you never need permission to post on any day you'd like. But someday, and that day may never come, I may come to you to ask a favor...)

  2. I'm hoping our Navy friends can shed some light on the matter.

    1. The only thing I can think of as to why the Navy wouldn't want it restored is that they don't want it restored by them. There might be another museum that would like an FM-2 and allowing the Nimitz Museum to do the restoration means they'd get to keep it. For example, in 2010 a Curtiss SB2C Helldiver was recovered in a lake near San Diego, and while the USS Midway Museum and SD Air and Space Museum offered to restore it, it'll be on display at the museum in Pensacola.

  3. Wooot! GREAT post, Juvat.

    The landing thing, well, duh. Sea monsters. It's hard to concentrate on landing when you know that at any moment a honking great tentacle can snatch you from the air and drag you down to King Neptune's Lair.

    As to the navy and their discarded aluminum, it's an international sea law issue ( more or less. The navy does occasionally transfer ownership (sell) gently used and formerly loved airplanes, but it's more common for them to retain ownership. I'll refrain from commenting on the fate of this particular aircraft because this is a family joint and I'd just be speculating anyway. But I'd be right.

    Doesn't get much better than a five ship loop on a beautiful day, does it? Particularly when a Chief is running a scam. There's a lot to be said for tradition.

    And speaking of tradition, I still don't understand the Air Force's aversion to form. I mean you're already in the same sky, why not move it in a tad? Then again, with no sea monster experience, I can see where reach might exceed grasp.

    Wait for it, wait for it...


    And finally, that is a SUPERB assessment of the A-10 v Budget fight. Fighter pilots don't engage the chaff, and boy is that refreshing in this arena!

    1. I kinda thought that might be the reason, but didn't know where to go look, so thanks PA.

      A five ship loop with a barrel roll through the middle. The Chief kept telling me the intake was getting in the way of the shot, so I kept dipping the wing in their direction. Which of course, changes my heading in their direction. I recognized that fairly quickly and did a quick "couple of more G than the 4 ship was pulling" barrel roll through the middle of their vertical turn ending up on the opposite side of them as they came back down. Should have seen Lead's head snap when he finally saw where I ended up.

  4. The Navy is finicky and inconsistent when it comes to the Lake Michigan aircraft. Some they're OK with restoring (Palm Springs Air Museum here has a nice SBD hauled out from the lake. Like all others, it remains USN property). Others, they won't even grant permission to recover from the lake.

    Thanks for the plug, and if I may, I've written a bit about the Great Lakes training carriers here:

    1. You've got a lot of good stuff on your site. I'm a frequent visitor, if not a frequent commenter.

  5. LOL, I wasn't there, but I have spoken to folks that trained on Sable, they often launched in 'less than optimum' weather trying to put X's in the block... :-) And the ship didn't always get directly into the wind, as the seas could and did cause some 'interesting' rolling/corkscrew motion on the deck... According to one gent, getting into the war and actually flying combat was EASIER!!! :-)

    1. One of the guys I was stationed with at Holloman went on a Navy Exchange in the F/A-18 when it first came out. He was an Eagle Guy and I guess the Navy wanted some 4th Generation Air to Air skills. He did say it was a bit more sporting than operating from a stationary 9000' platform. I can see that.

  6. IX = unclassified auxiliary. For example, my favorite name for an oiler, USS GIRAFFE, was IX 118, as station oiler was only a temporary designation, to be used until the end of the war feed up real oilers.

    1. Yeah, I found that after my (personal) deadline. I wonder what the story behind Giraffe as a ships name was. That's kind of interesting. Wonder if there were other ships in the class. "What ship did you serve on in the war, Gramps? I served on the USS Giraffe, then transferred to the USS Hippo, that was a real beast!"

  7. It does not bode well for the military that accuses it's men of treason for daring to pull upon the levers of power that their citizenship entitles them too. He's Air Force, nobody will notice unless the SECDEF personally fires him. The Air Force has a blind spot about their chosen ones that is a continent wide and 18" deep. I don't recall the Air Force ever sacking any general for a failure of leadership/ethics/management unless the Chief of Staffs feet were swinging over the fiery grate and even then....not so much. Poor Wynn, torpedoed by his subordinate who just could not get a clue.

    1. There have been a few, but generally only when there's an actual leader as the Chief of Staff. Even then, you're right, it's rare.

  8. Isn't it always about the Benjamins? I fight that daily. It's a matter of priorities and Congress sure doesn't allow us to figure that out, especially when they force expensive programs on us that we don't need, or at least don't need at the cost they've foisted upon us.

    1. "It's a matter of priorities and Congress sure doesn't allow us to figure that out, especially when they force expensive programs on us that we don't need, or at least don't need at the cost they've foisted upon us. "

      Add to your statement " and don't increase the budget to cover the cost forcing the military to cut costs/programs elsewhere to find the money, resulting in closing programs that are needed to perform critical missions." and you've pretty much got it covered, Tuna!


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