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


  1. The (ahem) Bald Guy in that one shot could be me, it isn't, but it could be. It's why I always wear a hat.

    Guy does look familiar though...

    Oh yeah, great post by the way. Can't wait for next week!

    1. Thanks. Well you know....The Lord only created a certain number of perfect heads, the rest he covered with hair.

  2. Fantastic post and pics. Looks like a great day out indeed. As usual, the rest of America has a reason to collectively wish that we were Juvat.

    1. Thanks, From your posts it sounds like you and Aaron are having a great weekend also. Looking forward to pics.

  3. You're authorized one digression per post? You must have negotiated that when hired on. Sarge isn't as strict with me- he knows that most of my posts are just a series of digressions, otherwise I'd have nothing to write.

    I think the BN had the best seat in the house, albeit one of the most dangerous. By the way, can I borrow $432?

    1. Sarge is a tough negotiator, I think it was his SAC background. "You vill stay on target! You will not waver! No digressions, evah!" But I wore him down.

      I think you're right. It was interesting that the G model (which this was) had 4 guns in the nose. Earlier models didn't have any and the Germans took advantage of that by attacking the formation head on. Wikipedia had a pretty good description on how they trained to attack the formations,
      Visibility from the cockpit was better than I thought it would be. With a little straining, I could see from about 8 to 4. The only disappointment was the quality of the glass in the top turret, I was really looking forward to playing 12 O'Clock High up there.

  4. Thanks Juvat! It's a magical experience when the WWII iron shows up. I'm blessed to have KIBM stuck right in the middle of the ranch. It's a popular gas stop for a lot of warbirds during airshow season. Looking forward to the Liberator and the Mustang. I'll throw up some Tora-Tora-Tora flight and some Stearmans one of these days.

    Downside to the front seats:

    1. Yikes! But it made it home. One of the very interesting feelings I got (unmeasured and subjective of course) was how much more solid the B-17 seemed to feel than the B-24. It just felt like it was made by Timex ("Takes a licking and keeps on Ticking"). Maybe it was the relative size. With one exception, the B-24 felt huge in comparison.

  5. Would willingly pay for a ride in one if I could get in it (obese and bad knees). Once rode in the right seat of a PB4Y-2 converted fire bomber. Those things are cramped.

    1. They had the queue set up to go in the front hatch and out the back primarily for crowd control, although that was the only way to see the front end. I think boarding for the flight was via the back hatch which you can see on the left in the waist gun shot. That would have been very easy to get in and out of. So, given the opportunity, I wouldn't let the cramped transit stand in the way.

    2. That (with pics) would make a very fine blog post!

  6. What really impressed me about those guys was the catwalk across the bomb bay - I went on their B24 - the thing was maybe a foot wide and fall off that ....Have you seen the remake of the Memphis Belle (about 1990) - Irony that Katheryn Wyler (daughter of the director Wm who made the first one during WW2) - she was the producer. Really shows you the life of a bomber crew in the 8th or 15th AAF (I just learned in 1943 they went from "Army Air Corp" to "Army Air Force"

    That P51C - I think that had the Merlin engine - but the rarest of the rare.

    1. It was only about 6 inches wide in the B-17, but the bomb bay doors looked quite a bit more substantial. The B-24's doors looked like you could drop the bombs open or shut without much difference in accuracy.

      According to the literature at the airplane, that P-51 did have a Merlin.

  7. According to one of the former crewdogs I talked to when they were in the DC area, there wasn't a rail. Just the two braces, which were mainly for the Ordys to hang off of when they were loading bombs.

    1. Oh wow! That means making the transit to the cockpit in an emergency even more "special". Even at my sveltest (which was a long time ago), I don't think I'd have fit with a chute on.

  8. You have the best looking, most fun and interesting blog on the web!

    1. Ah gee, thanks Lewis. Ever the diplomat.

      Glad to have you stop by, adds some class to the joint.

  9. Great memories Juvat! My B-17 story is a ride on the Liberty Belle some 6-7 years ago, before the fire certainly. As I stood in the shade of the wing there was a retired AF WWII pilot with many runs over Germany in his past, sitting in the shade as well. He asked me how much they were charging me to ride on that aircraft. I replied $430.00 and he said: "There was a time when I'd have paid that much to get OFF that aircraft."

    1. I'll bet those time looked a lot like the picture taken out the nose. I wonder if he'd have gone back up if offered the opportunity. It's impressive that he was able to look back with a sense of humor.

  10. Went thru a B-17G at Bowman Field, Louisville, Ky circa 1980. We were first ones there day before it opened to public so the four of us had it pretty much to ourselves. Tight fit indeed!

    1. I wish they'd have had the ball turret open, just to have been able to stick my head in. My office mate's grandfather was a ball gunner. I got to meet him and he was a very small guy (with VERY large brass ones!).


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