Saturday, April 30, 2016

Paris, La Ville Lumière

The Pont Neuf with the Eiffel Tower and the Institut de France in the background. (Source)
Long ago, in the spring of 1992, The Missus Herself and I traveled to the City of Light, the heart of France. It was an Easter weekend trip with part of my unit, consisting of a busload of Americans, Canadians, a Dutchman and his Swedish wife, a Norwegian sporting a Minnesota Vikings ball cap, and a Turkish captain named Mutlu.

Now the crowd I stayed with consisted of that latter group and an assorted small band of Americans. Other than my better half and moi, the Americans in our merry band were Captain Tim and his lovely wife Pam, and Staff Sergeant Juan. There may have been one or two others but it was a long time ago. I'm lucky if I remember what I had for breakfast these days.

We stayed in a nice hotel on the outskirts of the city and had a grand time over a long four day weekend. Have I mentioned before that in Europe, Easter weekend runs from Good Friday to what they call Easter Monday? Well, I mention that now and shall no doubt mention it again in the future as I get deeper into my dotage.

The trip there and back again was by bus (no hobbits were along, sad to say) and I remember well the northern fields of La Belle France. Lots of grain fields and the terrain was very flat. Here and there I swear I saw a bunker or two, for France has seen much conflict in its storied history.

Now what sparked this particular reminiscence was a comment about beer the other day. I remember this beer dispensed from a vending machine in the lobby of our hotel. Cheap it was and it wasn't the best beer I've ever had, though it had been brewed in Alsace which is right on the German border and was at one point part of the German Empire. A sore point with the French.

We did the tourist thing while in Paris, stopped at the Eiffel Tower, no I didn't go up in it, the lines were massive. Oddly enough it also began hailing furiously upon our arrival, I took that as a sign not to climb the bloody thing. Looks much bigger in person though, I can tell you that.

We wandered down the Champs-Élysées, had a bit to eat in a little café on that lovely boulevard and was told in no uncertain terms by my dear wife to stop mentioning that I could still picture the Germans marching down that wide street in 1940 because a) I wasn't there and b) she gathered that the French did not look fondly upon that time period.

So I stopped playing the absent minded history professor and we moved on.

We spent quite a few hours in the Museé d'Armeé at Les Invalides. I had to be nearly literally dragged out as I would probably have spent the entire weekend in there. Ah well, someday I must go back. We did linger a while at the tomb of Napoléon where I had an elderly gentleman come up to me and start addressing me in quite terrible French. I turned to the fellow and said that I was an American and that my French, like his, was quite bad and did he, perhaps, speak English?

Well, he revealed himself as a fellow countryman and in fact a veteran of World War II come to revisit his youth. Oddly enough, he had spent his time in the United States Army Air Forces and when he discovered that we were mostly American airmen ourselves he was quite overjoyed. I wonder if that dear old gent is still alive. It was something meeting him like that.

When we weren't playing tourist we were ensconced in the lobby of our little hotel. It was much cheaper than the clubs and bistros of Paris. I believe the beer in the machine went for one 10 franc coin per can. About a buck seventy five as I recall. Anyhoo, it seemed cheap at the time.

That Friday evening in the hotel we had a great time, drinking Alsatian beer at 10 francs at pop, making merry, telling jokes, singing songs, and generally being jolly. Each group of people who would come through the door would be greeted with raised cans and shouts of bonjour, bonjour! The French girl at the counter thought we were all lunatics.

That Saturday morning before departing, we told her to make sure that the beer machine was full and to have a ready store of 10 franc coins on hand. She gave us a funny look and off we went.

Returning to the hotel that evening we discovered that though mademoiselle did have a stock of coins on hand for purchase, she had, much to her chagrin, forgotten to have Marcel refill the beer machine.

She got on the phone and begged Marcel to come to the hotel forthwith and restock the beer machine because the crazy Amis were back and were demanding la bière d'Alsace.

Marcel eventually arrived to restock the machine. While he did so, mademoiselle began to stow everything movable, breakable, or otherwise fragile in the lobby into the back room. Once that task was done, she locked that backroom and beheld our little band with some consternation.

At that point a couple entered the hotel and we began our cries of bonjour, bonjour! With some disdain, the man of the couple looked askance at us and said, "Guten abend." As if to distance himself and his Brunhilde of a Frau from what he obviously thought were a band of ruffian French.

At that point Hans, our Dutchman, began to berate the Germans in no uncertain terms in their native tongue whereupon Herr und Frau scuttled out the door with aghast looks upon their insulted visages and went elsewhere.

Now mademoiselle was torn, we'd just chased away paying customers. Marcel (having finished filling the beer machine) looked upon the scene with some amusement. At that point I believe it was Captain Tim who handed Marcel a beer and bellowed vive la France! While I chimed in with "à bas les Boches!"

Mademoiselle scuttled off to the safety of her office while Marcel drank his beer and we all sang the La Marseillaise and continued with our merriment.

Actually we didn't sing La Marseillaise, I doubt we knew more than the first few words, but it would have been cool if we had.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Spitfire v Messerschmitt

Supermarine Spitfire Mk. 1a (Source)
Messerschmitt Bf-109E (Source)
After a few discussions today, here and in real life, regarding man and machine, I found this video which compares the strengths and weaknesses of the two most famous fighter aircraft of the Battle of Britain. (And two of my personal favorites.) The aircraft depicted above were the two models actually flown by the RAF and the Luftwaffe in 1940.

That was a dark period in human history but also an interesting one. The relative merits of the Spitfire and the Messerschmitt have been much discussed since the Battle of Britain. I suppose that opposing aircraft will always be discussed this way. Which one was faster, more maneuverable, which had the heavier armament? But in the end, I think it will come down to the human in the cockpit. As it always has.

Men like these (and now women) will always be the determining factor as to which pilot goes home and which one does not. Yes, the machine is important, but the brain which controls the hand on the stick is crucial.

RAF Wing Commander James E. "Johnny" Johnson (Source)
Luftwaffe Generalleutnant Adolf "Dolfo" Galland (Source)

(You'll have to click on through to the Tube o' You to watch this but it's worth it. Trust me.)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Random Cogitations

I noticed the other day that our Christmas cactus was in bloom. (Schlumbergera is the scientific name - no, I don't know what that means but did you know these are native to the coastal mountains of southeastern Brazil? Nor did I.) I think it might be competing with the Italian lamp which The Missus Herself bought in Germany at the Base Exchange. (Either Bitburg or Spangdahlem, I forget which. We were about two weeks away from returning Stateside and were down there for a girls softball tourney. The Nuke and The WSO were both playing. It was a lovely day. (I think they won, again I don't remember as I am old and semi-decrepit.)

After I took that pic and then e-mailed it to myself (long story, don't ask) I found the following photo which I had taken a month or so ago. The subject struck my fancy and as we were stopped in traffic anyway, I couldn't resist taking the picture.

Can you ever guess why? (Yes, The Missus Herself commented upon my lack of compassion for my spelling-challenged fellow man. Says I'm, a heartless barbarian she does. Well, admittedly I can be. At times. Especially in traffic.)

The WSO has been out at NAS Fallon for a few days visiting Big Time who's there with his Air Wing. (Okay, it's not really "his" Air Wing. Someday though, someday. While I'm not positive, I think Lex's SNO is now in the same wing. Small world, I do know that he was out there at the same time as The WSO was, The Hobbit told me so. And we all know Hobbitses cannot tell fibs. Right Scott?)

While there, The WSO regaled me with tales of her attendance at Fallon's O-Club (I guess she's no longer banned from said establishment. The place where she was awarded her callsign, long ago when she was a Gypsy.)

So I posted her pics to the Book of Face, one of them sparked a lusty discussion of her choice of beverage the first night there. I reproduce the photo in question and the discussion.

Sorry for the smallness of the following. Can't fix it, Lord knows I tried...

To mollify the mob audience, the next night saw this...

She did have the presence of mind to get this photo as well...

She really is Daddy's girl...

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

May Hundert Neun

Hispano Aviación HA-1112 (c/n 156 C.4K-87 (D-FMBB), "FM+BB"), a license-built Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-2. Rebuilt by the EADS/Messerschmitt Foundation, Germany with a Daimler-Benz DB 605 engine as a G-6. The paint scheme is missing the Swastika, due to current German laws. (Source)
Alright a couple of things up front - the title of the post is how one says "Me-109" in German. Well, that's how a "cool" German would say it. I say that because back in my NATO days my last boss was a German Air Force lieutenant colonel. More properly, he was an Oberstleutnant in the Luftwaffe. Oberstleutnant Bauer to be precise. (And yes, he was a cool guy and a great boss.)

Well, at my desk I had a calendar with scenes of a military aviation nature (surprise, surprise). Well, that bright and shiny new year started out with a painting of an Me-109 being chased at very low level by a bright and shiny P-51 Mustang. Well, LtCol Bauer walked by my desk, stopped and said, "Hhmm, May Hundert Neun. I think he's in trouble."

Second thing, that opening photo, if you read the caption, is not actually an Me-109. She's an HA-1112 rebuilt to be an Me-109. What's the difference you say? Well, here's an unmodified HA-1112 (which you can read about here)...

One of the last HA-1112-M1L Buchóns still flying. Note the nose, the HA-1112 can be recognized by the exhaust pipes at the top of the nose, like the Spitfire.
(Well, it does have a Merlin engine...) 

So, now that we have that out of the way, I confess that the Me-109 is one of my favorite aircraft (I know, I know, I have so many) and I don't recall featuring this old warbird here before. Least ways not by itself.

Here are some 109s of my personal acquaintance, the first three photos are at the Smithsonian (ignore the old guy shooting his watch, yes Juvat, I know I'm doing it wrong) the last one is out in Sandy Eggo.

That last one is in the winter color scheme of the Me-109 of none other than the Ace of Aces himself, Erich Hartmann. Ya know, this fellow (who gets mentioned a lot here, I know).

Erich Hartmann when he was a Leutnant. He has a lot of medals for a Second Lieutenant, well he earned them. He went on to shoot down 352 aircraft.
Yes, that is the all-time record. 

But Sarge, you ask, why the sudden need to talk about Messerschmitts? But first a joke. (Fair warning, it's a bit risqué!)

A World War II Spitfire pilot is speaking in a church and reminiscing about his war experiences.

"In 1942," he says, "the situation was really tough. The Germans had a very strong air force. I remember," he continues, "one day I was protecting the bombers and suddenly, out of the clouds, these fokkers appeared."

There are a few gasps from the parishioners, and several of the children began to giggle.

"I looked up, and realized that two of the fokkers were directly above me. I aimed at the first one and shot him down. By then, though, the other fokker was right on my tail."

At this point, several of the elderly ladies of the church were blushing with embarrassment, the girls were all giggling and the boys laughing loudly.

The pastor finally stands up and says, "I think I should point out that 'Fokker' was the name of a German-Dutch aircraft company, who made many of the planes used by the Germans during the First World War."

"Yes, that's true," says the old pilot, "but these fokkers were flying Messerschmitts." (Source)


One of our Loyal Readers sent me a couple of links regarding some old aircraft found in a "barn" (one source says a hangar) in Texas. (No, it wasn't Juvat's ranch. It was some other Texan. No doubt they would have been in better shape if had they been Juvat's!) These aircraft were used in the movie Battle of Britain (another Sarge favorite, I know, what a surprise). Great story, a Swiss company bought the lot and plans on restoring at least two to flying status. Nice! (The links sent to me by, well, I'll call him The Snowman, are here and here. Some nice video and pics! Enjoy!)

Speaking of nice videos! Here's another old HA-1112 modified to the Me-109 G4 standard. It's got the Jumo engine (bloody thing sounds like a tractor engine!) and there are two videos, one from in the cockpit of Rote Sieben (Red 7) and the other from the same air show but this time from the ground. Filmed at Biggin Hill in the UK.

An Me-109, a Hurricane, and two Spitfires...!!

Oh my!

(Yes, they're a little long but hey, WARBIRDS! Nuff said.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Quickie Tuesday

Things are starting to green up nicely here in Little Rhody. The ground phlox started a bit slowly last weekend, then this weekend - BAM! They're breaking out in a riot of color. Okay, so it's mostly lavender, I guess. Being a guy I only see in primary colors. Think ROY G BIV. As you can see around the pond, we've got tulips of red and yellow. If you look really close, there's a single daffodil which somehow wandered in. Yellow, that's definitely yellow.

The Missus Herself (with an assist from the kid next door) has mulched much of the garden. There's a few spots out front that didn't get new mulch, they had to make do with last year's. Even though it seemed like a metric butt ton of mulch to me, my better half indicated that she was being fiscally conservative this year and didn't get as much mulch as she really wanted.

The land line is ringing off the hook with calls to support this or that candidate, for today is Little Rhody's turn in the basket, er, I mean, presidential primary. I swear I have received enough Comrade Sanders flyers in the mail to cover that parking lot up above. But those go straight into the recycling. Then I go inside and wash my hands. Twice.

Anyhoo, you get a short post today (not because of the primary, it won't take me that long to cast my ballot) mostly because I had to get my Game of Thrones on last night. It's a new season with many new faces as the author likes killing off his characters as fast as they show up. Or so it seems.

Don't judge me now, I've read all the books, probably all that there will ever be as the author seems enamored of his new found celebrity and seems content to let HBO finish off the series. Oh well.

As to the books, if someone asks me what they're like I tell them, "Think Lord of the Rings without any orcs or elves or wizards. No poetry, no uplifting of the human spirit, no... Hell, think the Somme Offensive or Verdun. Everyone dies."

But still and all, I find it entertaining. Beats the news at any rate.

Hell, a sharp stick in the eye beats the news these days.

And do it goes. (He said wondering how many extra hits that catchy title is going to generate. Tee hee. Yes, I'm bad...)

Monday, April 25, 2016

"He who rides a tiger cannot dismount," *

It's been pretty busy around Rancho Juvat the past few days.  Mrs. Juvat has decreed that the front porch railings constitute a hazard to navigation and must be replaced. So it is written, so it shall be.  Only three trips to Lowes for things I forgot, didn't plan for enough of, or didn't know I'd need.  Still needs staining, but I was issued a pass with the excuse that I needed to post something.  I didn't want another "Where's Juvat?" post.  That having been said, I was in a quandary on what to write about.  And when that occurs, I return to my visit to Lackland and this memorial.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I spent most of my flying career either in the Pacific or TDY from my Stateside assignment to the Pacific.  As a boy, I read every book I could get my hands on about flying fighters, fighter pilots and WWII.  I'd read about Europe, but for whatever reason, the stories about the Air War in the Pacific seemed to stick with me.  So, as I've been working my way through the names on the monument that I didn't recognize right off the bat, it didn't surprise me that many of them received the Medal of Honor for actions in the European Theater.  It also didn't surprise me, given the hazardous nature of unescorted, daylight bombing that many of the names on the monument would be Bomber Aircrew.

There were a few names on the monument that I knew were Fighter Pilots, Bong, McGuire and Kearby and all were from the Pacific.  I kept hoping I'd run in to a Fighter Pilot Recipient who'd received the Medal for actions in Europe.  

Well, it's taken a while, but finally...

Lt Col James H. Howard, received the Medal of Honor for actions taken on 11 January 1944 near Oschersleben Germany.  He was the only Fighter Pilot in the European Theater awarded the Medal of Honor in WWII.  That piqued my interest and we're off and running.

Turns out, He's a unique man in many different respects.

For one, he was born in China, on April 13th 1913 in Canton.  Had to look up where Canton was, so off to Google Earth I go.  Turns out, those silly Chinese Communists renamed the city to Guangzhou and it is about 75 miles NNW of Hong Kong.  His father was a missionary and doctor there.  Howard lived in China until he was 14 when he returned to the US.  

In 1938, He joined the US Navy as an aviation cadet, earning his "wings of Gold" in 1939.

Wait a second, juvat! (I can hear Sarge saying).  A Naval Aviator, wins the MOH while flying with the Army Air Corps?  No Way!  Yes, Way! sort of.

As they say, the story gets curiouser and curiouser.
This Enterprise, not the Nuke (nor the Galaxy Class Star Ship!)

After earning his wings,  He's assigned to VF-7 aboard the Enterprise (CV-6) and serves aboard her until June of 1941.  In fact, he does so well aboard her that he's offered a regular commission.  In those days, regular commissions were almost exclusively the purview of Annapolis grads, so being offered one is high praise.  Turning it down is unheard of, and doing so usually is the beginning of the end of your time in the service.  Remember this is pre-WWII, and that time period is generally referred to as "The Great Depression".  Voluntarily sinking a respectable career is unheard of.  However, fortune seems to have smiled on our young adventurer.  In April of 1941, Roosevelt ordered  the American Volunteer Group (AKA the "Flying Tigers") to be formed and authorized recruitment of Reserve personnel from the Military.  Ensign Howard resigns his commission and joins the AVG.

While flying with the AVG, he shoots down 6 Japanese aircraft, making him an Ace.

General Chennault was their leader and and insisted on the use of the tactics he had developed and taught.  I first learned those tactics in ROTC in the mid 70's and used them throughout my flying career.  Basically, they are, don't ever get into a furball, don't slow down and don't turn with a target.  Come in fast, shoot to kill and leave.  Reenter the fight when you have made sure your Situational Awareness is as good as it can be.  

So, back to   Howard and the AVG.  This site tells the story of one of his first combat missions, an attack on a Japanese airfield.  It quotes  his book, Roar of Tigers (and yes, I've orderd the book!)

"I pulled up sharply for another run at the targets below," Howard recalled. "I roared down the line of idling aircraft with my thumb on the firing button all the way. The machine guns left a wonderful line of destruction the length of that array of fighters. I hauled back on the stick for the getaway.
"Nothing doing! As the nose came up, a dull thump shook my fighter. With mine the only plane strafing ground targets that day, every Japanese gun on the field was pointed right at me on the second pass. Smoke poured from the cowling and the screaming Allison went dead. My prop idled down until it was just a windmill. I had been hit by ground fire.
"In the distance I could see the two specks that were Newkirk and Hill racing for home. I was alone and going down over a wide-awake enemy airfield. I yelled my predicament into the radio.
"I was too low to bail out, so I whipped my P-40 around and aimed for a wheels-up crash landing. I rolled back my canopy and tried to protect my descent so that I would wind up at the far end of the field near the woods. If it worked out I could make a run for it into the trees.
"My hand was on the flap control when the Allison gave a tentative cough.
"I advanced the throttle a notch. She caught again!  COME ON! More gratifying noise up front. the engine picked up more momentum and the prop started spinning faster. I looked down at the airspeed...ninety--barely above stall!
"As I skimmed over the field, I lifted the nose and the plane responded by gathering more speed. I closed my canopy but as I did I realized that I wasn't out of the woods yet!
"Nakajimas appeared on either side of me. We flew straight and level for what seemed endless moments. then it dawned on me that they hadn't even noticed me or my predicament. the Japanese pilots apparently had their gaze fixed on the ground, engrossed in the confusion and disaster that had befallen their fellow pilots.
"My engine was not operating at full power so I applied maximum throttle and soon left my 'escort' behind."

Man, talk about lucky!  Engine failure directly over an airfield you've just strafed?  Flying formation with enemy fighters stationed at the airfield you've just strafed?  Not circumstances where one should expect a long life.  But survive he did, and as I said, leaves the AVG when it's disbanded with 6 kills.

As he returns Stateside, he's offered commissions in both the Navy and the Army Air Corps.  Due to some "issues" with security at North Island and being threatened with arrest, Howard accepts the commission with the Air Corps. While Stateside, he assumes command of teh 356th Fighter Squadron (a squadron in the 354th Fighter Group) and is promoted to Major.  The Group deploys to RAF Boxted where they will be flying the new P-51B.  There mission is to escort the B-17s flying missions in support of Operation Pointblank, the daylight bombing of Germany.

On January 11th 1944, Major Howard is leading the group which is escorting the B-17s in an attack on the Focke-Wulf factory located at Oschersleben Germany.  

During the handoff between the P-47s they were relieving, Major Howard notices a ME-110 approaching the tail of a B-17.  He dives on the guy and approaches to very close range.  Firing a lethal burst, he shoots the ME-110 down.  He follows that almost immediately by shooting down a Me-109, not realizing that the rest of his squadron is engaged at the rear of the B-17 formation.  (Bomber formations at that time could be many miles long.) He's all alone against what is estimated to be 30 German Fighters.

He gets another "kill" when he attacks an FW-190.  As he approaches firing range, the German jettisons his canopy and bails out.  A kill's a kill!

At this point, Howard has been in action, solo, for almost a half hour. and was down to one functioning machine gun.  He sees another ME-109 coming in, and attacks it shooting it down.   Out of ammunition, he continues to make aggressive passes on German Fighters as they approach, until finally the B-17s are safe.    

Major Allison Brooks, the B-17 Leader said ""For sheer determination and guts, it was the greatest exhibition I've ever seen. It was a case of one lone American against what seemed to be the entire Luftwaffe. He was all over the wing, across it and around it. They can't give that boy a big enough reward."
Ding Hao means Very Good!

The P-51 at the time was still classified Top Secret, and so the matter was not talked about immediately, but about a week later, the story was released and in a press conference , Major Howard was asked a couple of questions.

"Why, when you knew you were surrounded by enemy fighters, didn't you join up with your own P-51s?" asked a reporter.

"He who rides a tiger cannot dismount," Howard replied.

"Why did you risk your neck doing what you did?"  To which Major Howard replied

"I seen my duty and I done it!"

His Citation to accompany the Medal of Honor.

For conspicuous gallantry in combat near Oschersleben, Germany on Jan. 11, 1944, he received the Medal of Honor. He was leading a group of P-51s in support of a heavy bomber formation on a long-range mission deep in enemy territory. The citation reads, in part: "As Major Howard's group met the bombers in the target area, the bomber force was attacked by numerous enemy fighters. Major Howard, with his group, at once engaged the enemy and himself destroyed a German ME-110. He lost contact with his group and returned to the level of the bomber formation. He then saw that the bombers were being heavily attacked by enemy planes and that no other friendly fighters were at hand While he could have waited to attempt to assemble his group before engaging the enemy, he chose instead to attack single-handed a formation of more than 30 German planes. With utter disregard for his own safety he immediately pressed home determined attacks for some 30 minutes, during which time he destroyed three enemy planes and probably destroyed and damaged others. Toward the end of this engagement three of his guns went out of action and his fuel supply was becoming dangerously low. Despite these handicaps and the almost insuperable odds against him, Major Howard continued his aggressive action in an attempt to protect the bombers from the numerous fighters. His skill, courage, and intrepidity set an example of heroism which will be an inspiration to the Armed Forces of the United States."

* An old Chinese Proverb.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Surrender? Never.

The March to Valley Forge by William Trego (Source)
This country has survived hard times and conflict in the past.

Currently we are tearing ourselves apart over political correctness, opinions, and feelings. Across the water there are those who wish to help tear us down, using bombs and terror. They will not, they must not, succeed.

No matter your political leanings, your religious beliefs, or your sexual proclivities (why is that even a thing?) we must all stand together. This is our country, the future of our children and of our grandchildren is in our hands. Now and until we can no longer stand and must pass the baton to the next generation, this is ours.

Let's not screw this up people.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


Google Maps
When you visit the Military Aviation Museum, just south of Pungo, part of Virginia Beach I'm given to understand, the dinosaurs all come running to the fence to see who's coming to visit. They're like big (very big, prehistoric) dogs. I'm concerned that someday that Tyrannosaur will figure out that he could just step over that split rail fence. Should be no problem, right? I mean he looks friendly, right?

Seriously, the first time we visited this place, I think I got more excited about the big metal dinosaurs than I did about the aircraft in those hangars (just to the right rear of, ahem, Rex). Of course, once I got inside, I kinda forgot all about the dinosaurs.

I mean airplanes. You gotta love it, right?

Here's their website, it's also over there on the sidebar as well, see the picture below...

I may have mentioned it before, but most of their collection is flyable. As in, can taxi out onto that grass strip near the hangars and take to the air. (What's that? Did I see any pterodactyls when I was there? No, just those three guys out front and the airplanes. Pshaw, pterodactyls. Seriously?)

Oh my, do they have aircraft, lots of aircraft. I love that place!

Welcome to the museum!

Hey old man! Get out of the way!

Seriously dude, you're blocking my view. (Hhmm, I think I know that guy...)

I told you they had airplanes.

(Drip pans. Did ya notice the drip pans? Non-functional engines don't drip oil. Know what I mean?)

Editor's note: The B-17 and the Fw-190 were both sold to a guy out in Oregon a while back. Since then they've acquired more Focke Wulfs. But no B-17s. Chuckie will be featured in a future post. I actually have a few pictures from inside the aircraft.