A Tribute to Bill Mauldin – by Bob Greene

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One of my grounding, fundamental goals in maintaining this blog is to honor in any way I can the memories of those who, as members of the greatest generation, answered the call for help in the defense of freedom against the abomination of the Axis Powers.

On May 7, 2010, Bob Greene, CNN Contributor, published this tribute to a man whose name is synonymous with the concept of larger than life to any combat veteran of WWII, but I don’t think he will mind my taking the liberty of including it here. The text appears with only minor editing to remove extra spaces and a few formatting problems in the version I received. Here it is:

When you are in Oklahoma City, go to the 45th Infantry Division Museum located on N E 36th. There is a lot of Bill Mauldin art work there.

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Get out your history books and open them to the chapter on World War II. Today’s lesson will cover a little known but very important hero of whom very little was ever really known. Here is another important piece of lost U.S. history, which is a true example of our American Spirit.

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Makes ya proud to put this stamp on your envelopes . . .

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The post office gets a lot of criticism. Always has, always will. And with the renewed push to get rid of Saturday mail delivery, expect complaints to intensify. But the United States Postal Service deserves a standing ovation for something that happened last month: Bill Mauldin got his own postage stamp.

Mauldin died at age 81 in the early days of 2003. The end of his life had been rugged. He had been scalded in a bathtub, which led to terrible injuries and infections; Alzheimer’s disease was inflicting its cruelties. Unable to care for himself after the scalding, he became a resident of a California nursing home, his health and spirits in rapid decline.

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He  was not forgotten, though. Mauldin, and his work, meant so much to the millions of Americans who fought in World War II, and to those who had waited for them to come home. He was a kid cartoonist for Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper. Mauldin’s drawings of his muddy, exhausted, whisker-stubbled infantrymen Willie and Joe were the voice of truth about what it was like on the front lines.

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Mauldin was an enlisted man just like the soldiers he drew for; his gripes were their  gripes, his laughs their laughs, his heartaches their heartaches. He was one of them. They loved him.

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He never held back. Sometimes, when his cartoons cut too close for comfort, superior officers tried to tone him down. In one memorable incident, he enraged Gen. George S. Patton, who informed Mauldin he wanted the pointed cartoons celebrating the fighting men and lampooning the high-ranking officers to stop. Now!

mime-attachment7“I’m beginning to feel like a fugitive from the “law of  averages.” 

The  news passed from soldier to soldier. How was Sgt. Bill Mauldin going to stand up to Gen. Patton?  It seemed impossible.

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Not quite. Mauldin, it turned out, had an ardent fan: Five-star Gen. Dwight  D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. Ike put out  the word: Mauldin draws what Mauldin wants. Mauldin won. Patton  lost.

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If, in your line of work, you’ve ever considered yourself a young hotshot, or if you’ve ever known anyone who has felt that way about him or herself, the story of Mauldin’s young manhood will humble you. Here is what, by the  time he was 23 years old, Mauldin accomplished:

mime-attachment10“By the way, wot wuz them changes you wuz gonna make when you took over last month, sir?”

He won the Pulitzer Prize and was featured on the cover of Time magazine. His book “Up Front” was the No. 1 best-seller in the United States.

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All of that at 23. Yet, when he returned to civilian life and grew older, he never lost that boyish Mauldin grin, never outgrew his excitement about doing his job, never big-shotted or high-hatted the people with whom he worked every  day.

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I was lucky enough to be one of them. Mauldin roamed the hallways of the Chicago Sun-Times in the late 1960s and early 1970s with no more officiousness or air of haughtiness than if he was a copyboy. That impish look on his face remained.

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He had achieved so much. He won a second Pulitzer Prize, and he should have won a third for what may be the single greatest editorial cartoon in the history of the craft: his deadline rendering, on the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, of the statue at the Lincoln Memorial slumped in grief, its head cradled in its hands. But he never acted as if he was better than the people he met. He was still Mauldin, the enlisted  man.

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During  the late summer of 2002, as Mauldin lay in that California nursing home, some of the old World War II infantry guys caught wind of it. They didn’t want Mauldin to go out that way. They thought he should know he was still their hero.

mime-attachment15“This is the’ town my pappy told me about.” 

Gordon Dillow, a columnist for the Orange County Register, put out the call in southern California for people in the area to send their best wishes to Mauldin. I joined Dillow in the effort, helping to spread the appeal nationally, so Bill would not feel so alone. Soon, more than 10,000 cards and letters had arrived at Mauldin’s bedside.

Better than that, old soldiers began to show up just to sit with Mauldin, to let him know that they were there for him, as he, so long ago, had been there for them. So many volunteered to visit Bill that there was a waiting list. Here is how Todd DePastino, in the first paragraph of his wonderful biography of Mauldin, described  it:

“Almost every day in the summer and fall of 2002 they came to Park Superior nursing home in Newport Beach, California, to honor Army Sergeant, Technician Third Grade, Bill Mauldin. They came bearing relics of their youth: medals, insignia, photographs, and carefully folded newspaper clippings. Some wore old garrison caps. Others arrived resplendent in uniforms over a half-century old. Almost all of them wept as they filed down the corridor like pilgrims fulfilling some long-neglected obligation.”

One of the veterans explained to me why it was so important: “You would have to be  part of a combat infantry unit to appreciate what moments of relief Bill gave us. You had to be reading a soaking wet Stars and Stripes in a water-filled foxhole and then see one of  his cartoons.”


mime-attachment17“Th’ hell this ain’t th’ most important hole in the  world. I’m in it.”

Mauldin is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Last month, the kid cartoonist made it onto a first-class postage stamp. It’s an honor that most generals and admirals never receive.


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What  Mauldin would have loved most, I believe, is the sight of the two guys who keep him company on that stamp.

Take a look at it.

There’s Willie. There’s Joe.

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And there, to the side, drawing them and smiling that shy, quietly observant smile, is Mauldin himself. With his buddies, right where he belongs. Forever.

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What a story, and a fitting tribute to a man and to a time that few of us can still remember. But I say to you youngsters, you must most seriously learn of and remember with respect the sufferings and sacrifices of your fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers in times you cannot ever imagine today with all you have. But the only reason you are free to have it all is because of them.

I thought you would all enjoy reading and seeing this bit of American history!

Bob Greene

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Why People Hate to Attend High School Reunions

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If you have ever attended a high-school reunion, this little vignette should bring a chuckle, especially since the underlying message of “puttin” on airs” is so true.

Jan, Sue and Mary haven’t seen each other since high school, and they arrange via a reunion website to meet for lunch at a wine bar and catch up!

Jan arrives first, wearing a beige Versace. She orders a bottle of Pinot Grigio.

Sue arrives shortly afterward, in gray Chanel. After the required ritualized kisses she joins Jan in a glass of wine.

Then Mary walks in, wearing a faded old tee-shirt, blue jeans and boots.  She too shares the wine.

Jan explains that after leaving high school and graduation from Princeton in Classics, she met and married Timothy, with whom she has a beautiful daughter. Timothy is a partner in one of New York’s leading law firms. They live in a 4000 sq ft co-op on Fifth Avenue, where Susanna, the daughter, attends drama school. They have a second home in Phoenix.

Sue relates that she graduated from Harvard Med School and became a surgeon. Her husband, Clive, is a leading Wall Street investment banker. They live in Southampton on Long Island and have a second home in Naples, Florida.

Mary explains that she left school at 17 and ran off with her boyfriend, Jim. They run a tropical bird park in Colorado and grow their own vegetables. Jim can stand five parrots, side by side, on his penis.

Halfway down the third bottle of wine and several hours later, Jan blurts out that her husband is really a cashier at Wal-Mart. They live in a small apartment in Brooklyn and have a travel trailer parked at a nearby storage facility.

Sue, chastened and encouraged by her old friend’s honesty, explains that she and Clive are both nurses’ aides in a retirement home. They live in Jersey City and take vacation camping trips to Alabama.

Mary admits that the fifth parrot has to stand on one leg.

FiveParrotsCredit original parrot image: bhmpics.com

 

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Phantom Pharewell

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I friend and fellow ex-Phantom driver recently sent me a link to a story commemorating a sad day for those of us who have a soft place in our hearts for the F-4 Phantom II.

The very last Phantom in the “boneyard,” a storage facility for retired aircraft located at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ, home of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, departed for a final assignment.

BoneyardCredit: blog.naver.com via Wikipedia

I’m sure it makes sense to someone, but taking an aircraft out of storage, bringing it back to flying condition so that it can be used in a target drone program to be ultimately shot down and find a final resting place at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, seems insane.

Following WWI, thousands of aircraft were available for purchase by civilians, and public fascination with the new realm of heavier-than-air flight, combined with many more thousands of pilots returning from Europe to be mustered out of the service, gave rise to the era of barnstormers and speed kings.

In 1917, the price of a new JN4 “Jenny” sold to the government was $8,160. By 1919, a reconditioned Jenny purchased from the Army by Curtiss could be had for $4,000. In the mid-1920s, a rebuilt Jenny had dropped to an average price of $2,400, and by 1928 you could buy one for as little as $500.

JN4Left-1Credit: Wikipedia Commons

These prices seem absurd today, even considering the effect of time on the value of money, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that good used Phantoms be offered for sale to the public rather than blowing them up. I’d have to get a loan, of course . . .

In the meantime, the Luftwaffe will retire their Phantoms next month. To commemorate the occasion, they painted a special one as shown in the images below. I’m just guessing, but this aircraft will probably end up either on a pedestal (boo!) or assigned to the air show circuit (yea!).

LuftwaffePhantom1-1Credit: Markus Altmann via jetphotos.net

LuftwaffePhantom2-1Credit: Daniel Kleef via jetphotos.net

LuftwaffePhantom3-1Credit: Thorale Doehring via airliners.net

LuftwaffePhantom4-1Credit: Ron Kellenaers via airliners.net

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Fighter Pilots and Watches

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There’s a saying about fighter pilots, probably originating from their collective ability to make fun of themselves, that a fighter pilot “wears a big watch, has a little ________ (insert your preferred term for the male sex organ), drinks scotch and water and is always looking for a place to cash a check.”

All kidding aside, every flight briefing during my twenty-plus years as a fighter pilot began with a time hack because coordinating what multiple aircraft did on the ground and in flight was most often based on TOT, or time on target. As a flight leader, you began with TOT and worked backward to establish the time at which each key portion of the flight needed to occur, and the front end of that sequence was briefing time.

I’d been in Vietnam on my first combat tour about three months when, in a very poor imitation of  English as spoken by an Oriental, the flight leader of a four-ship (with eight guys in the briefing room) gave a time hack something to the effect of, “Ah so, Seiko say time oh eight thirty on my mark . . . hack.”

Huh? What’s this Seiko business? That caused a brief delay as we all had to take a look at the flight leader’s new watch. He’d purchased it in the Base Exchange (BX) the day before, and none of the other seven pilots had ever seen one.

The BX at Cam Ranh Bay was a busy place because it served as a primary diversion from the isolation that affected thousands of Americans living on the base in a foreign country at war. Electronics sold at much lower prices than in the States fueled the pastimes of choice. We all stayed connected to the BX grapevine, which responded instantly whenever a new shipment arrived of cameras, amplifiers, receivers,  turntables, cassette players, tape decks, speakers and, of course, watches.

The F-4 had a wind-up clock on the instrument panel, known as an “eight-day clock.” You could adjust it to the time on your personal watch and use it in flight, but they were notoriously unreliable. Probably because they were always over-wound. You had no way of knowing how many days it had been since the last pilot wound it, so as a matter of routine and just to be sure,  you would always crank in a couple of turns on the stem. And to be super sure, you always wore your trusty and carefully hacked Seiko.

A more sophisticated pilot among us eschewed wearing a Seiko and chose a far more expensive timepiece. He appeared for briefing one morning wearing a behemoth gold Swiss Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT on a custom gold band. He’d bought it from a jewelry store the city of Cam Ranh Bay. The thing looked like it weighed close to a pound.

I couldn’t find an image of the watch as I remember it, but the examples below display the significant individual characteristics: rotating bezel indicating 24-hour Greenwich Mean Time divided into red and blue halves and a solid gold case rather than stainless steel.

RolexGMT3Credit: titiwatch.com

RolexGMT2Credit: titiwatch.com

RolexGMT4Credit: Wikipedia Commons

We were all marveling at his extravagance, and I noticed a slight discoloration on the date. It looked like a bit of rust. I mentioned it and then another one of the pilots dropped the bombshell by suggesting that our squadron mate had purchased a fake Rolex. His clue? Movement of the second hand.

When I began this post I couldn’t remember whether smooth or incremental movement of the hand provided the telltale, so I Googled it and found this, supposedly from a genuine Rolex technician:

Most Rolex watches – and EVERY Rolex marked “Perpetual” should have a mechanical movement. That means that the watch is powered by a mainspring, and the spring is wound automatically as the watch is worn by the movement of the wearer’s arm (hence the “Perpetual” designation). These watches do tick – but they do so very rapidly so that the seconds hand appears to move almost continuously – if you look very closely you’ll see that it actually moves in very small but discrete increments. Many fakes have quartz movements that are powered by a battery. In these fakes, the second hand jumps once a second and moves 1/60th of the way around the dial with every jump. However, some fakes do have mechanical movements that also tick rapidly much like the genuine Rolex. So, looking at the movement of the seconds hand may not be conclusive.

In this case, the jeweler had pulled a fast one and sold fake innards in a solid gold package.

And now, almost fifty years later, I’ve been informed by one of my best friends, a college buddy and roommate in USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training, that neither Seiko nor Rolex makes the perfect watch for a fighter pilot. Here’s the real scoop:

Kickass Fighter Pilot Watch

A typical stereotype is that fighter pilots always have a big watch. In many cases, that is quite true. However, we have stumbled upon the best watch a fighter pilot could ever own. It tells the correct, local time, automatically, no matter where you are in the world and it’s so ingeniously simple.

FtrPltWatch1


Here’s how it works: Go to a pub or bar and buy a beer.
 Push the receipt on to the pin on the watch. To check the time simply read it from the receipt.

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To adjust the time, buy a new beer and it will now
 be showing the accurate, current time once again.

The watch looks great, very stylish and it’s the product of amazing engineering. But one of the most kickass things about it is that people will want to buy you a beer just to see how it works.

How cool is that? Wish I’d thought of it, although it probably wouldn’t work very well in a flight briefing.

 

 

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Beautiful Aviation Art – The Jet Age – Part One

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My good friend and fellow ex-fighter pilot Yago F. de Bobadilla, Maj. Gen. SAF (ret), has assembled a PowerPoint slide show as a companion to his original collection honoring the aviators and flying machines of World War II and the artists who commemorate specific events with exceptional skill and dedication to their craft.

Throughout the history of air warfare, combatants have struggled to achieve a tactical advantage and shift the balance of power in their direction by improving the aircraft and weaponry employed in the aerial battlefield.

Between the dawn of aviation and the outbreak of World War I in 1914, military leaders had disregarded the need for armed aircraft, believing them useful only for reconnaissance. Engineers in France and Germany, however, had been experimenting with methods to allow the pilot to fire a fuselage-mounted machine gun at an opponent without damaging his own propeller. Invention of the interrupter gear led to development of the gun synchronizer, which fostered the birth of aerial combat.

Based on extensive research of surviving German and French early WWI aviation records, the first victory using a synchronized machine-gun-equipped fighter most probably occurred on July 1, 1915 when the pilot of a German Fokker M.5K/MG forced down a French Morane-Saulnier Type L, which landed in French territory and could not be officially confirmed. Three days later, the same German pilot downed an unconfirmed Morane Parasol, and finally achieved the first officially confirmed victory on July 15, 1915 against another Morane Parasol.

Fokker_M5K-MGFokker M.5K/MG (Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

Morane ParasolMorane-Saulnier Type L (Credit: hitechcreations.com via Wikipedia)

Sole possession of a working gun synchronizer enabled Germany to dominate the skies over the Western Front in a period known as the Fokker Scourge. Although Germany was very careful to protect this advantage by forbidding its pilots from flying over enemy territory, the basic principles involved were common knowledge. By the middle of 1916, several Allied synchronizer gears were in use, and the aerial combat arena shifted to a more equal and far deadlier contest.

Throughout the history of aerial warfare, escalation has most often occurred in relatively small steps, such as extra machine guns, addition of a cannon (with exploding shells rather than bullets that rely on impact inertia alone to cause damage), or a supercharger for the engine to improve aircraft performance at high altitude.

And then along came the jet engine. During WWII, the British and the Americans both developed prototype jet-powered fighters, but Germany was the only country to employ one in combat. Imagine the shock and awe among Allied aviators when the ME-262 first appeared in defense of the crumbling Third Reich. Air warfare would never be the same.

ME262ME-262 (Credit: skyunlimited.net)

And so, here is Part One of “Beautiful Aviation Art – The Jet Age”

Slide02A Navy F-4J Phantom II on the CAT with six A-4E Skyhawks flying overhead.

Slide03May 21, 1982. In the second-wave attack on the HMS Ardent, the Douglas A-4Qs of Lieutenants Benito Rotolo (3-A-306 in the foreground), Carlos Lecour (3-A-305, second) and Roberto Sylvester (3-A-301, last), one of Lecour’s bombs explodes inside a fuel tank and starts a fire that fatally wounds the frigate.

Slide04Slide05March 12, 1967. The target is the large thermal power plant at Viet Tri, on the Red River, a short distance to the northwest of Hanoi. Heavily defended by 100-mm and 85-mm gun positions, missile sites and the usual barrage of ground-fire encountered on any mission “downtown,” the task of the leading flight was to hammer the guns and clear the way for the closely following strike force to lay their bombs squarely on the power plant. They would all have to contend with the ever-present likelihood of MiG interception on the way out.

Leading the 335th TFW F-105 Thunderchiefs out of Takhli Royal Thai Air Base, Colonel Jack Broughton took the familiar route, approaching the target area flying down Thud Ridge. As the high ground fell away he pushed the flight of four ships down on the deck and, “going like hell,” Broughton swung the leading Thuds southwest, just enough to give those on the ground the impression they were headed somewhere south of Viet Tri.

Not quite abreast of the target, Broughton called the “pop-up,” and as the Thuds passed vertical they rolled inverted going over the top, attacking the guns from the opposite direction. Beneath them the big gun pits were lined up, their gunners confused by the maneuver, and before they could work out what was happening the F-105 pilots emptied their loads of CBUs into the middle of them.

Behind the Thuds came the strike force. With the air cleared of the usual flak barrage, the F-105’s unloaded their bombs right onto the thermal power plant. The facility was destroyed in one of the best-planned and executed raids of the war.

Slide06Luke Air Force Base, the 58th Tactical Fighter Training Wing and its famous “Triple Nickel” 555th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, were the first recipients of the F-15. From the initial delivery on November 14, 1974, the eagle proved equal to its nickname. With its better than one-to-one thrust-to-weight ratio, the fighter can accelerate when flying vertically. One of its pilots said, “The Eagle can out-climb, out-maneuver, and out accelerate any fighter threat in existence or on the horizon.” The artist shows the F-15 screaming over the Sonora desert on a training mission.  In his words, “To impart a feeling of power and motion, the landscape in my painting is at a slight angle and the foreground is blurred as the Eagle roars by at about 500 knots.”

Slide07Christmas 2000. With a high speed pass on afterburner, F-14B no. 161435 of VF-103s Jolly Rogers shows off a special holiday livery for its Mediterranean and Persian Gulf cruise. With crossed candy canes and a Santa Claus cap replacing the traditional insignia, this Tomcat was one of a kind.

The nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, CVN-73, can part the waters at over 30 knots and displaces 104,000 tons fully loaded. He is the sixth super carrier of the Nimitz class, and the fourth ship of the US Navy to be so named. Her home port is Norfolk, Virginia.

Slide08In 1961, the first fighter wing of the new German Federal Luftwaffe, led by the famous Ace of Aces Colonel Erich Hartmann, was named JG 71 Richthofen after another well-known German fighter ace, the Red Baron Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen. In this painting, Colonel Hartmann returns from a mission in his JA-111. The nose of Hartmann’s F-86 sports the black tulip, his personal emblem throughout World War II. This emblem is carried by all aircraft in his new fighter wing as a sign of loyalty to their boss.

Slide09The MiG kill of Cdr. Mark Fox during Desert Storm, in an F/A-18C of VFA-81.

Slide101972 – Three Phantom F-4B’s from VF-151 on an early morning mission over North Vietnam. NF 213 is piloted by John “Bedhog” Chesire, with RIO George “T.A.” Healey in the rear. NF 210 has Ted Triebel in the front seat and Dave Everett in the rear. Dave and Ted were shot down on August 27, 1972, on a photo escort mission over North Vietnam while flying 210, and spent the rest of the war as POW’s in the infamous Hanoi Hilton.

The series “Beautiful Aviation Art – The Jet Age” will continue with Part Two.

 

 

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Black Cats Rule the Night – by Mike Perry

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Almost two years ago, I received this comment from a visitor on my series “Beautiful Aviation Art”:

My watchcap is off to these gallant airmen and their crews, however, once again the crews of the lowly PBY Black Cats are left out of the story. Those men flew into the teeth of the Japanese war machine with a lumbering flying boat painted black as their main defense. They sunk millions of tons of war provisions during the night, then spent the day rescuing downed aviators. They were crucial in early warning at Midway, and other battles. I doubt if the men whose lives were saved by “Dumbo” and the Marines who fought starved-out Japanese soldiers would consider the PBY incidental to the war effort. Let’s give these men and crews their due. –J.L. Reeves, proud son of Lt. Cdr. Columbus DeMerville Reeves II, VPB-33.

Although the delay in doing something about the comment may not indicate it, I couldn’t agree more, and this morning I stumbled upon a post on sofrep.com that I want to share here. It’s a great website based on the acronym SOFREP: [noun] a special operations situation report. 

Full credit to the website and author Mike Perry for the post re-published here absent a video clip of a Black Cat returning from a combat mission. See the website to view it. The text and images in Mike’s post follow, including additional images inserted by me with credit noted to other sources.

sofrep-pby-catalina-660x320_v1Photo Credit sofrep.com

As a result of the industrial age, machines of war have often garnered as much fame as man himself. In the case of the airplane this proved to be no truer than in the Second World War. Names like Spitfire, Mustang, Flying Fortress and Messerschmitt earned their place in history as legends in their own time.

Then there were the others. Unsung, under-appreciated workhorses that, in some respects, changed the course of battle, single-handedly. But, they always fell victim to the more glamorous looking mounts that shot the enemy from the sky or rained bombs on his cities. Few of their crew ever made the papers, or posed for photographs, instead they plodded on as just another cog in the gears of the armed might humanity, content with their role.

For men who flew the PBY Catalina for the U.S. Navy, this was almost a certainty. An amphibious twin engine patrol aircraft with a boat shaped fuselage and wide squared wings, they spent many a day spanning the far reaches of the world’s oceans, ducking in and out of clouds to find signs of an enemy before anyone else, report him, shadow him, and hope no one, especially a fighter, spotted them.

They had some marvelous successes, though. In 1941, a PBY discovered the feared German battleship Bismarck, which unfolded a chain of events that led to her sinking, and little more than a year later, they found the Japanese fleet approaching Midway, which culminated in turning the tide of the war in the Pacific. Reliable and long ranged, they proved indispensable to commanders who needed timely intelligence.

Yet there were others, a few squadrons, in fact who managed to do things with this aircraft that defied logic. These were the stand outs. They painted it, armed it and sent it off to strike an unsuspecting enemy in the dead of night, often using only the dim lights shining on their instrument gauges to guide them. In the course of their history they built up a formidable reputation and proudly called themselves the “Black Cats.” And in their playground of the Pacific Ocean, they proved more than just a scourge.

Their earliest operations began during the Guadalcanal campaign which started in August 1942. Here the Japanese undertook a massive resupply effort to keep the island from falling, with hopes of retaking it. They sent streams of convoys down the narrow channels of the Solomon island chain and became known as the Tokyo Express. And more often than not, these were run at night, and included warships heading to bombard Guadalcanal’s prize, Henderson airfield.

Since night operations were much too dangerous to involve large numbers of aircraft, a decision was made to use unorthodox methods to harass the Japanese. They came up with the idea of using the PBY, which was found that after some aircraft modification and daring by the crew, might be the perfect answer.

The most visible modification made was its color. From nose to tail every part of the plane was painted matte black. Even the national emblem was darkened (later reversed) to prevent a target for searchlights to focus on. Later on, to keep with the moniker, some sported eyes and whiskers daubed on the nose. For electronics, radars and radio altimeters were installed to ensure navigational safety, and weapons of various types were hung under the wings. Now, with their once clumsy looking ocean blue albatrosses looking more like menacing vultures, the first official Black Cat missions commenced in December flown by crews from Navy squadron VP-12 under Commander Clarence Taff.

PBY-5A_VP-52_Black_Cat_Dec_1943_v1

Photo Credit: scoopweb.com via Wikipedia Commons

They were an immediate hit. Flying all night, soaring slowly, alone or in small groups above the dark waters they dipped down to ship mast height, to bomb and torpedo Japanese vessels of all shapes and sizes, as searchlights and tracer bullets swept the skies in vain trying to find the lumbering birds unseen, save for the deep chop of their engines.

With their greatest ally, the darkness, stolen from them, the Japanese would watch in horror as a random ship, then another, exploded in a blinding mass of flame and oily smoke that seemed to occur almost every night and at the beckon of those engines.

Not content, Black Cats also worked their magic against islands, terrorizing the enemy as America’s response to “Washing Machine Charlie.” This was a nickname pinned on a lone Japanese night raider who had frequented Henderson field, dropping bombs, hitting nothing but keeping nerves on edge. The Black Cats felt obliged to return the favor, so they visited different airfields dropping bombs of all sizes, as well as beer bottles with razors in the neck to make them scream as they fell. One pilot even dropped hand grenades, door knobs, chains and even shrapnel from an exploded Japanese bomb to rattle the cages of those below.

In missions like these, they would make four successive runs in half-hour intervals over the target before they got rid of everything carried. To say they deprived the enemy of sleep or work when doing this was an understatement.

The Black Cats knew, though, they had little defense should a fighter be nearby, so they developed tactics to keep their vulnerable planes from getting tracked by roaming patrols. The best moves, they found, were low over land and near wave-top level over water. This latter technique was especially effective as it confused an enemy’s depth perception. Since the Cat was nearly invisible against a dark ocean it took an almost suicidal pilot to dive on it unaware of where the Cat’s silhouette ended and the water began.

Once fighting on Guadalcanal ended and moved up the Solomons and inexorably toward Japan, more Black Cat squadrons were added, while VP-12 was withdrawn after having flown over 300 missions.

The new groups continued the Black Cats legacy, plying their deadly trade sinking or damaging thousands of tons of shipping and harassing harbors and employing a new tactic: working hand in hand with PT boats off the coasts as double-edged sword against shipping. This ploy helped them rack up even more nocturnal victories.

And crews were evolving the Catalina itself. Now, more machine guns were being added and even attempts to mount a tank gun were tried, but abandoned because such a beast wouldn’t fit. Nevertheless, this excess of automatic weaponry taught many a night fighter to keep its distance as their porcupine-like target lumbered over the waves at barely 115 miles per hour.

The Cats also made daylight appearances like their blue-attired cousins when reconnaissance was needed or as standbys for search and rescue. It was during one of these that an incredible feat occurred.

During a rescue patrol on February, 14th, 1943, a VP-34 PBY piloted by Lieutenant Nathan Gordon covered a massive daylight raid against Kavieng airfield on an island named New Ireland. Combat had been heavy and planes downed offshore, so he dipped his black bird low looking for rafts or heads bobbing in the waves which seemed heavier than usual.

He eased the Catalina toward the water, but the swells caused it to hit heavy, water spewing through the seams and bilges. He taxied the plane around an empty raft then satisfied there was no one around, lifted off again.

A radio call sent him to another location nearby. Another raft spotted. Men aboard, drifting close to shore.

An enemy boat set out toward it. A bomber strafed its course sending it back to the beach as Gordon set down again, spray erupting around the raft as the Japanese zeroed in on it.

He stopped engines, letting the raft float alongside, as bullets began puncturing the aircraft. Several men were hauled aboard and the Catalina lumbered over the waves.

Just as it lifted off, another call came. More men. Three this time. Again, another hard landing, the Japanese greeting them with bursts of tracer and sea spray kicking up around the plane as the engines stopped and tired hands pulled them inside.

Bouncing into the air, he set course for home. Then it came again. More men sighted. Counting his crew, he realized there were now 19 men aboard with no room left. But it didn’t matter, he was going back.

Gordon thundered low down the beach toward the raft tossing in the waves near shore. The Japanese poured fire at the plane as Gordon slammed it down the black skin bleeding water and oil as he pulled alongside with still engines. The six stuffed themselves aboard as the throttles shoved forward and the wounded, waterlogged, and overloaded cat struggled with each hop of wave, until it rose perhaps by will alone, into the big blue, tracked the entire way by relentless fire. It was to no avail. Gordon had done it, and got them back home a few hours later with his courage and crew bailing water out the hatches.

Word quickly made its way up the chain of command and soon Admiral William Halsey took time from his busy schedule to send the following message: “Please pass my admiration to that saga-writing Kavieng Cat crew. X-ray. Halsey.”

Nathan Gordon received the Medal of Honor.

lt-gordon-adm-kinkaid-cmh-660x539_v1

Photo Credit: sofrep.com

Squadrons stayed active throughout 1943 and into ’44 and included Australian (RAAF) groups. This expanded the operational areas, but the Cat’s days were coming to an end. Better aircraft such as the four-engine maritime B-24 Liberator, the PB4Y, was appearing in greater numbers and exceeding the Catalina’s attributes in most areas. And with their black paint flaking and unplugged bullet holes dotting their forms, the last of the Black Cat squadrons headed back to the U.S. in early 1945 to await the scrapyard. There, the outstanding success and sheer bravery of their crews remained unknown to the worker whose torch began to slice into that scarred and battered aluminum shape that once ruled the night.

U.S. Navy Black Cat Squadrons

  • VP-11
  • VP-12
  • VP-23
  • VP-24
  • VP-33
  • VP-34
  • VP-44
  • VP-52
  • VP-53
  • VP-54
  • VP-71
  • VP-81
  • VP-91
  • VP-101

PBY Catalina General Characteristics

  • Crew: 8 – pilot, co-pilot, bow turret gunner, flight mechanic, radioman, navigator and two waist gunners
  • Length: 63 ft 10 7/16 in (19.46 m)
  • Wingspan: 104 ft 0 in (31.70 m)
  • Height: 21 ft 1 in (6.15 m)
  • Wing area: 1,400 ft² (130 m²)
  • Empty weight: 20,910 lb (9,485 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 35,420 lb (16,066 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp radial engines, 1,200 hp (895 kW each) each
  • Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0309
  • Drag area: 43.26 ft² (4.02 m²)
  • Aspect ratio: 7.73

PBY Catalina Performance

  • Maximum speed: 196 mph (314 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 125 mph (201 km/h)
  • Range: 2,520 mi (4,030 km)
  • Service ceiling: 15,800 ft (4,000 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,000 ft/min (5.1 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 25.3 lb/ft² (123.6 kg/m²)
  • Power/mass: 0.034 hp/lb (0.056 kW/kg)
  • Lift-to-drag ratio: 11.9

PBY Catalina Armament

  • 3× .30 cal (7.62 mm) machine guns (two in nose turret, one in ventral hatch at tail)
  • 2× .50 cal (12.7 mm) machine guns (one in each waist blister)
  • 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) of bombs or depth charges; torpedo racks were also available

PBYBlackCat-1 Photo Credit: “Boosher” via mission4today.com

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Beautiful Aviation Art – Part Seven

If the title of this post is black and/or you see the fighter-pilot header, click on the title to view the featured-image header and continue reading. You can click on any image for a larger view and use the back button on your browser to return here.

My original intent was to publish this series in six parts, but my good friend and fellow ex-fighter pilot Yago F. de Bobadilla, Maj. Gen. SAF (ret), sent me additional examples of aviation art that deserve to be included. Here they are:

Slide02_test_v2

Slide03Ploesti, Romania, August 1, 1943–”Hell’s Wench,” a B-24 badly damaged by anti-aircraft artillery fire, led the 93rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) in its daring low level attack on the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania which supplied two-thirds of Germany’s petroleum production at that stage of World War II. Lieutenant Colonel Addison E. Baker, an Ohio National Guardsman who commanded the 93rd, ignored the fact he was flying over terrain suitable for safe landing. He refused to break up the lead formation and led his group to the target, where he dropped his bombs with devastating effect. Then he left the formation, but his valiant attempts to gain enough altitude for the crew to escape by parachute failed and the aircraft crashed. For their gallant leadership and extraordinary flying skill, both Baker and his pilot, Major John L. Jerstad, posthumously received the Medal of Honor . The raid, nicknamed “Operation Tidalwave“, was especially costly, with 54 of the 177 bombers lost and 532 of the 1,726 personnel engaged listed as dead, missing or interned.

Slide04Torpedo aircraft from the Akagi, the Hiryu and the Kaga targeted battleship row during this first wave. As portrayed in the painting, a Japanese Nakajima B5N2 “Kate” from the Akagi launches its torpedo from very low altitude against the USS West Virginia and Tennessee, virtual sitting ducks. The Japanese had trained carefully, and had modified their Kai Model 2 torpedoes to accommodate the shallow waters of Pearl Harbor. While caught by surprise, the USN was fortunate that its carriers were not in port, and that the Japanese had failed to destroy many of the support and repair facilities.

Slide05Encountering a mortally-wounded B-17 limping back to England, Stigler anticipated an easy kill and another opportunity to avenge his brother’s death at the opening of WWII. As he approached the virtually helpless American plane, however, he saw the faces of the dead and wounded crewmen. Then, Stigler’s eyes met those of pilot Charles Brown. Despite the potentially severe consequences of letting an enemy plane escape, Stigler felt that he had to answer a higher call of honor . . . mercy.

Slide06On his first combat mission and expecting it to be his last, Brown marveled as the enemy Bf-109 stuck with him to the North Sea. His adversary then saluted and veered away, allowing the astonished Brown to journey safely home. With this encounter engraved into the minds of both pilots for decades after the war’s end, the two men remarkably located one another in 1990. In the years that followed, their friendship developed to the point where Stigler considered Brown to be as precious as the brother he had lost. Note: For a fascinating CNN article on this event and its aftermath so many years later, see this.

Slide078 October 1940: While taking his Hawker Hurricane off from Speke airfield, a raiding JU88 crossed the airfield in front of Flt Lt Denys Gillam, who promptly shot it down. It was the fastest air victory of the war, and probably of all time. Robert Taylor’s painting shows Gillam’s Hawker Hurricane, guns blazing while undercarriage is still retracting.

Slide08

Slide09September 12, 1945. For countless American boys who sailed off to war in the Pacific, the Golden Gate Bridge was their last sight of home. Many would never return. Now, the veterans of WWII witness the joy of the nation they saved. A parade of watercraft escorts their convoy into San Francisco Bay while Corsairs of the “Black Sheep” provide an aerial salute. Stationed in California, the Black Sheep planes are factory fresh except for a war-weary model used for training. Like the heroes below, this tired fighter will soon retire, its mission accomplished. America is free. No homecoming would be sweeter than this.

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Addendum to “Beautiful Aviation Art – Part One”

One of my key objectives in this blog is to honor the legacy of WWII military aviators in whatever small way I can, and it’s a special thrill to receive comments from visitors with personal connections to the people and events in the posts.

The first of these relates to “Koga’s Zero,” by Jim Reardon. A visitor had evidence to support the contention that a family member had been the captain of the ship that transported the aircraft to California for flight testing, not the individual named in Reardon’s book.

The second arrived a few days ago in relation to the fourth image in the post “Beautiful Aviation Art–Part One.” Here’s the comment from the visitor:

“Great Paintings, one correction, on the 4th plate the B-17 9-0-9. It flew in the 323, not the 333 and it was stationed in Bassingbourn England. My Dad Flew 35 missions and I will forward his photo with the 9-0-9 if I have an address to send it to. There is also a plaque in Bassingbourn. I took a photo of it in 1999 when we visited the tower, which states the 9-0-9 was in the 323 and a monument at Bassingbourn that states the 9-0-9 was stationed there.”

I responded and received the following:

“Thank you for your prompt reply.  I have attached the photo of the plaque in England and a photo of my Dad and his crew along with a copy of the back of the photo which has all but one name of his crew. The missing name is of a man who flew only one mission with this crew which is why Dad couldn’t remember his name.

“The last time Dad flew was in June of 2011 with my son who is in flight school now and is a graduate of the Air Force Academy.  Dad folded his wings on May 13th 2012 at the age of 96 and we read “High Flight” at his memorial service. He and the rest of the crews that flew in WWII did an enormous job and I just want to make sure that the information is accurate.”

I could not agree more, so I contacted the author of the original slide show, my friend and fellow ex-fighter pilot Yago F. de Bobadilla, Maj. Gen. SAF (ret). He has corrected the English and Spanish text and sent me a link to the artist’s website, which contains the same mistaken reference to the 333rd Bomb Squadron rather than the 323rd. It’s probably nothing more than a typo, but that doesn’t make the correction any less significant.

Here’s the text of a Wikipedia article on the history of the aircraft and the efforts of the Collings Foundation to honor her memory by restoring another B-17G to 9-0-9’s original configuration, although there is some question about whether the colors on the substitute aircraft match those of the original. The images are from the article with embellishments added by me.

From Wikipedia:

The Nine-O-Nine, a B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber of the 323rd Bomb Squadron, 91st Bomb Group, completed 140 combat missions during World War II, believed to be the Eighth Air Force record for most missions, and never lost a crewman as a casualty. B-17G-85-DL, 44-83575, civil register N93012, owned and flown by The Collings Foundation, Stow, Massachusetts, currently appears at airshows marked as the historic Nine-O-Nine.

Service history

The original aircraft was a block 30 B-17G manufactured by the Boeing Company. She was nicknamed after the last three digits of her serial number: 42-31909. She was added to the USAAF inventory on December 15, 1943, and flown overseas on February 5, 1944. After depot modifications, she was delivered to the 91st BG at RAF Bassingbourn, England, on February 24, 1944, as a replacement aircraft, one of the last B-17s received in factory-applied camouflage paint.

A former navigator of the 91st BG, Marion Havelaar, reported in his history of the group that Nine-O-Nine completed either 126 or 132 consecutive missions without aborting for mechanical reasons, also believed to be a record. M/Sgt. Rollin L. Davis, maintenance line chief of the bomber, received the Bronze Star for his role in achieving the record.

Her first bombing raid was on Augsburg, Germany, on February 25, 1944. She made 18 bombing raids on Berlin. In all she flew 1,129 hours and dropped 562,000 pounds of bombs. She had 21 engine changes, four wing panel changes, 15 main gas tank changes, and 18 changes of Tokyo Tanks (long-range fuel tanks).

After the end of hostilities in Europe, Nine-O-Nine was returned to the United States on June 8, 1945, and was consigned after the war to the RFC facility at Kingman, Arizona, on December 7, 1945, and eventually scrapped.

The Collings Foundation Nine-O-Nine

Collings_B-17_909Another B-17G (Serial # 44-83575) has been returned to her wartime configuration under the auspices of the nonprofit Collings Foundation of Stow, MA and given the name “Nine-O-Nine.” The Collings Flying Fortress was built at Long Beach, CA by the Douglas Aircraft Company and accepted on April 7, 1945. Although she was too late for combat, #44-83575 did serve air-sea rescue duties as part of the Air/Sea 1st Rescue Squadron and later in the Military Air Transport Service.

In April 1952, #44-83575 was instrumented and subjected to the effects of three different nuclear explosions. After a thirteen-year “cool down” period, #44-83575 was sold as part of an 800-ton scrap pile and Aircraft Specialties Company began the restoration of the aircraft. Damaged skin was fabricated and replaced on site; engines and props were stripped, cleaned, repaired, and tested; four thousand feet of new control cable was installed; all electrical wiring and instrumentation was replaced.

For twenty years, without a major problem or incident, #44-83575 served as a fire bomber dropping water and borate on forest fires. She was sold in January 1986 to the Collings Foundation. Restored to her original wartime configuration by Tom Reilly Vintage Aircraft, she represented one of the finest B-17 restorations and won several awards.

Collings_b-17_909_landingCivilian Crashes

On August 23, 1987, while performing at an airshow at the Pittsburgh suburban Beaver County Airport, “Nine-O-Nine” was caught by a severe crosswind moments after touchdown. The right wing lifted in the air, finally coming down too far down the runway. Despite the efforts of her crew, she rolled off the end of the runway, crashed through a chain link fence, sheared off a power pole and roared down a 100-foot ravine to a thundering stop. The landing gear sheared off, the chin turret was smashed and pushed into the nose; the Plexiglas nose was shattered; bomb bay doors, fuselage, ball turret, wing and nacelles all took a tremendous beating. Engines and propellers were also torn from their mounts. Fortunately, there were no fatalities to the crew or riders although there were injuries.

For a second time, this B-17 “rose from the ashes.” With nacelles from the famed B-17 Shoo Shoo Baby, thousands of volunteer hours at Air Heritage Aircraft Restoration Inc., support from the folks of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, and donations from individuals and corporations, she was made whole again to carry on the proud and rugged heritage of the B-17. Since the crash at Beaver County Airport, the B-17 has succeeded in visiting over 1200 tour stops.

End of Wikipedia article

I have included more images below with captions as an addendum to the original post.

B17_909_crew_v1The Crew of Nine-O-Nine (credit the visitor)

B-17_909_back-of-photo_v1Back of the photo (credit the visitor)

323 PlaqueThe Plaque at Bassingbourn (credit the visitor)

Real_909_v1The Original Nine-O-Nine Nose Art (credit unknown)

B-17G-909-Nose-Art_v1The Collings Foundation Nine-O-Nine Nose Art (credit Tom Philo)

 

 

 

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Texting Arrives in the Cockpit

This article appeared today on avweb.com

“An accident synopsis from the NTSB identifies the pilot’s personal texting as a contributing factor in the Aug. 26, 2011, crash of a Eurocopter AS350 B2 helicopter near Mosby, Mo., that killed all aboard. The flight was operated as a medical services mission flown in VFR conditions, carrying three crew and one patient. It crashed due to fuel starvation “about 1 nm short” of its planned refueling stop, according to the NTSB. The NTSB says that “the pilot missed three opportunities to detect” the aircraft’s low fuel state and was engaged in texting before and during the flight portion of the mission.

“According to the NTSB, the pilot failed to recognize the low fuel condition during a preflight check and the before-takeoff checklist, and then reported the wrong fuel level after takeoff. The accident took place on the second leg of the flight, which the pilot undertook “despite knowing the helicopter had insufficient fuel reserves.” When the helicopter’s turbine flamed out, the pilot then failed to maintain the rotor energy necessary for autorotation and the aircraft impacted the ground in a 40-degree nose-down attitude “at a high rate of descent with a low rotor rpm.” Aside from texting, the NTSB also cited “degraded performance due to fatigue,” the operator’s fuel policies, and lack of practice regarding engine failure at cruise speed.”

Accident investigations always contain an examination of the event sequence leading up to the crash. In this case, the potential for fuel starvation existed before the pilot took off for the first leg of the mission, but his preoccupation with a device that has no business being in the cockpit helped kill four people.

Stupidity abounds in our addiction to handheld devices that transport us from where we are to where we might rather be. Why doesn’t someone develop an anti-idiot app?

Now that would be useful for a change.

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Beautiful Aviation Art–Part Six

We complete the six-part series to showcase some of the finest examples of art depicting events of the WWII air war. I discovered the original images in a gorgeous slide show created by a good friend and fellow fighter pilot, Yago F. de Bobadilla, who rose to the rank of Major General in the Spanish Air Force.

Slide47January 1st 1945. All across western Europe airfields are thrown into chaos as the Luftwaffe unleashes a desperate surprise offensive to destroy allied air power on the ground. “Operation Bodenplatte” would instead result in the death knell for the once formidable German Air Force.

There were some successes, however. Eindhoven, the home of the RAF’s 2nd TAF was hit hard, first by Jg-3 and then in a case of mistaken identity by Jg-6. It was the latter strike the artist wanted to show. The airfield is already burning from the first attack when Jg-6’s 1st Gruppe race across the airfield causing even more damage. Red “12” belonged to Ewald Trost, and he was luckier than most as his aircraft was shot down, but he survived and was taken prisoner. Ironically, the 1st Gruppe was to enjoy the most success for Jg-6 that day. The rest of the unit couldn’t find their designated target at Volkel, and as a result found themselves simply trying to stay alive and get home.

Slide48Dawn breaks over the English countryside. This is the summer of 1940, and the island nation is in the grips of war–the Battle of Britain. A woman riding her bicycle, hearing the roar of approaching aircraft, stops to gaze upward. She watches Spitfires from 92 Squadron streak across the sky, determined to search out and destroy the fighters and bombers of Hitler’s Luftwaffe. Silently the woman offers up a prayer.

Slide49This painting has no English description, but you don’t have to read Spanish to understand the significance of the date. Above the largest seaborne invasion in the history of warfare, a P-47D holds an escort position on a twin-engine transport stricken by anti-aircraft fire. The Thunderbolt’s mission is to protect the transport from airborne attack, so all the pilot can do is keep German fighters at bay and prevent further damage. The fire is probably fatal, but some or all of the crew might be able to abandon the aircraft successfully.

Slide50Within two days of the D-Day Normandy invasion, on 8 June 1944, Commander of US Air Forces in Europe, General Carl Spaatz, ordered a massive new offensive to halt the supply of oil to the enemy forces. As top priority, his bombers would henceforth concentrate their attacks on Germany’s refineries. Those in range of air bases in England would feel the full force of the Eighth Air Force, while the installations further south in Romania, Hungary, and southern Germany would be attacked by bombers of the Fifteenth Air Force based in Italy. To add to the pressure, RAF Bomber Command was coordinated to attack the refineries in the Rühr by night.

As the huge mass of American bombers streamed into the daylight skies, the Luftwaffe quickly changed tactics to counter the potentially devastating threat with a new specialist tactic- the Sturmgruppe. Flying their redesigned and heavily armoured Sturmböcke Focke Wulf Fw190 A-8 heavy fighters, pilots of the newly formed IV Sturm/JG3 Gruppe were urgently assigned the task of attacking the vast bomber streams in an effort to protect the refineries. Escorted into battle by Messerschmitt Me109s to hold off any escorting American fighters, The Focke Wulf Fw190 tactic was to make en-masse lightning attacks on carefully selected targets. With the American bomber formations spread over miles of sky, the Sturmgruppe aimed for the less-well-defended center of the stream, attacking from the rear with concentrated cannon fire. The pilots of IV Sturm /JG3 swore an oath to press home their attacks at the closest possible range, even ramming their targets if necessary to ensure a kill. These desperate tactics were to inflict considerable damage to the allied bomber offensive during the final year of the war.

Richard Taylor’s exciting new limited edition captures the scene: Closing at high speed with all cannons blazing. Unteroffizier Willi Maximowitz is seen flying his distinctive “Black 8” with IV Sturm/JG3 as he dives in to attack a formation of USAAF B-24 Liberators from the 93rd Bomb Group. The American gunners have a frightening task on their hands to fend off the attack until help arrives.

Slide51

A Luftwaffe Junkers Ju88 bomber on a strike over the Tunisian desert of North Africa.

Slide52Pearl Harbor wasn’t the only place attacked on December 7th. Across the International Date Line–making it officially December 8th–lay Clark Field, which was pounded by Japanese “Betty” Bombers, then strafed by Zeroes. Some American pilots managed to counterattack. Two such heroes, LT. General USAF (Ret.) Joseph Moore and Colonel USAF (Ret.) Sam Grashio, are pictured in “Too Little Too Late.”

Lt. Joe Moore in his Curtiss P-40B Tomahawk at 22,000 feet over Clark Field is defending against the Japanese attackers as war begins in the Philippines. Over the smoke below is Petty Officer First Class Saburo Sakai’s Zero pursuing Lt. Sam Grashio in his P-40E.

Slide53Christmas Day, 1941. American Volunteer Group Flight Leader Parker Dupouy finds his guns jammed during combat high over the Gulf of Martaban. Determined to bring down his adversary, he rams the Hayabusa Oscar of Lt. Hiroshi Okuyama of the JAAF 64th Sentai. Though he lost four feet of his wingtip and his entire aileron, Dupouy made it back to his base to fight another day. Lt. Okuyama’s aircraft, however, broke up in flight and carried him to his death. Dupouy went on to score 6.5 victories in the air before war’s end.

Slide54Burma 1944. Two Hurricane Mk IICs attack a bridge used by Japanese over the Ukhrul river. The lead ship is piloted by an Anglian-Argentinean pilot named “Dick” Lindsell DFC, Commander of Swarm 60. The airplane piloted by Lindsell was nicknamed “Suertudo” (Lucky), and was decorated with tapeworm painted on the side in the Patoruzú style. Its matriculation was MU-L.

Note: Patoruzú is a comic character created in 1928 by Dante Quinterno and is considered the most popular hero of Argentine comics. Patoruzú is a wealthy landowner with great state properties in Patagonia, and he is possessed of both superhuman physical strength and a charitable yet naive heart. The character was the first comic superhero in the world.

Slide55May 7, 1945. With Goring’s champagne and Bavarian beer, the veterans of Easy Company celebrate the end of World War II in Europe. Fate could write no better ending for the paratroopers who jumped into the darkness of Normandy, slugged through the mud of Holland, and froze in the woods of Bastogne. Now, in Berchtesgaden’s storybook Alps, P-51s of the “Checkertail Clan” cap the party as the Band of Brothers enjoy the spoils of war, the beauty of peace, and a toast to the heroes who fell along the way.

 

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