Saturday, December 31, 2011

OK, Where is He THIS Time?

Or, This Year is Off to a Bang-Up Start

You'd be more than justified in wondering what's going on around here, since it's been a couple of weeks now since you've heard from us. In point of fact, you haven't seen a new issue of the blog since we reported that a couple of folks were stealing our photography and claiming it (by default, if nothing else) as their own; that sort of thing could easily lead you to believe that we've folded the tent in disgust, but that's not the way we are or will ever be. Nope; there are other circumstances causing this temporary lapse in publication. We're blessed with an extremely loyal readership, so an explanation is in order. Here's what's going on:

First, there's the software issue with those photos. We've found a pip of a system that will allow us to deal with the whole piracy thing in a highly-efficient manner but it's not installed just yet, for reasons that will become clear in a moment. We're loath to run more photos from anybody's collection (not counting public domain) until that problem is resolved but still, we've got resolution pending. All we have to do is do it.

That takes us to The Second Thing You Need to Know. Jenny and I are off on an adventure to improve our home situation, and it's one of those time-consuming things. It's a lame excuse at best, but the simple fact of the matter is that we (I) just haven't had the time to do a blog. (Just so you know, it normally takes six to eight hours out of any given week for us to crank out an issue, which makes that whole photography-theft thing even more galling---Yes; we're annoyed about that!)

The Third Thing You Need to Know is that our computer (an almost new device) decided to go Tango Uniform three days ago, and we just haven't had the time to replace the card that's failed because of that Second Thing You Needed to Know (in conjunction with The Fourth Thing You Need to Know, which we haven't gotten to yet). It's our intention to get up and running again next week. In the meantime, we're doing this installment on a borrowed laptop. Please be patient. (And in that same vein, we haven't been able to check our e-mails either. If you've written to us, please rest assured that you're not being ignored. It's a technical issue and nothing more!)

And speaking of "patients", we're now ready to discuss The Fourth Thing You Need to Know. Your humble editor experienced what some folks might call "a minor medical event" on Christmas Night, the end result of which was a visit to a not-so-local emergency room and overnight incarceration in that facility. We're going back in for Final Repair early next week. It's not a major thing, but it's a Thing nontheless and has to be dealt with.

So let's get back to the reason you haven't seen an issue of our publication lately. To sum up, we've been sick, we've been busy, our computer's been broken, and we're still dealing with The Picture Pirates. All of those things should be resolved shortly, at which time we'll be back in the saddle with a vengeance. In the meanwhile, please accept our apologies for the temporary lack of new material. We'll be back Good As New before you know it!

May you all have the happiest of New Years, and we WILL meet again soon! In the meanwhile, be good to your neighbor.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It Had to Happen Sooner or Later

"It" being the taking of photography from this site and publishing it on other sites and boards without permission. Let's talk about that for a minute.

We knew from the very start that sooner or later some of our photography would end up in places we'd never intended for it to be. That's just the nature of publishing material on the internet. There have been occasional instances of that sort of thing happening all along, but the infringements have been from well-intentioned folks who put a photo or two on a modeling board or enthusiast's site, and most of the time they gave provenance (that means "credit", in case you didn't know) for the image, either to this site or to the original photographer. We don't have much of an issue with that; in point of fact we appreciate the compliment.

What we do have an issue with is the large-scale taking of photography, without our permission, for use on other sites, and we've just received reports from multiple readers, including several of our contributors, that this has begun to happen. As a result, at least one of those contributors has stated that he may dramatically decrease the amount of photography he's willing to share with us. This particular contributor is someone we've known for years, since the days of the print version of RIS in fact, and he's someone we have tremendous respect for. We don't want to lose his contributions or anybody else's and, perhaps most importantly, we don't want to deny our readership the unlimited access to all of the wonderful photography we've been able to share due to the kindness of our contributors.

So, what are the options? The first is that we could just give up and cease operations, but that ain't gonna happen. Or, we could just sit back and do nothing, but that ain't gonna happen either. We could also put a big old nasty Replica in Scale watermark on each and every photograph we publish, even though that would be defeating the whole purpose of this effort.

What's left, then? Well, we're considering all of the available options, but in the meantime we'd like to ask a favor of you. If you see one of our photos on somebody else's site without accreditation, would you please let them know that it's from Replica? Don't go nuts or be aggressive about it; just tell them where you saw it first. We don't want to watermark those photos, ya'll, but we'll do it if we have to. And for you folks who're lifting the photos; please stop it. We suspect you're doing it with the best of intentions but your actions are going to cause us to greatly diminish the service we provide, completely free of charge and as a labor of love, to the several thousands of our readers who regularly view this site. That's just wrong on so many levels.

That's our story and Folks; we are absolutely sticking with it. You can go to the bank on it.

Be kind to your neighbor, but don't you go takin' our photography!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

North American's Finest, Waterfowl, Bitchin' Ben, More Post-War Forts, Essential Reading, and a Trojan or Two

OK, OK; So We're Late Again

And we can sum it up by saying things are pretty busy around the Friddell household these days. It seems, in fact, that we're going in about twenty directions all at once, but all the stuff that's keeping us so busy should begin to calm down next month. In the meanwhile, here's our most recent offering for your consideration. We hope you enjoy it!

Wha'cha Doin', Hun?

If somebody were to do a survey of everybody's favorite Air Force jet, we're willing to bet that North American Aviation's immortal F-100 series of fighters and fighter-bombers would rank pretty high in the standings. Originally designed as an air-superiority fighter, the Super Sabre spent most of her days as a fighter-bomber. She was the first of the "Century Series" fighters and in consequence was the poorest performer of that stellar group of aircraft. Still, she was good enough for the job, staying in service for three decades before finally being put out to pasture for keeps.

We haven't really done very much with the "Hun" so far; for some reason we've always been enticed by other airplanes when the time came to figure out what airplanes we wanted to cover as we planned our upcoming issues. Since it's the holiday season we wanted to do something fairly colorful to celebrate the event, so today is The Day for the F-100. We aren't running a very many photos this time, but we think you'll enjoy what you see, and there's definitely more to come in later editions!

There are a whole bunch of folks out there who immediately think of the Thunderbirds when they remember the F-100, and there's a reason for it---the airplane was loud, colorful, and still relatively new when the team used the type. They started out with the Charlie model, so it's fitting that we begin this piece with an F-100C as well. 54-1850 was an F-100C-20-NA and was on tour with the team in Europe when this photo was taken at Laon AB in July of 1963. The "candy cane" treatment on her refueling probe is particularly noteworthy. Oh, and take a look at the other airplanes in this shot; you just never know what might turn up at an airshow...  R. Franke

54-2011 was a USAFE bird too; an F-100C-25-NA from the 23rd TFS/36th TFW. She was on the ground at her base in Germany when this photo was taken in June of 1961. The C-Models were the air-to-air brawlers of the family, at least in theory; they were the fastest of the F-100s and the lightest as well, making them the closest thing the Super Sabre ever was to a pure fighter. In retrospect it was probably a Very Good Thing the "Hun" never had to go toe-to-toe with any of the MiGs in a classic knife fight---although there was at least one encounter between the F-100 and the MiG-17 during the Vietnam fracas, the Super Sabre was badly outclassed by the more nimble Soviet-built fighters it would have encountered in any war over Europe. It helps to keep in perspective the fact that the "Hun" was the first of the "Century Series". There was a lot to learn!  Kerr Collection

The "Charlie" actually saw combat in Vietnam, but in the hands of the ANG rather than the regulars. The F-100C went into the Guard fairly quickly and wore some extremely colorful markings in the process. 54-2013, an F-100C-25-NA, was assigned to Kansas' 127th TFS when this photo was taken in 1962. The articulated pitot tube of the "Hun" was unique to that airplane in the USAF and is an interesting point to watch if you happen to be building a model of the type. You wouldn't always see it folded like this, but it was a common way to secure the aircraft when parked, and it was a feature incorporated into every F-100 built.  Vince Reynolds

The F-100D was the definitive version of the Super Sabre. The variant was modified into a fighter-bomber, a role in which it could have excelled had it had a little more power and the ability to carry MERs. 56-3292, an F-100D-85-NH, ended up as a QF-100D but was the 49th Fighter Group's wing commander's aircraft when this photo was taken. She's got the straight refueling probe but has been retrofitted with an F-102 afterburner section. The "Hun" was, in our opinion, one of the prettiest jet fighters the Air Force ever operated. That's our story and we're sticking with it!  Friddell Collection

You just can't do an article on the F-100 without showing at least one photograph of a formation of them attached to some sort of piston-engined refuelling platform. In this shot that platform is a KB-50, and the ubiquitous "Huns" are from the 614th TFS/401st TFW out of Langley in 1959. Those of you not familiar with this sort of thing might note that all three available refuelling positions are in use (a drogue hose is attached to the fuselage boom), and that the aircraft are in different flight attitudes due to the speed differential between the two types; the KB-50 is heading slightly down-hill, while the "Huns" are flying with a fairly high angle of attack and hanging on the tanker. It was awkward, but it worked.  Isham Collection

The F-100 was a hot airplane when compared to the first-generation fighters it replaced, and the need for a two-seater for transition training was identified fairly early-on in the program. The F-100F was the result of the requirement and was fully combat capable, a circumstance that made it particularly useful in Southeast Asia during that unfortunate war. This gorgeous USAFE example was with the 50th TFW at Hahn in August of 1965; 56-3814 was built as an F-100F-10-NA and ended up on a pole in Texas City, Texas. We ran a 3/4 tail view of her a few issue ago, prompting Dave Menard to point out her red wing fences, which are extremely evident in this view. Dave, this "Hun's" for you!  R. Franke

Here's a teaser for you! The "Hun" is the same---she's 56-3814---but the other airplanes in the shot are of considerable interest. The T-39 (another North American product) isn't all that unique, but check out that ramp in the background...  R. Franke

Here's a better view of Those Other Airplanes. There's a fair chance we've got a shot or two of them laying around someplace, but you guys probably aren't interested in seeing them, are you? (We'll just sit back and wait for the letters to arrive at !)  R. Franke

We could (and someday will) do a piece on the F-100 and its service during the Vietnam War, but for now this shot will have to suffice to show the airplane in that environment. 56-3836 was eventually converted into a QF-100F, but she was being shot at in earnest by a real enemy when this photo was taken in 1966. She was a -10-NA and affords us an excellent view of the type's appearance during the war.  D. Smith

The "Hun" was a warrior, but she served other purposes as well. 56-3889 (another F-100F-10-NA) was assigned to Systems Command and was working out of Eglin when this photo was taken in 1971. She's of special interest because of her Aircraft Grey paintwork; that grey paint wasn't foreign to the F-100 but it wasn't the norm either. Check out the heat-stained aft fuselage; it didn't really matter what color paint you squirted on the F-100. After a couple of hours in the air it would all be gone from the back of the airplane!  J. Rose

It goes without saying that we've got at least one or two more photos of the F-100 hidden around here someplace. We'll drag them out some day and take a look, but that's it for now!

If It Walks Like a Duck

then it must surely be one. Grumman's J2F Duck series of amphibians has fascinated us for years. Today, thanks to Bobby Rocker, we can take a look at this under-appreciated jack-of-all-trades.

The Duck generally ended up in the Navy's utility squadrons, where it performed every chore imaginable. BuNo 1578 was a J2F3 and was assigned to NAS Jacksonville in 1940, when this photo was taken. Her appearance defines the way the NAV took care of their airplanes between the wars. A close examination of the wheel covers will reveal that the airplane is well-used, but her overall finish is absolutely immaculate. To the best of our knowledge there have been two worthwhile kits of the J2F; Airfix's in 1/72nd and Classic Airframes' in 1/48th. (There was also, if memory serves, a sort-of 1/48th scale offering from ITC way back in the Dark Ages of Plastic Modeling, but we aren't counting that one!) We'd sure love to see a state of the art kit of this airplane!  Rocker Collection

This unidentified J2F was flying with the Coasties out of Floyd Bennett Field, allegedly in 1942. We've got our doubts about the timeline because of her natural metal and yellow finish, but she's pretty enough to include here.  The Duck got around!  Rocker Collection

The J2F in her element. This example is taxiing in to the ramp at Samarai Island, probably during late 1943 or early 1944. A tractable, easy-to-handle amphibian that could operate almost anywhere was a distinct asset to the Navy. Photos like this make it easy to forget how unforgiving the war could be, even in the rear areas.  Rocker Collection

Here's what can happen when it all goes south on you. This J2F5 was operating in the Atlantic when things went terribly wrong. We've said it over and over again but it bears repeating; it wasn't always the enemy that got you.  Rocker Collection

A Forty-Niner

Hasegawa created one of the hobby's most controversial series of kits a few years back when they released their landmark P-40 family in 1/48th scale. The kits in that series were petitely-done, exquisitely detailed, and modular. That modularity has challenged a great many scale modelers from that day the models were released to the public until now, but the kit is an easy build if you take your time and think things through before you begin assembly. We've got several built-up examples of the model on our shelves at the moment and would like to share one of them with you today.

"Bitchin' Ben" Irwin was one of the 49th's old stagers, a Java survivor and veteran of the early days over Darwin. I've always had an interest in that particular time period and am slowly building a representative collection of the 49th during their Darwin days. "The Rebel" is the second model in that collection and was built straight from the Hasegawa kit; the only addition was a set of Eduard AAF seatbelts and harnesses. Irwin's aircraft was an easy choice for a modeling subject---between the fuselage art, the name, and that inclined aircraft-in-group number on the vertical stab, the airplane just screams "build me!" I didn't say no.

Here's another view of the airplane. That tan is Testor Vietnam Tan, while the dark green is a generic green I pulled of the shelf when I was getting ready to paint the model. The undersides are done in a light grey that was also pulled off the shelf when the painting was about to begin; if you choose to model one of the 49th's Darwin birds do yourself a favor and remember that Curtiss used their interpretation of RAF colors when they did the British Contract (and related) aircraft. If you build one of these airplanes and paint it in RAF colors you'll be making a mistake and your friends will tease you unmercifully. Don't say you weren't warned! (And, just for the record, that tan is darker on the model than it appears here---it's a Lighting Thing!)

I always try to show The Other Side when we do these modeling pieces, so here it is. It's not unusual to find 49th FG P-40Es with personal markings on both sides of the airplane, but "The Rebel" was apparently marked on the port side only, making this view somewhat boring. Those decals came from an old MicroScale (or maybe SuperScale; I can't remember which!) decal sheet. You can actually model 10 or 15 of the early 49th birds if you look around---the decals are out there. They just aren't all in one place!

Here's a good view of that undersurface grey. The Hasegawa P-40s all have that "Warhawk sit" so peculiar to the P-40, and their level of detail is superb right out of the box. The modular construction has been an issue for more than a few modelers, and any of the Hase P-40s require some genuine modeling skills to build properly. If your personal abilities have been gained on Shake and Bake kits these P-40s are probably best left alone. Then again, how will you ever learn if you don't try? Right? Right!

Korean War-Era Flying Fortresses

Boy, did we ever start something a few issues back. We kicked off our whole post-war B-17 thing about a year ago with a couple of photos of SB-17s from Jim Sullivan's collection, then added to the pot  with a photo of a Misawa-based SB-17G courtesy of Dave Menard, and have been stumbling across (and running) photos of others as they became available to us ever since. Those photos got Don Jay interested in what we were doing and caused him to search his collection for additional images---you've already seen a few of them, and today we're going to run a few more. Here's what Don had to say about that:

Hi Phil, Just getting around to digesting your latest blog from last week and thought I would send you a few things of interest. There has been a mini-thread on some unknown B-17s seen during the Korean War. What started my interest was a photo in your early 2010 blog that had an armed B-17 (photo 1) at Misawa along with an A-1 lifeboat and ASV radar and antennae. Although I was aware of the SB-17, I never knew it was armed with the possible exception of the tail stinger. Piquing my curiosity, I looked into the history of the Air Force Rescue Service during the Korean War. Although covered in general terms, there isn’t a lot in print on the subject, even less in photos and most seem to dwell on the helicopter and SA-16. What is overlooked is the SB-17G (nee B-17H) and the SB-29. Both did a lot of ‘grunt’ work in the daily routine of strikes and other missions in the Korean theater. Somewhere around 15 SB-17Gs were used between the 2nd and 3rd Rescue Squadrons flying out of various bases in Japan & Okinawa. Photo 2 has this one at Misawa at the time of transfer of all SB-17s in theater to the 3RSq at Misawa-note the guns and lack of the shoe horn antennae for the ASV radar. The SB-17 was capable of being armed depending on situation and area of operation. Photo 3 depicts an SB-17 on a civilian airfield in the 1950 timeframe-the 7RSq’s AOR was the European theater and the Med-note the lack of weapons but the ASV radar antennae. Photo 4 is one of the 5RSq, stateside. They had the US as their AOR and I think were the RTU for the type. Hope this is of interest of a little known ac and mission. Would love to see any other photos of an armed SB-17G. Cheers for now. dj
PS: #1 photo is from Dave Menard collection, #2&3 are ??, #4 is USAF.

Here's one of the shots that started it all, and the photo Don refers to as #1; Dave Menard's photo of 43-39361 at Misawa in 1951. She's armed, apparently because of her opportunities of being exposed to the tender mercies of The Bad Guys while performing her SAR function. It's a fascinating photo and gives us a unique window into a forgotten part of the Korean War.  Menard Collection

Here's another view of a Misawa-based SB-17, referred to above as photo #2. By SB-17 standards she's armed to the teeth; note the guns fitted to her cheek positions and the dorsal turret. We have to wonder how many times the SAR SB-17s and SB-29s had to use those guns...  USAF via Jay

Here's the shot referred to as photo #3 in Don's description above. The aircraft was apparently photographed at an air show somewhere in Western Europe during the Korean War era. The SB-17 doesn't look nearly as menacing when it's unarmed, does it?  USAF via Jay Collection

And here's the final shot to round out our SB-17 coverage for today. Although it's a little soft, this photo really helps to define the color demarcations on the airplane.  USAF via Don Jay
Some Books You Ought to Have
We don't do a whole lot of reviewing around here. That's because all the other internet aviation sites do so much of it, and we have to figure those other guys have things pretty much under control, most of the time, anyway.
Most of our readers are all too aware of the interest we have in the Pacific War. There are any number of books out there on the subject, but for the most part they all cover the mid and late phases of the war. The Bad Old Days are pretty much omitted, primarily, we suspect, because the various authors involved in producing those books haven't been able to access the source material necessary for that sort of an undertaking. William Bartsch is an exception to the rule, and we're going to very briefly describe the volumes he's produced on the early days of the Pacific War. His scholarship is exellent, and we think you'll consider the books to be essential reading.
So far he's produced three volumes on those terrible early days of the war in the air in the Pacific Theater. Each one of them is well-documented, adequately foot-noted, scholarly, and each is filled with appendices relevant to the work at hand. In point of fact, our only complaint is that the photos supplied in each volume are tiny and therefore almost useless to the modeler---that's a shame, too, because the majority of those images are previously umpublished. Still, we don't buy this sort of book for the pictures, but for the hard information included within them. Taken in that respect, each one of these books is a treasure and we recommend them all without reservation. If you have an interest in them, all three can be obtained through the Texas A&M  press.

Doomed at the Start; American Pursuit Pilots in the the Philipines, 1941-1942 is the first volume in the Bartsch trilogy and covers United States fighter operations in those islands from 1940 until the ultimate surrender to the Japanese. It was ground-breaking when first released and is still the best single work on the subject.

The second volume in the trilogy, December 8, 1941; MacArthur's Pearl Harbor concerns itself with the Japanese air attack on the Philippines during the first day of America's involvement in the war although there is, of necessity, quite a bit of background material presented as well.

Every Day a Nightmare; American Pursuit Pilots in the Defense of Java, 1941-1942, is the third book in the set and is, quite frankly, the one we've enjoyed the most, primarily because so many of the pilots mentioned ended up flying with the 49th out of Darwin once Java had fallen to the Japanese. It also covers a period virtually untouched by other historians.

We can't recommend these books highly enough, but that's with a caveat: All three of these books are serious histories of their specific topics. They aren't necessarily light reading and what few photos are in them are small. There are none of the color profile drawings so highly-regarded by modelers. They aren't for everybody. They are for those among us who have a serious interest in the subjects covered which, we suspect, would include most of the RIS readership. "Superb" is a word that comes to mind.
'Nuff said!

The Gallopita-Gallopita Machine

Or you'd think so, anyway. All you had to do was listen to a throttled-back T-28 and you'd know the sound. At higher rpm the Trojan sounded like any other military airplane with a radial engine, but at slow cruise it sounded like, well, a gallopita-gallopita machine. There's no other way to describe it.

No matter how goofy the airplane sounded, the T-28 was quite a package and has proven to be extremely popular on today's warbird circuit due to its two-seat capacity and performance better suited to a mid-war fighter than a training aircraft. That's all the incentive we needed to put together today's final piece. Let's take a look at the T-28 as it appeared while serving with TraCom in the early 1980s.

The post-Korean War Navy has never been shy where gaudily-painted airplanes are concerned, and the birds of TraCom were a case in point. Frank Garcia captured 138247 at an NAS Corpus Christi airshow in June of 1979. VT-27 started out the decade with "D" for a tailcode but changed over to "G" fairly quickly after it was realized that, as a call sign, "delta" could be misconstrued as belonging to a certain Atlanta-based airline ("Hello Tower; this is Delta 777"...). Triple Seven ended her days in a museum, a somewhat unusual fate for the Trojan.  F. Garcia

Here's another variation on the VT-27 theme, photographed in October of 1980. 140041 provided a prime example of the squadron's "standard" markings, although the exception was very much the rule where the T-28 was involved. Note that 041 has it's blind-flying bag fitted in the aft cockpit. The puddle of oil under the engine was a bonus and came free with each and every T-28 built.  R. Morgan

And here's another example, photographed at a Corpus Christi airshow in June of 1980. The airplane is our old friend 138247 again, but with a different tail treatment. The aircraft was nominally assigned to the CNATra commanding officer, hence the star under the forward cockpit. Are you beginning to detect a trend with these airplanes?  Friddell

You really couldn't describe any orange and white airplane as dull, but not all TraCom birds were as colorful as those of VT-27. 138358 was a T-28B assigned to VT-6 when Bob Picket caught her on the ground at an airshow at Offutt in July of 1980. Check out the exhaust staining on this aircraft; it's typical of the Trojan and is very much a part of her personality.  R. Pickett

June of 1981 found us on the ramp at Chase, where we were able to shoot 137789 as she arrived for an airshow there. VT-27's "arrowhead" marking has reappeared on her tail and she's representative of the type in squadron service. Once again we get a look at the blind flying bag in the rear cockpit, and the ground crew provide us with an excellent sense of scale. The T-28B wasn't big, but she wasn't all that small either.  Friddell

The year is 1981, and the place is NAS Corpus Christi. It's the morning of an airshow and these VT-27 T-28Bs have been stashed at the edge of the ramp. That leads us to your Official Stump the Champs question for the day: What's that net thingy sitting beside the T-28 in the foreground? If you guessed bailout net you guessed right; it was used for emergency egress training with the aircraft. While the T-28D was fitted with a poor man's ejection seat (the Yankee Extraction System), all other T-28s took care of emergency exits the old-fashioned way---you unbuckled and jumped over the side. In theory the net allowed fledgling airmen to become proficient in the exercise. It didn't always work that way in practice.  Friddell

A full squadron of T-28s sitting on the ground is impressive indeed. Here's the rest of VT-27 waiting for the airshow to end on that same June day in Corpus. TraCom was a humming place in the 80s.  Friddell

Every picture tells a story, and this one's no exception. The only problem with this particular story is that we have absolutely no idea what it is! 140028 carries a variation of VT-27's markings but is in gull grey over white, and is absolutely filthy to boot! She appears to be airworthy, but we honestly don't know the story behind her paintwork---if you do, please drop us a line at and fill us in. We'd really like to know!  D. Balcer

12 June, 1983, was heavily overcast in the early morning, which was when we snapped this portrait of 138349 at Chase. She had just arrived in preparation for yet another airshow when we took this photo of her crew securing the aircraft. Pay attention when you look at the markings on those old Trojans; marking sizes and presentations changed with amazing frequency back then!  Friddell

Here's another view of 349. The T-28 was a simple aircraft, designed in the finest traditions of the Second World War, but she was a performer too. We're willing to bet there are at least a couple of homesick former Naval aviators looking at this photo right now...  Friddell

And this is as good a time as any to end our look at the T-28B for today. We only looked at a couple of short years of her career, but we think the photos might have been of interest. Now then, if the guys at Roden would just get off the dime and release their 1/48th scale kit of the Trojan...   Friddell

Happy Snaps

Today's Happy Snap comes from Don Jay, although it wasn't taken by him. Let's see what he's got:

Back in Jan ‘68, Dear Leader Kim seajacked the USS Pueblo off the coast of North Korea causing all sorts of maneuvering of our military. Much to the surprise of many an ANG troop, they quickly found themselves activated. One of those brave few units was the 154 TRS, ARK  ANG, flying the rather rare RF-101G. Here we see one doing a daily recon into the friendly skies of Korea. I’m sure the pilot is wondering where his fighter escort is! PS: Photo is taken by the ARK ANG via a friend at the MISS ANG who flew RF-101s. dj  Jay Collection

The Relief Tube

Let's start off today's Relief Tube with an explanation and an apology. Several months ago we ran a photo of a post-War F-51D taken by Dave Menard, along with some comments regarding an Alaska Air Command patch we'd run earlier. Dave sent in some supplementary information regarding both items, which we promptly lost. He sent it a second time, and we managed to mis-file that one, causing him to send the information yet a third time! In the truest tradition of serving no correction before its time, we've let this one stew about as long as we could; today's the day, ya'll, and here's that comment, with considerable apology to Dave!

Phil, that shot of 'stang 474850 was taken at ORD(O'Hare)on Armed Forces Day(remember those, the third Saturday of May?)1953 after I hitch hiked from hometown of Lombard, which was SW of the the place. The brand new shiny F-86Ds had arrived shortly before which was the main reason I went up there, and the frosting on the cake was this very, very shiny Mustang with all markings on her but the numbers on the gear doors being decals! I was not smart enough to ask what possible unit she was assigned to, but after over 22 years on active AF duty and then almost 22 years at the AFMuseum, have decided it was some senior officer's "toy"! I would bet probably at least a BGen. Anyway,
she went on to serve in several ANG units, went surplus, and wound up as CF-USA when Don Plumb owned her. She and her pilot were lost over Texas during violent weather along with another Mustang when they tried to either go through or over some huge thunderstorms. She was even shinier when Don owned her!

 That Alaskan Command badge that Chris sent along was not an AF one, but a joint service one. I have a shot of a shiny C-54D with a huge presentation of this design on the side of the nose and will see if it can be dug out and sent along. When I was in Japan in the early sixties, the 5th AF boss also was U S Forces Japan boss, i.e., wearing "two hats". I believe Alaskan Command was the same deal up there in the pre-statehood days.  cheers, dave  Thanks, Dave, both for your comments and for your corrections!
If you read our last issue, you probably remember the shot of the F-14A identified as being from VF-33/VF-101. We asked for clarification and Rick Morgan came through for us:
Phil: The black-tailed F-14 I shot in Key Weird is AD106; assigned to VF-101, the RAG, but marked for the Starfighters of VF-33 as they went through transition from F-4Js to F-14A. Stable-mate VF-102 had one as well. Rick

We ran a short piece on the Grumman F7F Tigercat in the same issue, prompting these comments and possible corrections from Tommy Thomason:

Phil, Joe (Baugher) lists BuNos 80609 through 80620 as F7F-4Ns but with the exception of your picture of 1LT (and I can't read the BuNo), the F7F-4Ns that I have pictures for have a different, sleeker nose because they were equipped with a different radar than the F7F-3N. See attached for an example and the difference per the Navy.

That said, 80610 could have been delivered with the F7F-3N radar for lack of the correct one when it was being assembled...  T 
Thanks, Tommy---that one seemed a little strange to us too! Sure wish we could prove the identification of that airplane for certain!

And finally, we ran some P-61 photos a few issues back, which prompted this response from reader Gerry Asher:

Phil, first, let me compliment you on the blog - lots of neat images, and I really appreciate the effort. P-61s are among my favorites, and when it comes to research in general I tend to be the proverbial "junkyard dog," shaking a subject for everything it's worth. To wit, the F-61B on February's blog, serial 43-8257.
The information provided in Jeff Kolln's "Northrop's Night Hunter" (Specialty Press) indicates the aircraft in question is assigned to the 339th Night Fighter (or Fighter [All Weather], whatever was appropriate for the time) Squadron at Johnson AB, Japan, serving with the unit from February 1947 to March 1950... so the image itself was taken post-September '47 at the earliest, given the service nomenclature above the rado call number. The bird had previously served with the 6th NFS; she went into storage 15 March 1950 and was stricken from the record 28 June of that year.
The insignia on the vertical fin (first time I've laid eyes on it) appears to be a spider using a combination of tongues of flame from six of its legs (like guns firing?) and groupings of stars to signify 3-3-9 in the image - the original slide would surely be clearer, and I may be trying to hammer round pegs into square holes. At any rate, I am guessing it's a transitional emblem for the 339th between their WWII-era gremlin astride a pair of eagles, and their present emblem (dragon amid the clouds spewing flame) as a USAF flight test squadron.
Keep up the great work -All my best, Gerry Asher  Thanks, Gerry! If there's one thing we're not around here, it's Black Widow experts! Your comments are very much appreciated!

And that's it for this edition. Thanks to each and every one of you for making 2011 a great year for the project, and a big ol' Texas WELCOME to all of our new readers. We'd also like to extend a very special Thank You to our contributors, who's help has been vital to us from the very start. We'd also like to encourage all of our readership to send your comments (and contributions of your own, should you feel so-inclined) to . Happy holidays to all of you, and we'll see you again right after Christmas. Until next time, be good to your neighbor, and we'll meet again soon.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sometimes You Have to Take a Little Breather, A Turkey, That Wulf, Turkeys of a Different Feather, and A Different Kind of Cat

OK, Where the Heck IS He?

I'm right here, ya'll, and everything is just fine. There's a massive amount of personal stuff going on around the place these days (all good, I might add) that's been keeping me busy in spite of my best efforts to get out another blog. To the new folks who've just started looking in on the site, Fear Not! I generally do a weekly edition of this thing and have every intention of continuing to do so, at least when I can! And for those of you who have been around a while (some of you from the very beginning!), a word of thanks and a promise to keep on chooglin' with this project. The fact is that I hate missing an issue, and in this instance I've missed two (shades of the orginal RIS; we used to call ourselves an "occasionodical" back then (I made up that spelling, by the way...) because of our somewhat ethereal frequency of publication), but between Significant Family Events, the rigors of Continued Employment (for which, in this day and age, I am extremely grateful), and working out the damage caused to a somewhat-tweaked Miata by an incredibly brave (read "stupid" here) white-tailed deer, I've been kept busy of late. The Good News is that, much like a bad burrito, this too shall pass. It's just a matter of time or, to put it another way; patience is a virtue. Please bear with us!

A Belated Thanksgiving Greeting

Or, in other words, we've got a few "Turkeys" for your perusal and viewing pleasure. These unique images are, once again, from the remarkable collection of Bobby Rocker and show us a side of the TBM that we rarely get to see. Let's get started!

When we think of the Grumman Avenger we most often think of aircraft carriers too, since the type was originally designed as a carrier-based torpedo bomber, as illustrated by these TBM-3s sharing the deck of CV-6 Enterprise. The shot simply abounds with detail, and would make an excellent starting point for a diorama if the modeler were so inclined. Keep this image in mind; "Turkeys on the carrier".  Rocker Collection

Although designed as a torpedo bomber (and achieving a measure of fame in that role at Midway and in the attacks on the Yamato and Musashi), the TBM spent the greater part of its wartime career dropping bombs. These "Turkeys" are overflying Makin Island following a bombing strike there; the formation they're flying is an indication that the island is no longer well-defended and isn't much of a threat. Not all missions fell into that category...  Rocker Collection

These guys are heading off on one of The Rough Ones, a strike launched out of Piva and bound for targets at the Rabaul complex. That's not an aircraft carrier, but it's how The Corps knew the "Turkey" for most of the war. The TBM was highly adaptable and its operational conditions didn't seem to matter very much; it got the job done from June of 1942 until the end of the conflict, and then survived into the 1950s to participate in yet another war in Korea. The "Turkey" got around.  Rocker Collection

The original of this shot is captioned simply "Marine TBMs at Munda", but the photo provides a unique set of marking details not generally seen. Check out the difference in national insignia presentation between airplanes and the faux gun ports on the leading edges of the wings of the nearest aircraft, which is also equipped with flame dampeners on the exhausts. The hard-edged camouflage demarcation wasn't at all unusual on the TBM (and TBF), but wasn't always the norm either.  Rocker Collection

This "Turkey" is identified as being with Command, 7th Fleet, and was photographed on the ground at Cyclops Drome. The airplane is fairly typical of the breed as seen when operating from ground stations; the airplane is filthy. The Jeep and the ground echelon provide graphic proof of the Avenger's size; it's easy to forget how big the airplane was without something to provide a sense of scale.  Rocker Collection

And here's a unique color shot of a TBM-3 on the ground at Dulag Airstrip on Leyte. Every time we've shown you photographs of American aircraft serving in the Pacific Theater we've commented on the operational conditions, which were generally poor to grim and remained that way until the last days of the conflict. Those operational conditions were lousy, and the enemy was both skilled and determined. There were easier ways to make a living...  Rocker Collection

Sometimes you just had a Bad Day. Lt. George Unoble had one when he bellied this bird into the Renard Bomber Strip in the Russell Islands. The landing was almost text-book, and we presume it was one of those things everybody walked away from.  Rocker Collection

Sometimes the landing was almost business as usual. This TBM-3 experienced an over-run on the Dulag strip at Leyte, and was another walk-away. The nose number presentation (it's there, but you'll have to look for it) is of interest.  Rocker Collection

There are air-to-air photographs, and then there are air-to-air photographs. This is one of the latter; a section of Marine TBMs climbing out over Green Island and providing us with a superb insight into the military aviator's life. Look at this photo long enough and you can almost feel the camera ship bumping gently in the ground turbulence. Some days you could almost forget the war. Almost.  Rocker Collection

The Return of the Big Bad Wulf

Or maybe it's not so big, but last time I mentioned that we'd take a look at that finished Eduard Fw190A-5 when next we met. There's no doubt in my mind that everybody's been holding their breath in anticipation of this stellar event, so here we go:

And here you are; "Bully" Lange's Fw190A-5 from the 1/48th scale Eduard kit. This view shows the port-side wing gun bay cover pretty well, a noteworthy thing because no putty was used there at all. It also illustrates the results of that masking technique we talked about; both the swastika and the fuselage cross had to be touched up---the touch-up operation took around five minutes to do, and no decals were harmed during the adventure. The camouflage pattern is a best-guess sort of thing; the pattern of the two greens has been moderately well-documented in photographs, but the published artwork depicting the airplane can be pretty loose in defining the tan overspray that resides on top of those greens. This model was painted using the several existing photographs of Lange's airplane as reference, and the tans are a best-guess representation of the "pattern" used. One more thing to note; there's a fairly well-known color photo of Black 7 that shows two blotches of a slightly different shade of green on the port side of the airframe. One of them is roundish, while the other could be construed as heart-shaped if you squinted your eyes and held your tongue just right, which has caused a fair number of people to presume that they represent overpainted insignia. That could be true (and very possibly is), but that shot makes them look as though they're just another set of blotches. That's mostly the way I painted them, but the fuselage blotch is sortof heart-shaped. It's a foot in both camps, so to speak...

And here's the starboard side. There's also photography that shows this side of the real airplane and those "badge blotches" aren't there, so they weren't done on the model either. Those of you who have been following this project all along probably remember how raggedy-tailed the demarcations on the swastika and fuselage cross were in the earlier photos of the model. They were fixed using the "post-it note" method of masking that we discussed and came out ok, I think. The It's-Gotta-Be-the-Exact-Color folks out there might want to take a look at the tan on the rudder; it was painted on a different day than the rest of the airplane and came out substantially darker than the tan you can see everyplace else. It's the same paint from the same bottle, just painted on a different day, and there's a substantial difference in hue. Real airplanes are like that too---it's something to remember.

Here's another view of the right side. I ran this one so you could see the slight mis-match in the way the cowl is attached. I'm not entirely certain why that is, which is the excuse I'm going to use to justify building yet another Fw190A from JG54---I will de-bug this kit! In the meantime, it's germaine to this project to note that it took most of two Saturdays and part of a Sunday to arrive at a finished model from this particular Eduard "Wurger". The kit was a standard offering so it included photo-etch for the cockpit, most of which I actually used. The wing guns are all from a Hasegawa aftermarket set which are turned brass and are in consequence much better looking than the guns that Eduard give you; the pitot is from the same set. There's no other aftermarket on the kit, and the only additional item is the stretched sprue radio antenna. I'm beginning to think that the secret to building any of the Eduard Fw190s is to build several of them so you can learn the kit's quirks. It's rapidly becoming my favorite "Wurger" kit, warts and all.

A Goofy Little Modeling Bonus Technique

A week or two ago I mentioned that I painted the lower wings of my models prior to assembly in order to simplify masking. Here's an example of that for your consideration:

And here's what I meant. If you paint the area around the wheel wells before you begin construction you'll end up with virtually no masking to perform in that area. You can even take things a step further if you want to; the Bf109E (which is where this wing comes from) left the factory with leather liners in the wheel wells. I'm going to flip the wing over and airbrush that wheel well from the back side using a light leather tone---it's easy to do and will be a whole bunch easier than trying to hand-paint that area after everything else is painted, at least for me! As an aside, this particular Tamiya "Emil" is being converted from an E-3 into an E-1, which is why the bulges for the ammunition drums have been removed from the wing surface. In the interest of accuracy I should move the shell ejection ports too but I'm not going to, opting instead to just not show the model to any of the half-dozen or so people who would actually pick up on that sort of laziness. Scale modeling is what you make it, and I try to make it easy when I can. Life's just too short...

That Other Turkey

There was a time, not all that long ago, when the name "Grumman" was synonymous with the term "naval aviation". Those days are now long behind us thanks to mergers and force downsizing, but the company from Long Island designed and built some of the best tactical aircraft the Navy ever had. It became customary after the end of the Korean War for American Naval aircraft to acquire nicknames, some of which were less than flattering, which in turn leads us to today's F-14 feature.

The immortal F-14 was one of those aircraft who's unofficial moniker was, shall we say, somewhat less than dignified. The Tomcat's on-board computers caused her horizontal stabs to move around quite a bit during carrier approach, making her arrival somewhat less that glamorous most of the time. That activity gave her the name she carried in the Fleet until her final retirement: "The Turkey" so, in keeping with what could be a Thanksgiving theme, we're going to pay homage to The Belle From Bethpage, aka the "Turkey".

So why, you might ask, was the F-14 called the "Turkey" in the Fleet? All you had to do was watch one on short final and you'd understand the reason why; the airplane was rock steady in the approach but the horizontal stabilators would be dancing around like they were possessed of St Vitus' Dance. It was, with no doubt about the matter, a sight to behold. Rick Morgan shot this unidentified F-14A coming aboard the "Connie" on 12 December, 1986, stabilators all a-flutter. The original caption reads "Whoa, Big Fella!" We think it's appropriate.  R Morgan

For the first third of her career, way back in the days before the advent of TPS,  the "Turkey" wore fairly gaudy paintwork. 158984 was with VF-1's "Wolfpack" when Lee Bracken shot her on the ground at Bergstrom during April of 1976. Built as an F-14A-70-GR, she was struck off charge for unknown reasons in 1997 but was at the height of her career when photographed here.  L. Bracken

1976 was America's BiCentennial year, and a great many of our military aircraft were appropriately marked in consequence. VF-14's 159014 was no exception to the phenomenon, acquiring these understated yet effective markings during the course of the adventure. The aircraft was built as an F-14A-75-GR and survived naval survice, ending up in the boneyard at DM in 1994. Her squadron markings extend to the centerline gas bag; the NAV knew how to paint an airplane, ya'll!  L. Bracken

While the Tomcat wore a number of what could only be described as gorgeous paint jobs during its lengthy career with the Navy, it always started out as a Plain Jane. This unidentified example was photographed at Bergstrom during December of 1977 an illustrates the aircraft as it left the factory; the modex on the nose is the only indication that the airplane has been assigned to a squadron. We suspect the situation didn't remain that way for very long...  L. Bracken

This is a whole lot more like what we're used to! The aircraft is from VF-32 and was built as an F-14A-85-GR. Like most Tomcats 159601 moved around a bit; she was assigned to Fighting 32 when Lee Bracken took her portrait in November of 1977, but was flying with VF-142 when she went into the sea while attempting to recover aboard the Eisenhower on 6 March, 1980.  L. Bracken

VF-213's "Turkeys" wore simple yet effective markings during the 1970s. 159861, an F-14A-90-GA, lasted longer than some but was lost in a crash on 3 September, 1980. If you're on the outside looking in, naval aviation is a glamorous way to make a living. It's also a highly dangerous one, even in peacetime.  L. Bracken

By the end of the 70s the Tomcat's plummage was as colorful as that of anything flying in the NAV. 160681 (an F-14A-100-GR) was all painted up for Fighting 51 when Bob Burns shot her at Andrews on 27 January, 1979. It's becoming increasingly obvious why Navy aircraft of this era were termed "Easter Eggs", isn't it? 681 survived a lengthy career with the Fleet, being struck off charge in 2000.  Burns via Kerr Collection

Here's another shot of 681 on the same day, showing the modelers among our readership a great deal of detail on the aft end of the aircraft. Note in particular the tones of the various alloys of bare metal around her exhausts, and the way the leading edges are presented. These are areas that are frequently misunderstood by modelers, which makes this shot particularly valuable.  Burns via Kerr Collection

The year was 1980, and 161862 was with VF-32 when photographed at Carswell by Mark Morgan. The sharp-eyed among our readers will note that she's not in grey over white, but in overall 16440 instead; a transitional scheme in use as the NAV was beginning to transition to TPS. Intially built as an F-14A-130-GR, the aircraft was later converted to F-14B standard, ending her days at the AMARC. This photo was taken in her youth, on 27 April 1980.  M. Morgan

VF-101 was the East Coast RAG for the F-14 in 1980, and their aircraft wore moderately plain markings as a result. 160409 was an F-14A-95-GR and was lost in a crash on 12 September, 1988, with both crewmembers killed. She was in her prime when this photograph was taken in 1980. Did we mention that NavAir is a tough way to make a living?  J. Dienst

When most people think of the F-14, the first squadron that comes to mind is VF-84. Here's a classic example of one of their aircraft on the ground on 20 October, 1980. Built as an F-14A-110-GR, she was TARPS capable and was unique in that she was slated for preservation at NAS Atsugi, Japan. Note the F-4S in the background of the shot; the NAV was an interesting place in 1980!  T. Ring

The NATC was a prime user of the type throughout its service career, and 158626 was one of the Tomcats assigned to the center. Built as an F-14A-65-GR, 626 was photographed at a public airshow at Pax River on 26 September, 1981. While we much prefer the markings worn by the active duty F-14 squadrons, there's no doubt that the birds flown by the NATC were colorful!  T. Ring

But this sort of paintwork is far more to our liking! 161142 was built as an F-14A-110-GR and survived squadron service to be struck off charge in 1995. The original notes on the slide say that she was with VF-33/VF-101. Morgo, can you 'splain this one, please?!  R. Morgan

It's time to end our tribute to the Easter Egg "Turkeys", at least for a while, so we're going to finish up this piece with a few shots of the F-14 in its element. The place is NAS Corpus Christi, and the date is 7 May, 1989. I was attending an airshow at the station that day and was able to photograph most of the flying demos from the control tower catwalk, which is the vantage point used to catch this VF-124 bird (F-14A-135-GR, BuNo 162589) taxiing in after a solo performance that had the crowd cheering.  Friddell

124 was the West Coast RAG for the F-14, and they were proud of the fact. 162589 was wearing these tail markings on that overcast day in 1989---the RAGs weren't noted for being overly-colorful during the 80s, but these markings easily rivalled anything seen on the Fleet birds.  Yowza!  Friddell

Designed and built as a polymorph, the Tomcat was quite a performer in both the low and high-speed flight regimes. In this shot, 589 was displaying the F-14's high-speed capability and was whistling right along. She was a definite crowd-pleaser!  Friddell

Remember that part where we said the F-14 was capable in all sorts of flight regimes? Here's a picture to prove that point; 589 was doing a slow flypast with everything hanging when her pilot tossed her into a dirty slow roll, finishing that part of the demo by cleaning up the aircraft, popping into AB, and climbing out of sight. When the Tomcat finally left the inventory she was a tired airplane, beginning to show her age and becoming a little bit of a maintenance pig in the process. When she was in her prime there wasn't an airplane in anybody's air arm that could touch her. We prefer to remember her when she was young...  Friddell

The power and the glory---Fly Navy!!!  Kerr Collection

Hold That Tiger!

We didn't start out to do it that way but today's edition has turned into a Navy sort of thing, so we're going to go ahead and finish up with that theme. Here's a different sort of Grumman cat for your edification; the F7F Tigercat.

The F7F was designed and built as a long-range fighter that could take on the best the Japanese had to offer during the waning stages of World War 2, and a handful of them actually made it to the Pacific prior to the cessation of hostilities. This F7F-2N was assigned to VMFN-533 when she was photographed in Shanghai post-War. The Tigercat was quite a beast, and a handful to fly in some flight regimes. She was also one of the prettiest aircraft to ever grace the ramps of a naval air station, and was fully carrier-capable to boot. She was quite a bird!  DW Lucabaugh via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Nankivil

The Tigercat was your basic Clean Machine in most of her variants, which led to an interesting post-service career for 80503. She was built as an F7F-3P but ended up as a racer, with several stopovers in the civilian world along the way. The F7F has enjoyed a higher survival rate than many WW2 types, and is still impressive to this day. To steal a tired old saying, the name Grumman on an airplane is like Sterling on silver.  WE Scarborough Collection via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Nankivil

In many respects the F7F-4N was the ugliest of the Tigercats, but it's also the variant that most fascinates modelers and enthusiasts today. 80610 was a prime example of the type when photographed during the late 1940s. Her subsequent fate is unknown but we presume she was ultimately converted to pots and pans, a fate that overcame so many aircraft of her era. Modelers might want to pay careful attention to this photo; it shows a great deal of wing-fold detail.  William Peake Collection via Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Nankivil

Happy Snaps

Are you guys tired of "Turkeys" yet? Good, 'cause we aren't either!

The year was 1984, and Rick Morgan was with VAQ-139 off the "Connie" for the greater part of that year. He shot this air-to-air of one of VF-21's Tomcats over the Pacific on the 9th of August; the aircraft's tail codes are worn on the insides of the vertical stabs and aren't visible in the photo. Note that the F-14 is trimmed for low-speed flight. The Tomcat looked good from any angle!  R. Morgan

The Relief Tube

We're having trouble with e-mails today (it's always something, isn't it?) so we're only going to run a couple of entries in the Relief Tube today. First, would the B-45 driver who wrote in asking if we were interested in some photography please try again? We attempted to send a return message to you but it was blocked, and now (at least for today) Yahoo isn't letting us open the messages in our "in" box. We're definitely interested in talking to you!

Finally, remember those VB-17Gs we ran a few weeks ago? Don Jay had a couple of post-War "Forts" in his collection and passed them on to us to share with you. First is a VB-17 from the Korean war era:

Those VB-17Gs got around! This one is fascinating because it appears to have a name of some sort written on the nose, but we can't quite make it out. Reader comments are invited ( ).  Jay Collection

A lot of folks don't know it, but the Coasties operated the B-17 (as the PB-1G) for quite a while post-War; in fact, the last operational B-17 belonged to the Coast Guard and wasn't retired until 1959. This example is hauling a lifeboat and has nose art to boot. Maybe some day all those resin guys will stop making Me109 cockpits and start giving us things like PB-1G conversion sets. Maybe...  Jay Collection

And that's what we know this time around. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon. We will---I promise!