Sunday, January 29, 2012

That Other Mustang, and A Visit WithTony

Back to Business

OK, Ya'll; just when you thought it was safe to come out, here we are again. It's pretty much business as usual today, but then again maybe not, because a couple of things have changed. Let's get straight to the point.

There's probably no reasonable way to stop the low-lifes who have been stealing our photography for their own sites without proper accredition from continuing their unethical and marginally illegal pastime, which means we've got to handle things on this end. That, unfortunately, means marking each photo we run so there's absolutely no doubt, not now and not ever, as to who took the photo or who's collection it came from. There are a couple of significant down-sides to that, and our loyal readers need to know what's going on.

There won't be any reduction in the size or quality of the photos you see in these pages, but there will be fewer of them each issue. That's a direct result of the activities of the Picture Pirates---it takes time to duplicate each photo and then mark it, so our production time has significantly increased. Since this project is a spare-time sort of thing, and since there's not much of that spare time to be had these days, you'll have to endure fewer pictures and, unfortunately, fewer articles as well. We wish we didn't have to do that, but the actions of a few have left us no choice. We're pretty much stuck.

You, our readers, have our sincere apologies for having taken these actions. You can thank the aforementioned Picture Pirates for that one, so give them What For if you ever have the chance! Sigh...

Sometimes the Best Ain't the Prettiest

Everybody knows by now that the North American P-51 Mustang family was one of the best performing and, coincidentally, best looking aircraft designs of the 1940s. The combat versions, the P-51A through D (plus the kissing-cousin A-36) were about as good as it got when they were in their prime, but even then there was room for improvement. The principal operator of the type, the Army Air Force, thought that the design could be improved by putting it on a diet and removing a few pounds from the airframe. Initial efforts resulted in the P-51F, a light-weight fighter that was never produced. Further development of the concept took North American to the P-51H, which is the subject of today's photo essay.

Dubbed NA-126 and NA-139 within the North American factory, the aircraft entered AAF service as the P-51H. Its V-1650-9 engine boasted some 2,218 horsepower and was coupled to an extensively redesigned airframe that weighed in at some 10,500 pounds loaded, a full 1,100 pounds lighter than the standard P-51D; the increased horsepower coupled with that lightened airframe made the Hotel the fastest of the production Mustangs, with a top speed of approximately 487 mph at 25,000 feet. It was a rocket as piston-engined fighters go!

A total of 2,000 of the H-models was placed on order, but the end of the war saw the contract reduced to 555 actually produced. Although the type served briefly in the regular AAF and USAF, it spent most of its service life with the Guard. It's an easy aircraft to spot in photographs, since its redesign changed both its wing platform and fuselage shape dramatically when compared to its predecessors, but Ugly Duckling though it was, the H-model was far and away the best of the Mustangs in actual service. Let's take a look at some photos of it courtesy the collection of Marty Isham.

Although a fair number of H-models served (albeit briefly) with the regulars, they spent most of their time with the Guard. Massachusett's 131st FS/102nd FG was a prime user of the type, transitioning to it from the F-47D. In this shot, taken in 1952, we can see examples of both types sharing the ramp. New England was a hot-bed of F-51H activity during the late 1940s and early 1950s, and we can vividly remember them on the ground at various northeastern airfields during that time period.  R Willet via Isham Collection

Here's a side image of 44-64319, also from the 131st. This profile shot provides us with an excellent view of the F-51H's revised fuselage shape, and also gives a fine view of the main landing gear doors. There's bound to be somebody out there who considers the H-model to be a pretty airplane, but we aren't him. You'd never guess it was a hot-rod by looking at it, would you? This shot was also taken at Barnes AP during 1952.  R Willet via Isham Collection

44-64491 was an F-51H-10-NA and was with the 101st FS when this evocative shot was taken during the early 50s. There's just no way that airframe can manage to look pretty, but it was highly capable nontheless. Beauty is in the eye of beholder, right?  P Paulsen via Isham Collection

And here's 44-64509, once again at Barnes. She's also from the 131st but carries a nose number, not seen on most of the units' other aircraft. The H wasn't exactly an Easter Egg, but she had enough markings anomalies to keep us guessing!  R Willet via Isham Collection

Here's the 131st on the ground during 1953. Those Mustangs, all lined up in a row, made quite an impression on your editor (who was 4 years old at the time!). Do you know why you started liking airplanes? These birds are a big part of the reason we do!  P Paulsen via Isham Collection

Here we go! This photo could easily define the Guard during the early 1950s; the MASS ANG is preparing to launch en mass for an exercise when this photo was taken. Those command stripes on the aircraft closest to the camera are particularly nice. If only there were a kit...  R Picciani via Isham Collection

Although a large number of F-51Hs ended up in New England, that wasn't the only part of the country to use the type. New Mexico's 188th FS flew it for a brief period of time, and carried a fair amount of color (for an H-model) on the tail. The Hotel sortof grows on you, doesn't it?  B Knowles via Isham Collection

Arizona used the H too. 44-64455 is a dirty bird as post-War ANG aircraft go, but the type was heavily-used during the brief time it was in service. This well-worn example was with the 197th FS when photographed, and illustrates that unit's minimalist markings. Pay note to the radio antenna masts; they were natural wood on the F-51H while it was in service. It's something worth paying attention to if we ever get a buildable kit of the type.  B Knowles via Isham Collection

Every once in a while you'd find an F-51H with some color. The Air Force signified dedicated target tugs by painting them orange, as seen here by this F-51H from Pennsylvania's 146th FS. Note that not all of the aircraft is orange; the undersurface of the wings and aft fuselage is still in natural metal (not silver paint!). A standard-issue bird from the 146th is undergoing ramp maintenance in the background, providing us with an excellent contrast between the "target tug" scheme and the 146th's normal presentation.  P Paulsen via Isham Collection

Hasegawa Just Get Better and Better, Don'tcha Know?

Hasegawa has been a prime mover on the Japanese scale modeling scene since the early 1960. Their early stuff wasn't all that great, but as a company they proved to be quick studies in the learning department, rapidly climbing to become one of the world's leading producers of quality plastic model airplane kits. For the longest time they concentrated on 1/72nd scale, but began an expansion into both 1/48th and 1/32nd scales during the 1970s and seemingly never looked back. Today's offering is a prime example of what they've been doing of late.

The "Tony" (Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien) has fascinated most plastic modelers from the day they first became aware of the type. A year ago, give or take, Hasegawa added the aircraft to their range of 1/32nd-scale Japanese subjects, resulting in the model you see before you. This particular example is 100% bone out-of-the-kit stock except for an Eduard interior (a properly-painted kit interior would have done just as well, thank you, except that you'd have to dig up belts and harnesses from someplace), some QuickBoost exhausts, and a set of Hasegawa's own aftermarket cowl guns and brass pitot tube. Decals are from LifeLike, and the paint is the ubiquitous ModelMaster enamel.

The LifeLike decal sheet we used here is #32-004, 244 Sentai Part 2 Best Selection, which provided the markings for Cpl Nagano's Ki-61 Otsu. Check out the tonal values in the uppersurface green as depicted in this photo. The lighting position was slightly changed between the taking of this photo and the one immediately previous, as was placement of the camera. If it works like this on a model it'll be the same on a real airplane too---that's something for The Color Police to keep in mind. The aircraft modeled was fairly new when painted this way, so the grossly-overdone weathering that appeals to so many folks doesn't exist here. The red empennage is done in gloss paint, which is what we suspect was done on the real aircraft. The kill markings and Kanji character on the tail came from the LifeLike decal sheet, but the Hinomarus and home defense bandages were masked and painted---it looks a lot better when you do it that way.

And here's an almost-profile view. There are a couple of things to watch out for if you build this kit, so it's probably time for us to list them. The method of assembly for the exhausts allows you to look all the way through to the other side of the airplane if you hold the model just right, and it's that way no matter whether you used the kit parts or those from QuickBoost. (We used the ones from QB; we know of which we speak!) A piece of card on the inside of each fuselage will solve that particular problem. The covers for the wingtip nav lights are designed to allow the modeler to install them after the kit is assembled and painted, but you don't want to do that. Instead, cement them in place, then sand flush with the wing, polish, and mask for painting. You'll be a whole lot happier if you do it that way---trust us. Otherwise, the kit is pretty much smooth sailing and looks great once it's completed.

Hasegawa have released this offering in at least two different boxings that we're aware of, with the significant difference being the markings included and the 54mm figure of Kobayashi that comes with the initial release of the kit. The Hasegawa kit markings work just fine in either flavor, but painting them is still better should you feel so inclined.

Happy Snaps

Today's installment is from our friend Rick Morgan; a photo of an airplane flown by Those Other Guys. Let's look:

Phil:::Here’s one for you. In 1985 we did an exercise with Oman while on our West Pac on the Connie. The Omani Air Force sent up Jaguars and Hunters to face us. Most of the pilots were RAF expatriates and very, very good. This one came up on the wrong side of the aircraft for a really good shot- but it still came out pretty well. These guys were all over the place- I recall them flying underneath us in terrain where we felt uncomfortable. My roomy Betz went to the beach as an Air Wing rep and got a flight in a two-seat Jag with a Brit pilot. He noticed they didn’t have a radar altimeter, at least in the back seat. The driver thought a second and told him “Well mate, see that pitot tube off the nose? When I see sand coming over it I’ll pull up”.    Rick  Thanks as always, Morgo!  R. Morgan

The Relief Tube

Remember where we said these things would be a little more brief than they have been in the past? Well, Gang, we weren't kidding. There's still a lot going on around here and it's going to slow us down some until everything shakes out, at which point you'll see a little more content. The days of the massive, loaded-with-photos days are pretty much gone forever, though---the extra time spent putting a tag line in each and every photo stretches things out too much. Not to beat a dead horse unduly, but you can thank The Picture Thieves for that particular gift.

Speaking of which, most of the correspondence we've received over the past several weeks of non-publication has had to do with that particular topic. A couple of the folks who have their own sites are apparently considering legal action and everyone else is pretty whizzed-off about what went down. We've received a great deal of encouragement and support, but we've also lost the photographic services of two long-time contributors as a result of the selfish and inconsiderate acts of a couple of people. We aren't going to publish any of those letters today, or ever, but that should explain why both the blog and this section of it are so brief today.

Let's lead off with a letter from a reader adding some detail to a photo we ran an issue or two back. The comments are particularly germaine to today's issue, as we'll soon see: 

Phillip, I just recently found your blog after reading some posts on the newsgroups concerning some individuals poaching images from your blog and publishing them without due diligence. I totally agree with your point. Unfortunately when I got to your blog, lo and behold I find that you have published an image that my father took and which I've inherited and which no proper copyright was mentioned.

The snap of the day is of an Ark ANG RF-101G over Japan in 1968. As soon as I saw it I realized that it was a copy of my dad's Kodachrome. My dad was a major in the unit at the time and an avid photographer. He took a number of shots while flying and that one is one of many. It's actually one of two he took in sequence.

I'm not sure who or where you got that image from. It's possible he had a copy from way back when. Also possible that it's a copy that I sent some people several years ago. I don't mind it being published. Actually I'd be happy to send you a disk of all of them for you to publish if you'd like. I also have lots a great pics from 1958 when they were flying the RB-57 and I know for a fact that these pics have never been published. Lots of air to air stuff.

All I ask is that proper recognition be given. I've been a big fan of the magazine from back in the day and I'm glad that it's found a new home in the digital age.

Dave Wassell

Ps. My father was Maj Gen H. Lynn Wassell, Ark ANG

Thanks, Dave, and apologies regarding that credit line! The photo came from the collection of Don Jay, who received it from a member of the guard. We'll go back and amend the credit line!
A while back we did a piece entitled "Voodoos from the North Country". One of our sharp-eyed readers (who was definitely paying more attention than we were!) provided a location for one of those shots: Your photo, Mystery Meat, Voodoo 101033 was taken in my home town of London, Ontario. At least it says London on the tower. :) Dana  Thanks, Dana. Now, if you'll excuse us while we wipe this egg off our faces...

It's been a while since we ran those shots of the K-Bay CH-46s, but reader Don Hinton as provided us with a little more insight regarding them:  I love your site! For historical sake, the second photo of Kaneohe HH-46s (picture xHH-46A 151921) was taken at Barbers Point NAS on Oahu. I know as I lived on the hill (Makakilo) just to the top left of the picture, and those are the Waianae Mountains in the background.
Don Hinton
Major, USAF (Ret

Thanks for the kudos, Don, and for the correction!

We ran some "Huns" last issue, which in turn prompted these comments from Dave Menard:  Phil
Took another look at the Hun effort and two more gigs: the 401st TFW was based at England AFB LA(Alexandria, the anus of the state!)and on that base was the 622nd AREFSQ, with KB-50Js.

   As for the photo poaching, was not aware of it. Have seen many of my images on sites over the years and I send in corrections and ask for the credit line. Most are not man enough to answer and only a few do it, but life is way too short to get too excited about it. Have two different ones in now to a Mustang site and to Warbirds one about my shot of that Mustang 850 on 16 May 53. I took one view of her with visitors on the wing looking into the cockpit and traded that neg to someone eons ago, and cannot recall who, but the image keeps popping up. Other images credited to USAF which really stings! Hope you had a good holiday. cheers, dave  Thanks as always, Dave, and thanks for your perspective on the whole piracy thing!

Next up is a series of comments from a reader named Gerry (I'm not finding the last name---Gerry, please get in touch with me so I can give you proper credit!) offering corrections and additions to several of our recent pieces:

In my proverbial "junkyard dog" research mode (and not knowing if someone in the blog had answered this previously), the Black Widow you featured in courtesy of the Menard collection is F-61B serial 42-39573, according to Jeff Kolln's NORTHROP'S NIGHT HUNTER (Specialty Press). Of interest is the fact that this ship was the first to re-introduce the A-4 dorsal turret on the Hawthorne assembly line - obviously removed by the time these photos were taken. Originally assigned to the 6th NFS on 9 March 1945, she eventually found her way to the 339th Fighter Squadron at Johnson AB, Japan on 20 February 1947. In April 1948 she was damaged in a landing accident (brake failure), but subsequently repaired. The aircraft was stricken 7 June 1949.

The pilots in that group photo at the head of the May 2010 blog may be gathered around Joe Foss (standing, 2nd from left) - sure looks like him, anyway... if so that would make them from VMF-121. The last one in the series, of the pilot sitting on the wing, is an F4F-3, which would probably make him a VMF-223 driver (the unit that Foss's squadron replaced).
More exploring ancient history - the two-winged Corsairs in the April 2010 blog (in particular, the ditched SU-3) sent me on another quest for perfectly useless information.
A closer look at the image revealed a couple things:
  • what appears to be a Marine eagle/globe/anchor emblem on the fuselage, followed by what looks to be the number "15"
  • looks like Bureau number 9128
The caption says it's a VS-3 ship, but the Marine emblem, coupled with the 15, doesn't jibe with that squadron - unless the ship was newly transferred to the unit and hadn't been re-marked yet. I did find that SU-3 BuNo A9128 (as everything was prefixed with an "A" in the records at that point) was involved in an accident 22 October 1936, according to It also indicated "Florida" as the location for the accident - assume off the coast of Florida - but without spending the money to order the report, that's all the info I have.
And finally:  Marine Corps Aviation 1912-1940 (a .pdf file available online at indicates a scouting squadron "VS-15M" - which dovetails nicely with the fact that there's a "15" visible after the USMC emblem on that SU-3.  Sometimes I scare myself.
Gerry, I am impressed! And many thanks for writing!
That's about it for this edition. We'll be back next week with a little more in the way of material, but until then be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!