Friday, October 17, 2014

ANG Phantoms, Some EasterEgg Juliets, Finally!, A 318th Jug, and Who Do That Voodoo?

What's It Worth to You?

Let's preface this thing by saying that I know a collector of US  militaria, a guy who deals in the mid-to-high end of such things and makes a tidy living buying and selling the relics of our past. Once upon a time, way back when he and I first became friends, I was invited over to his place to look at some Indian Wars weaponry. It was a treat for me to get to view and handle the stuff, and it was an amazing thing to be told the retail prices of such treasures when I asked how much it would cost me to buy one of the old Springfield carbines he owned.

After the choking and gasping that came after hearing the price, I asked how the particular collection of antique wood and metal that I was interested in could possibly cost so much. His answer was a simple one: People would pay what they were willing to pay and the high end of that Willing to Pay range was what determined how much any particular piece was worth. It was market demand, pure and simple, determined and set by the buyer with relatively little input from the seller. Consumer greed set the price, as it were.

Ok, then; that's how it goes in the world of militaria. How about something more to the point, like old (or maybe even not-so-old) plastic and resin model airplane kits, for instance? Unfortunately, collectible is collectible not matter what the article is and even if the item in hand really isn't worth very much, like maybe an AMT edition of the old and honestly not very good Frog P-38 in 1/72nd scale. It was a $1.00 kit when it was new back in the late 60s and it was produced in the thousands, so five bucks more or less (less in our book, but that would be us) would probably be a fair price to pay for one today. Now that we've determined that, let's go to one of those on-line auction or rare kit collector's web sites and see where the prices fall. I'll bet you they're all over the place, and if you happened to find one on an auction site the price could well be mind-boggling. Yes, it can be a fun little kit to build for nostalgia's sake, or maybe to use as a desk model. No, it most assuredly isn't a rare collectible from the early days of plastic modeling, or any other days for that matter. It's an old kit that's worth exactly what somebody will pay for it and not a penny more.

So why do people spend large sums of money to purchase old plastic models? To put it in perspective, there actually are some kits that go for big bucks and are almost worth the price of admission---certain of the models back from the very early 50s fall into that category because of their age and significance to the hobby while some, such as the Revell Space Station or Monogram Air Power set, are just rare. Even then, however, they're only worth what someone is willing to pay for them. Let's do a comparison.

That Revell Space Station I just mentioned was only produced for a year or two and was sold in exceedingly small numbers due to its price at the time. It's never been re-issued, at least not as of this writing, and it could be that there are circumstances that will prevent it from ever being re-released. That Frog/AMT P-38 we mentioned is a different matter entirely, having been produced in the thousands and having been an indifferent kit in the first place; as a collectible the only thing it has going for it is the fact that it's old, and folks, sometimes Old just isn't enough!

Right, then; so let's get back on topic---why do people spend big bucks for old kits? Sometimes it's a matter of nostalgia and nothing more, a plastic time machine back to a childhood adventure, for example. Sometimes it's more than that, and we start falling into the area of Greed, as in: It's old so I'm going to get one and sell it for a profit. The guy who wants one for nostalgia's sake may or may not go for the asking price but the self-styled collector often will, much to the detriment of his pocketbook and good sense. It's old so it's rare so I've gotta have one and today's the only day I'm going to get one at that price! That's an old ploy, tried and true, and it works with everything from new cars to old plastic kits. I have it and you don't, but I'll be glad to sell it to you if you want it!

In my world it all comes down to what I want the kit for. I'm nostalgic to a certain extent and have a very small handful of old kits that have sentimental value to me. They probably aren't worth much on the market, but they mean a lot to me so I've got them. I'm not going to sell them or trade them, because they remind me of a time and place that was special to me. There are also kits I acquire because I intend on actually building them, but I won't pay high dollar for one; anything by Classic Airframes comes to mind when I think of that category since those models tend to be difficult to build, not always completely accurate, and grossly overpriced for just a builder (as opposed to a collectible).

It all goes back to that second paragraph up there, where my collector friend told me that collectibles are worth exactly what somebody will pay for them, and that takes us to the point of this ramble: If an old kit is something special to you and you'd like to have it for nostalgia's sake because it represents a special moment in your life, or maybe for that special, once-in-a-lifetime project, then it's probably worth the money you'll spend. If you want it because you think it's rare and you ought to have one then it's possible, just barely possible, that you're not thinking things all the way through (or have been attacked and conquered by The Greed Monster). At the end of the day it's your money and it's your choice, but it might be a better thing for all concerned if you/we/all of us weren't quite so ready to throw extravagant amounts of money away for old plastic kits that we'll end up looking at maybe once or twice a year, maybe.

Anybody want to buy a Frog P-38 in an AMT box?

More Bugsuckers From the 149th

Last issue we showed you a small handful of ANG and USAF F-4s, which included several aircraft from the 182nd TFS/149th TFG out of what used to be Kelly AFB. We promised there would be more to come another day and today's another day, so here we go!

Up, up and away! The date was 06 November, 1983, and Jim Wogstad and I were on one of our several visits to the now-defunct Kelly AFB on a photo op. We managed to spend a portion of our day at the 149th FG's com trailer at Last Chance, which is where we caught this section of F-4Cs about to launch. The photo was taken with a 200mm lens but we were still close to the active, and the sound where we were standing was deafening, a fine compliment to the enormous grins we were wearing at the time!   P Friddell

You may recall our F-4 piece from our last issue where we explained that the 149th's Phantoms were carrying nose art inside their aft nose-gear doors during this time period. Here's a profile shot of the starboard side of 64-0904, aka "The Pink Panther". She went to DM in 1987 and was scrapped out in 1996, a sad end...   P Friddell

But she was something when she was still flying. Most of the 149th's gear-door art was in the form of names during this time frame but a few, such as "Pink Panther", featured actual artwork too. It's a shame the regs of the era didn't allow this to be displayed on an intake splitter plate instead of being hidden away inside a gear door!  P Friddell

Here's "Charlie's Angel/Sweet Mickie", 63-7515. She left active duty for a stint as a BDR ship and ended up being preserved at Kelly. That's appropriate, we think.   P Friddell

And here's her artwork, an atypical presentation of both an image and a name. Modelers might note how grungy the insides of those gear does was; the airplanes were extremely well-maintained but the paintwork that didn't really matter was allowed to get a little dirty.   P Friddell

63-7421 ended her days in Europe but was in her post-Vietnam prime in November of '83. If you look under her starboard horizontal stab you can see Jim Wogstad standing beside our PAO escort. Ramp access was relatively easy back then; it's somewhat less so nowadays. Time change...   P Friddell

Somewhere in our archives is a blue spiral binder of the sort college students use, and inside that binder is a record of every shoot we went on back then, along with notes tied to serial numbers. That's where we could find the aircraft information for "Morgan's Homesick Angel" if we could find the notebook. The best we can do for today is tell you that it's somewhere in our studio and we'll give you the missing s/n if we ever where the darned thing is!   P Friddell

Here's "Tasmanian Devil", another piece of artwork that falls into the "we don't know the airplane" category. There's no doubt we've also got photos of the airplane this image resided on, along with one of "Morgan's Homesick Angel", but they're buried in our F-4 images and will, unfortunately, have to stay there a while longer. That's the Bad News.   P Friddell

Of course, if you've got Bad News it stands to reason that you'll have some Good News to go with it, and here's ours: 64-0829 nailed a pair of MiG-17s over North Vietnam on 20 May, 1967 and ended up spending some premium time with the 149th prior to restoration and preservation at the AFM. Most of the 149th's Phantoms were wearing their SEA warpaint on their undersides during this era, and 829 was no exception, but you don't have to squint very hard to imagine her back in theater during The Bad Old Days---it's just a dream away. Up and at 'em, Wolfpack!   P Friddell

This is what she looked like in profile. The 149th's unit markings were distinctive but subdued and extremely classy in consequence. We can honestly say we've never met an F-4 we didn't like, but this one's special among the breed and we're glad she was preserved.   P Friddell

Here's what she looked like from the starboard side. How could anything so superficially ugly end up being so outright beautiful?   P Friddell

And here's a detail of her scoreboard during her time with the 149th. The Air Force had relatively few MiG killers during the war, but nearly all of the survivors managed to keep their scoreboards once they got back to the ZI, and several managed to get themselves preserved as well. It was only fitting... P Friddell

Let's go out the way we came in, back at Last Chance taking pictures of airplanes. Like most ANG outfits, the 149th was heavily populated with high-time professional aviators, most of whom had seen the elephant before being assigned to the unit. Still, it was possible to get a little out of shape every once in a while as illustrated by this F-4C cranking out a missed approach at Kelly. Even the pros can have a bad day!   P Friddell

This is more like the way it's supposed to look. There's a TER mounted under the starboard wing, and the aircraft is quite likely returning from the Matagorda Island bombing range. There was no such thing as sequestration in 1983 and the skies over Kelly generally had a Phantom or two in evidence throughout the day (and often into the night). All in all it was a great time to be interested in military aviation.   P Friddell

 And that's it for today's installment on the 149th TFG. It's not inconceivable that we might run more photos of their birds later on; you just never know about such things!   P Friddell

We're an Equal Opportunity Sort of Operation, Don't You Know

Which is why we're going to run a few more Phantom shots today, this time of Navy F-4Js at the tail-end of their "Easter Egg" period. If any of you are getting the notion that we've got a thing for the F-4, well; you'd be right!

Let's start out with 155784, a Juliet from VF-121 on the ground at Eglin during a cross-country on 11 September, 1977. She ended up being converted to an F-4S prior to her ultimate trip to the Boneyard, but she was standing tall in '77 while serving with the West Coast RAG.   M Morgan

October of 1977 saw a somewhat worse-for-wear 155558 from VF-171 sitting on the ramp at PAX River. Ratty-looking Navy airplanes are pretty much the norm nowadays since their numbers (and maintenance funds!) are limited and they're being heavily-used in combat, but it was unusual to find an operational bird looking like this back in the 70s. We don't tend to take part in betting around here but if we did we'd put money on her being just about ready for a visit to the NARF.   R Burns

VF-191's 153842 was on the ground at Miramar in December of 1977 when Mick Roth snapped her portrait. She's configured with both TERs and AIM-9 rails and is conceivably ready to rumble; our guess is that she's preparing for a trip to the bombing range. The squadron markings are minimal but compliment the airframe's lines to a T, we think.   M Roth

153798, an F-4J from VF-151 (and a CAG bird), is depicted on short final into Atsugi on 8 September, 1978. All of the NAV's F-4s wore pretty schemes during this time frame, but we're extremely partial to those worn by the birds of AirPac. Can anybody guess why?  T Kudo

Andrews AFB has always been a hotbed of transient activity, so it was no surprise to find VF-154's 158369 on the ground there in January of 1979. She's carrying a pair of travel pods and a gasbag on her centerline station, a normal configuration for a Navy F-4 on a cross-country flight.  R Burns

June of 1979 saw NAS Corpus Christi hosting its annual air show, Frank Garcia made it aboard a couple of hours before the crowds got there and took this portrait of Fighting 31's 155861. "Felix" looked really good on the Phantom, we think; a worthy tribute to the emblem's pre-WW2 roots. Note the shine on that bird; the boys in VF-31 were pretty darned proud of their heritage!  F Garcia

A couple of photos ago we showed you a photo of a VF-151 CAG bird on final to Atsugi. Here's another shot of a Juliet from that squadron taken in 1979, also on approach to the air station at Atsugi. 158346 isn't a CAG bird but she's colorful enough and a gorgeous example of the type.  T Kudo

Not all F-4Js were Fleet birds; 157286 was assigned to the NATC when Bob Burns took her portrait on 05 November, 1979. Clean airplanes were the norm at the test center during this time frame and 286 is no exception to the rule. The airplane was eventually converted to F-4S standard before ending her life in the boneyard, but she was in her glory in '79. A proud bird...  R Burns

1981 saw the 20th anniversary of the Phantom in the Fleet as commemorated on the tail of 153777. The markings are particularly relevant in this instance, since VF-74 was the first Navy squadron to deploy with the F-4 back in 1961. On a personal level we prefer 74's markings during that earlier time period, but these do get the point across. Fly Navy. Fly Phantom!   T Ring

We're going to finish up today's Phantom Phest (sorry 'bout that; we couldn't resist!) with a shot of a little-known Juliet variant, the EF-4J. To the best of our knowledge 153084 is a normal, run-of-the-mill Juliet with a modified designator, used by VAQ-33 for cruise missile simulation and similar during defense penetration exercises. The "Firebirds" always had good looking markings regardless of what aircraft they put them on, and we think they're especially pretty on the F-4.   R Morgan

We're almost done with today's F-4 marathon, but there's one more thing we have to do before we call it quits:

We Figured Out a Way to Do It!!!

That's right! After fighting our software for the past several weeks we finally decided that we were, by Golly, going to win the argument and publish Gerry Asher's piece on that 57th FIS bird that managed to launch, fly, and recover safely with its wings folded whether Mr Adobe wanted us to do it or not. The Good News is that it's here; the Bad News is that we had to scan the thing and publish it as though it was a series of photographs, which means you'll have to click on each page and open it up separately from the others. Yes, it's half-baked, but it works, and we really want you to read Gerry's account of the adventure so, without further ado...

And there you have it, at long last! Our apologies to Gerry for our somewhat obvious incompetence in the field of computer science, and to our readers for making you wait so long. Now we're done with Phantoms, at least for today, but you never know what the next few issues might bring!

Arming Up

Today's been a day of big, heavy fighters, and we see no reason to change things at this point. Here's a shot Bobby Rocker sent us of an airplane you just might be familiar with:

"Lady Ruth", a P-47D from the 318th FG, sits on the ramp at Saipan being "armed up for a mission". The photo is more than a little bit posed, with people who wouldn't normally be there at the same time doing things that normally wouldn't be done together, but it gives us an excellent view of the stencilling found on the pylons and inside the gunbay doors so it's of considerable value to the modeler if nobody else. (Don't go using this shot as the basis of a diorama, though, unless you plan on putting somebody with a camera in it too...)  National Archives via Rocker Collection

This is a little more like it; several 318th "Jugs" are captured taxiing out for a strike. Things look placid enough now, but those Thunderbolts will be up to their ears in it within the hour. Even the easy ones could kill you, and it was that way right up to the end of the war. Those guys were often short of the amenities, but they were never short on guts!   National Archives via Rocker Collection

Under the Radar

We normally look at older publications in this section of our endeavor, but today we're going to examine a book that's almost brand spanking new and, we suspect, unknown to a great many of our readers:

Rising Sun, Falling Skies; The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II, Jeffrey R. Cox, Osprey Publishing, 2014, 487 pp, illustrated.

Those of our readers who have been with us for a while have surely noted our interest in the events of the Pacific War. This volume fits neatly into that theme and provides the reader with a detailed look at a campaign and series of battles that are essential to the overall picture of events during those terrible early days of the war in the Pacific but little known to most casual historians. Although primarily involved in the naval aspect of the war, sufficient space is given to aerial activity as well, providing the reader with a solid over-view of the way things were during that time and, to a great extent, why things went so terribly wrong for the Allies.

This is not a picture book, although there is a small selection of photographs included, but rather a 415 page history spanning the time from slightly before Pearl Harbor until the immediate aftermath of the Battle of the Java Sea. The work is detailed, heavily footnoted (some 58 pages worth), and with an extensive bibliography. While it's not an aviation book per se, it helps to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of the period immediately after the United States' entry into the war and ties a great many of the events together in a concise and easy-to-read fashion. We consider it to be essential reading for anyone interested in the topic and recommend it without reservation.

The Road Less Traveled

Anybody who knows Jim Sullivan (and everybody at least knows who Jim Sullivan is) knows that he's had a life-long interest in aviation, both as a photographer and an author. As thing happen he's also a pretty good modeler, as illustrated by the airplane you're about to view.

There are different ways to get where you're going if you want a photo-recon Voodoo for your collection. A lot of folks are excited about the recently introduced (and modestly flawed) 1/48th scale F-101A kit from the Far East since its parts breakdown promises an RF-101C yet to come, but this is now. "Back then", whenever you might choose for that to have been, there was only one way to get a quarter-scale photo-recon Voodoo, and that was to convert one from the Monogram F-101B kit. Jim did just that, using a then-new C&H conversion for his project. Here's what he came up with.

We expect the forthcoming kit of the RF-101C to be a little bit easier to work with than Jim's conversion was, but we doubt it will look any better! The markings are for the 29th TRS of the 363rd TRW as based out of Shaw AFB during the late 60s. It's our hope (as well as Jim's!) that KittyHawk will get it right when they finally release their kit---time will tell on that one. In the meantime, Jim's model is a prime example of what you can do with a decent donor kit and some talent. We like it!

Happy Snaps

We're going to take a somewhat different path with today's Happy Snap and go to an Australian air show with Rick Morgan:

Rick's got one of those neat jobs that allows him to do a great deal of traveling, in this case to The Land Down Under, where he shot this beautifully restored Meteor F.8 (replicating a Korean War-era 77 Sqdn RAAF aircraft) about to touch down at an airshow. We don't know whether or not Mikey likes it, but we sure do! Thanks for sending it along, Morgo!   R Morgan

The Relief Tube

Nope, not today! The sad truth of the matter is that we've published so seldom of late that we haven't received all that many letters correcting what we've done, so no Relief Tube this time!

We would, however, like to encourage our readership to submit photographs or articles to us if they're so inclined. A quick look at the project should give you an idea of what we're looking for, so feel free to jump in. That address is  .

Thanks for spending part of your day with us, and with any luck we'll see you again soon. Until then, be good to your neighbor!


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Double-Ugly Strikes Again, A Baby Picture, They Also Served, An Important Airacobra, and a Goose

Somebody Has to Do It, I Guess

So here's The Deal: I've been a modeler for most of my life, beginning at age 5 and lasting until right now this minute. Mostly I've built for myself (one of many reasons I'm not nearly as good at it as I should be), but there was a time back in the late 1960s and early 1970s when I also built for local competition. Sometimes I would get lucky and actually win something, but more often I didn't and it didn't really matter very much to me; I was doing it for fun, mostly, because I thought (and still think) that the hobby was fun. In other words, the means were actually the end, if that makes any sense.

My competition career didn't last very long, just a few brief years. I got out of it not so much because I did or didn't win the contests I entered but because I saw how twisted the whole competition thing was making some of the other folks, otherwise normal people who actually became a tiny bit manic and quite a bit bloodthirsty when it got to be contest time. They had to win. They couldn't lose. They had to win.

Fast-forward to any contest I've attended over the past ten years or so. The quality of the models entered has improved vastly, almost beyond measure, in fact, and the quantity is still there as well. Some of the models are good and some aren't, but every one of them is better than the best we were doing Way Back When. It's a new, highly improved version of the scale modeler's world, but that same old win-at-any-cost competitor is still out there, taking something that should be a lot of fun for everyone involved and turning it into yet another twisted parody of our hobby.

You can always spot him or her at a contest; they don't smile much, and often have the sort of look on their face that you find on the guy who holds the fate of nations in his hands. They look at other people's work and either smirk or look worried, depending on how they view said other people's work. They aren't particularly charitable or kind when they're at a contest, because they have to win. They can't stand losing, and they don't deal with it particularly well when losing ends up being the final result of their endeavor. "You Are My Sunshine" is not a song that features in their own particular hit parade.

What does any of that matter, you might ask? Well, on so many levels it matters not at all. Every one of us enjoys (or should enjoy, anyway) this really neat hobby of ours, because it's FUN! Think about it: Our hobby teaches motor skills and coordination, and it causes us to think. It educates us as we research our projects, and it teaches us self-discipline. It leads us to other people with like interests and it builds friendships that can easily last a lifetime, and at the end of the day we get to proudly display something that we built with our own hands. That's the Up Side.

The Down Side takes us right back to that guy or gal who has to win the contest each time/every time. How can you truly enjoy a hobby, or anything else for that matter, when your sole reason for doing it is to show someone else that you're better at it than they are? It's true enough that everybody has it in them to lose,  and it's equally true that not everyone can win. That's the way Life is, when you sit down and think about it, but it doesn't mean you can't enjoy what you're doing and, in a thought that's entirely foreign to that guy who has to win, equally enjoy the work of the one who beat you in the contest. Yes, it's important to us, but it's also a hobby, something we do for personal enjoyment, and the hobby isn't very enjoyable when we turn things into a Gotta Win It kind of a deal. The fun goes right out of it when we do that.

To look at things another way, I've seen people leave the hobby, or at least leave the club they belonged to, because things didn't go the way they wanted at a contest. I've seen people snub others whom they deemed unworthy, and I've seen friendships of many years destroyed, all over who took first place in a model contest. There's something wrong there.

I raced motorcycles a very long time ago, back when I was quite a bit younger than I am at present. I wanted to win, which was why I started racing, but that didn't happen very often until I stopped trying to beat the other guy and started to try to do better on a personal level. In my world that fact that I'd just taken a corner a little faster than I had done it before became more important to me than the fact that I'd also passed another rider in the process. The fun, which was increasingly becoming a rare thing to me, came back, and I started performing better on the track in consequence. What the other guy did no longer mattered; what did matter was that I enjoyed what I was doing again.

It's my perspective that my experience in motorsports can apply to almost anything, and that perspective most assuredly tempers my approach to plastic modeling. I enjoy going to contests every once in a while, mostly to marvel at the really neat work that's out there, but I haven't personally entered one in over 40 years and honestly doubt I ever will again. As for you: If you do it, that's fine, and I hope you achieve the success you're seeking from it. Just don't go gettin' all pissy and hateful if you don't win. This is a hobby, remember? It's not supposed to be a matter of life or death. It's supposed to be fun. It's a HOBBY!

I rest my case.

Just Some Old Bugsuckers

Just like those of most of our readership, our files are full to the brim with slides of military aircraft, in our case dating from the late 70s, when we began to do aviation photography in earnest, up until the early 1990s when such things became increasingly difficult to fit into an ever-expanding personal schedule and we stopped doing it. The following images date from those "glory" days of the late 1970s and very early 80s. We hope you enjoy them.

The boys at the McDonnell Aircraft Company most assuredly had no idea of the legendary aircraft they were creating when they laid out the first few lines of the design drawings that ultimately led to the F4H-1 Phantom, but that creation, originally intended to be an all-weather fleet defense interceptor and little else, was destined to become one of the world's iconic jet fighters, used for just about every role a military aircraft could have any sort of relevance  to. The airplane was a winner right out of the box; a record-setter and fleet defense aircraft par excellence, but so much more as well. The Phantom was used as, and excelled at being; an interceptor, a fighter, a fighter-bomber, a photo-recon ship, a straight-up bomber, a trainer, a chase plane, research aircraft, and more. It was designed for the Navy but adopted by the Marine Corps and Air Force as well as the air arms of numerous countries allied with the United States. It was Everyman's military aircraft, a journeyman warrior that was at least good enough in many of the roles in which it was ultimately employed and absolutely outstanding in several of them.

The photos you're about to view were taken in South Texas twenty-five or so years ago and give us a view of the F-4 as employed by the USAF and ANG during that time period. Let us begin:

Let's start at the beginning, so to speak. Sunday afternoon, the 2nd of November, 1979, found your editor standing on the edge of a carrot patch off the north in of the runway of the Late Great Kelly AFB taking photos of inbound traffic with a brand-new 200mm telephoto lens, when a car door slammed behind us. We turned to make certain we weren't about to be mugged and were greeted by the sight of a guy a little younger than us lugging a camera and a big grin across the parking lot. Introductions were made, and a lasting friendship was formed with a young naval aviator named Rick Morgan. This shot was one of those that came out of that afternoon; an F-4D-27-MC from the 56th TFW on short final at Kelly. 65-0614 went to the Boneyard some 8 years later but was still in her prime that Autumn day. All in all it was a good way to spend an afternoon!   Friddell

August of 1980 found us shooting an airshow ramp at yet another victim of the BRAC; Bergstrom AFB in Austin. 64-0660 was a The Real Deal and had seen the elephant, a triple MiG-killer from the Bad Old Days of the mid-60s. She was assigned to the 58th TFW the day we shot her, but it wasn't too difficult to imagine her in her glory days. She was well-used but still in good shape then, but she ended her days up a pole in New York, a sad fate yet one that was better than being reduced to pots and pans---at least we can still see her and remember.   Friddell

Here's her scoreboard; a MiG-17 in 1966 and two more in '67. The Fresco was a far tougher opponent than anyone had expected it to be---light weight and a superb aerobatic ability coupled with a heavy gun suite saw to that. The F-4, far heavier, slower-turning, and armed primarily with missiles during the time period of 0660's kills, wasn't a natural in the air-to-air arena but she was, like she proved to be in so many other roles to which she was assigned, good enough for the job. Was the Phantom the stuff of legends? Oh yes she was!   Friddell

The Power and the Glory. She had a lot of nicknames when she was in her prime, some of them unprintable, but we've never spoken to an F-4 pilot or Whizzo who didn't love her. She wasn't the prettiest girl on the dance floor, but she could most assuredly dance! Just ask anyone who ever had to fight against her...  Friddell

Rick Morgan caught this ACM-configured C-model, 63-7506 from the Louisiana ANG, on the ramp at NAS Key West in December of 1980. All of the USAF, ANG, and AfRes Phantoms from this era looked pretty much alike in their SEA camo, but 7506 proudly carried a pair of ACM kills on her port intake splitter plate the day Rick took this photo. She went to the Boneyard in 1987, and then to a gunnery range in Nevada. They couldn't all be survivors...   R Morgan

The early 80s weren't a good time for nose art on American military aircraft, but some managed to sneak by DoD policy anyway. 63-7421 was an F-4C from from San Antonio's 182nd TFS/149th TFG, photographed taxiing in at an airshow at NAS Corpus Christi on 06 June, 1981. She was a Plain Jane to all outward appearances, but there was more to her than first met the eye once she was shut down and parked.   Friddell

Here's how you do it when they won't LET you do it! Most of the 149th's F-4Cs from the era carried a name inside their nose-gear doors; 7421's was "Toby's Wet Dream". (We're guessing Toby liked the airplane, but we'll probably never know for sure!) Check out how beat-up that gear door and wheel well were. The 149th's Phantoms were extremely well-maintained, but you have to draw a line somewhere!   Friddell

Here's our final F-4 for today; the 149th's 64-0918 sitting on the ramp at her Home Drome, Kelly AFB, on 12 September, 1981. She carried a DUC on her forward nose gear door and the name "Grillo Feo" ("Ugly Cricket"), inside her nose gear door. She's configured for a day's excursion to the bombing range at Matagorda Island---the 149th's primary mission was mud-moving during this era. She went to DM in 1988 and was scrapped out in 1996; a sad end to a proud bird.   Friddell

And that's it for today's installment, but there are more F-4s to come, so stay tuned!

Long Ago and Not So Far Away

The late 1960s saw us more-or-less attending school, working in a hobby shop, and presiding over an organisation known at the time as The San Antonio Modeler's Society, or SAMS for short, which was the direct antecedent (another Big Word---it means predecessor, which means the one that came before, if you aren't particularly well-read) of today's Alamo Squadron. This photo comes to us from that far-away time.

It's June of 1969, as good a time as any for a club display of aircraft of the Desert War at San Antonio's own Dibble's Arts and Hobbies.The 1/72nd scale plastic kits of Airfix, Frog, and Revell dominate the display, with a couple of Airfix military subjects thrown in for good measure. It was a lot tougher to replicate good schemes back then since there were so few aftermarket decal manufacturers around, but we managed somehow. The RAF is barely represented in this display and the French not at all, but it wasn't a bad selection for the time and place. Contemporary modelers who complain that they can't get this kit or that decal sheet because nobody makes one really needs to go find themselves a Wayback Machine and take a look at what we were doing in the 60s. Are we grateful for what we've got now? You bet we are!!!   Friddell

Some More of Those Other Guys

As modelers, very few of us ever attempt to replicate the maintenance side of things, even though it's quite the rage to build models with every conceivable panel (except, of course the logical ones) opened for maintenance, or maybe just for looking at in the truest spirit of "look at what I can do to a plastic model". In our view it's good to do that sometimes, but not for the reasons you might think. Here's why:

Here's a shot of an 80th FS P-39G undergoing an engine change in the field, out in the wilds of New Guinea, during 1943. The airplane has almost certainly been defueled prior to engine removal and her guns and ammunition have been removed as well, so there's not much of anything to keep her on her nose gear. That's the reason  the 55-gallon drum with sandbags stacked on it is stuffed between her starboard boom and the ground---we're going to guarantee you that there's one on the other side as well. The work is being performed by a unit most of us have never heard of; the 482nd Service Squadron, another one of those essential organizations nobody ever gives a minute's thought to when we build our models.  E Rogers via Rocker Collection

And here's a slightly more famous airplane undoing work by the 482nd, this time in 1944. The conditions are slightly less primitive in that the aircraft is up on jacks rather than resting on a collection of steel drums and sandbags, but the end result is pretty much the same.   E Rogers via Rocker Collection

We all pay homage to the pilots and aircrew who flew the airplanes we so fondly model, but it's easy to forget there were a lot of other guys out there making it possible to even get their airplanes in the air, much less score aerial victories or conduct a successful bombing run in them. The ground echelons were important to the war effort too, as were the cooks and the truck drivers. Let's raise a glass to them all!

Thanks once again to the kindness of Bobby Rocker for these images of a time long passed.

The Only One

The Bell P-39 Airacobra helped to hold the line in the Pacific after the American debacles at Pearl Harbor in in the Philippines, was the American-flown fighter in New Guinea for several months during 1942, and was a significant type in the struggle for Guadalcanal as well. It was in in combat day after day, week after week, and only one American fighter pilot made ace in it, ever. Only one. Here's a photo of the airplane in which he accomplished this remarkable achievement.

Mention Bill Fiedler's name and there's a fair chance the aviation enthusiast you're talking to will get a puzzled look on there face and say "who?", but Bill Fiedler accomplished something a lot of people would have thought to be difficult if not impossible; he made ace in the P-39. Here's a photo of his P-39N operating out of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal during June of 1943. He flew with both the 68th and 70th FSs of the 347th FG there, and this aircraft (who's serial number is, unfortunately, not known to us) could have been flying with either squadron at the time. In any case it was a remarkable accomplishment that's little-known to most aviation historians.   Rocker Collection


Mark Nankivil comes up with so much beautiful aviation photography that it's amazing. Here's an image that he sent to us several months ago, courtesy of the NASA, that proves the point:

Grumman's immortal Goose family existed in a number of variations from the original G-21 designation to the final G-38 series, but all proved themselves to be sturdy, reliable, and exceptional performers in all corners of the globe. A great many survivors are still flying today, a lasting tribute to Grumman's original design and build quality. This particular aircraft belong to the NACA shortly after the conclusion of the Second World War and provides us with a gorgeous example of the type. This is one of those instances where we can honestly say they don't make 'em like that anymore! Many thanks to Mark Nankivil for sharing this image with us.   National Air and Space Administration

Happy Snaps

We discussed our first meeting with Rick Morgan back up there in our lead-in F-4D photograph so it's only fair we close with one of his shots today. He was flying trail in a two-ship (and obviously not hands-on when the photo was snapped) back during his days with TraCom when he took this photograph of a VT-26 T-2C Buckeye. It's a beautiful shot and a great way to end our day.

The Relief Tube

In our last issue we ran several photographs that we credited to Bobby Rocker when, in fact, they were taken by an individual that we failed to credit properly---they came from the camera of Jack Wheeler. We'll be going back into the captions shortly to correct them, but in the meantime many thanks to Gerry Kersey of 3rd Attack .Org for the correction (and for providing the photography to us in the first place)!

And thanks to all of you for looking in on us today. We'd like to encourage you to send any historic aviation photography (or anecdotal material) you might have on hand and like to share to us at . We promise we'll make good use of it, and provide full (and hopefully accurate!) credit for your contributions. In the meantime, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!