A 4th of July salute to a great American – General Curtis E. LeMay

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On Independence day, it is well to remember those who have ensured that such liberty endures. One such man is the immortal General Curtis E. LeMay. General LeMay will be long remembered for his revolutionary concepts on airpower strategy and doctrine. As the absolute boss of Strategic Air Command, he put those theories to the test. He was always willing to find out what worked, or did not. Furthermore, from the B-29 to the SR-71, LeMay always knew a good aircraft when he saw one.

In his day, LeMay’s personality and strong beliefs caused him to be a terror in the minds of many. While he was incredibly firm, he was also incredibly fair. He knew what he wanted, and in case one did not know what that was, he would tell you in no uncertain terms. Intimidating though he was to those in the 1950s & 60s, in today’s juvenile-minded political & societal environment he would cause many of his fellow Americans to wet their pants. That being their sole means of expressing their inability to argue with the man.


 

B-36, 92nd Bomb Wing

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44-92060 had, by today’s standards, a brief life. Delivered in 1949, and assigned to the 92nd Bomb Wing at Fairchild AFB in 1951, it did its part for five years until it was scrapped in 1956. Made for a lot of pots and pans.


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The patch of the 92nd during the B-36 days at Fairchild. B-52s arrived in 1957, and, alas, this patch design was done away with.

In search of Pancho Villa: On the Border with the 1st Aero Squadron, 1916

The 1916 mission to bring Pancho Villa and his desperadoes to justice was the first military operation for the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps. Despite the primitive conditions and seemingly frail aircraft, the 1st Aero Squadron proved invaluable for the Army’s operations.

Beginning in mid-March, 1916, the aircraft seen here, Signal Corps No. 43, flew many of the 1st’s early missions. Usually piloted by Lt. Herbert A. Dargue, No. 43 was considered one of the more reliable machines. However, aircraft reliability in 1916 was measured in weeks: No. 43 developed engine trouble on April 19, 1916, was forced to land in hostile territory, and was subsequently destroyed to prevent its capture. Hiking through the badlands of Mexico without food or water for two days and nights, Lt. Dargue and fellow pilot Robert H. Willis managed to avoid capture.

 

Shooting Stars

84th Bomb Squadron (Tactical)

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With its tail number of 47-084, this B-45A was a natural choice for assignment to Langley AFB’s 47th Bomb Group, 84th Bomb Squadron. The unit later moved to RAF Sculthorpe in the UK.

The B-45 was, of course, America’s first jet bomber, and like many of those early jets it had a checkered career (of the 143 B-45s built, almost one-third of them were destroyed in crashes and other mishaps). There are very few survivors, and 47-084 is not one of them: it ended its days in 1958 at Ramstein Air Base as an instructional airframe for training firemen.  In other words, a charred and smashed wreck.

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Insignia of the 84th

Boeing Model 299

A salute to the forerunner of the world’s most famous bomber. Most of the photos taken of the 299 are well known, but here at Jivebomber’s you not only get to see them again, but in many cases, they are original 1935 photographs from long-discarded Boeing archives. Enjoy.


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The Seattle Star of July 17, 1935, tells us that Boeing’s “Mystery Bomber” had rolled out the factory door only the day before.


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The 299 being ogled by appreciative onlookers at Boeing Field. Another famous product of that company can be seen in the hangar – the P-26.


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The 299 takes to the skies.


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Artist’s conception of the Model 299 over Wright Field, Ohio.


 

Stinson Vigilant

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The Stinson L-1 Vigilant seen here has had a long and interesting life. Delivered to the Air Corps in 1941, 40-3012 served all over the United States before being purchased at the war’s end by legendary Hollywood pilot, Paul Mantz. After decades of work as a camera plane, this airworthy craft now resides in the Fantasy of Flight museum in Florida. This photo shows the plane shortly after its sale to Mantz. The aircraft had last been assigned to the Air Transport Command (ATC) division in Alaska (that is the difficult to see totem pole insignia below the cockpit).


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This L-1 was a rare bird. Built as 41-18912 for the Army Air Force, it was equipped with floats and redesignated the L-1F. Only a handful were so converted.


Boeing XPB-1

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First flown in 1925, the XPB-1 with its all-metal hull seemed promising enough, but was plagued by difficulties with its liquid-cooled engines.


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Despite the engine problems, the rugged XPB-1 was retained for testing purposes by the navy who eventually replaced the original motors with radials. Still, there was only one built.


Curtiss P-36 Hawk, 1940-41

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We see a rather rare photo here: a pre-war P-36 sporting a bare metal finish with national insignia on its fuselage. Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that in late 1940, the Air Corps was conducting experiments with camouflage as well as the placement of the national insignia. This P-36 is assigned to Maxwell Field’s 23rd Composite Group – the unit that carried out such testing.

Junior Birdmen of 1959

These shots were taken at Graham Air Base, Florida, in the latter half of 1959. The aircraft are the T-34 and, of course, the then new T-37 “Tweet”. Graham was an air force training base, but was operated primarily by civilian contractors and not air force personnel. As such, it did not carry the title “Air Force Base”. By 1959, the era of civilian operated training schools was coming to a close, and Graham Air Base closed the following year.

The Vickers Valiant

The VC-137A & B

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58-6960 sports the VC-137’s original markings on an early test flight prior to its delivery to the USAF.
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58-6970 cruises the skies of Western Washington in the late 50s. It is now at the Museum of Flight in Seatle.
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62-6000 undergoes final checks prior to delivery.
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62-6000 takes to the skies.
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62-6000 is, of course, the most famous of the Air Force Ones. It was this aircraft President Kennedy flew to Dallas in 1963. The plane is now at the Air Force Museum.

Record setting flight!

Peg Ham

Back in the 1920s, almost any routine event was automatically far more interesting when it was done in an airplane. Take a fashion show for instance. Appealing as such a venue would be on terra firma, it became much more newsworthy when it happened 5,000 feet in the air. That brings us to the photo. The aircraft is, of course, a Ford Trimotor. The location, Hollywood (also, of course). The woman is famed fashion designer Peggy Hamilton – and she was famed: Hamilton was the designer for all the big movie studios and top names in the film industry.

So, why is Madam Hamilton about to board the Trimotor? According to the photo’s caption, she is going to perform the “World’s first” fashion show in an airplane. Once airborne, she will model eight “gorgeous gowns” to an appreciative audience of club presidents from various organizations. Given that Hamilton was married at least 6 or 7 times (no one is exactly sure which) the gowns in question might be leftovers from her numerous matrimonial endeavors. Whatever the case, I am sure the club presidents were vastly entertained.

Note: Given the Trimotor’s low altitude and lack of insulation, I would venture to say that this event also set the record for the world’s bumpiest and noisiest fashion show.

F-102 Delta Daggers!

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F-102A on a visit to Paine AFB, WA, circa 1959. Stationed just down the road at McChord AFB, 56-0972 bears the rather simple yet satisfying markings of the 317th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS).


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Another 317th FIS bird (56-0958) poses with a predecessor, a replica Spad.


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Early F-102A of the 327th FIS.


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Another early bird, 53-1817 of the Air Proving Ground Command, 1956. This aircraft was withdrawn from service in 1962 and was then displayed for decades at Lackland AFB, Tx. It is now on exhibit with the Florida Air National Guard, Jacksonville, Fl.


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The Washington Air National Guard’s 116th FIS flew the F-102 for only 3 years, 1966-69. This aircraft, 56-0985, is currently on display at McEntire Air National Guard Base, SC.


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Speaking of South Carolina, here are a brace of 102’s from that state’s 157th FIS, 57-0859 and 57-0818.


Carl Ben Eielson, aviation pioneer

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Carl Ben Eielson earned his wings during World War I with the Army Air Service, became a post-war barnstormer, then headed north to Alaska and began making a name for himself. He flew the mail to remote towns where only dog sleds had gone before, started an airline, became a polar explorer, and made the first flight over the North Pole from Alaska to Norway. He died on a rescue mission in 1929, but his legacy lives on (Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, is named in his honor).

Eielson’s aircraft of choice during his bush pilot days in Alaska was a Curtiss JN-4D “Jenny”, seen here. Weathered and beaten with the faded name “Fairbanks” emblazoned on its olive-drab fuselage, this aircraft (AS 47358) managed to survive and is now on display at Fairbanks Airport in Alaska.

His passenger is Mrs. Ladessa Nordale, wife of Fairbanks newsman Hjalmer Nordale. Mrs. Nordale later became a prominent Alaska judge. One her more interesting cases involved her ruling on whether an automobile constituted a whorehouse. Despite such establishments being illegal, a young lady (of easy virtue) was plying her trade in the back seat of her Cadillac (business must have been good). Judge Nordale ruled the Cadillac was indeed a den of ill-repute and put the motorized entrepreneur out of business. This provided some comedy given that the judge herself drove a Cadillac.