1st Pursuit Group, 1937

Here we have one of those fantastic panoramic photos that was widely popular back in the day. Taking such a shot was not in the realm of most photographers and so one had to call on the experts: the National Photo & News Service of San Antonio, Texas. It was one of their photographers (E. L. Rothwell) that made the journey to Selfridge Field, Michigan in the summer of ’37. His tool of choice was a “Cirkut” camera, a truly ingenious device that, while pivoting on a vertical axis, exposed a roll of film which advanced in synchronised movement to the horizontal action of the camera. Capturing for posterity the 1st Pursuit Group required five feet of film (the photo measures 5 feet x 10 inches).

 As stated, the photo was taken in 1937. Summer time, if one takes in to account the many open windows and the fully-leafed trees (and, according to the clock on the operations building, it was 9:10 AM). The squadrons are the 17th, 27th, and 94th Pursuit, the aircraft, of course, is the P-26.

Most of these buildings seen 84 years ago are still in use today.

P2Y of VP-19, circa 1939

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Some eighty years ago, the Consolidated P2Ys of Patrol Squadron 19 were a familar sight skimming across the waters of Lake Washington along whose banks was located Naval Air Station Seattle. The P2Y was an ungainly looking contraption, but looks belie the fact is was a very sturdy and reliable performer. 

Postscript…

Many of the officers and men in this photo were local reservists. On the men’s cap is a ribbon which states they are part of “Patrol Squadrons, USN” (one man is from the USS Teal, a seaplane tender assigned to the base). 

A visit to Selfridge Field, c. 1932

KC-135A, circa 1957

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This is one of the early bird KC-135s – the 15th one built, to be exact – and the paint scheme reflects this (the almost obligatory 1950s day-glo orange). This particular tanker, 55-3132, had a long life but not one that involved much aerial refueling. Like many of the early 135s, it was converted into a test bed and spent the majority of its career as an airborne electronic warfare labatory. Last I checked, the aircraft is on display at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. Note: I purposely did not crop this slide. Sometimes its nice to remind folks that not everything was created as a digital image. The word “Kodachrome” should always remain part of an aviation buff’s lexicon.

Airshow time, circa 1979

There was something for everybody at this open house back around 1979: Phantoms, Voodoo, Thunderchief, Vulcan, and the USAF Thunderbirds in their T-38s. Not 100 percent certain of the location, but I believe it is Whiteman AFB, MO. The photographer was not using the best of equipment, but I’m glad he took the pictures.

Jets (and props) of the 1940s

Henri Farman

Early aeroplanes and aeronauts

Note: These images may not be the ultimate in quality, but they are original photos that are over 110 years old.

337th Fighter Interceptor Squadron

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The location of this photo is Taoyuan Air Base, Taiwan, where the 337th was deployed in response to the Quemoy Crisis in late 1958. Such deployments were unusual for an Air Defense Command unit but the F-104 Starfighters of the 337th were ready.

Arriving in October of ’58, the 337th relieved the 83rd FIS who departed sans F-104s so the 337th would have something to fly – The 83rd had disassembled their Starfighters in order to have them airlifted to Taiwan and the Air Force saw no sense in requiring the 337th to do the same thing to theirs. The 337th was at Taoyuan less than two months before they were ordered back to their home of Westover AFB, Mass. (It was now their turn to disassemble some Starfighters.)

Several noteworthy aspects to this photo: Sitting at center on his “throne”, and holding a big cigar (the smoking of which he was quite fond of), is squadron commander Major James Jabara, Korean War ace extraordinaire. 

It is also of note that in this photo there are about half a dozen patches worn that are from squadrons other than the 337th. The 49th FIS, 56th, 331st, etc.; most likely new guys who did not get their 337th patches sewn on before the deployment.

PS. I wonder whose job it was to organize the water buffalos seen on each end of the picture?

PBY Catalina Day

For fans of the B-25 Mitchell

Tales the flightsuits tell

P2V Neptune, and the boss

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Seen here with the bird that bears his name, Commander Bill Hodges, CO of VP-11, poses while on a deployment to Malta in the mid-1950s.

Note: Hodges had a long career that included surviving the sinking of his ship, USS West Virginia, at Pearl Harbor (a good swimmer, Hodges took a few deep breaths and dove down into the wreck to retrieve his wallet). 

Mississippi National Guard, 1939

The Mississippi National Guard was just starting out in the aviation world when these photos were taken back in ’39. The newly-minted 153rd Observation Squadron took to the skies with a gaggle of decidedly well-worn O-38s, but they were no doubt happy to have something to fly.

If you are a Frenchman, this “April Fools’ Day” postcard makes perfect sense

April Fools’ Day in France is the day of “Poisson d’Avril” – April Fish. Jokes revolve around the sea critter – especially that of attaching a paper fish to the back of an unsuspecting individual who goes about his day never suspecting he has a paper trout dangling on the back of his jacket.

What does that have to do with aircraft? Not a thing. However, with aeroplanes being the newest thing back in 1909 (when this card was posted) it is not surprising the old tradition of “Poisson d’Avril” was given a new twist. Note: when visiting France on April 1st, always check your back.

Men and Mustangs: The 357th Fighter Group

Whale-o-rama

Air Force One and the Skyranger

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Two aircraft that one does not often see in the same photo would be the VC-137 and the Commonwealth Skyranger. Taken at the Renton Airport/Boeing plant in the summer of 1962, VC-137, “SAM 2600”, is undergoing finishing touches before it is delivered to the Air Force for the use of President Kennedy. This photo illustrates the classic adage of “I seen ’em come, I seen ’em go” by virtue of the fact that while SAM 2600 is now retired to the Air Force Museum, the Skyranger (N90682, built in 1946) is still registered and flying today. Really, about the only thing that shows this photo was not taken in recent times are the vintage automobiles.

One of the perks of being a general is…

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…having a fighter plane to call your own. Major General William Kepner was no exception; as boss of the 8th Fighter Command, he got around in style in his P-47 (42-26637) nicknamed “Kokomo”. Here we see it wears the name of an additional city, “Buffalo”. Or, perhaps, it is referring to the animal of the same name. Before the war, Kepner was more associated with balloons & such rather than fighter aircraft. He held six ratings, most rather quaint: command pilot, combat observer, senior balloon pilot, zeppelin pilot, semirigid pilot, and metal-clad airship pilot.

The color photo is courtesy of Bob Livingstone from the sunburnt country, the Land Down Under.

By request…

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Several people have asked me for the full photo of the image that appears on the header for this site. Nice guy that I am, here it is: The 6th Pursuit Squadron at Wheeler Field, Hawaii, circa 1935. The 6th Pursuit (later Night Fighter) Squadron was inactivated in 1947, and despite being one of the older units (activated in 1917) it entered a long post-war slumber*. This was rectified in 2017, and once again the 6th is an active component of the USAF.

*Note: Wikipedia states that the 6th was reactivated in 1968, assigned to the 11th Air Force, and flew F-4 Phantoms for 25 years at “Alberts Air Base” in the “San Francesco Islands”. Not a word of this is even remotely true thus serving as a helpful reminder why Wikipedia is not an accepted source at any college or university.