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.
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.
…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.
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.
The location is Luke Field, Territory of Hawaii. The date, oh, sometime in the 1930s. The aircraft, the Thomas Morse O-19. The 4th had obviously just done something worthy of the sizable trophy held by the officer in the middle. Given the sedate performance of the O-19, it is safe to assume the trophy does not reflect the squadron’s establishment of a new world record for airspeed.
Taken at March Field, California, in about 1933, the pilots are as follows: Front row, left to right, Squadron Commander Lt. Ralph A. Snavely, Lieutenants Lewis, Allison, and Eaker. Top row, Lieutenants Stone, Messer, Gardner, and Skaer. Although the number of B-7 (and its variants) were small (14 built in total) it marked a revolution in Air Corps bombers: all-metal, and a monoplane to boot. This revolutionary aspect can be seen when one compares the Y1B-7 with another 31st Bomb Squadron bird lurking in the background – a Keystone B-4 – which looks right out of World War 1.
Proudly posing with their scoreboard on the hangar deck of USS Essex, VF-15’s roster of pilots included many aces, the top being David McCampbell with 34 victories. The F6F Hellcat he flew to attain such a score is the backdrop for the photo, the famed “Minsi III”. McCampbell is seated to the right of the scoreboard.
Flown by 56th Special Operations Wing at Nakhon Phanom Air Base, Thailand, this Skyraider (52-139598) had its picture taken while on display at nearby Korat Air Base in 1970. Unfortunately, time was running out for 598: On 24 December of that same year, the aircraft was lost while escorting rescue helicopters deep into hostile country. The pilot, Major Albro L. Lundy, was killed, his body being recovered and identified decades later. R.I.P.
A-3 Falcons of the 26th Attack Squadron, Wheeler Field.
Keystone B-5s of Luke Field’s 72nd Bombardment Squadron pay a call to Wheeler.
P-12s of the 18th Pursuit Group warming up at Wheeler Field.
The photo’s caption says the crew of this DH-4 was “O.K.”. Well, that’s good, but despite having survived the crash, their troubles were not over: They have ended up in a field full of Opuntia ficus-indica, also known as the prickly pear cactus (“Panini” in Hawaiian). This no doubt caused a lot of cursing and swearing as the crew worked their way out of the field. Additional blasphemous language was supplied by the mechanics who arrived later to haul the wreck out of there.
When this photo was taken on April 24, 1934, the 1st Observation Squadron at Mitchel Field, NY, was mainly in the business of flying the Curtiss O-1 Falcon. However, they also had this Fairchild C-8 for hauling cargo and personnel from place to place. This C-8 (31-463) was one of only 14 ever built for the Air Corps.
One would be forgiven when seeing these photos for laughing at what appears to be multiple views of one pilot’s misfortune. Unfortunately (for the taxpayer, that is) these are different aircraft on (I assume) different days. Same plane – the BT-14 – and, same place – Randolph Field. The invention of the tricycle landing gear was a welcome addition to the world of flying, especially for those who were just getting started.
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.