On Sunday, April 18, 1943 the U.S. Army Air Force's 57th Fighter Group stationed at El Djem, Tunisia in North Africa, on a routine mission over Cape Bon had 46 P-40 Warhawks in the air along with 18 British Spitfires flying top cover. Low on fuel and basically returning to base they came across a 100 plane flotilla of German JU-52 troop transport planes flying just above sea level over the Mediterranean, escorted by 50 Messerschmitt fighters. Catching the Germans completely off guard, while the Spitfires drew off the Messerschmitts and kept them busy, the P-40s split into pairs diving on the enemy planes tearing the transports to shreds, with an overall kill count of 77 enemy aircraft destroyed.
Any of you who are familiar with my works know that the Curtiss-Wright P-40, sometime called the Kittyhawk, Tomahawk, or Warhawk, has always been, since I was just a kid, my favorite aircraft. Because of same, although Google search engines may not agree or reflect it, I have one of the best if not THE best P-40 restoration pages on the internet, primarily thanks to the input of a man I know from way back in my high school days named Kent. Kent, who knows P-40s inside and out almost better than anybody, is responsible for, along with a dedicated group of workers and volunteers, the restoration of the only fully operational Pearl Harbor surviving P-40 Tomahawk. They hauled what was left of it down from a mountain in Hawaii, after which, starting practically from scrap and limited money, worked through to a pristine full flight-worthy registered aircraft.
Of Kent I write the following, from a time long ago, a time well before he began restoring or writing about P-40s, as found in the source so cited:
"One day in one of the classes that the two of us shared, instead of doing anything that remotely resembled anything close to school work, I was sketching in class like I aways did, only this time I was making a rather intricate drawing of a P-40 Flying Tiger, one of my favorite fighter planes. The drawing caught Kent's eye and as it was, turned out to be his favorite planes too, that is, ever since just like me as a kid, he had seen the black and white 1940s movie Flying Tigers with John Wayne."
The black and white film Flying Tigers was released in 1942. From a young kid through to an adult I must have seen it a 100 times, all because I held not only the Flying Tigers in high regard, but because I held P-40s in high regard. Even so, personally, I have always felt P-40s seemed to get the short end of the stick when it came to World War II fighter aircraft. A good example is what I was told by a former WW II P-47 pilot one night under some somewhat trying circumstances. I was around ten years old and, along with my Uncle, had just picked up my older brother and cousin from out from under the grasp of a club wielding railroad bull in the Sacramento train yards. Afterwards, of which I discuss more thoroughly in Riding The Cab Forwards, in the middle of the night we flew over the High Sierras to an abandoned rock strewn remote airstrip south of Reno and picked up a mysterious woman who I never learned the identity of wearing dark glasses and covered from head to toe in a long dark coat and scarf. Just about sunrise we landed in Las Vegas. The plane was met by a limo of which the lady got in and that was it.
During the flight over the Sierras I heard the pilot tell my uncle he flew P-47 Thunderbolts in World War II, not only in the European theater, but the Pacific theater as well, with a number of kills under his belt, both German and Japanese. Later, in a lull while we were hanging out waiting for time to pass I asked him about P-47s. He had both praise and fault, but mainly lauded their armament and power. Some he said, even though the Army Air Force would never confirm it, had even broken the sound barrier in steep dives. I told him my favorite fighter plane was the P-40 Warhawk and that I especially loved the Flying Tigers. His response about the P-40 devastated me for years. The pilot said, and this is a quote, "A crappy plane, son, but it had merit." Of course, at the time, as a ten year old, and only a few years after the war, I didn't know the evolution of the planes. I just sort of lumped them altogether as existing all at one time, not realizing that the P-40, as one of the best we had at the start of the war, was totally outdated by the end when P-38s and P-51s dominated the skies.
What people forget is that the P-40 was just about the only viable fighter plane of any kind we had when the war broke out. They also forget that when we were drawn into the war it was when the Axis powers were at their strongest. They had overwhelming strength, might, and numbers in the early stages and for us it was all about catching up and surpassing. In the meantime the Axis juggernaut was being met face on by P-40s. Not to denigrate P-38s and P-51s in any way, magnificent and formidable aircraft both, by the time they were fully operational and reached the skies in great numbers the power of the Axis had reached a turning point. In the meantime it was the venerable P-40 and their ilk that plugged away and stayed the onslaught and, unknown to most remained a fighting warbird clear through to the end of the war as can be fully attested to in:
P-40: THE OBSOLETE WAR HERO
It was several years after the war before I saw the movie Flying Tigers for the first time. I was living in the West Adams district of Los Angeles under the auspices of my Stepmother and had gone to the Adams theater near the corner of Western and Adams circa 1948 to see it along with its co-billed film Back To Bataan. However, I had learned about P-40s long before that. As usual for me at the time, from comic books, most notably a comic book called BLUE BOLT No. 6, January, 1944.
Inside the #6 issue of Blue Bolt was a four-page story about the exact same air battle described at the top of the page. As a kid the story proved to me the full fighter aircraft worthiness of P-40s and, even though I was set back a tad by the P-47 pilot for awhile, it is still the feeling I carry with me to this day. If you may have felt otherwise before, after becoming aware of the story, you might change your mind as to the overall role and contribution of the P-40 in World War II. The four page story from Blue Bolt is presented in its entirety below, followed by a link to a page offering complete historical written coverage of the same event as well as a link outlining the unusual circumstances surrounding how the comic book got into my hands in the first place.
Within the text of the main page titled P-40 WARHAWK: Pearl Harbor Survivor, regarding the restoration of the P-40B, the following is found at the link so cited:
"(B)efore resorting to the use of newly manufactured parts they incorporated as many parts as possible from the two straight P-40s that had crashed in the Sierra Nevada mountains 60 miles due east of Fresno CA on 24 Oct. 1941 and were recovered by Project Tomahawk over a three year period-1989/'92. P-40s 39-285 and 39-287 had gone down while on a cross country mission to participate in an air defense exercise over Seattle WA. During the leg of the flight from March Field to Sacramento , the flight of 19 A/C flew into heavy weather over the Sierras and five planes were lost."(source)
The two planes of which the parts were recovered from the Sierra crash site, 39-285 and 39-287, were both P-40 Tomahawks of the US Army Air Forces 57th Pursuit Group based at Windsor Lock (Bradley) Field, Connecticut. On October 18, 1941 the Group began a cross country training mission with 25 aircraft, reaching March Field in southern California with 21 operational.
On October 24, 1941 19 of the P-40s left March Field for McClellan Field near Sacramento. The flight encountered severe weather over the Sierras near Fresno with only four planes actually making it to McClellan and fifth one landing nearby. Five of the P-40s crashed. One pilot bailed out over the mountains and rescued. Two pilots bailed out and spent a week in a cabin before being located and two others were killed crashing into mountains. The remaining aircraft were said to have made forced landings in various locations across central California and western Nevada.
As I do for all service members and veterans who served their country honorably in both peace and war, I bow my head with all and full due respect for the lives of the deceased pilots, who, in an albeit ill fated flight, gave their lives training in a mission for a country soon to be at war.
The interesting part here for me particularly, however, and a full circle super heavy duty coincidence that almost nobody can believe --- after being duly pointed out by Kent --- who, by the way, is the author of the quote at the top of this section and same person I knew in high school --- is that the parts recovered from the two P-40s that crashed in the Sierras and used in the restoration of his P-40 Warhawk Pearl Harbor survivor, were from planes of the 57th Pursuit Group, soon to be renamed the 57 Fighter Group. The 57th Fighter Group is the same Group that figured so prominently in the one day "Goose Shoot" slaughter of over 70 German aircraft that I have presented on this page.
Along with the P-40, as a young boy growing up, I loved Leonardo Da Vinci, Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies, especially Tarzan and the Huntress, Warner Brothers cartoons, astronomy, the cosmos, rockets to the Moon and Mars, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, along with a myriad superheroes, especially the 'mortal' type such as the Spirit and Captain Midnight. So too, of western comic book heroes and cowboy movie stars such as Firehair, the Durango Kid, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers, their horses Champion and Trigger, and their sidekicks Smiley Burnette, Gabby Hayes, and Andy Devine.(see)
Late one night and well shy of me reaching eight years old I was sitting in a train station out in the middle of the Arizona desert all alone except for being escorted by an ancient tribal spiritual elder when a man who identified himself as the father of one of the P-40 pilots that participated in the Goose Shoot off the coast of North Africa, intuitively guessing the above about me, that is comic books and all, stepped up and handed me a copy of the Blue Bolt comic book the Goose Shoot story appeared in, the first time I ever heard of the incident and the overwhelming success rate of P-40s in combat.
The company that published Blue Bolt and that particular issue was based in the city of New York, with the art work for the Goose Shoot story attributed to a man by the name of Harry Ramsey. Most would agree that Ramsey did a fairly good job on his drawing rendition of the P-40 Tomahawks, or Warhawks as the case may be, a fairly well known aircraft in those days, but the German transports? Note as drawn they are all six-engine models. The Germans had a six engine Junker, the Ju-390, a model that was reportedly never seen before until it was photographed by a person onboard a convoy ship supplying the beachhead during the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942.
It has been reported, that the next year a Ju-390 left Europe coming in over Canada crossing into U.S. airspace to photograph defense plants in Michigan only to exit out over the Atlantic sometime after noon on August 28, 1943 by coming in behind any east-facing aircraft detection systems and passing directly over New York above the Empire State Building. The difficulty most historians have with such a claim is that the Ju-390's first flight is officially stamped into the records as happening two months later, on October 20 1943.(see)
The problem is the existence of the Ju-390 was not widely known even in the theater of operation and being kept a secret outside of it. The question is, how is it Ramsey, who did an excellent job drawing the P-40s come up with the idea of a six-engine German aircraft? Did he just happen to look up from his drawing table on the afternoon of August 28, 1943 and see the fly over of the six-engine Junker and simply incorporate them into his story published January 1944 as though they as a bomber were an everyday German plane?
WORLD WAR II GERMAN SIX-ENGINE JUNKER JU-390
For years reports have surfaced that sometime around September 17-19, 1944 a large six engine aircraft painted very dark green and black paint crashed in the sea off Owls Head Lighthouse, Maine. A resident of Burlington, Vermont, Ruben Paul Whittemore, has reported he had relatives who witnessed the recovery of three bodies found in the Penobscot river estuary on September 28, 1944 and taken by the U.S. Coast Guard to Rockland Maine Station. One of the witnesses states he saw one body in a uniform later identified as a German Luftwaffe Signal Corps Uniform, (grey-blue with yellow/brown collar tabs).
Most people who ascribe any amount of credibility to the downed craft said to be laying in the water off the coast of Maine pretty much agree it's mission was not recon like the August 28, 1943 flight, but to bomb New York. Evidence has surfaced in some quarters the attack would not have been conventional in nature either but possibly nuclear.
1944 GERMAN ATOMIC BOMB
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57th FIGHTER GROUP'S PALM SUNDAY GOOSE SHOOT
WORLD WAR II COMES TO REDONDO
FLYING TIGERS (THE MOVIE)
THE SO-CALLED BATTLE OF L.A.--800 FOOT ZEPPELIN-SIZE UFO
CAUGHT IN SEARCHLIGHT BEAMS OVER LOS ANGELES IN 1942
TOMMY TOMAHAWK P-40 TOMAHAWK SQUADRON
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ON THE RAZOR'S
As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
The paragraph so quoted in the main text above and sourced through to here describing the meeting between Kent and I in high school is found several times in my works in a number of locations and in a variety of variations, but all in the end, presenting the same basic scenario. The version I've used above is the first version of which all others stemmed and for those who may be so interested can be found in context at:
ATTACK ON HOOVER DAM
One of my favorite versions, found in a footnote at the source so cited at the end of the quote, again finds Kent and I in the same class in high school and not knowing each other:
"I was drawing in class one day like I always did instead of doing anything that vaguely resembled a class assignment or schoolwork, only this time I was drawing a P-40 Flying Tiger. Kent, spending time throwing rolled up balls of notebook paper out of a small gap in the open window across the room and never missing, thinking he would just take some of mine, noticed my drawing. Seems that ever since seeing the black and white 1942 John Wayne movie Flying Tigers, P-40s, like with me, was his favorite plane. After that things were cool between us."
FLYING TIGERS: The Boy In The Man Remembers the Legend
For an almost biography of Kent post high school see:
P-40: FIGHTER IS A REBUILT PIECE OF WWII HISTORY
The question is constantly asked: Why would a man of Zen so purported to be as I am as found in Dark Luminosity and elsewhere, have any interest at all in P-40s or any other aircraft for that matter, at least at the level I seem to have?
The venerable World War II fighting machine, the P-40, given such a high priority of importance in my writings is based two things. One, I liked P-40s as a very young boy initially because I liked the Flying Tigers --- or at least the idea of Flying Tigers. I loved the "all plane plane" sleekness and look of the P-40, especially so when the nose was endowed with the almost comic book like fierce looking red with white sharp teeth of a tiger shark and eyes. What could be better? So too, as a young boy I bought into the legend circulating at the time that the Japanese feared the tiger shark and just the sight of the P-40s was so intimidating that the Japanese pilots would lose their edge in battle. Although that aspect of the legend is far from substantiated, the kill ratio has a tendency to support such a belief.(see)
Secondly, pure coincidence. You can call it karma or fate, but the fact that the guy I knew in high school liked the Flying Tigers and thus then P-40s which led to him participating in the complete restoration of one. Me hearing about his endeavors led me to the hanger where the restoration was going on and there I overheard a conversation that eventually gave me the answers to a question that had plagued me for a very long time. The question stemmed from the following:
Sometime in early to mid 1945 a fully fueled and operable C-47 with no markings and painted in the flat tan desert color of the Afrika Korps --- with a white underbelly --- was found parked under camouflage netting on a remote Nevada desert airstrip that has come to be called in recent times Bonnie Claire Airport, a basically remote forever abandoned X shaped strip with no known history about 125 miles north of Las Vegas. As if it wasn't bad enough once discovered, the unmarked C-47 was eventually traced back as being one of thirty-nine C-47s used in Operation Torch, the invasion of Vichy French North Africa in November, 1942, in of which a great number of the 47s were either destroyed, lost, or ended up unaccounted for. The plane was stripped of all except bare necessities, even the landing and anti-collision lights were gone. The only thing inside was 20 or so brand-new parachutes divided and stacked along each side of the cargo bay, double the amount in count of bailout rations and canned water. Sitting neatly in their holders near pilot and co-pilot's seats were flight charts mostly related to Mexico and Baja California along with instructional and operational manuals all written in German.
One day I went by to see the P-40 being restored by the guy I knew in high school. Several aviation buffs were there that day milling around each trying to out talk the other about their great expertise and knowledge in things aviation, and of which two, a high school history and geography teacher from someplace I didn't catch and a ceramics teacher from a nearby high school in Torrance, were talking about a crashed C-47 that one of them found years before in the San Bernardino Mountains. When I heard him say he was just a kid when he stumbled across the wreck of a C-47 in the mountains and it still had parachutes, clothing and other personal effects, thinking it might be a World War II wreck and possibly associated with the unmarked one found parked in the desert in early 1945 my ears perked up. Now, while I wasn't able to talk with the one guy who had found the C-47 for some reason or the other, I did to talk to the other guy in the conversation, the ceramics teacher, who filled me in on the gist of their discussion. Once he told me the plane went down in 1952 I sort of lost interest. However, what is important to us here is what else the ceramics teacher told me.
Somtime shortly after the end of the Korean War the ceramics teacher had joined the Air Force and ended up stationed at Castle Air Force Base located in the center of California's San Joaquin Valley. The ceramics teacher told me he had always considered himself an avid aviation buff and having missed being in World War II because he was too young, was constantly badgering the older airmen for war stories. One day one of the older guys told him that near the end of the war he was assigned to a small group of other airmen and a couple of officers on some sort of an organized ground search. Their search ended after several days when they eventually came across what they were looking for. According to the airman the fruit of their search endeavors turned out to be nothing less than a fully fueled and operable unmarked C-47 carefully hidden from the air under camouflage netting out in the middle of the remote Nevada desert somewhere west and south of Death Valley not far from the Sierras. Inside they found a bunch of parachutes, maps, and the operational procedures on flying a C-47 written in German. The two officers, acting as pilot and co-pilot, fired up the engines and took off leaving he and the other airmen on the ground to hike back. What ever happened to the C-47 has never been learned.
THE GHOST AND THE HAUNTED B-29
The BLUE BOLT No. 6 comic book with a January, 1944 cover date carrying the four page Goose Shoot story inside came into my hands in a rather unusual way. It started with me as a very young boy being taken to India by the foster couple I was sent to live with, without me knowing my father's opinion on the matter nor to my knowledge, necessarily with his approval, as presented below from the source so cited:
"Before my dad had a chance to respond to the couple, the couple, knowing full well that my mother was in a sanatorium, without my father's grace, took me to India, simply sending him a note saying that in the end I had changed my mind about going. While I was gone my mother died. I missed the funeral and by the time I got back my family had disintegrated, my two brothers and myself all going separate ways, my dad disappearing into the countryside heavy into alcohol."
THE LAST AMERICAN DARSHAN
After six months or so in India, upon returning to the U.S., in that my immediate family in California had apparently dispersed to the four winds following the death of my mother, the couple left me unexpectantly and unannounced with a relative of mine in Pennsylvania that didn't know me and who I didn't know. It is not clear how long I was there nor who I was traveling with, but it is known that late in June of 1944 I somehow left Pennsylvania for Chicago and there boarded the Number 19 Santa Fe Chief headed westbound toward Los Angeles.
Although a lot of what went on in those days relative to me is unclear, the fact that I was on the Chief is well known because around midnight of July 3, 1944, between Flagstaff, Arizona and Williams, on a high speed downhill run and behind schedule, the Chief's locomotive, a powerful Baldwin built 4-8-4 Northern with 80 inch drive wheels and clocking out at over 90 miles per hour, hit a marked 55 mph speed limit curve, with the locomotive derailing and sliding in the dirt on it's side off the tracks for well over 500 feet before coming to a stop. The rest of the 14 car train ended up in various stages of derailment and wreckage on and off the track, some cars remaining upright with two actually staying on the tracks undamaged. The fireman and three passengers were killed. 113 passengers along with 13 train employees injured, among them the severely injured engineer.
(photo courtesy Arizona Republic)
As it turned out I was unhurt, but the person or people I was traveling with was among the injured. They were transported from the wreck site with me taken along with them to either Williams or Flagstaff. Because of the nature of their injuries, whoever I was traveling with was held-up under doctors care for several days, leaving me without direct adult supervision. My grandmother, who had been contacted by the railroad, called my uncle in Santa Fe. He inturn contacted a nearby tribal spiritual elder to oversee me until he could catch up with me.
Three years later, after having long since been returned to California to live with my grandmother, within a day or two of the third year anniversary of the train wreck, July 3, 1947, found me with my uncle traveling in the desert southwest having passed through Williams, Arizona on our way to Fort Sumner, New Mexico to visit the gravesite of Billy the Kid.
We stopped at the crash site to pay reverence to those that died and my survival. While my uncle sat in the truck I walked the tracks where the wreck occurred. In the three short years since the derailment barely a sign of anything having happened remained, the wind along with the heavy downfall of summer monsoons nearly erasing the 500 foot groove and other marks caused by the huge Baldwin locomotive and passenger cars. If a person was unfamiliar with what happened it would have been unobservable.
As we left the crash site my uncle told me the story about me sitting in the waiting room of the train station in Arizona with the tribal spiritual elder late at night waiting for him, my uncle, to arrive and take me to California. The spiritual elder was quite obviously Native American and I was quite obviously not. A lot of people seemed concerned with me traveling with an Indian, that is, except for an older man who seemed concerned that I might be bored.
He came over and sat next to me and asked if my dad was in the war. I told him no that he worked in the shipyards. Asking if I liked comic books he opened his suitcase and pulled out one called Blue Bolt. All the while he was thumbing through the pages like he was looking for something he was telling me he had a son in the war and that his son was a pilot. After he reached a certain spot he folded open the pages and pointed to a story about a group of American pilots that shot down 77 German planes in one outing. Then, carefully reading the story page by page and pointing to the different pictures he told me that his son was one of the pilots. My uncle told me with that I took the book from the man's hands completely fascinated, so much so I read the story over and over without stopping or setting it down. The man, seeing how much I appreciated the comic and the story, said I could have it. After that my uncle said I continued to read it again and again all the way back to California and months afterwards.
The events found in this footnote have also been presented by me in virtually the same manner and same form in any number of my other works. What I have not included in the above account or have not revealed previously is a part of the crash event that circulates around the somewhat mysterious tribal spiritual elder my uncle arranged for me to be watched by until he, my uncle, could catch up with me. As you may recall, following the wreck, because the adult or adults I was traveling with had been hospitalized, I was left without adult supervision. I write about sitting in the waiting room of some train station in Arizona with the tribal spiritual elder late at night until my uncle was personally able to intercede and safely get me to Los Angeles Union Station and thus then, to my grandmother's home in California.
What I don't write about is that I recognized the spiritual elder the moment he walked into the hospital waiting area looking for me as found in the following quote:
"Mid-evening on the night of the-unknown-to-anybody at the time up-coming crash I had gone to bed in the bunk in my compartment and as far as I knew had fallen fast asleep. Sometime during that period between the time I fell asleep and the crash occurred I found myself neither asleep nor in my bunk but outside of the train standing barefoot on the desert floor in the middle of the night in my PJs some distance off from a set of railroad tracks, my hand being held by an elderly Native American man."
THE SPIRITUAL ELDER AND THE SANTA FE CHIEF
While waiting for my uncle to pick me up at the depot, which took a day or two longer than any of us expected, it is fair to say the spiritual elder sitting inside a train station all day long with a bunch of people tramping in and out between the occasional train was getting itchy feet. By the end of the second day the spiritual elder had enough and decided he needed more open space around him. Just as the sun was dropping below the western horizon we left the train station walking eastward along the tracks toward the now rising moon. After some distance along the tracks we turned south into the desert. Even though it was July, albeit early July, with the sun gone the air began to chill significantly. Somewhere along the way, with what I thought initially was my body attempting to adjust to the temperature, I was engulfed by a severe shuddering like a cold chill, a shuddering that shook my whole body to it's core and sending out from the main central section of that core a lightning-fast ever expanding flat-disc wall of thick, wavering condensed air like energy. It was not long after that cold chill that I noticed the the moon, which was full when we left the train station, appeared to be in a more of a first quarter phase.
Crossing the desert in the dark we eventually came upon a paved road that we followed south until we came to a triple section steel girder bridge that spanned diagonally across a river. At the bridge we scrambled down the bank to the river's edge, set up a small camp for the night and made a fire. Not long after we lit the fire than three men came into camp apparently wanting no more than to get warm and maybe a little grub.
The tribal spiritual elder, still sitting, without changing his demeanor or facial expression and knowing full well his quill of retaliatory abilities if required could more than compensate for nearly any event, quickly sized up the situation. As it was, the three men turned out to be escaped prisoners that had fled earlier that day from a nearby German POW camp. After discovering the three men were captured German military, albeit escaped, with a suitable passage of time I pulled out the copy of the Blue Bolt comic with the story about the Goose Shoot I was given the night before, with the following unfolding as found at the source so cited:
"I still had the comic book with me the night the POWs came into camp. With additional light from a restoked fire I got out the comic and began reading the story, all the while pointing out page after page of the graphic drawings of the event. Needless to say, even though they eventually were caught up in what I was showing them in that they had not received any substantial amount of news from anywhere let alone the battlefront, they just were not up to giving any truth or validity to the story, especially so coming from a kid and a comic book. As I got older I deciphered the attitude they displayed that night stemmed basically from a still strong or lingering belief in the infallibility of German superiority.
"However, if you look at the timing of it all --- and truly unknown to me at the time until it dawned on me one day totally out of the blue years later --- the POWs did in a sense have "right" on their side. The Goose Shoot happened in the skies over Tunisia, North Africa Sunday, April 18, 1943. The story I showed them from BLUE BOLT of the Goose Shoot appeared in issue Number 6, dated January, 1944. The POW escape is recorded as having transpired on January 14, 1943."(source)
Getting ready to leave after finishing most if not all of the meager amount of food we had they wanted to know where they were and what we knew about the area. The spiritual elder told them we weren't from around there and just passing through, which seemed good enough for the three men. They thanked us, shook hands, and left. As it turned out two hours later, trespassing on a ranch not far from our location one of the men had been shot to death, a second was wounded, and the remaining third, after slipping away in the dark, apprehended.(see)
SANTA FE LOCOMOTIVE #3774
RIDING THE CAB FORWARDS
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SUPERBOY TRAVELS BACK IN TIME, ENDING
IN REAL LIFE ANALOGIES IN TIME AND PLACE
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The video below is a complete start-to-finish version of the original black and white 1940s Flying Tigers movie that both Kent and I saw as kids that so enamored us with P-40s. It is at least my fifth or sixth attempt presenting a link to a free easy accessible full length version of the movie. As fast as I post a link it gets taken down at the source for some reason:
Watch The Flying Tigers in Entertainment | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com
When I was just a few months short of turning 21 years of age I had the good fortune of actually meeting a World War II pilot said to have flown with the Flying Tigers. I was riding in the cab of a truck used to transport race cars around the country driven by one of the world's top sports car mechanics by the name of Joe Landaker. We were on our way to Miami, Florida to load the transporter on a boat to be shipped to Nassau for the Bahamas Speed Weeks when the engine of the transporter sucked a valve. In the close knit world of top mechanics, in that we were in Florida, Landaker contacted his friend, another world famous mechanic, NASCAR ace Smokey Yunick. The two of them repaired the broken engine post haste right along the freeway and soon we were on our way to the docks and Nassau. During our trip Landaker told me that Yunick, a pilot in World War II, was said to have flown, among other flying chores, for the Tigers, although A.V.G. research doesn't reflect it. Two years later while traveling in Baja Mexico I met Harvey Greenlaw, the onetime second in command of the Flying Tigers, and I mentioned Yunick. Greenlaw said he did not recall the name, but more than likely, if he was with the Flying Tigers he was most likely with the Flying Tigers Of The 14th Air Force that replaced the A.V.G. For more see:
OF COBRAS, SCARABS, MASERATIS, AND ZEN
Operation Torch was the over-arcing name designation for the entire invasion campaign of Vichy French North Africa in November, 1942. Imbedded within the main operation were a number of smaller operations of which Operation Villain was one. It was under Operation Villain that the aforementioned 39 C-47s came into play.
The plan was to use paratroopers of the 2nd Battalion 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment to seize Tafaraoui and La Senia airfields in Algeria.
A full compliment of 2/509 PIR paratroopers left England aboard 39 C-47's with the intention of flying over Spain into North Africa. No sooner had the formation left England than it was scattered due to unforecasted bad weather and after that, never able to reform. One plane landed at Gibraltar, four were interned in Spanish Morocco, two landed at Fez in French Morocco and three were reported as flying over Le Senia and being driven off by anti-aircraft fire.
Over a dozen C-47's were clustered together after landing on the western edge of the Sebkra d'Oran' dry lake without air dropping their troops. Ten other C-47s dropped their parachutists in the same area then landed at the eastern edge of the Sebkra and inturn, taken prisoner. Some of the paratroopers under command of Major William P. Yarborough attempted to march around the Sebkra and seize Tafaraoui airfield, a distance of over 20 miles. After covering roughly ten miles, and basically stranded because the terrain was so difficult to traverse, they radioed for help. Three C-47s, after siphoning fuel from sister ships, took off to retrieve them. No sooner had they picked up the troopers than six French Dewoitine fighter planes strafed the fuselages. The pilots turned the planes around making it toward the Sebkra crash landing at 130 miles per hour. The French fighters made three more strafing runs on the grounded aircraft, killing five and wounding fifteen. In the end just 14 planes of the original 39 planes were operational enough to fly right away, with a number missing or unaccounted for. So too, only 15 paratroopers out of the whole band that filled the 39 planes were judged fit enough to return to combat on an immediate basis. An accurate count on the dead, wounded and missing unclear.
Operation Villain was a complete fiasco, for the most part a total flop from one end to the other. Its over-arcing operation, Operation Torch initially wasn't far behind, although eventually through the hard work, dedication and pure perseverance, in less than six months in North Africa the tide had turned in the Allies favor with the Germans fully on the run as witnessed by the 100 German troop transports secretly leaving North Africa and being torn to shreds by the P-40's in the "Goose Shoot."
During the early months of World War II, before Operation Torch was even given the name Operation Torch, the highly secret plan to invade North Africa was slowly being rolled out and being put into place. How that invasion was going to be implemented had not been fully finalized. One school of thought felt that staging an invasion from the Azores and Canary Islands would be a good idea. The other school of thought felt a direct invasion would be the best as taking over both islands first then building up men and materials would be a dead giveaway of a potential North African invasion. The person I call My Merchant Marine Friend was a crew member on a convoy being formed-up that was to go to Puerto Rico doing top secret pre-staging staging of equipment, material, and ships for a quick jump either to the Azores and Canaries or directly to North Africa for the invasion. His ship was torpedoed by German U-boats before it ever left U.S. waters. See:
MY MERCHANT MARINE FRIEND
Below you will find a link called Curtiss P-40 that relates back specifically to the fact that the P-40, for the most part, was the major allied plane of choice in the comic strip series Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff. In the strip Caniff created a fighter pilot he called Flip Corkin. Corkin was based on a real life fighter pilot of then Major Philip G. Cochran. Most of the Corkin character's adventures in the strip circulated around the use of P-40s in the China-Burma-India theater during World War II with the planes so illustrated carrying all the markings of the Flying Tigers. The real life pilot, Philip G. Cochran, however, before any CBI affiliation, earned his reputation as the squadron commander of "J" Squadron flying P-40s in North Africa as part of the 33rd Fighter Group.
Hardly anyone ever puts P-40s and aircraft carriers together. However, Cochran's P-40 equipped "J" Squadron, arrived off the coast of North Africa with several others, flying from the deck of a flattop, with his squadron being the first to catapult P-40 Warhawks from the deck of a aircraft carrier and recover them in Casablanca. Re the following from the source so cited:
"While the idea of catapulting the P-40s may have been a cutting edge idea, the actual execution of the plan would prove to be less than simple. Although the ship was equipped to accommodate aircraft operations, the P-40s were not able to operate off a ship because they were too heavy. After stripping the Warhawks of ammunition, navigation equipment, and excess fuel, Major Cochran (squadron commander) and his deputy flight lead were catapulted from the ship, breaking both the catapults in the process, thus leaving 34 pilots to determine how they were going to launch. Throughout the remainder of the day, all but three aircraft were able to make it to Casablanca; two aircraft went down where the pilots were recovered and one went down without the pilot being recovered.
"The invasion was in its early stages, and organization systems were fragile if not nonexistent. Finding no assignments and no place to go, Cochran decided to keep the group together and headed off in the general direction of the war. By inquiring locally as they flew short hops, they eventually found an Army infantry unit at a flat spot in the desert who were more than happy to have their own air cover.
"Cochran immediately set up a training schedule for his recruits, commandeered infantry trucks to find supplies, fuel, and ammunition from wherever they could be borrowed or pilfered, and in a few weeks had a cohesive fighting squadron. Being formed outside of Air Force jurisdiction and having no official number, they dubbed themselves the 'Joker Squadron,' and adopted bright red scarves are their symbol."(source)
HOW THE FLYING TIGERS SNARLING TEETH CAME INTO BEING:
In his book Way of a Fighter (1949), head of the Flying Tigers, Claire L. Chennault, gives his version of how snarling teeth look of the A.V.G. fighter planes came into being as found on page 135:
"Before I left the United States in the summer of 1941, I asked a few friends in Louisiana to watch the newspapers and send me any clippings about the A.V.G. Now I was being swamped with clippings from stateside newspapers, and my men were astonished to find themselves world famous as the Flying Tigers. The insignia we made famous was by no means original with the A.V.G. Our pilots copied the shark-tooth design on their P-40's noses from a colored illustration in the India Illustrated Weekly depicting an R.A.F. squadron in the Libyan Desert with shark-nose P-40's. Even before that the German Air Force painted shark's teeth on some of its Messerschmitt 210 fighters. With the pointed nose of a liquid cooled engine it was an apt and fearsome design. How the term Flying Tigers was derived from the shark-nosed P-40's I never will know. At any rate we were somewhat surprised to find ourselves billed under that name. It was not until just before the A.V.G. was disbanded that we had any kind of group insignia. At the request of the China Defense Supplies in Washington, the Walt Disney organization in Hollywood designed our insignia consisting of a winged tiger flying through a large V for victory."(source)
There are a number of other stories, each in their own way vying for credibility as the one and only story. The two strongest, if you discount Chennault, although similar in some respects to Chennault's, vary enough to stand on their own as their own versions, although as I see it they either divided Chennault's version or he combined the two. One version claims that the design came exclusively from the first Tomahawk-equipped Royal Air Force (RAF) Desert Air Force squadron that used the shark tooth insignia on their P-40s. The second version comes from Eriksen E. Shilling (1916-2002), one of the first U.S. Army Air Corps pilots to sign up with the A.V.G. He is said to have found a photo of a Messerschmitt 110 with a shark face on it in a British magazine. Using the photo he marked out s similar design on the nose of a P-40 with chalk to see how it looked, and then showed it to Chennault.
More precisely, but not necessarily any more accurate than the rest of the above, it has been reported that on November 15, 1941 members of the A.V.G. saw a picture on the cover of the November 2, 1941 issue of the Illustrated Weekly of India, depicted somewhat crudely below, that showed a color photograph of a RAF Tomahawk with shark teeth markings taken from a September 1941 photo of the P-40 "Menace," also shown below. Shilling credited pictures of a Messerschmitt BF-110 of the ZG76, said to have been in the same magazine as his inspiration as well. Colonel Harvey Greenlaw, Chennault's long time second in command, and Greenlaw's wife Olga, who wrote the definitive book on the Flying Tigers in 1943 titled The Lady and the Tigers, are often cited as being involved knee-deep in the controversy too.
MESSERSCHMITT BF-110 TWIN ENGINE HEAVY FIGHTER
Personally, I go for the legend as found in the Flying Tigers link below:
"Learning that the superstitious Japanese feared sharks, the ingenious Yanks painted the snout's of their P-40s to represent grinning heads of 'tiger sharks.' The A.V.G. pilots called themselves 'Tiger Sharks' but it was not long before the admiring Chinese troops changed it to 'Flying Tigers' the tiger being regarded as a minor deity in some sections of China."
WAR HEROS, No. 2 October-December 1942
THE FLYING TIGERS
THE BOY IN THE MAN REMEMBERS THE LEGEND
THE ORDEAL OF LIEUTENANT STONER
From my very early years on I had been known to have jumped off one-story porches, garages, and house roofs with a sheet made into a parachute or flaring behind my back tied to my wrists and ankles a la Captain Midnight's glider chute. My uncle stated many times that he felt the reason for such a fascination, or destiny as he called it, went back to an incident that involved the fly over of a giant airborne object that I witnessed as a young boy. The object, of an unknown nature and an unknown origin, was seen by literally thousands of people along the coast of California barely three months into World War II. Eventually to be called a variety things from the UFO Over L.A. to the Battle of Los Angeles or as I have come to call it, THE BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES: 1942 UFO.
As for the battle, during the early morning hours of February 25, 1942 the whole city of Los Angeles and surrounding communities were in an uproar as thousands of rounds of anti-aircraft shells were expended in an attempt to pull down whatever it was in the sky that night. The slow moving object, said to be as big or bigger than a Zeppelin, was caught in the glare of the searchlights from Santa Monica to Long Beach and seemed impervious to the constant barrage of shells. It eventually disappeared out over the Pacific after cruising along the coast and cutting inland for a while. The huge object was never clearly explained and was basically hushed up without response from the authorities.
The following paragraph, as quoted below, can be found in the main text above. The paragraph, which lists all kinds of cowboys, superheroes, et al, have, in one form or the other have had some kind of connection or impact on my life, especially so as found in the precepts of the Cowboy Code of the West and how such precepts as found in the Code imbued my life to such a point it opened doors, some highly spiritual in nature. For those who may be so interested, those connections and how they relate back to me, can be found by going to the linked list immediately below the paragraph:
"Along with the P-40, as a young boy growing up, I loved Leonardo Da Vinci, Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies, especially Tarzan and the Huntress, Warner Brothers cartoons, astronomy, the cosmos, rockets to the Moon and Mars, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, along with a myriad superheroes, especially the 'mortal' type such as the Spirit and Captain Midnight. So too, of western comic book heroes and cowboy movie stars such as Firehair, the Durango Kid, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers, their horses Champion and Trigger, and their sidekicks Smiley Burnette, Gabby Hayes, and Andy Devine."
THE BLACK CONDOR: THE MAN WHO COULD FLY LIKE A BIRD
(please click image)
FLYING MACHINE: CHINA, CIRCA 400 A.D.
(please click image)
The above graphic depicts a JU-52, the type troop transport that was on the recipient or loosing end of P-40s during the 100 plane North Africa "Goose Shoot." Notice the three engine tri-motor configuration, a big difference when compared to the six engine plane depicted by the artist.
Above is the photograph of the JU-390 that was said to have been taken from a convoy ship supplying the beachhead during Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa in late 1942. The following is fairly typical of what is found written about the sighting and photograph:
"Interestingly the photo snapped of RC+DA was taken during an attack on a Malta Convoy in 1942, suggesting this aircraft was possibly operated by LTS.290 in North Africa. The photo clearly shows a white 'Afrika' band used for identification of German aircraft operating in the Mediterranean, or North Africa. The photo was taken by merchant seaman Ron Whylie whilst his convoy KMF-5 was under attack in late 1942. The date alone disrupts claims that the first J-390 flight was made in 1943.
"A copy of his photo of RC+DA was long held by the Museum in Vienna and published by German test pilot Hans Werner Lerche in his own autobiography. Lerche confirmed the aircraft RC+DA was indeed a Ju-390 aircraft."(source)
There are as well many comments, both pro and con, about the possibility of the photo being "photoshopped." However, personally I have a tendency to lean toward the "not photoshopped" side, especially since strong evidence exists that the photo has long been known to exist in its present form with no known reason for it to have been modified, that is there was nothing to gain as the original owner, as far as I have been able to discern, had no dog in the hunt.
According to the well researched work of Sy Gunson as so sourced at the end of this section and pretty well backed up elsewhere by others in their own research, the Ju-390 aircraft marked RC+DA was in fact attached to LTS.290 and was involved in the ferrying of freight to Tunisia in 1943. The photo of RC+DA is given credit to having been taken by a merchant seaman named Ron Wylie of convoy KMF-5 while in support of Operation TORCH.
Confirmation of this is that RC+DA displays the white North Africa service fuselage band used up to May 1945 by LTS.290. LTS.290 used a number of early Ju.290 prototypes and Ju.90 aircraft to ferry supplies to Tunisia in the closing stages of of the North Africa campaign. No Ju-290 nor Ju-390 would have used this white band after May 1943.
Gunson states it is not a photo montage at all. The reknown Ju-390 test pilot Hans Werner Lerche in his autobiography refers to RC+DA in his book and mentions it as the other Ju-390.
It's first test flight was well before October 20, 1943 which is asserted by authors Gunther & Ott. October 20th was in fact the date when the Allies intercepted a diplomatic signal to Tokyo giving a table of performance details for the Ju-390, which was so explicit that it was impossible for a program of test flights to have established all this in just the last ten days of october 1944. A USN Intelligence report in June 1945 asserts the Japanese already had full performance details for the Ju-390 by October 1943.(source)
NOTE: If you go to the Gunson link above please note that two of his main areas of interest, and quite by coincidence by the way, match two of my areas of interest as well. First, the mysterious German U-boat U-196 and secondly, the potential possibility of not only a Nazi Atomic Bomb prior to the end of World War II, but also the actual testing of one.
For more on the JU-390 photograph see:
ROSWELL POW INTERNMENT CAMP, ORCHARD PARK, NEW MEXICO:
The Lincoln Star, Lincoln, Nebraska, January 15, 1943. Page 8
"ROSWELL, N. M., Jan. 15 (INS) An investigation continued today into the escape plot of three German prisoners of war at the federal interment camp at Roswell yesterday in which one fugitive was killed and another wounded as the men were captured. Col. Murray F. Gibbons, commander of the internment camp, said the three men were former German seamen who had escaped from the camp at 5 p. m. yesterday. The one killed was reported to be a 20-year-old youth named Walter Jager. Mark Fanning, a rancher and crack marksman, living near Artesia, N. M., was credited with the capture of the trio. Fanning told police that he was awakened by a noise during the night and found three men tampering with his car. Grabbing a rifle, he ordered them to throw up their hands and sent his wife to summon aid. As help arrived Fanning told authorities that the men suddenly made a break, and he fired killing one and wounding another. Both the wounded man and the third one were quickly found."(source)
The photo below depicts a few of the German prisoners of war being held at the Roswell POW internment camp in Orchard Park, New Mexico near Roswell during the early stages of World War II. Kremer, one of the three POWs that entered our camp that night along the Rio Felix and the one who spoke English, is third from the right.
Before Kremer's initial capture and incarceration in the Roswell internment camp he had served on the U-162 under Commander Jurgen Wattenberg, a German submarine officer of some notoriety. On September 3, 1942, during a Caribbean patrol, 300 miles ESE of Puerto Rico off the island of Barbuda, the U-162 and all of her crew except for two who lost their lives, were captured with the officers and men being dispersed to a number of U.S. based POW camps, with Kremer ending up at Orchard Park near Roswell. Kremer would eventually be reunited with Wattenberg in the Papago POW camp outside Phoenix, Arizona where they worked together on one of the greatest prison escapes of the war.