TAKING OUT THE FIRST MEATBALL



KENNETH M. TAYLOR, PEARL HARBOR, AND THE P-40

THE DECEMBER 7, 1941 PEARL HARBOR P-40 FLY BOYS

the Wanderling





BECAUSE PLANES FLEW OVER THE ISLAND OF OAHU AT ALL HOURS OF THE DAY AND NIGHT







HALEIWA SCRAMBLE: P-40 NO. 155, LT. KENNETH M. TAYLOR
DAN ZOENIG ILLUSTRATIONS

The last two pages of the the above illustrated story with a headline that reads "The First Jap Killer," published in 1944, came out during the height of all of the war hysteria. Although loaded with a number of now obvious discrepancies and even though the gist of the story is correct and the intent was honorable, it is blanketed with almost pure war time propaganda of the type that was being churned out by most of the propaganda machines of the era. As for discrepancies the most blatant is the Flying Tiger like shark teeth adorning his P-40. So too, the first Japanese plane he took out, although a "Meatball," it wasn't a Zero in the classical sense but an Aichi D3A "Val," the top carrier-borne dive bomber of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during World War II. Taylor didn't go up alone as stated in the blurb at the end of the final panel either. Actually, his flying teammate and buddy George S. Welch, in a sister P-40 carrying the buzz number 160, took off with him, the two of them flying together side by side until reaching enemy aircraft over Pearl Harbor whereupon they both engaged the Japanese, the only difference being of the two pilots Taylor was the first to pull out a Meatball. That day, in the sky, the two of them, defying direct orders when they came in to reload, downed a total of eight Japanese planes. Four other pilots besides just Taylor and Welch got off the ground and into the air that day, each taking on the Japanese in air-to-air combat with each pulling out more Meatballs.


-------


FOR THE NAME OF THE PILOTS WHO GOT IN THE AIR THAT
DAY AND THEIR NUMBER OF KILLS, PLEASE CLICK IMAGE

Below is a graphic showing a P-40B Warhawk carrying the fuselage number "155" as used by Lt Kenneth M.Taylor of the 47th Pursuit Squadron, USAAF, Haleiwa Auxiliary Airbase, Hawaii, to engage enemy aircraft in the sky over Pearl Harbor and the Island of Oahu on Sunday morning December 7, 1941.




On-and-off during the early part of my childhood I lived on a ranch with my older and younger brothers along with a few other kids located in the Mojave Desert, California, owned by my Stepmother. My dad had bought a World War II jeep designated for otherwise ranch use, however even though none of us kids were old enough to drive the jeep legitimately on any of the paved roads around or near the ranch, on the dirt roads and the scrub brush desert lands surrounding the ranch, as well as on the ranch itself, we drove it constantly all the time all over the place.

One of my best friends in school at the time, although it wasn't as reciprocal at the level as I would have liked, she insisting on friends only, was a girl named Ann Welch, who just happened to be not only the smartest kid, but the best looking girl in the whole school as well. Her father owned and ran the only drive-in restaurant in town, matter of fact, the only drive-in for miles around, Welch's Drive In. When we could get away with it and able to put enough money together to make it worthwhile, all of us kids would pile into the jeep and cut out across the desert, parking in the drive-in by sneaking through the scrub brush the back way. I always liked to go because it gave me a chance to see Ann in a non-school environment and look a little like a rebel by flaunting the rules.


A BOY AND HIS JEEP: ADVENTURES IN THE DESERT

(please click image)

I don't recall specifically if it was Ann or her father or both who claimed they were related to George S. Welch, a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base, of which the air base wasn't that far from the ranch. George S. Welch was of course, one of the two P-40 pilots that got off the ground during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the other being Kenneth M. Taylor. I was continually after the father and daughter to meet George, but it never happened. He was killed testing a plane at Muroc Dry Lake a couple years after I was there. Welch shooting down Japanese planes over Pearl Harbor on December 7th isn't the only thing he is known for, however. It is said he broke the sound barrier twice before Chuck Yeager even did it once. Both times Welch was doing high speed dives over Muroc Dry Lake flying a jet-powered XP-86, a prototype of the F-86 Sabre.



GEORGE S. WELCH, SEEN WITH HIS 1946 MG TC AND
A BREAKING THE SOUND BARRIER XP-86 SABRE JET


HOSTESSES, SOUND BARRIERS AND BIG BA-BOOMS


"Prior to heading back to North American to brief the engineers, George telephoned Millie Palmer. Excitedly, Millie related that a terribly loud ba-boom had nearly blown her out of bed. The time was noted and it corresponded to George's dive."


In the late 1940s, and especially so following the end of the war, the U.S. Army Air Force, with no real competition other than themselves, began putting a tremendous amount of extra time, money, and effort into breaking the sound barrier. To accomplish that end they focused all of their time and expenditure on one single pilot, Chuck Yeager, and one single aircraft, the Bell X-1, a rocket-powered supersonic research airplane built by the Bell Aircraft Corporation. At the same time, although the Bell X-1 was a noble craft as was the attempt to break the barrier, there were those who felt that planes that were actually more akin to the fighters being developed, i.e., jets, was where the strength of the efforts should placed. Dropping a plane that couldn't take off on it's own from the belly of a high altitude B-29 and carrying only enough fuel for a three minute flight didn't quite fit the picture for some. Thus entered North American Aviation's jet-powered XP-86, a prototype of the F-86 Sabre and their pilot George S. Welch. Although not officially sanctioned by the powers that be like the Bell X-1, for North American and Welch it didn't matter.

By the time Welch was a test pilot attempting to break the sound barrier he had become a civilian. In the spring of 1944 while still in the service, North American Aviation approached him to be a company test pilot. Welch, a three-times over fighter pilot ace, increasingly concerned with the lingering effects from the malaria he contacted in the South Pacific during the war and how it might adversely impact upward mobility in the military, especially as a pilot, plus with potential peacetime on the horizon, he resigned his commission in the U.S. Army Air Forces and accepted the job.

As a civilian Welch wasn't able to avail himself of the officer's quarters on the base. Instead he stayed at Pancho Barnes' Fly Inn. The Fly Inn, built and owned by Barnes, eventually came to known throughout the latter part of World War II and for several years afterwards as the Happy Bottom Riding Club, a dude ranch built near Muroc Dry Lake right on the edge of Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of the Mojave.

Her place featured a motel with quite a number of rooms and several suites, an abundance of riding horses and thoroughbreds, a restaurant that served up fabulous western-style meals and breakfasts to die for, three landing strips, a dance hall, gambling den, an ever present bevy of hostesses, and a world-famous bar which catered to military personnel from the nearby air base along with all of her Hollywood friends. The ranch became famous for it's all night parties and high-flying lifestyle of her guests.(see)

Welch and the North American team knew that the official National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) equipment was being used to officially track Yeager and the X-1 and them only. There wasn't a chance of getting use of the equipment before Yeager and their crew did their thing and held the official record. Welch was on his own.

Welch had become quite close to, some say even excessively over enamored with, one of Pancho's hostesses who went by the name of Millie Palmer, taking her into his confidence. He told her that on a certain day at a certain time he was going to break the sound barrier and wanted her to go outside and listen for the sound, documenting where she was, what she saw, heard, felt and time, telling her not to mention a word to anybody. Sure enough, just as Welch said would happen and what time it would happen, did. Re the following:


"Prior to heading back to North American to brief the engineers, George telephoned Millie Palmer. Excitedly, Millie related that a terribly loud ba-boom had nearly blown her out of bed. The time was noted and it corresponded to George's dive. 'Pancho,' Millie related, 'is really pissed. You know how she feels about Yeager.' Apparently, Pancho claimed the boom was a result of mining operations going on 30 miles away to the north. Of course, no one had previously heard any mining explosions, nor could that account for rattling windows only on the east facing side of the Fly Inn. Welch chuckled and swore Millie to secrecy."


The following is how Al Blackburn, a test pilot himself, writes about the same scenario in his book ACES HIGH: The Race For Mach 1 (1999). Although a test pilot with North American Aviation like Welch, he wasn't there during the attempts to break the sound barrier not joining the company until 1954, around the same time Welch died. Blackburn writes:


"Such was the aphrodisiacal lore told with a shrug at Pancho's and Patmars' and other watering holes from Hollywood to the beach communities of Los Angeles. So it was with George Welch, frequently constrained to overnight in the the desert to meet an early-morning flight schedule, whiled away the evening at Pancho's. Not given to garrulity, more often than not he sought out the solo company of Millie Palmer, one of the lovelier specimens who found temporary refuge at the Happy Bottom Riding Club. It was Millie that George confided on an early autumn evening that she should be listening for his historic boom, and returned for for a subsequent tete-a-tete to learn that she had indeed been nearly blasted out of her bed by the ba-boom of the sonic shock wave emanating from his supersonic Sabrejet."


As for running off to engage in tete-a-tete's with more lovelier specimens after just breaking the sound barrier for the first time, a few paragraphs later, as found at the same source as the first quote above as sourced for both below, the following shows up:


"(As soon as Welch landed) he was informed that his wife Jan had gone into labor with their first child. Welch flew the company plane up to Los Angeles, but arrived after his son had been born. That evening, Jan phoned her family to announce the birth of Giles, and of course, tell them about George breaking the sound barrier. Years later, Jan's brother Jimmy would recall that he could not determine if Jan was more excited about her new baby, or her husband's supersonic adventure."(source)


Seven years after his attempt to break the sound barrier, on Columbus Day, October 12, 1954, Welch's F-100A-1-NA Super Sabre disintegrated during a 7g pullout at Mach 1.55 over Muroc Dry Lake. He was still in the ejection seat when found. Critically injured, he was evacuated by helicopter to the Air Base hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Welch left a wife and two children. Millie Palmer would be well into her 90's if still alive. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


THE HOSTESSES


Below is a graphic showing a P-40B Warhawk carrying the fuselage number "160" as used by Lt George S. Welch of the 47th Pursuit Squadron, USAAF, Haleiwa Auxiliary Airbase, Hawaii, to engage enemy aircraft in the sky over Pearl Harbor and the Island of Oahu on Sunday morning December 7, 1941.



(please click image)


GHOST P-40: LORE, LEGENDS AND HER WHEREABOUTS


TANGO SQUADRON AIR MUSEUM, CHIANG MAI


PEARL HARBOR P-40 GHOST SHIP


GENERAL CLAIRE L. CHENNAULT
NIPPONESE NEMESIS

DR. MARGARET 'MOM' CHUNG
FLYING TIGER RECRUITER, ADVOCATE, PHYSICIAN

GEORGE S. WELCH
BROKE THE SOUND BARRIER BEFORE YEAGER

P-40 WARHAWK
PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR



E-MAIL
THE WANDERLING

(please click)

SO, DID THE WANDERLING FLY?

(please click)



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.


















FIVE OF THE SIX USAAF PILOTS THAT GOT OFF THE GROUND DECEMBER 7, 1941

The following is from a plaque placed in Wheeler Field:

On the 7th of December 1941, Wheeler Field was the primary fighter base in the Pacific and a key target of the Japanese attack. At 0800 hours, waves of enemy planes bombed and strafed the flight line, the barracks and hangars. The resulting losses were 83 aircraft destroyed or damaged and 97 personnel killed or wounded. While the bulk of American fighter planes were caught on the ground, six pilots managed to get their aircraft airborne during the attack and, against overwhelming odds, scored the first American victories of the Second World War.


47th PURSUIT SQUADRON FLYING CURTISS P-40 WARHAWKS

Pilot ----------------------------------- Victories

2/Lt Kenneth M. Taylor---------------- 4

2/Lt George S. Welch------------------4

2/Lt Harry W. Brown ------------------ 1

46TH PURSUIT SQUADRON FLYING CURTISS P-36 HAWKS

Pilot------------------------------------Victories

1/Lt Lewis M. Saunders ------------- 1

2/Lt Philip M. Rasmussen----------- 1

2/Lt Gordon H. Sterling Jr.---------- 1


HAWAIIAN WARBIRD SURVIVORS



TAYLOR AND WELCH, THE DECEMBER 7, 1941 PEARL HARBOR P-40 FLY BOYS
(for video click image)

--------

















HAPPY BOTTOM RIDING CLUB


In 1952, following a change of command at the base, allegations surfaced that the Happy Bottom Riding Club was, among other things, a brothel. The Air Force slapped an off limits on the ranch, effectively banning servicemen from going to the club. Falling on hard times and basically deserted when the government moved to appropriate her ranch, Pancho sued. Then, on November 13, 1953, shortly after she beat the government and won the lawsuit, the ranch, under very, very suspicious circumstances, burnt to the ground, some even say, although it was never proven, from a possible strike from the air.

My ex-stepmother stepped into the picture when the Air Force placed the off limits decree on the Club. She had a California liquor licence and owned several bars in Los Angeles. Pancho, as a friend from their old Laguna Beach days, in a casual conversation with my ex-stepmother, who supplied hostesses for the club on and off over time, suggested she open a facility similar to Pancho's now, or soon to be, defunct Club --- only far enough from the air base that they could not mess with it, but still close enough that it was easily accessible --- AND with NO known or on the surface affliation or ties with Pancho. So she did, opening the closest bar in those days to the air base south gate, somewhat east and south of Pancho's old place, duplicating almost all of the same amenities and wide open services except for an airstrip. The following is what I have written about it at the source so cited:


"Even though she and my dad were no longer married I spent a good part of every summer while I was in high school on one property or the other she owned in the Mojave, most usually the one not far from Piute Butte. The short time I was there during the summer prior to high school, following the Tehachapi quake but before going to my uncle's in Santa Fe, she had only just bought the property or was in the process of buying it. At that time it was pretty much a run down former attempt at a dude ranch. One year later, during my first full summer there, what she called a 'ranch' --- even though as a ranch it was a little on the sparse side in what I would call standard ranch fare --- had been completely rebuilt and refurbished with a rather long fully stocked bar, food service facilities, swimming pool, dance hall, live entertainment, along with rodeos and boxing matches on the weekends. It also had at least two dozen one-armed-bandit slot machines in a secret hidden room, plus like I like to say, a flock of ever present hostesses --- several of whom took me under their wing and one or two that may have been slightly more friendly than they should have been considering my young age, the youngest at the time at the very least being six years older than me."(source)




















As long as I can remember I've liked Curtiss Wright P-40s, always it seems having held them in the highest regards, primarily because of their close association with the Flying Tigers. However, P-40s invariably seem to get nothing but the short end of the stick when it comes to how good they were as a World War II fighter. A perfect example is what I was told by a former WW II P-47 pilot one day when I was around ten years old as found on a couple of my pages, both of them circulating around trains. In the first I ended up in a train wreck that injured 113 as well as killing the fireman and three passengers, with me escaping uninjured, titled Santa Fe Chief #3774. In the second, I was a couple of years older, albeit not by much, finding me, as the title states Riding the Cab Forwards.

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.

The pilot, who had flown in both the European and Pacific theaters during World War II and, even though he never claimed to be an Ace, told me he had a number of kills under his belt, both German and Japanese. When I asked him about the Thunderbolt he had both praise and fault, but mainly lauded their armament and power. He told me P-47s had eight .50 caliber wing mounted machine guns and if all were fired at the same time they could even slow the planes forward momentum. Some 47s he said, even though the Army Air Force never confirmed it, had even broken the sound barrier in steep dives.



P-47C-5-4E (41-6326), HAROLD E. COMSTOCK, 56th FG, 8TH AF, USAAF


The P-47C-1-RE production block differed by having an extra 8-inch section added to the fuselage forward of the firewall giving improved flight characteristics through movement of the center of gravity. The first P-47C (41-6066) was used as a prototype for the fuselage modifications. There were some detail changes to the main undercarriage and brakes. There were also some changes in the tail wheel, and steering was eliminated. There were some changes in the supercharger air ducting. Bob weights were installed in the elevator control system in order to help to overcome the compressibility problems that had made high speed dives in the earlier P-47C extremely dangerous. Latches for linking the engine throttle, propeller, and turbosupercharger were added, which made correlated operation possible by moving a single lever.

On November 13, 1942, Lts. Harold Comstock and Roger Dyar managed to reach indicated airspeeds of 725 mph during high-speed dives in their P-47Cs. This was beyond the speed of sound, which, if accurate, would have made them the first pilots to break the sound barrier.(source)


HAROLD E. COMSTOCK


P-40: THE OBSOLETE WAR HERO