P-40

THE OBSOLETE WAR HERO



CURTISS P-40 WARKHAWKS STACKED AT WALNUT RIDGE, ARKANSAS AFTER WORLD WAR II


"The P-40 Warhawk was among the most widely seen and used fighters of World War II, yet itís often overshadowed in modern-day literature by readily recognized names like Lightning, Thunderbolt and Mustang. One reason the P-40 may have been largely dismissed in the history books: It looked better than it performed."

ROBERT FRANCIS DORR (1939-2016)- USAF


the Wanderling


The Curtiss-Hawk P-40, also known as the Kittyhawk, Tomahawk, or Warhawk, depending on where and when it was deployed and who was using it, was already considered obsolete when the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor...and the pilots who flew them knew it! But it was the only tool they had...and they did the best they could with them on that terrible December morning over Pearl Harbor when the Japanese horde swept in!

In the months leading up to Pearl Harbor a ragtag group of pilots called the American Volunteer Group, or the A.V.G., using nothing but P-40s, under the command of Claire L. Chennault, began forming up to do battle against the Japanese invading China. They immediately began making a name for themselves with a long string of successful strikes against the Japanese in air-to-air combat and high priority ground targets within days of the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. The A.V.G. went down in history throughout the world as the Flying Tigers. Their successful use of the few P-40s they had against overwhelming odds thrown against them by the Japanese gave other P-40 pilots and groups the courage to do the same. The pilots may have complained initially, but the stalwart P-40 in capable hands held it's own throughout the whole war as the following will attest to:



(AT LEAST ONE P-40 CURTIS HAWK FIGHTER SURVIVED PEARL HARBOR. SEE BELOW)







In the illustrated main text above it states 62 Curtiss-Hawks were destroyed in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and not one survived --- maybe not one of the 62, but not quite accurate overall.

Kent Lentz, former cofounder, president, project manager, and chief builder for Project Tomahawk, which was responsible for the restoration to full flying status of a P-40B --- and of which co-authored the website P-40 WARHAWK: PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR --- as a person meticulous in his research and knowledge of P-40s generally and Pearl Harbor survivors specifically, offers the following in regards to an article published in the November 2000 issue of the Smithsonian Air & Space magazine which relates back to the above paragraph:


"The Smithsonian Air & Space article as saying that -297 (P-40 serial number 41-13297) was the ONLY P-40B that survived the 7 Dec. attack. That quote SHOULD read 'The only P-40B that survived the attack that STILL exists in any way, shape, or form.' Although even that may not be accurate, since there may be some wreckage offshore or buried on the island somewhere. Seems as though I read somewhere that a bunch of the wreckage was dozed into a big hole at the end of the Wheeler Field main runway and then the runway was extended."


Although I liked P-40s personally and always held them in the highest regards, they forever seemed to get the short end of the stick when it came 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 in Riding the Cab Forwards:

He flew in both the European and Pacific theaters during World War II and, even though he never claimed to be an Ace, he did say 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.(see)

During the conversation I told the pilot 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 --- but that doesn't mean P-40s weren't still used and used effectively throughout the war --- as the above story Obsolete Heroes, above, clearly illustrates.

Less than five years later, with me being a teenager but not yet 15, found me riding in the back of an immaculately outfitted two-seat World War II trainer called a North American AT-6, being flown of all things by the exact same P-47 pilot that picked me up in Sacramento. The pilot was ferrying the AT-6 from Van Nuys to some rich guy in Texas and I went with him to be left off with my uncle on the way. I was supposed to get on board at Pancho Barnes ranch just like before but instead, for reasons unknown, the pick up spot was changed a few miles from Pancho's to a basically abandoned old wartime double 'X' airstrip called Victory Field located in the middle of the desert about halfway between Willow Springs and Quartz Hill just on the eastside of 90th Street West. During those same above five years the P-40 had transmorphed from being thought of as obsolete and ready for the scrap heap to being coveted by all manner of airplane buffs. By then most of the flyable ones had already been destroyed.



CURTISS P-40 WARHAWKS BEING CONSTRUCTED IN BUFFALO, NEW YORK CIRCA 1940s


History-wise however, the same "obsolete" theme continued to play out right up to modern days --- primarily because in the end it was true --- the following quote comes from a Flying Tiger P-40 story published in September 1966 as found in the Lone Tiger graphic below the quote:


"Weary pilots take to the air in their battered, obsolete P-40 fighters, to take on the Zeros at odds of ten to one..."



(for complete story please click image)

FACT OR FICTION: DID THE FLYING TIGERS BOMB HANOI?

THE FLYING TIGERS BOMB HANOI: 1942



THE BLACK CONDOR: THE MAN WHO COULD FLY LIKE A BIRD
(please click)

TOMMY TOMAHAWK P-40 TOMAHAWK SQUADRON

(please click image)


FLYING TIGERS
THE ORDEAL OF LIEUTENANT STONER

THE LADY AND THE TIGERS


BATTLE OF THE ZAMBOOGIE THEATER


LISTING OF SURVIVING CURTIS WRIGHT P-40s


JAPANESE INVASION OF INDIA DURING WORLD WAR II



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OPENING QUOTE AT TOP OF THE PAGE BY ROBERT F. DORR COURTESY OF DEFENSE MEDIA NETWORK

ROBERT F. DORR


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 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 GOOSE SHOOT


U.S. NAVY F6F HELLCAT


COMSTOCK'S CRASHED P-47