In September 1940 the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) ordered the first major production-line modification to its single seat pursuit fighter, the P-40. The updated production run was designated as the P-40B, of which eventually 131 were built. Production began in January 1941 at the Curtiss plant in Buffalo, New York. In March of that year a P-40B with chassis number 16073 carrying serial number 41-13297 was delivered to the USAAC and assigned to the 6th Pursuit Squadron, 18th Pursuit Group, Oahu, Hawaii.
In October 1941, seven months after delivery, that same P-40 was involved in what has been misstated by some as a wheels-up landing requiring her to be placed in a maintenance hangar for repair (see photo and explanation below). She was still in the hanger undergoing repairs when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. That seemingly minor twist of fate most likely saved her from being destroyed.
Following repairs she was returned to flight worthy status. Then, on January 24, 1942, in another ironic twist of fate, with only nine months of service and 56 hours of flight time, while on a routine training flight the plane spun out of control. The pilot, Lt. Kenneth Wayne Sprankle, was unable to pull out from the spin, crashing into the side of a mountain, killing him. In that the crash occurred in a rather inassessible area of the island, powers that be decided, after recovery of the body, to simply leave in place what was left of the aircraft.
Recently Kent Lentz, former cofounder, president, project manager, and chief builder of the no longer active Curtiss Wright Historical Association - Project Tomahawk Inc. has been in contact with me in order to correct some of the errors and misinformation regarding the -297s resurrection. Project Tomahawk came into being about five years after cofounder Mike Fortner acquired some of her remains and a usable engine in 1985. Lentz, through his own personal involvement from 1989 until -297s first flight on January 12, 2007 has offered, in his own words and presented below, many new and valuable insights into the historical aspects of the restoration/remanufacture of the plane.
Before moving on, Lentz, in calling the P-40B '-297' as used in the paragraph above and in what he presents below, is refering to the the last three digits of its USAAC serial number. He says the 284 as seen on the fuselage is its BUZZ number. According to Lentz those numbers were assigned and painted in LARGE white characters on the sides of the A/C so that the exuberant young pilots who were BUZZING the beaches of Oahu while showing off to the girls thereupon could be ID'ed and properly chastised. As to the resurrection and completion of the P-40B Pearl Harbor survivor Lentz writes:
In 1985, -297s remains were 'rediscovered' and after a preliminary analysis it was determined that although there was major damage to the airframe and engine, it was definitely worth recovering. Remember that at this time, there were no Tomahawks known to exist. Common opinion held them to be an extinct type. ANY T'hawk was better than NO T'hawk. Some parts were recovered in 1985, followed by a second mission prior to 1989 when most of the rest of the airframe and engine were collected. Project Tomahawk obtained the airframe material, but the engine disappeared into a black hole.
In 1989 restoration of the recovered P-40B began after a number of concerned enthusiasts got together and on 5 Feb. 1990 formed a not for profit corp. called the Curtiss Wright Historical Association - Project Tomahawk Inc. in Torrance CA and operated under the name 'Project Tomahawk.' In every case possible they used original parts indigenous to the plane itself. Much of the airframe, although not airworthy, was incredibly valuable as pattern material. Secondly, before 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. Three of the pilots made it out after epic trials, and two died crashing into the mountains. None of the material recovered from the Sierra crash site and used on -297 came from P-40 39-200 shown on the G. Pat Macha link.(see)
By 2002, after twelve years of painstaking and meticulous work, with a major portion of the costs borne out of the pockets of a few, much work on the upper half of the fuselage was completed and the nearly complete engine cowling fabbed by Bob Cunningham in England had been acquired, the Project was moved to Matt Nightingales California Aerofab facility in Rancho Cucamonga, CA and finished under the auspices of Stephen Greys 'The Fighter Collection' museum at Duxford England. It required another five years before Steve Hinton made -297s first flight on 12 Jan. 2007. There were a few squawks to be rectified before the A/C was disassembled and shipped to Duxford in mid '07 where she is/was based until her upcoming/recent transfer to the Collings Foundation.
NOTE: As an aside, for the edification of the reader, The Fighter Collection is not part of The Imperial War Museum. Please note that -297 was NOT SOLD to TFC. After Stephen Grey settled a couple of outstanding debts pertaining to Project Tomahawk, the project was 'transferred' non profit to non profit.
One last thing, in terms of historical accuracy, Lentz adds that no one he has met in his entire life has EVER referred to the H-81s (P-40/P-40B/P-40C) as Warhawks. He says, and I quote, "I haven't seen the term W'hawk applied to H-81s 'til recent years. It's kind of revisionist and, I think, muddles the study of the planes place in history. We didn't name it PT 'cause we didn't know the diff."
Below is a graphic of the 284 P-40B in the sand off the tarmac taken sometime after the landing incident of October 28, 1941 in which 1st Lt. Cecil J. Locke Jr. ground looped (it was NOT a wheels up landing as is so often misstated) thereby causing the aircraft to be in a hangar undergoing repairs on December 7th. The photo below it shows a destroyed P-40 in front of Hanger 4 in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
ABOUT THE WANDERLING
WHO, ALONG WITH KENT LENTZ, IS THE CO-AUTHOR OF THIS SITE
ON DECEMBER 7, 2013, THE 72nd ANNIVERSARY OF THE ATTACK ON PEARL HARBOR, IT WAS ANNOUNCED THAT THE P-40B PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR THAT HAS BEEN HOUSED IN ENGLAND SINCE BEING RESTORED AND RECIVING FLIGHT STATUS HAS BEEN PURCHASED ANONYMOUSLY AND WILL BE RETURNED TO THE UNITED STATES AND BASED AT THE COLLINGS FOUNDATION IN MASSACHUSETTS. PLEASE SEE THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE:
VETERAN P-40B WARHAWK FOR THE COLLINGS FOUNDATION
P-40: FIGHTER IS A REBUILT PIECE OF WWII HISTORY
THE FIGHTER COLLECTION: P-40B Bu No 41-13297
CURTISS WRIGHT P-40N-5-CU 42-104949
THE GHOST AND THE HAUNTED B-29
THE COLLINGS FOUNDATION P-40B
NORTH AMERICAN AT-6 TEXAN
THE LADY AND THE TIGERS
FLYING TIGERS AND MORE
THE BOY IN THE MAN REMEMBERS THE LEGEND
THE ORDEAL OF LIEUTENANT STONER
INTERVIEW WITH KENT LENTZ ON THE P-40 RESTORATION
(to watch video click image)
96 YEAR OLD FLYING TIGER CREW CHIEF FLIES AGAIN
(to watch video click image)
MODEL P-40F HANDBOOK OF SERVICE INSTRUCTIONS
F6F NAVY HELLCAT, NAZI SUBS, AND
THE BAJA MEXICO CRASH SITE
GERMAN SUBMARINE ATTACK
ON HOOVER DAM
For those who may be so interested Project Tomahawk continues to live on in a modified resurrection sort of way. All of the information about it can be found at a fabulous internet site composed of several pages (with photos) written by Ralph Baxter, Co-Founder CWH-PT, Inc. and edited by Kent Lentz, Co-Founder CWH-PT, Inc. who also lentz his expertise in co-writing this site for me. Although the Project Tomahawk site is not linked back to me, chopped liver that I am, it can be found by going to the following:
PROJECT TOMAHAWK – The Resurrection of P-40B S/N 41-13297
In the above main text the following is found:
"(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 PT 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."
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 in a training mission for a country soon to be at war.
The interesting part here for me particularly, however, after being duly pointed out by Kent Lentz, is that the parts recovered from the two P-40s that crashed in the Sierras and used in the restoration of the P-40 Warhawk Pearl Harbor survivor, were from planes of the 57th Pursuit Group, soon to be renamed the 57 Fighter Group.(see) 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 a page titled:
P-40 GOOSE SHOOT
KENNETH WAYNE SPRANKLE:
April 26, 1914 -- January 24, 1942
Born in Cloe, PA moved to West Lafayette, IN in 1931
Graduated West Lafayette High School in 1932
Member of the Methodist Church
Brothers: Cortes N., W. M. (Morrey), Max
Graduated Purdue University Class of 1938
Entered flight training at Randolph Field, TX in the summer of 1938
A year later received his wings at Kelly Field, TX
Assigned to Selfridge Field, MI (made several trips home)
Lieutenant Kenneth Wayne Sprankle
Transferred to Hawaii in 1941
Survived Pearl Harbor 1941
The November 2000 issue of the Smithsonian's Air & Space magazine had the following information in an article regarding Lieutenant Kenneth Sprankle:
The article reports that the P-40B Tomahawk, #41-13297, was the only P-40B to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941 at Wheeler Field in Hawaii. Sprankle was on a training flight on January 24, 1942, when the aircraft spun into the side of a mountain, killing him. The log showed that the aircraft had 56 hours of flying time on it. Rescuers removed his body and the aircraft remained on the side of the mountain until 1989 when it was recovered. That aircraft was in the process of being restored into like new condition at the time of the publication of the article.
Kent Lentz, co-author of this website and meticulous in his research and knowledge of P-40s generally and Pearl Harbor survivors specifically, especially so the one so covered by this website, offers the following in regards to the above Smithsonian article:
"The Smithsonian Air & Space article as says that -297 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."
P-40: THE OBSOLETE WAR HERO
When the P-40B in question was sold to the The Fighter Collection she was registered as G-CDWH. That registration was cancelled January 2, 2007 and reregistered in the U.S. as N80FR (presumably just for test flights after rebuilding). The registration G-CDWH was restored April 17, 2007 and delivered to Duxford July 2007, painted in the 1941 Pearl Harbor color scheme with code 284.
(please click image)
Leading up to and during World War II the plane of choice in artist/cartoonist Milton Caniff's comic strip Terry and the Pirates was the Curtiss-Wright P-40. In the strip Caniff created a fighter pilot he called Flip Corkin. Corkin was based on a real life P-40 fighter pilot with the then rank of Major, Philip G. Cochran, shown above on the left in a characterization by Caniff with Terry of Terry and the Pirates.
Most of the Corkin character's adventures 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 --- albeit usually shown with the later U.S. Army Air Force insignia rather than National Chinese insignias --- while interacting mostly not so much with pirates or the Dragon Lady, but the vicious and vile World War II type Japanese and a variety of Asian warlords --- of which from my own personal experiences in later years more modern versions of those early warlords were still found to exist, re the following:
MEETING WARLORDS, ET AL
The real life pilot, Philip G. Cochran, however, before any CBI affiliation, earned his reputation as the squadron commander of "J" Squadron also known as the Joker Squadron flying P-40s in North Africa as part of the 33rd Fighter Group. He also flew P-40s for the 57th Fighter Group as a member of the 65th Fighter Squadron known as the Fighting Cocks.
Hardly does anyone ever put P-40s and aircraft carriers together. However, Cochran's P-40 equipped "J" Squadron, arriving off the coast of North Africa flew from the deck of a flattop as well as 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)
If you recall, the parts recovered from the two P-40s that crashed in the Sierras and used in the restoration of the P-40 Tomahawk Pearl Harbor survivor, were from planes of the 57th Pursuit Group, later renamed the 57 Fighter Group, and Cochran, as mentioned, flew P-40s for that very same Fighter Group as a member of the 65th Fighter Squadron known as the Fighting Cocks.
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 linked to elsewhere on this page.
33rd FIGHTER GROUP P-40 DURING CARRIER TEST TAKE OFFS, OCTOBER 15, 1942
(please click image)
"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 on two, possibly three 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 and eyes of a tiger shark. 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.
Secondly, pure coincidence. You can call it karma, fate, destiny, or give it no name at all, but the fact remains that in a peripheral sort of way I had come into contact with Kent Lentz in high school primarily because of the Flying Tigers. Kent was also a fan of the Flying Tigers, thus then P-40s, which in turn eventually led him to participate in the complete restoration of one. Me hearing about his restoration 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 from the source so cited:
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.(source)
On the day I went by to see the P-40 being restored several aviation buffs were milling around, each trying to out talk the other about their great expertise and knowledge in things aviation. Among the milling was a high school history and geography teacher from someplace I didn't catch and a ceramics teacher from a nearby high school in Torrance. Their conversation circled around a crashed C-47 that one of them found years before in the San Bernardino Mountains. When I heard one of them 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 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.
Sometime 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.
There is a very valid third reason why I hold P-40s in such high esteem that is not always found to be nearly so highly appreciated by fervent followers, supporters, and aficionados of the venerable World War II U.S. fighter aircraft. True, my P-40 Warhawk page is pretty straight forward, sticking to the facts, and I have kept it and most associated links that way specifically, especially so out of respect to Kent Lentz who most graciously offered so much his input and knowledge --- and as well, for all those out there who truly appreciate P-40s
However, in regards to P-40s and my personal approach to them, on other P-40 pages I sometimes have a tendency to stray into other areas. Those areas are not always everybody's cup of tea. For me though, as my life seems to unfold, those areas are way up there, edging into the realm of the spiritual for some, and leaning toward the prospects of time and any possible travel thereof for others. The best example I can provide for those reading this at this time is to go to what I have presented in Footnote  of my Goose Shoot page wherein a handful of P-40s shot down over 70 German planes fleeing North Africa in 1943.
FLYING TIGER PAINTING BY DONALD O'ROARK, AKA THE PLANEPAINTER