Grumman XF5F Skyrocket — oh what could have been!
Recently we were reminded of this unconventional aircraft when visiting the Naval Air Station Ft. Lauderdale Museum — here is the review — where the wooden model of it is on display. The 1940 XF5F Skyrocket was Grumman’s reply to the Navy’s request for a aircraft carrier borne interceptor possessing a high rate of climb and heavy armament. Being light in weight and powered by a pair of Wright XR-1820 Cyclone radial reciprocating engines had the Skyrocket live up to its name. A pair of 23mm Madsen cannon were the initial armament but modified to 4 x 0.50 inch (12.7mm) machine guns — heavy armament in 1940 but not later in WW II though they were nose mounted so they would have had greater effective range than wing mounted machine gun fighters.
But the Skyrocket — with its wing-forward-of-the-fuselage-design — was not to be as production of the F4F Wildcat was considered to be the best decision from a logistical standpoint. The design effort contributed to the F7F Tigercat, however. One does have to wonder, though, since the Skyrocket easily pulled out accellarted the XF4U Corsair how it may have been a greater kamikaze interceptor than the F8F Bearcat?
Museo de la Brigada 2506 — the Bay of Pigs Museum in Miami
25° 45′ 54″ N / 80° 13′ 30″ W
It is known as the Bay of Pigs Museum in Miami, by the Miami Times and on the streets of Little Havana. Officially the name is Museo de la Brigada 2506 (Museum of Brigade 2506) — but that is one of the wonderful aspects of Cuban culture, pragmatism with charm. That is how it has been since 1988 when the museum was established.
Brigade 2506 was organized during 1960 in order to overthrow Fidel Castro and Cuba’s current government in order to liberate Cuba from its communist government. They trained well and, with the aid of eight Douglas B-26 Invaders for air support, launched the invasion on 17 April 1961 in the Bahía de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs). A few of the Cuban Air Force’s T-33 and Sea Fury aircraft survived the initial raids and would become the undoing of the B-26 Invaders — by 20 April the battle was over. Trials as well as executions followed though most of the prisoners were repatriated to the United States on 24 December 1962. The failure to incite a liberation movement with the Bay of Pigs Invasion had the significant historical effect that Cuban expatriates became permanent citizens in Miami — no longer living there indefinitely — marking the beginning of increased emigration from Cuba to the United States which brought a warm culture and laudable work ethic to the United States.
The museum is easy to get to with paid parking on the street (payment is made by coin or credit/debit card — no bills please) at 1821 SW 9th Street, Miami, FL 33135. Entry is through the front door which faces SW 9th Street but is accessed from the right through the fence facing SW 18th Avenue. There is no fee and walking into the essentially two great room facility the visitor is impressed with the verve of those who served in Brigada Asalta 2506. Restroom facilities are present and food is easily available elsewhere since one block to the north is Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street) in Miami’s Little Havana. Immediately beyond the small entry is a well used conference room with an impressive wooden long table seating about 20. The room also has photographs as well as plaques and significant flags.
The adjoining second room has open seating for about two dozen facing a dais — but it is this room’s perimeter that is the main museum attraction. The back wall has portraits of so many that counting is a challenge. The remaining walls are filled with images and articles — many coming from Cuba — which recount or report the events during the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion of 17 April 1961. Many of these images are historic as well as graphic, some of the best of photojournalism may be on these walls, and most not found in publications on the invasion. There are also a few well appointed curio cabinets displaying artifacts such as equipment as well as weapons.
The hours are 9am–4pm Monday–Friday. There is no website but an email address which should be useful is, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paste “B-26 Invader” into the search window to find the posts on the B-26 dedicated to the pilots and crew who flew these aircraft during the invasion, as well as the memorial at the Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport, and the book review about the men of the Alabama National Guard who trained these men.
The Dayton Flight Factory: the Wright Brothers & the Birth of Aviation
The Dayton Flight Factory: the Wright Brothers & the Birth of Aviation, Timothy R. Gaffney, 2014, ISBN 978-1-62619-356-7, 171 pp.
This is the book to bring with you when on a Wright Brothers-trek to Dayton Ohio. It is a convenient size, well made and has all the places to see (more than you might think) as well as the understanding behind them. Gaffney, naturally, writes a descriptive history of the Wright Brothers’ accomplishments, how they went about their business as well as various people who became involved.
This is not a definitive history, nor did the author intend it to be. The infamous lawsuits initiated by the Wrights are mentioned though their adverse public perception is not — nor is the intervention by no less than Henry Ford on the behalf of Glenn Curtiss. Glenn Curtiss is portrayed by Gaffney as a person who took what the Wrights did then ran with it and not as the innovator for naval aviation who advanced U.S. aeronautics in the early 1900s in ways the Wrights did not or could not (ironically, they were trapped by their own patent lawsuits into a dead end design). Although Gaffney mentions the last Wright airplane design was in 1914 (barely a decade after their history making flights), and woefully behind those of Europe — he does not mention their prescient achievements borne today in every aircraft design and that is their engineering approach to aerodynamics. Nor does he discuss the paradigm change they made to propeller design which is still in use today. Those subjects are left to other books, though, as this is a guide.
This book is a definitive guide to the Wright Brothers and Dayton Ohio, and it is charming as well as illustrative, and should be in every aviation enthusiast’s kit when travelling to Dayton where the first aircraft to achieve both controlled as well as powered flight was conceived. Huffman Prairie, the workshop, the factory as well as the stories behind them are all within the book. Gaffney’s descriptions are captivating and inspiring — the photos are extraordinarily well done which is remarkable considering their age as they thankfully look pristine.
Notably, and as a rare treat, Gaffney delves into the seaplane and floatplane designs of the Wright Brothers which has not been addressed with Gaffney’s detail in recent memory. The author should be commended for preventing this aspect of aviation’s history from slipping away.
Chapter 11, the final chapter, is simply amazing with its list of sites (meanings and locations) as most enthusiasts will likely not know all of them. Gaffney’s contribution here should be commended as well.
This is the guide to bring with you to Dayton — no doubt :)
As is the publishing business custom, The History Press provided a copy of this book for an objective review.
The Arsenal of Democracy — to win World War II
The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit , and the epic quest to arm an America at war, A.J. Baime, 2014, ISBN 0547719280, 384 pp.
This book is not only for the historians among us, it is also for those of us who know historical events are most often the results of personalities and their judgements. Baime (pronounced Bay-me) so thoroughly understands his subject that he explains with uncomplicated yet insightful writing.
The title comes from the famous speech made by FDR as the United States came inexorably closer to entering World War II.
As is the publishing business custom the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, provided a copy of this book for an objective review. The Ford Motor Company (FMC) stepped up to answer FDR’s calling for the United States to become the arsenal of democracy (i.e., change her industrial might from a consumer based manufacturing to military armaments manufacturing) to build the largest factory in the world to produce the Consolidated B-24 Liberator in unbelievable numbers (the goal was a bomber a day). Indeed, the new factory would be built in nine months and without windows so that work could continue unabated by blackout conditions. Baime describes the U.S. industrial might prior to World War II accurately, and incredulous that capacity was, but his description of the factory is one of awe. It leaves no question as to why the Axis powers did not want U.S. entry into their war.
Baime also brings readers into the world of the Ford family as well as the rift-to-become-chasm between Henry Ford and his formerly beloved son Edsel. Although Henry seemed to be more than fair to his fellow citizens during the growth of the FMC (paradigm breaking with the paying well above standard and the hiring non whites as well as handicapped people) he departed from that path with age. Yet, Edsel, saw the future and wanted the FMC to lead into it setting the stage for the sad family drama to ensue. There is more, so much more which is pertinent that usually goes untold, which does not escape Baime. He describes the strategy and impact of Henry’s machinations — especially the hiring of Harry Bennett who established a private police force that Bennett used for strike breaking as well as his aspirations for power. Henry Ford also hired Henry Sorenson as well as John Bugas, who were both salient in Edsel’s work to keep the FMC on the right path. Baime well describes this momentous internal Ford-Ford-Bennett-Sorenson-Bugas battle within the FMC which resulted in dire consequences for most of these men.
Also detailed well by Baime is the hypocritical aspects of America at war for the world’s freedom. The U.S. was a segregated nation then and Baime describes these dark time so the African-American diaspora from the poverty struck South to wealth offering factory jobs in Detroit can best be understood. Made tragic by Bennett’s thuggery-like use of African-Americans while all the while men and women for fighting and suffering for democracy.
Baime’s telling of the success of the FMC’s effort to build the B-24 Liberator in a scale unheard of is reason enough readers will enjoy this book — but it is also his research and understanding regarding the effects on the social culture within the United States which elevates this book to its superior level.
As is the publication custom, a copy of this book was provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an objective and unsupervised review.
It’s July 4th!
Naval Air Station Ft. Lauderdale Museum — a community nexus
26º 04′ 18″ N / 80º 09′ 57″ W
The Naval Air Station Ft. Lauderdale Museum (NASFL Museum) opened last year and we were able to revisit to see how the work had progressed. Happily, it has progressed quite well and is also becoming a gravity well for military artifacts as the more in the community become aware of the museum. Expertly made models to out-of-print books to artifacts formerly languishing on garages and attics are now safely in the museum.
Dr. John Bloom was more than a kind host, as he is with everyone, when the museum was visited. The main room is complete and a library has been installed in another. The mural and Link trainer are in the same locations but there are now several additional displays. Models (both plastic and wood) abound with aircraft from nearly all of aviation’s history represented.
Flight 19 (which originated from NASFL) remains well represented and the reconstruction of the room President George H. W. Bush (41st President of the USA) occupied as an Ensign during naval flight training in Avenger torpedo/bomber aircraft in World War II. The floorboards, especially, are from his original room and it is interesting seeing how frugal are the rest of the arrangements.
Visiting the museum is rewarding, it is free with donations recommended and restrooms are present. It is best to call ahead to ensure a volunteer will be there to open the museum for you — it is easily done and works best for everyone. The museum is also a wonderful place to hire out for meetings and the like with its marvelous atmosphere and excellent displays.
Other posts on the museum: