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Solomons WW II Legacy Cost Two More Lives

21 September 2020

Sadly, two  bomb disposal experts have died in their attempt to defuse a World War II vintage bomb in the Solomon Islands. They were on personal time working on behalf of an NGO—Norwegian People’s Aid. UK citizen Stephen “Luke” Atkinson and Australian citizen Trent Lee were the pair who were killed in an explosion. Ironically, the stabilizing chemicals added to an explosive mix are the first to depart from unexploded ordinance (UXO), thence making the explosive more and more unstable with the passage of time.

What sort of person would undertake disarming a UXO that may, or may not, be booby trapped to prevent that very thing? Further, a person who works to render an aged and unstable bomb safe so that it can be removed to be destroyed properly?

Nothing short of an amazing person.

More information is not available regarding this incident at this moment of writing—like a more precise location or the nature of the bomb itself—but the Solomons were a vast battle ground both on and off shore and there is a lot of UXO remaining there and rotting away. Though there is an illuminating paper published recently (November 2016) by the Journal of Conventional Weapons Destruction entitled, Special Report: Solomon Islands’ Explosive Legacy.

Give pause for a moment or two today and recall both Atkinson and Lee for their efforts and the toll they paid to make innocents a bit safer.

TBDs locatable but recoverable?

21 September 2020

Douglas TBD Devastators aren’t rare birds in the World’s museums—as none exist—not even a single one. Overall it was an unremarkable aircraft and outdated by the time it flew into combat during World War II, but flew it did, and by remarkably dedicated naval aviators who ventured into their personal maelstroms without edge or advantage through flak and against fighters. Entering into this combat because the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) had to be put back on its heels.

Desperately so.

Others would follow on with knock out punches—probably—hopefully.

Who knows the thoughts in their minds at the time?

More than likely they may have simply thought it time to just get it done, as people tend to think when taking part in events of immense import.

Dismiss the events and concentrate on the mission.

It is sad none of these aircraft surviving this battle, as well as the Battle of Midway, were kept. That story has too often been repeated with other aircraft, as well, instead becoming other aircraft if not, ignobly, pots and pans.

But some have been found in Davy Jones’s Locker and in conditions more than worthy of recovery. Two have been located by A and T Recovery where Taras Lyssenko* has used his marathon endurance and drive, in concert with the National Naval Aviation Museum Foundation for the National Naval Aviation Museum, against the perpetually stymying efforts of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Many posts have been written about this dilemma in this blog—the search window will guide you to them.

Paul Allen (who passed on October 2018) organized and funded the search which located the USS Lexington (CV-2) . Recall, the Lexington was lost in the Battle of the Coral Sea during May of 1942 along with the USS Yorktown. This battle is the first capital ship fight not involving battleships miles apart, instead aviators attacking one another’s flat tops separated by hundreds of miles. When she sank she did so on an even keel taking much of her aircraft compliment with her—both on the flight deck as well as the hangar deck.

Mickeen Hogan has been reviewing material, comparing records, and asking questions regarding the Lexington’s aircraft which have been video recorded by Paul Allen’s crew of the R/V Petrel. Mickeen has developed an intriguing idea based upon the preserved status of these aircraft—providentially, 3000 meters of cold, oxygen deprived water does wonders keeping the aircrafts’ metal and paint intact.

His idea, as you have guessed, is to recover them. These are aircraft which would not only be rare displays but are historic gems as well (either by flying into this significant battle or having been flown by famed aviators). For example:

  • Douglas TBD Devastator BuNo 0345: flown by Squadron Commander James Brett (TS 2) scoring a hit on the carrier IJN Shoho—video indicated the aircraft to be intriguingly intact.
  • A Grumman F4F Wildcat flown by naval ace Butch O’Hare for a famous photo shoot.

These are only two specific aircraft that Mickeen has identified amongst several. There are many more strewn about the ship and her resting place about 500 miles off Australia, with most in excellent condition, which together could yield a mighty handful of museum displays.

It is obvious that this is rich ground for historical as well as rare aircraft recovery. The Navy cannot do it but Mickeen has ideas, so fingers crossed for him. Having a few Devastators in prime museums would be the most fantastic way to honor those brave aviators flying unescorted into harm’s way, too low and too slow making history possible—the crippling and sinking of IJN aircraft carriers which had, until then, had the run of the Pacific Ocean.

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*Taras Lyssenko has an exciting book about his aircraft recoveries, tales of humanity as well as working with and against bureaucracies in a book the publisher has difficulties in keeping with its demand. The book’s title is, The Great Navy Birds of Lake Michigan: the True Story of the Privateers of Lake Michigan and the Aircraft They Rescued. Read about how former boys from Chicago’s dubious south side systematically found and recovered dozens of World War II aircraft (some Class I historic). These aircraft are now on display in dozens of museums and other public places across the globe. They even found a World War I German submarine!

Brookwood’s World War I Cemetery—Surrey UK

20 September 2020

Contributors Elaine and Michael Dowman recently viewed the Brookwood Cemetery (near to Woking UK) on a gloriously bright day, thoughtfully supplying these images. The cemetery has a large portion devoted to those Americans who perished in World War I within its northwestern section (Brookwood American Cemetery and Memorial) where are 468 buried with 563 who could only be named due to being lost at sea. This cemetery is close to London and adjacent to the UK’s military heritage of Farnborough, Aldershot, Sandhurst and the Royal Military Academy—which is poetically fitting.

Brookwood Cemetery entry—images courtesy of and ©2020 Elaine and Michael Dowman

Brookwood Columbarium converted in 1910 from its original purpose as the mausoleum for Lord Cadogan—images courtesy of and ©2020 Elaine and Michael Dowman

Part of the Brookwood American Cemetery and Memorial (within Brookwood Cemetery) where 468 American military World War I dead  are interred with an additional 563 named for being lost at sea—images courtesy of and ©2020 Elaine and Michael Dowman

World War I gravesites of those who served from Czechoslovakia at the Brookwood Cemetery—images courtesy of and ©2020 Elaine and Michael Dowman

A closer view Brookwood Cemetery’s World War I Czechoslovakian Memorial—images courtesy of and ©2020 Elaine and Michael Dowman

Brookwood Cemetery’s World War I Polish War Dead Memorial—images courtesy of and ©2020 Elaine and Michael Dowman

Some of the too many graves in the Brookwood Cemetery with contributor Michael for scale—images courtesy of and ©2020 Elaine and Michael Dowman

Brookwood American Cemetery and Memorial’s Private Willie Green gravesite, claimed by World War I, who likely served in the American Expeditionary Force (the 546 Engineers Service Battalion was Afro-American fighting for freedom they did not enjoy back home in the USA)—images courtesy of and ©2020 Elaine and Michael Dowman

Want the rare Blackburn Beverley?

19 September 2020

Sadly, the Fort Paull Museum (near Hull UK) will not reopen and its possessions are now on auction. This auction includes the rare extant Blackburn Beverley—an immense wing, four radial engine, fixed landing gear behemoth. The RAF’s paratroop/cargo delivery aircraft of the early Cold War.

It is written about very well by Ross Sharp in this post on his Shortfinals blog.

The BBC article on the Ft. Paull closing as well as the Beverley is here.

Thanks to Terry for the news leading to the BBC report as well as Ross for his prescient write-up.

B-17 tail gun position on the way…

12 September 2020

…to the Pima Air & Space Museum (Tucson AZ) where the 390th Bomb Group Memorial Museum is located…

The gunner’s view looking aft within the tail gun position of the restored B-17 Flying Fortress’s rear gun position compartment (note the military’s usual attention to creature comfort)—image courtesy and ©2020 Nicholas Veronico

Nicholas Veronico is an interesting person with a wide variety of talent as well as interests. Particularly in aviation’s history and, interestingly, as a collector with considerable expertise of aircraft gun turrets.

He has written widely on a number of subjects ranging from history to the world’s sole flying telescope (SOFIA). Several of his books have been reviewed in this blog (type his name into the search window) especially in regard to less popular though no less important aircraft (e.g., PB4Y Privateers, Air Force One aircraft) as well as the location and recovery of lost warbirds (coining the term “wreckchaser” in his fascinating books Hidden Warbirds as well as Hidden Warships).

He has a special interest in gun turrets, restoring and preserving many, partly stemming from the loss of his uncle who is a casualty of World War II—a heavy bomber gunner in Europe’s skies.

Looking better than new, Nick Veronico’s thoroughly restored Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress tail gunners compartment—image courtesy and ©2020 Nicholas Veronico

Nick’s latest effort has been the acquisition and funding the historically accurate restoration of the authentic rear gun position compartment of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress—and it is a beauty!

Restored at Aero Trader (located in Chino CA) and assessed for authenticity as well as accuracy by famed Gordon Page (TV host of Chasing Planes and author). Using a pick-up truck Nick, must have made quite a sight as he took it home from Chino!

Gordon Page, “Chasing Planes” TV show host, evaluates the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress tail gun compartment recently restored by Aero Trader (Chino CA) for Nick Veronico—image courtesy and ©2020 Nicholas Veronico

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress tail gun position, restored at Aero Trader at Chino CA, and owned by Nicholas Veronico (I’m positive he soaked in the admiration of passing drivers as he drove at less than highway speed limits)—image courtesy and ©2020 Nicholas Veronico

Nick had the compartment professionally assessed for the benefit of the 390th Bomb Group Memorial Museum within Tucson AZ’s Pima Air & Space Museum where he has loaned it for historical display—debuting 15 October 2020. Preservation of aviation’s history take many forms but recovery and restoration are paramount—so, kudos to Nicholas Veronico for his dedication as well as contribution to remembering our veterans, especially of World War II.

Gordon Page (L) and Nick Veronico (R) beside Nick’s wonderfully restored Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress tail gun compartment. Nick is holding Gordon’s book, “Warbird Recovery: the Hunt for a Rare WWII Plane in Siberia, Russia”, as well. Gordon recently evaluated this compartment for accuracy prior to a loan to the 390th Bomb Group Memorial Museum in Tucson AZ—image courtesy and ©2020 Nicholas Veronico


 

 

Styling with The People’s Mosquito

29 August 2020

TPMThe People’s Mosquito

We’ve been in support of this remarkable effort to build a de Havilland Mosquito, enable it to fly, then fly it and subsequently donate the paradigm setting aircraft to the public trust in the UK. There are two Mossies flying today though privately owned–which is great, of course—but it is time one is aviating and owned by the public, the people. Private ownership has benefits to but can be troublesome when the owner passes away—just look a the story of the Super Cat (after languishing many years in the open at Miami Executive Airport it is thankfully now owned by a museum, the Cavanaugh Flight Museum.  Diversity is key and having both privately owned as well as publicly owned Mossies is the best solution and covers all the bases. This aircraft, the de Havilland Mosquito, is historic and relatively undersung being somewhat akin to being the SR-71 of its day during World War II by using speed and high altitude with near impunity on recce missions. Unlike the Blackbird it also had teeth and is famed for true precision bombing raids, most notably targeting Gestapo HQs in broad daylight navigating the treetops on the run ins.

The project to build an original Mosquito from a set of original fuselage molds and microfiches of de Havilland’s engineering plans (thousand of them) plus an authenticated data plate means this Mosquito can be considered original as well as new. Quite the project! The People’s Mosquito Project!

Check out the website to see high-res images, history and the excellent assemblage of personalities selflessly forwarding this project. The fuselage molds for the plywood fabrication are in the UK and have been serviced. The wings have been manufactured and shipped from New Zealand using various woods depending upon the engineering demands at the various sections. The drive to collect money for the fuselage’s construction is well on its way—join in the effort by donating here at TPM’s Operation Jericho. The progress has been quite rapid as the organization is professional, dedicated and motivated.

We’ve signed up since long ago, donated many times and found another way to support by purchase of merchandise from their TPM Shop. Recently we received two shirts and a jacket from the shop and couldn’t be happier with the quality. High quality machine embroidery as well as excellent materials which are built to last. These are Nordstrom’s quality—not souvenir store cheap-but-no-bargain items. There is quite a variety and should be checked out not only for yourself but for thoughtful and unique  gift giving. An inert .303 calibre cartridge key chain cannot be shipped into the USA due to USA restrictions. Sure—we’ve ordered .50, .375 and .338 pens made in the USA but cannot import the .303—go figure!

Back of The People’s Mosquito soft-shell jacket (a large embroidered Mossie in flight)—The People’s Mosquito Shop

A Mossie on the ground embroidered on a sky blue Polo shirt (also in red)—The People’s Mosquito Shop

Designed by famed Nick Horrox is this Mossie fighter-intruder variant coming at you—The People’s Mosquito Shop

A Cigar’s Take on Aviation

3 July 2020

La Aurora’s Zeppelin 4″ long cigar—©2020Joseph May/Slipstream Photography

This will be a trying weekend for many of our medical professionals with the amount of COVID patients on the rise—on top of the normal holiday load of emergency and hospital care—so keep fingers crossed for them.

This is a cigar I recently noticed, a short and stubby one though quite round. La Aurora makes it and they’ve named it Zeppelin. And why this 4 inch long fat cigar made? Because, as they’ve stated, they want one that was “blimpy” enough.

Some of what we’re paying attention to…

11 June 2020

National Naval Aviation Museum

History Up Close series playlist on Facebook—see the on-going restoration work (especially the rare example of the “Birdcage” F4U-1 Corsair); the Dauntless and the scars from its daring Battle of Midway flight, and more. Many of the aircraft featured in the NNAM’s playlist were recovered by A and T Recovery and restored at their restoration facility.

The People’s Mosquito Project

Completing mould A’s rear half by John and Ross of Retrotech

This is a fascinating and important project to build a de Havilland Mosquito from the molds up—an original Mosquito built decades after World War II! The big difference is the aircraft will fly and become part of the public trust in the UK—not privately owned as are the others. Recently, a special drive to fund the £100,000 required to construct the fuselage and £80,000 has been reached in a short amount of time. The interest is out there and you can take part!

Airships: North Pole Quest | The Game

Max Pinucci, the brilliant and unique artist with especial interest in airships, has begun a month long Kickstarter campaign for his concept which places the contestants in the year 1924 racing to the unreached and unknown North Pole—one of the few blank spaces on the world’s map at the time—after selecting one of six historic 3-D airships players lead their crews through weather and happenstance as they strive to win the race. Get into the campaign and get into the game! Airships: North Pole Quest | The Game

Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence

6 June 2020

22° 16′ 54″ N / 114° 14′ 08″ E

The Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence sits on the commanding heights of the eastern entrance to Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor on the site of historic Lei Due Mun Fort.

The entrance of the Hong Kong Coastal Defence Museum, marking the beginning of a steep uphill walk to the gun emplacements and museum building. Several exhibits along the path keep interests up however—©2014 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

The peak where a 6-inch breach loading disappearing gun (circa 1890) and its emplacement is located—©2014 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

The 6-inch disappearing gun in its raised firing position—©2014 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

The aft end of the replica Brennen torpedo (counter-rotating propellers were powered by the unwinding of interior cables). These were shore launched having a speed of 27 knots and a range of 2000 yards at a running depth of 12 feet—more than suitable for guarding a channel against invading ships—©2014 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

The nose of the replica Brennan torpedo designed to penetrate into wooden hulls—©2014 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

The interior drive mechanism, which was powered from shore, for the unwinding of on board cables—©2014 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography USA

The power supply of the replica Brennen torpedo (cables were pulled from a shore based engine, differential pulling of the cables would activate the rudder to steer the torpedo)—©2014 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

Portable single mount Bofors 40mm antiaircraft cannon—©2014 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

AIRSHIPS| North Pole Quest (an innovative board game soon to be on Kickstarter)

4 June 2020

AIRSHIPS| North Pole Quest board game on Kickstarter 9 June—9 July of 2020

Max Pinucci—of Airships: Designed for Greatness book fame—has a designed an innovative and imaginative board game which allows players to vicariously transport themselves to the year 1924 to both plan and lead a mission to the mysterious and unexplored North Pole using one of six historical scale airships.

Max’s book is unique in its superb combination of artwork, accuracy and phenomenal trait of bringing airship size as well as working environment to the reader. It is reviewed here and too much cannot be said about the results of Max’s abilities and inspired approach to this portion of aviation’s Golden Era. His board game promises to add yet another dimension to airship history and experience as players race to one of the few blank spaces on the World’s map in airships. Mission planning and execution to the frozen unknown in any one of six accurately executed scale airship pieces on a bespoke playing board—what isn’t there to love?

See the exciting intro video here on Linkdin.