Category Archives: USAF

Marauders Over the Beach

76 Years Ago this morning.

Original caption: One of the many B-26 Martin Marauders of the 9th AF is shown over the coast of France during the early morning giving a cover to the landing craft shown on the beaches below. These hard-hitting medium bombers gave cover for the greatest airborne troop-carrying armada ever assembled, then furnished an air umbrella for the landing craft as the final phase of the Battle for the Liberation of Europe got underway.

Photo 342-FH-51988AC via NARA

Photo 342-FH-51988AC via NARA

No More Negative Waves from Moriarty and the Passing of the Bluejacket SECNAV

Two former enlisted men who had an outsized effect on naval history and culture shoved off for the great libo party in the sky last week.

Allan George See was born in Mount Kisco, New York in 1931, growing up in WWII, and spent two years in the Air Force during Korea before launching a film and television career in the late 1950s under the screenname of Gavin MacLeod. From there, he was a regular in just about every good military TV series or movie for decades. MacLeod appeared in Operation Petticoat, Pork Chop Hill, War Hunt, The Sand Pebbles, The Thousand Plane Raid, Kelly’s Heroes (“Why don’t you knock it off with those negative waves”), and guest starring in Combat!, Hogan’s Heroes (where he played four different German officers in rotation), The Rat Patrol, JAG, and others.

However, he is best known as PT-boat sailor “Happy” Haines in the McHale’s Navy movies and TV series and, of course, as Captain Merrill Stubing from The Love Boat. He was so well-known during the 1970s and 80s in that role that the Navy Officers’ Tropical White Uniform became known as the “Captain Stubing” before it was phased out.

Photo via the USNI.

MacLeod passed away last week at age 90.

John Warner

John William Warner III was born in Washington D.C. in 1927, joining the Navy in early 1945– at the same time, the service was losing thousands every day during the Battle of Okinawa– at age 17 right out of high school on the advice of his father. Finishing his wartime enlistment as an ET3 while helping fellow sailors who couldn’t read or write, he had finished A-school too late to fight and wound up reporting to the large cruiser/battlecruiser USS Hawaii (CB-3) when the ship was still fitting out (and would never commission). He later transitioned to the Marines and, after using his GI Bill to earn both his college and law degrees, served with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) near Pohang during the Korean War.

Leaving the Marine Corps Reserves as a Captian, Warner went on to help negotiate the U.S.-Soviet Incidents at Sea agreement as Nixon’s gravely-voiced Secretary of the Navy during the latter stages of the Vietnam War on his way to a five-term stint as a U.S. Senator from Virginia. While in Congress he was kinda controversial, being pro-gun control and helping pave the way for the suspension of habeas corpus for the somewhat moody definition of “unlawful combatants,” he also was a big wheel on the Armed Services Committee for years, shaping military policy via control of the purse strings.

After his service ended on Capitol Hill, he was the first recipient of the National Intelligence Distinguished Public Service Medal while the Senator John W. Warner Center for Advanced Military Studies at the Marine Corps University in Quantico and a Virginia-class attack boat (SSN-785) were named in his honor, although he never served in submarines.

Warner died, age 94, at his home in Alexandria on 25 May.

Remember the Reason Today

Keep in mind today the real reason why the mail doesn’t run, public employees have a three-day weekend, and why your mailbox is full of tasteless fliers.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35) commissioning pennant, used 15 November 1932, currently enshrined at the Indiana War Memorial. (Photo: Chris Eger)

Watch over the Rhine, F-104 edition

Watch over the Rhine by artist Ken Riley, 2004 (Image: USAF – Heritage Series, VIRIN: 100606-F-JZ025-803)

The above image depicts the F-104A Starfighter aircraft of the Tennessee Air National Guard’s 134th Fighter-Interceptor Group, “somewhere over West Germany” that looks very similar to Castle Burg-Hohenzollern, near Ramstein Air Base.

One of 35 Air Guard and Air Force Reserve tactical squadrons activated in April-May 1961 and rushed to Europe as a response to the Berlin Wall Crisis, the 134th FIG called up 400 Guardsmen, of which about all but one reported within 24 hours of activation. Of those men, 250 headed overseas with 17 Starfighters and were soon certified ready for service along the front line of the Cold War. 

Official caption:

Germany, 1961-1962. As the Russians tightened their grip on West Berlin, and events appeared to be escalating toward a nuclear showdown in the world, President John F. Kennedy dramatized America’s determination by mobilizing 65,460 officers and men of the Army and Air National Guard. Less than 30 days after the mobilization, citizen-airmen of the Air National Guard flew 216 fighter and reconnaissance jet aircraft swiftly and smoothly across the Atlantic in the largest mass deployment of jets in the nation’s history. The prompt reaction represented the greatest display of National Guard readiness ever. In a modern version of the “Watch on the Rhine,” the Air Guardsmen continued patrolling the skies over Europe until their demobilization a year later. Protecting the NATO nations from surprise attack, the Guardsmen wrote into the record a clear-cut example of the deterrent power of our 20th Century Minute Men, the combat-ready forces of the Air National Guard.

Happy Mother’s Day: Blockbuster edition

Bombardiers and bomb technicians of the 7th Army Air Force photographed at Kwajalein in 1944 with a Mother’s day greeting for all the moms back on the homefront.

USAAF Photo No. 52453

Note the B-24 Liberator in the background and massive AN-M56 4000-pound demolition bombs (“Blockbusters’) in the foreground.
Captured from the Japanese in February of that year, by March 1944 the 7th AAF’s 11th, 30th, and 431st Bombardment Group (Heavy) were operating from Kwajalein throughout the summer and fall, plastering Guam, Truk Atoll, Wotje, Maloelap, and Wake Island. 

Happy 75th Brrrthday, 190th Fighter Squadron

Reformed with the lineage of the WWII 405th Fighter Squadron on 24 May 1946, the 190th Fighter Squadron of the Idaho Air National Guard was organized at Gowen Field, south of Boise. Flying F-51 series Mustangs into the Korean War era they moved into jets in mid-1953, first with the F-86A Sabre, then followed in rapid procession by the F-94A Starfire, F-89C Scorpion, F-86L Sabre Interceptor, F-102 Delta Dagger, RF-4C Phantom, and F-4G Wild Weasel as their mission changed greatly over the year processing from air defense to recon and SEAD.

Finally, in 1996, they switched to the glorious A-10 Thunderbolt, more popularly known as the Warthog, which they have flown for a quarter-century including several active combat turns in the sandbox.

In honor of the “old” 405th, a P-47 Thunderbolt unit of the 371st Fighter Group, 9th U.S. Air Force, the 190th is celebrating their 75th this month with a Heritage flight A-10 Thunderbolt in the forerunner’s Northwest Europe 1944 livery.

The 405th FS arrived in the European theater in April 1944 and started their war doing fighter sweep, dive-bombing, and escort missions over France just before D-Day, targeting railroads, marshaling yards, vehicles, gun emplacements, and strong points in a role familiar to today’s A-10. During Overlord itself, they patrolled the beachhead areas and continued the aerial barrage through to St Lo and across northern France and supported the troops on the ground at the Battle of the Bulge before pushing into southern Germany where they ended the war, earning a Distinguished Unit Citation.

“MUMBLIN JOE,” a Republic P-47D-20-RE Thunderbolt, serial number 42-76452, was assigned to the 371st Fighter Group’s 405th Fighter Squadron (squadron code 8N). The aircraft bore the name of pilot Lt. Arthur W. “Bud” Holderness Jr., with the individual aircraft letter of “H” aft of the national insignia on the fuselage. It is pictured here with 41 mission symbols, bombed up and headed out for another combat mission, probably from A-6 airfield in France in the summer of 1944, probably with Lt. Holderness as the pilot. Holderness, a 1943 USMA graduate, flew 142 combat missions with the 371st during the war, received the Distinguished Flying Cross, 19 Air Medals, the French Croix de Guerre, and was one of two pilots in his squadron to earn the Lead Crew Combat Pilot patch. He went on to have a long and successful postwar career in the USAF, retiring in 1971 as a brigadier general. (Via Capt Tom Silkowski, 190th Fighter Squadron, Idaho ANG)

“BLACK JACK” was another 405th Fighter Squadron P-47D (8N-O), shown here being serviced in an expeditionary setting between missions, probably at A-6, with the pilot whose name was on the ship and its assigned ground crew. They are, probably, from left to right, Corporal Anthony J. Tenore, Lieutenant John L. Jackson (who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross), SSgt Robert L. Teague, and SSgt Robert E. Vaughn. (Via Capt Tom Silkowski, 190th Fighter Squadron, Idaho ANG)

The Heritage A-10 includes the OD scheme with white cowling and tail stripes, WWII roundels, 8N squadron code, and D-Day invasion stripes.

Sadly, no Mumblin Joe nose art, though.

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II from the Idaho Air National Guard’s 124th Fighter Wing is painted with a heritage WWII paint scheme at the Air National Guard paint facility in Sioux City, Iowa. The paint scheme is designed to replicate the look of the original P-47 Thunderbolt as it appeared during the 2nd World War. The 124th Fighter Wing conceived the idea to commemorate the unit’s 75th anniversary and lineage to their predecessor, the 405th Fighter Squadron. U.S. Air National Guard photo: Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot

 U.S. Air National Guard photo: Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot

U.S. Air National Guard photo: Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot

Buffs. Still clocking in at 67 years later

Few weapons systems survive active use longer than a generation before they are replaced by something more advanced developed from lessons learned from the previous system’s hard use in the field. Scratch that when it comes to the B-52 Stratofortress.

Below is an image of B-52A #1 at the Boeing employee rollout ceremony, Seattle, Washington March 18, 1954– 66 years ago today. The tailfin was too high for the hangar door and was later hoisted into place.

Now, in the platform’s 7th decade in service, the good old Buff is still ready and willing to go in harm’s way– and does so regularly.

Please don’t feed the Buffs…it will ruin their diets.

The last production Strat, B-52H AF Serial No. 61-0040, left the factory on 26 October 1962. As they are expected to remain in service until 2050, the youngest of the fleet will still be flying at age 92.

Trailblazing Eagle 0291

Only narrowly missing out on Vietnam, Frame 71-0291 was the second two-seat pre-production F-15B (TF-15A) Eagle off the McDonnell Douglas production line in 1975 and soon picked up a striking Bicentennial scheme that she showed off at a number of events to include the 1976 Farnborough International Air Show and the Japan International Aerospace Exhibition.

The company soon modified the scheme to make it a company showboat.

Eventually, 0291 became a test frame for a number of improvements including Langley Research Center’s non-axisymmetric two-dimensional (2-D) STOL nozzles, the Eagle’s FAST Pack Conformal Fuel Tank Program, LANTIRN, and the F-15E Strike Eagle Program.

Pre-production F-15B No. 2 (USAF S/N 71-0291) with 2D engine nozzles and canards, early 1980s, as research that was a part of the abandoned Eagle STOL/MTD program (NASA Glenn Research Center Collection)

Side view of prototype F-15E (converted F-15B, S/N 71-0291). (U.S. Air Force photo)

McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle prototype modified F-15B-4-MC-71-0291 in period “European 1” camouflage with 16 500-lb bombs

According to TDIA, “71-0291 was retired from the active inventory in the early 1990s and was used for battle damage repair training at Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. It is reported to be on display at the Royal Saudi Air Force Museum at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in RSAF colors and markings.”

Of course, the Strike Eagle itself is still around and the USAF is slated to receive some new F-15EX examples, showing just how much 0291 continues to pay off.

Santa, C-130s, and isolated Pacific resupply

The U.S. Air Force, operating in conjunction this year with the Japan Self-Defense Force, just wrapped up the 69th annual Operation Christmas Drop, tossing out 3,200-pounds of humanitarian aid from the back of a moving Herky bird in 64 bundles over the course of a week to eagerly awaiting communities in Micronesia.

A bundle is airdropped from a C-130J Super Hercules, assigned to Yokota Air Base, Japan, onto Kayangel, Republic of Palau, during Operation Christmas Drop 2020, Dec. 10. By using low-cost low-altitude airdrop procedures, the U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force were able to deliver humanitarian aid across the South-Eastern Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gabrielle Spalding)

To be sure, it is a feel-good operation. Something to be proud of. Winning hearts and minds. 

However, keep in mind that such drops are real-world training for these same Western Pacific-based C-130 units should they be needed to, say, handle low-key resupply for isolated company-sized Marine rocket batteries dropped off on random atolls with little infrastructure but within range of Chinese maritime assets.

Speaking of which, this year’s OCD was the first that saw bundles dropped on Peleliu.

For those keeping track at home, Peleliu was, of course, a hard-won strategic pin in the map on the push towards Okinawa and the Philippines in 1944-45. The historic island currently has a population of about ~400 locals and the WWII-era airstrip, seen towards the end of the OCD video, is in pretty rough shape.

That beat-down airstrip doesn’t negate the fact that places like Peleliu are getting important once again. Maybe important enough that C-130s ought to be practicing cargo drops there. Oh wait. 

MiG Alley at 70

Original Caption July 1953: “Fifth Air Force, Korea; As a bright mid-day sun beams its warm rays upon a forward UN airstrip in Korea, two sleek U.S. Air Force F-86 ‘Sabre’ jets of the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing become airborne, landing gear going up, fuel tanks filled to capacity and gun chambers filly loaded, bound for MIG-Alley in search of more Russian-built MIG-15s. Protecting Fifth Air Force fighter bomber operation from enemy swept-wing aircraft, MIG-killing ‘Sabre’ pilots daily patrol the skies over North Korea. Since shooting down their first MIG in December 1950, ‘Sabre’ jet pilots have destroyed 765 of the enemy interceptors.”

Photo 342-FH-4A-26483-91482AC via NARA

The first Air Force F-86 MiG “kill” over Korea occurred 70 years ago today, 17 December 1950, when Lt. Col. Bruce Hinton, “commander of the 336th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing, led a flight of four F-86s over northwestern North Korea. To trick the communists, the Sabre pilots flew at the same altitude and speed as F-80s typically did on missions, and they used F-80 call signs. Hinton spotted four MiGs at a lower altitude, and he led his flight in an attack. After pouring a burst of machine gun fire into one of the MiGs, it went down in flames.”

DAYTON, Ohio – Lt. Col. Bruce Hinton stands beside the North American F-86A Sabre in the Modern Flight Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. The museum’s F-86 is marked as the 4th Fighter Group F-86A flown by Lt. Col. Bruce Hinton on Dec. 17, 1950, when he became the first F-86 pilot to shoot down a MiG. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The F-86 would chalk up an impressive 10.15-to-1 kill ratio over the MiG-15 in “MiG Alley,” downing 792 (another 118 were scored as “probables”) against a loss of 78 Sabres.

To be fair, however, it should be noted that Navy LCDR William T. Amen, in a VF-111 “Sun Downers” F9F-2B Panther from the deck of USS Philippine Sea (CV-47), splashed a MiG-15 piloted by Soviet Air Force KPT. Mikhail F. Grachev (139th GIAP, 28th IAD) over the Yalu River on 9 November 1950, to claim the first jet-on-jet Navy “kill” in the conflict.

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