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Aviation History: January 2001 Letters

Originally published by Aviation History magazine. Published Online: September 23, 2001 
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Aviation History
Aviation History

10th Anniversary

I wholeheartedly agree with Carroll Glines' congratulatory editorial (in the September issue) on your 10th anniversary. I have subscribed for about two years and am continually impressed by the breadth and depth of your articles, features, reviews, etc.

I especially enjoy reading about the early years of aviation (1900-1930). I've written a few articles in local history journals about that period and always find it fascinating. You have managed the difficult feat of illuminating that period as well as the entire history of aviation with the bright light of quality. You play a very important role in our understanding of aviation's past. I commend you and wish you well in the future.

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George Kirchmann
via e-mail

Modeling Kudos

I was delighted to see the inclusion of a modeling column in the September issue. Dick Smith is off to a great start!

At 66, I have been an avid aircraft modeler for more than 50 years. The changes that have been wrought in that length of time are staggering. I cut my teeth on the old wooden kits (StromBecker and Maircraft come to mind) and tried my hand at flying models, free flight, etc. When I saw my first plastic kit, I was hooked for good.

My interests are mostly World War II aircraft, with some Vietnam-era McDonnell F-4 Phantoms thrown in for good measure. From time to time I build aircraft on commission.

I love your magazine for the incredible quality and historical accuracy you represent. There just isn't anyone better than Walter J. Boyne at what he does.

Welcome aboard, Dick Smith! Can't wait to see what will be next.

S.W. "Bill" Mitchell
Dublin, Ga.

South African Spy Plane

In a situation remarkably like the one in which Sidney Cotton took aerial photographs with a German official riding along (see "People and Planes" in the July issue), the twin-engine Beechcraft mentioned at the end of the article frequently carried South African VIPs while carrying out reconnaissance on nuclear facilities and other targets of interest.

The aircraft was a Beech C-12, the military equivalent of the King Air 200. While it carried the ambassador at times, its primary assignment was in support of the U.S. Defense Attaché Office. The airplane and her crew were thrown out of the country when the South African government needed to deflect interest from an internal scandal. The "American spy plane" proved to be a perfect scapegoat.

R.R. Powell
Virginia Beach, Va.

Finger Four Formation

As a WWII pilot, I am always interested in articles such as Paul B. Cora's piece on Colonel Thomas Christian, Jr. (in the July issue). I would like to point out, however, that the references made to the photograph on page 35 and the painting by Robert Watts on page 37 as being a "finger four" formation are misleading. These two illustrations actually show right echelon down and left echelon up formations.

A finger four formation places the aircraft in the same positions as the four fingers of the hand when held flat. The leader is the middle (longest) finger, with one wingman to one side and two on the other.

Don Armand
Alexandria, La.

P-51B Suzy G

Paul Cora's article "Yellowjacket Leader Over Europe" in the July issue was interesting, but the picture Aviation History used for illustration is not the photograph taken on July 26, 1944. In recent years the only shot of "the Bottisham Four" that has been published is of the echelon formation with the No. 4 Mustang obscured. In the attached photo (above), which was widely published during the war, P-51B Suzy G is visible, and there are three types of Mustangs. The leader and Sky Bouncer are early P-51Ds, while Easy Two Sugar, flown by Ben Drew, has the additional fin section on the tail. (The first bubble canopy P-51s suffered from lateral instability at high speed, a problem that was alleviated by the fin.)

While he is not flying the newest airplane, the group commander, Colonel Christian, has the group's new paint scheme, with yellow from the spinner all the way back to the firewall. "Lou" was the name of his infant daughter. The first Lou was a Republic P-47B Thunderbolt Christian flew when the group first came to England. It had a cartoon baby painted on its olive-drab nose. Lou II and Lou III were P-51Bs. Sadly, Colonel Christian never saw his little girl.

The 375th had a pair of aces with identical records whom U.S. Army Air Forces journalists had named the "Kazenjammer Kids," after a cartoon strip. First Lieutenant Bill Kemp was flying E2-S on a crazy day at Chartres when he and Drew, the other Katzenjammer Kid, engaged 40 German fighters. Days after that mission, a new replacement on a training flight spun into a cloud and crashed, ending the career of Easy Two Sugar.

Four days before the pictured photo mission, 1st Lt. Robert Wright had used Sky Bouncer to shoot down two Me-109s.

Suzy G, E2-H, was the personal ship of Captain Francis Glankler, leader of "D" Flight, who had named the airplane after his wife. Glankler did two tours in the 361st Squadron. While he was home on leave in September, another pilot flew Suzy G on an escort mission to Magdeburg. He was shot up, but managed to return to England, where he crashed in a field. Captain Glankler was given a brand new P-51D when he returned, which he named Suzy G II. Frank Glankler, who later became a cotton broker in Memphis, Tenn., "went west" last October.

While he is perhaps most famous for his double Me-262 kill, Ben Drew's toughest fight was a one-on-one with an Me-109. After a long and difficult engagement that went all the way from 25,000 feet down to the deck, Ben shot the German down. He was flying Suzy G at the time.

The photographs later caused a controversy about the color of the P-51's upper fuselage and wings. The type of color film used and the reflected sky gave the dark upper surfaces a decidedly blue shade in most prints. Many believed the 361st pilots had painted their Mustangs blue. Several P-51s flying today, including the Experimental Aircraft Association's, are painted in that scheme.

After the strafing mission, Colonel Christian was listed as missing in action for a long time. In 1996 a young Frenchman, Laurent Wiart, discovered Colonel Christian's grave in a World War I British cemetery. His curiosity piqued by the 1944 date on the marker, Wiart researched what had happened to Christian. Christian had apparently spent a day or two in a German military hospital before dying of his injuries. A possible reason for confusion about his nationality was his flight gear. Typical of pilots who arrived in England in 1943, Colonel Christian wore a Royal Air Force flight suit, helmet and goggles (as in the photograph shown on P. 34 of the article).

His daughter, Lou Ellen Loving, turned down the U.S. military's offer to have his remains moved to Arlington National Cemetery. She said, "Let him remain where he fell." She did, however, go to France to see the grave site and visited modern Bottisham, where she dedicated the street named in her father's honor.

R.R. Powell
Virginia Beach, Va.

XP-59 Shenanigans

I enjoy your magazine immensely. In the September issue, I was especially enthralled by Nan Siegel's recounting of the anecdotes surrounding the Bell XP-59 (in the "Legacy of Flight" department). My wife's father, Kyle Taylor, worked for Bob Stanley at Stanley Aviation for many years, both at the manufacturing facility in Denver, Colo., and also the test facility at Hurricane Mesa, Utah.

My father, Ernest Green, flew Stanley a few times back in the mid-1960s in his company Aero Commander. Stanley was an extrovert who could not, as the story I heard from my father goes, resist the temptation to mess with the minds of pilots in California. According to my father, Stanley used to fly off the coast and sneak up on a North American B-25 that was on sub patrol, then fly in close formation until he was spotted and had the full attention of the crew. He would then tip the top hat he was wearing (he was also wearing a tuxedo shirt and jacket and black bow tie), "pour on the coal" to the XP-59 and leave the astounded crew wondering what they had just witnessed.

When more than one B-25 crew returned from their patrols with similar stories of a propellerless airplane with a tuxedoed pilot, Stanley was disciplined and reminded of the super-secret nature of the XP-59 project. Apparently, the bomber crews were even given off-the-record psychological "counseling" to convince them that they had really seen a P-51 or some other piston-engine fighter.

I am not sure if Stanley told my father about this or even if it ever actually happened, but it is an entertaining story and certainly possible, especially in light of Jack Woolam's shenanigans. Thanks again for a fascinating publication!

Bill Green
Sedalia, Colo.

Puma Details

Jon Guttman's excellent article on "The Deadliest Puma" (in the September issue) stated that the circumstances surrounding the "Russian" bombing of Kosice, Hungary, on June 26, 1941, have never conclusively been explained. The bombing of this town has recently been uncovered as part of an Axis plot to provoke the Hungarians into declaring war on the Soviet Union.

The bombing was carried out by three aircraft from the 4th Bombardment Group of the Aeronautica Regala Romana (ARR), or Royal Romanian Air Force. One bomb was deliberately left unarmed and had Russian writing on it–as "evidence." This has been documented by several sources, most recently in Christer Bergstrom and Andrey Mikhailov's authoritative book, Black Cross/Red Star: Air War Over the Eastern Front.

The battle cry of the Hungarian 101st Fighter Group was Hajra Pumák, or "Onward Pumas"–testimony to the élan of these tough fighter pilots.

Michael S. Kass
Salt Lake City, Utah

Fish and Shorty

It was with pleasure that I read Gail Ravitts' article on Flying 'Fish' Bert Hassell in the September issue. I was delighted that she included a sidebar on my uncle, Parker Dresser 'Shorty' Cramer. Cramer made three attempts to fly the Atlantic Ocean over Greenland to prove the commercial value of such a route: in 1928 with Bert Hassell, in 1929 for the Chicago Tribune with pilot Bob Gast and reporter Bob Wood, and in 1931 for Edwin G. Thompson of Transamerican Airlines. It was on the 1931 flight that Shorty lost his life in the North Sea, just off the coast of Norway, along with his Canadian radio operator, Oliber Pacquette. They were only a few hours short of achieving their goal when they went down. During that same trip they were the first to complete a flight across Greenland.

Parker Cramer also served as the chief pilot for the second Wilkins-Hearst Antarctic expedition of 1929-30. In addition, he flew from New York to Nome, Alaska, and on to Siberia, returning in April 1929.

In working with his papers and records to put together his biography, I feel I have come to know my uncle, who died before I came into this world. He was clearly a fun-loving, charismatic individual with a quick smile, but was also studious and diligent in his aviation ventures.

My father, William H. Cramer, who operated an airmail station in Clarion, Pa., in the 1920s, was a barnstormer and one of the original group of air traffic controllers in the 1930s. His professional life was dedicated to making aviation safer and more reliable.

Susan Cramer Duxbury
Bloomington, Minn.

I was tickled pink to read Gail Ravitts' article about "Fish" Hassell's pioneering expedition on the Great Circle Route. The trail that he and Parker Cramer blazed continues to be very popular, judging by the collection of contrails that we have forming over our heads here in Goose Bay, Labrador, some days.

I do, however, have to point out an inaccuracy. Colonel Hassell commanded the American, or "South Side" of the base. The base overall was commanded by a Royal Canadian Air Force officer. The Goose Bay air base was constructed in 1941 by the Royal Canadian Air Force as a western terminus for the transatlantic air ferry route. The military reservation was ceded to Canada by the government of Newfoundland, then a separate nation. Recognizing a good thing when they saw it, the U.S. Army Air Forces constructed a base across the runways from the Canadian base, with the permission of the Canadian government.

The U.S. Air Force maintained a large presence here until 1976, when the Strategic Wing disbanded. A Military Airlift Command detachment remained here until 1991 to service transient U.S. aircraft. Goose Bay continues in operation to this day as 5 Wing Goose Bay, a Canadian Forces base.

The primary activity at Goose Bay is now the operation of an allied tactical flight training area that encompasses 130,000 square kilometers in Labrador and parts of Quebec. In addition to Canadian forces personnel, we have permanent detachments from the Royal Air Force, German Luftwaffe, Royal Netherlands Air Force and Italian Aeronautica Militare.

Next year we will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the base. By the way, we are perversely proud of the fact around here that, while we may average more than 15 feet of the stuff annually, we have never had to close the runways due to snow!

Congratulations on 10 years of great Aviation History, and keep up the good work!

Captain Dave Murlat
Wing Public Affairs Officer
5 Wing Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada

Another Martin Mauler

Mauler

I have been subscribing to your magazine for many years and enjoy it very much. In your September 2000 issue Walter Boyne's interesting article on the Martin Mauler ("Aerial Oddities") states, "one complete Mauler remains, at the air museum in Pensacola, Fla., while there are reportedly parts for three more in private hands." I photographed another Mauler (see photo above) three years ago in the Tillamook Air Museum at Tillamook, Ore.

Phil Rondo
Rochester, Wash.

Send letters to: Aviation History Editor, PRIMEDIA History Group, 741 Miller Drive., Suite D-2, Leesburg, VA 20175, or e-mail to AviationHistory@thehistorynet.com. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number. Letters may be edited.

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