Aviation History: September 2000 Letters

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Aviation History
Aviation History

Princess’ Pilot

Our dear family friend, Curt McAtee, who is 81 years old, piloted the Consolidated B-24 Liberator named Princess shown on Aviation History’s March 2000 cover. He called to tell us his plane was on the cover, so we naturally picked up several copies. Curt is proud of serving his country and was anxious to share a picture of his plane with us.

Teresa Mason
Fountain Valley, Calif.

Peruvian NA-50s

About your “Aerial Oddities” department in the March issue, I’d like to tell you that, of the seven North American NA-50s purchased by my country (Peru) back in 1939, at least one was lost in action during the war against Ecuador in 1941. That plane was flown by Captain Jose A. Quiñones, who was performing a dive-bombing mission against Ecuadorian positions. Quiñones was hit by AA fire, which set the plane afire. According to his comrades, he refused to jump from the damaged plane and then dived against the enemy AA batteries, crashing to his death and becoming one of the Peruvian air force’s greatest heroes.

Of this bunch of planes, at least one survives as an air force base gate guardian in Lima.

Manuel Antonio Cuba
via e-mail

Grizzly’s Aircraft Gun

I really enjoyed Edward H. Phillips’ article on the XA-38 Grizzly in the March issue. I saw it demonstrated back in about 1946 or so, and I always wanted to know more about it.

However, I did know a lot about one of its components back then: its 75mm aircraft gun. It functioned perfectly when I saw it fired way back then. Incidentally, the official U.S. Army Ordnance nomenclature for the gun was “75mm aircraft gun M10,” which included both the gun and its mount and feeder.

When the Vietnam War began to heat up, the U.S. Air Force began to wonder if they needed a cannon to complement or replace aircraft air-to-ground rockets, and they dragged the 75mm M10 out of storage. I did a couple of briefings for aircraft design groups on the gun, using both still picture slides and motion pictures.

One thing that impressed everybody who saw the briefings was that the 75mm gun’s muzzle flash was huge compared to the launch flash of a 5-inch high-velocity aircraft rocket. It could blind the aircraft’s pilot-gunner in marginal visibility or night conditions. It was decided that this problem, which could not be corrected, made the rocket a much more flexible weapon, and further work on the gun project was dropped. So far as I know, nobody has tried it since.

Keep up the good work. I read Aviation History and pass it on to my son, who also reads it.

Konrad F. Schreier, Jr.
Los Angeles, Calif.

Blood Chits

I read with interest your article on the blood chit in the May issue. On the wall of my den I have one from the Korean War era. I kept it on my person while I was at front-line air bases. Korea was still in a state of turmoil, with battle lines constantly changing, and I didn’t relish the possibility of becoming a prisoner of war.

The chits were not standard issue to us ground personnel, but they were readily available on the local market. We were wary, since our original destination on the TDY orders was Pyong Yang in November 1950, but while we were en route there it was overrun and we were detoured to Japan for a while. We were a Sabre jet outfit, sent in to counter the MiG-15s.

I remember Colonel Gabriel “Gabby” Gabreski as the first jogger I had ever seen. He jogged around the base (K-13 at Su-Won) every day. Having been shot down and been a POW during World War II, he said, “It ain’t happening again if I can help it.” He told us he was going to hit the ground running south until he saw the Stars and Stripes again. That was in the summer of 1951.

Norm Kalow
4th Fighter-Interceptor
Wing Association
Ravenna, Ohio

I read C.V. Glines’ article on blood chits with much interest, although I did not see anything on the type of chits issued in North Africa and the Middle East to aircrews operating in those areas. My initial flying experience during World War II was in those areas, and we were issued chits that were printed on paper.

The greeting printed in the chits I was issued in that theater read, in part: “To every noble Arab, Greetings and peace of Allah be upon you. The bearer of this letter is an officer of the United States of America, assisting the British Government and a faithful friend to all Arab Nations. We beg of you to treat him well, guard his life from every harm and supply his needs of food and drinks, and guide him to the nearest British encampment. You will be rewarded generously in money for all your services. Peace and mercy of Allah be upon you.”

Later, when I was assigned to the China-Burma-India theater, we were issued chits that were printed on cloth. Some individuals had them sewn on the backs of their flight jackets, but others were advised by old-timers in the theater not to do so because they provided very good targets for the enemy.

During the “Hump” operation, some crews were forced to bail out, even though they realized that their chances of survival in the mountainous terrain of those parts were minimal. Some few fortunate crew members were rescued by local tribesmen and brought out of the wilds, returning to base two or three weeks after they left. Since many of these natives were addicted to opium and had little use for money, they wanted their pay in opium. Of course, the chits meant little in situations such as these anyway, since these were mostly people who could not read. Although some of the tribesmen were friendly, many lives were lost at their hands.

Doug Ogilvie
Hayward, Calif.

Blériot Blooper

In the article “Military Aviation’s Revolutionary Beginnings” in the May issue, the caption beneath the painting on page 52 showing René Simon in flight over a force of Mexican Insurrectos, as well as the first paragraph of the text, refer to his airplane as a Blériot XII. Not so–it is a Blériot XI.

The Blériot XI and XII were distinctly different aircraft. Model XI was a mid-wing monoplane, the XII a high-wing monoplane. The XI had a conventional single stabilizer whereas the XII had two horizontal stabilizers. But the clincher, to the best of my knowledge, is that the XII was flown by only one person, Louis Blériot, primarily at various air meets in France during 1909.

The model XII was largely forgotten after Louis Blériot, flying his Model XI, won the London Daily Mail prize on July 25, 1909, for being the first person to fly an airplane across the English Channel. Later, more than 800 XIs were built.

In addition to making one of the first military reconnaissance flights, as described by author Ron Gilliam, Blériots were used to set speed and altitude records and carried the first official airmail in the United States, Great Britain, Switzerland, South Africa and Australia.

Sanford Solarz
via e-mail

Editor’s note: The aircraft mentioned on page 52 was indeed a Blériot XI.

P-40 Variant?

I really enjoyed Robert Guttman’s article (“Hawk with Shark’s Teeth: Curtiss P-40″ in the May issue) in which he traced the P-40 through its many modifications and models. However, as a boy growing up during the years of World War II, I recall a designation that he failed to include, the P-400–a P-40 with a zero on its tail.

Daniel H. Amberg
Gunnison, Colo.

Editor’s note: I enjoyed your tongue-in-cheek P-400 designation for the P-40. Of course, there really was a P-400, an export version of the Bell P-39 Airacobra, 253 of which were repossessed by the United States from Britain in December 1941 after America entered World War II.

The U.S. designation for the repossessed aircraft in U.S. service was P-400. They were used mainly for training and for emergency fighter reinforcement in the South Pacific theater. P-400s were flown by the 347th Fighter Group at Guadalcanal in 1943.

Interestingly enough (as you pointed out in subsequent correspondence), the first contingent of P-400 fighters on Guadalcanal was from the Army Air Corps 67th Fighter Squadron. According to Edwin P. Hoyt’s book Guadalcanal, a part of the 67th Squadron that was brought to the field on Guadalcanal was equipped with P-400s, “an advanced version of the P-39 but a plane that was incapable of attaining 20,000 feet, the height at which the Japanese liked to come in and drop down out of the sun.”

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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