Letters from Readers – February 2009 Aviation History

11/19/2008 • AVH Issues

The Swoose Makes a Comeback
Regarding the news item on restoring The Swoose, the only surviving example of a “shark-fin” Boeing B-17D-BO, in your November “Briefing” section, I thought readers might be interested to see some of my photos of the plane before the restoration began (above). When I was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base for part of 1953 and 1954, almost right outside my barracks window sat three planes on an abandoned taxi strip: The Swoose, the B-29 Enola Gay and a Douglas XB-43. I would visit them almost daily. I recently heard that the planes were in pretty rough shape by the time they were put into storage in Suitland, Md.

The XB-43, according to the Smithsonian Institution, was one of only two such aircraft built. The first one was used for target practice in the desert, and the second plane—the one I have a photo of—was later torched by some kids.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy Aviation History Magazine. I anxiously await each is­sue, and always read it from cover to cover. Thanks for a great publication, and keep ’em coming.

Jerry Arndt
Watertown, Wis.

Your November update on the renovation of The Swoose was very informative, but you omitted a bit of trivia that readers would surely find interesting. The Swoose’s pilot, Colonel Frank Kurtz, was so enamored with his B-17 that he named his only child after it when she was born in 1944. Since then, Swoosie Kurtz has of course become famous in her own right as a successful actress on Broadway, TV and film. She’s currently starring in the series "Pushing Daisies."

David Barlin
Marlboro, N.J.

A Black Widow Emerges From the Jungle
Dick Smith’s “Restored” article in the November issue on the recovery of a rare North­rop P-61 Black Widow that went down in New Guinea was of special interest to me. I was a P-38 pilot with the 339th Fighter Squadron, Thirteenth Air Force, from September 1943 to May 1945. I happened to be at Hollandia, awaiting a flight to Australia for rest leave, the day that P-61 crashed.

I saw the Black Widow doing Cuban eights across the airstrip, from the mountains on one side of the field to the mountains on the other side [the Cuban eight is a vertical figure eight, first performed in a Curtiss Hawk at an airshow in Cuba]. Each pass it made was slower than the previous one. It was evident to the pilots who were watching that if the P-61 continued those maneuvers it was going to crash. It finally just mushed into the mountainside. The miracle was that no one aboard was hurt.

Colonel John E. Zink
U.S. Air Force (ret.)
Smithville, Texas

Interesting article about the P-61 recovery from New Guinea. One sentence especially caught my eye: “The pilot and radar operator, as well as two nurses on board for an orientation flight….” So there were two crewmen and two nurses on an “orientation flight,” making passes over the runway. Here’s to young airmen in their 20s! Without them, we wouldn’t have that plane today.

Ralph Jones
Via e-mail

My Favorite Ace
In the “Aces-in-a-Day” segment of November’s “Flight Test” you left out my favorite fighter ace, Everett C. “Carl” Hargreaves, a U.S. Navy pilot who flew F6F Hellcats from the carrier Hornet. He shot down five Zeros as well as a “probable” on June 24, 1944, during a raid on Iwo Jima.

After the war, when the Sun City, Calif., American Legion Post was going to have to disband for lack of a commander, Carl Hargreaves volunteered to serve as its leader. Thanks to him, that post is still functioning—even though Carl transferred to “Post Ever­lasting” a couple of years ago. Heroes like him should not be forgotten.

Walter C. Chips
Sun City, Calif.

Sharing Support for Two Forts
The “Restored” article about the B-17 Champaign Lady (by Terry Turner in the September issue) reminded me of an anecdotal connection between that aircraft and Memphis Belle, which is now at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

When the Memphis Belle Memorial Association received the loan agreement from the U.S. Air Force Museum (as it was then known) and took possession of Memphis Belle in 1977, the plane had a seriously corroded no. 7 bulkhead. We conveyed that information to Colonel Richard Uppstrom, the museum’s director. On August 24, 1981, a truck sent by Arnold Kolb, owner of the wrecked aircraft that was to become Champaign Lady, pulled up at the Memphis Area Vocational Technical School-Aviation and offloaded the lower tail section from that airplane, including a complete no. 7 bulkhead. In short order the bulkheads were switched. Today that plane and also the original bulkhead are at the NMUSAF.

Harry Friedman
Memphis Belle Memorial Association
Memphis, Tenn.

In the November “Mailbag” the letter headed “No Yaks for Czechs” was attributed to the wrong author. Joe Krybus, of Krybus Aviation in Santa Paula, Calif., actually sent in that letter and accompanying photo of La-5FNs.

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