Letters From Readers — September 2006 Aviation History Magazine

7/27/2006 • AVH Issues, George Bush

Forgotten RAF Ace Honored
An east Texas muleskinner, Wing Commander Lance C. Wade (the subject of "Forgotten RAF Ace" by Michael Montgomery in Aviation History‘s November 2004 issue), was inducted into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame on November 12, 2005. Wade, who flew Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires during World War II, was one of the highest-scoring Americans in the Mediterranean theater, with 25 confirmed kills.

The display case commemorating Wade is adjacent to former President George H.W. Bush’s display in the Hall of Fame, located in The Lone Star Museum at Galveston. Retired Air Force Colonel Joseph Nevin and Romonda Wade, the wife of Lance Wade’s nephew Bruce, were instrumental in engineering Lance’s induction into the Hall of Fame.

Bruce Wade accepted his uncle’s award on behalf of the whole family. Texas Senate and House resolutions also honored his heroic accomplishments during the Allied air war.

Lt. Col. Fred A. Hannah Jr.
U.S. Air Force (ret.)
Austin, Texas

Fourteenth Air Force
Thanks for the article on the Fourteenth Air Force by E.R. Johnson ("Surrounded and Outnumbered" in the November 2005 issue). I found it interesting and mostly accurate, but I have a couple of comments. Mr. Johnson refers to our Curtiss P-40s as obsolete, aging and war-weary. But the P-40 was in no way obsolete in 1942, and was still holding its own in 1944. It proved to be the ideal warplane in China, rugged, easily maintained and well able to fight. We seldom needed high-altitude performance, which was the one area in which P-40s fell short. Nor were they war-weary: We continued to receive new late-model P-40s until almost the end of the war.
Mr. Johnson also implies a criticism of Claire Lee Chennault, in that he bypassed the chain of command in his communications. He had to! Communications sent through Clayton Bissell and Joe Stilwell were routinely altered or trashed. Chennault was persona non grata with the old Billy Mitchell gang even before the war. This bunch, including Hap Arnold and Bissell, were still trying to make the "victory through air power" pipe dream stand up. Chennault knew unescorted daylight bombing was not going to work. He proved it in theory, and got politely pushed into retirement. He proved it again in the air, and got viciously opposed and inexcusably slighted by his superiors, even though they finally had to admit he was right.

I think the final evaluation of Chennault has to rest with those of us who served under him. And I can assure you that our opinion is overwhelmingly positive. He was one of this nation’s greatest leaders, and I thank God that I was able to do my wartime service under his command.

David H. Rust
Woodville, Texas

The article "Surrounded and Outnumbered" states that the Fourteenth Air Force was the smallest to operate in a combat theater and the only numbered air force to have been created, organized and operated within a war zone. In fact, the Thirteenth Air Force was also created within a war zone, the Solomon Islands, and it consisted of only five combat groups — two heavy bomber, one medium bomber and two fighter groups. Also note that the Thirteenth Air Force still exists, even though it has no combat groups/wings assigned to it.

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

B-17 Fondly Remembered
When I read the January "Art of Flight" department by Dick Smith, about Steve Ingraham’s painting A Bit-O-Lace — Surviving the Storm, it brought back memories and sent me searching through an early logbook that covered my own U.S. Army Air Forces flights during 1945.

I had completed Boeing B-17 transition at Hendricks Field, in Sebring, Fla., in October 1945 and shortly thereafter was sent to Lubbock, Texas, to ferry war-weary B-17s from Lubbock to Kingman, Ariz. On November 8, my log reflects a two-hour-10-minute flight in Bit-O-Lace from Lubbock to Kirtland, in Albuquerque, N.M. The following day I flew the plane to Kingman, Ariz., in two hours and 30 minutes. This was indeed its last flight before it became aluminum scrap. I still have a black-and-white photo of Bit-O-Lace‘s nose art — which I took because I was so impressed with Milt Caniff’s artwork and the 84 missions symbolized by the 84 bombs painted on its nose.

I did get one more B-17 flight a few years ago when I flew the EAA’s Aluminum Overcast. That experience reminded me once again what a lovely, honest lady the B-17 was.

Colonel Andrew J. Mungenast
U.S. Air Force (ret.)
Montgomery, Ala.

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