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In the “Historic Modeling” sidebar included with the “Clash of Titans Over Korea” feature in your November 2005 issue, Dick Smith expressed a view that had me miffed. He stated that the North American Aviation F-86 Sabre and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 “were considered almost equally matched.” I think that statement might mislead many younger readers. The MiG-15 at combat weight was 2,000 to 3,000 pounds lighter than an F-86. When one also considers that the Klimov VK-1 engine had more thrust than the J47, this leads to a considerable advantage in a dogfight.

One of the primary assets of the MiG over the Sabre was its 4,000-foot advantage in service ceiling. It often happened that F-86s entered “MiG Alley” at 40,000 feet, only to find MiGs circling 10,000 feet above them. Of course, one could go on and on, bringing up other differences—such as the F-86 was faster in a dive, but the MiG was more unstable than the Sabre, etc.

U.S. Sabre pilots in Korea were all highly trained and competent airmen, many of whom had extensive World War II experience. With the exception of some Russian WWII veterans, the MiG pilots in Korea were often sent into combat with minimal flying experience.

Chuck Yeager said it best: “It isn’t the plane that is important in combat, it’s the man sitting in it.”

Christopher C. Black

Grapevine, Texas


Walter J. Boyne’s article in the January issue’s “Aerial Oddities” department about Charles Levine mentioned Clarence Chamberlain’s purchase of Curtiss Condors for barnstorming activities.

Sometime around 1937 or ’38 our newspaper in Youngstown, Ohio, advertised that Chamberlain would be at the local flying field selling rides. My mother, who had met him before, took me to the field so that I could take my first airplane ride. He asked me if I was ready to go up. Meanwhile, I had been looking at the Condor with all of its struts and wires and decided it didn’t look like the airplanes I was familiar with from Smilin’Jack or the covers of Model Airplane News. It didn’t look safe to my young eyes. Much to my mother’s embarrassment, I said, “No, thank you.”

About a year later, another barnstormer was in town with a Stinson SR-7, and I got my first ride then. The Stinson looked more like an airplane should look.

Ralph Snow

Arlington, Texas


 After reading the comparison of the Boeing B-17 and the Consolidated B-24 Liberator in the sidebar to William Hallstead’s “Ambush Over Magdeburg” feature in your March issue, I was reminded of an old story from those days.

A B-17 was diverted to a B-24 base, where it landed. After securing the aircraft on the ground, the rest of the crew walked off, leaving the crew chief to guard the plane. Shortly thereafter, several B-24 folks wandered over, circled the Fortress several times and then asked the crew chief, “What do you call this thing?”

The chief answered, “Why, that’s the flyingest, fightingest airplane ever built.” One of the men then pointed to the line of B-24s parked alongside the B-17 and asked, “Well, if that’s so, what do you call those?” To which he answered, “Those are the packing crates the B-17s were shipped over in.”

Dave Brazelton

Bradenton, Fla.


In the “People and Planes” department of the March issue, which focuses on the legendary Martin B-26 Marauder known as FlakBait, David F. Crosby states, “The pilot and co-pilot sat side by side in armored seats behind an armored bulkhead.” In reality, there was no armored bulkhead in the B-26—and the pilot’s seat was the only one with armor plate in the rear. I flew 57 of my 68 World War II combat missions as a B-26 co-pilot with the 497th Squadron, 344th Bomb Group, Ninth Air Force—so I know whereof I speak!

Crosby also writes, “The navigator, who also served as the radio operator, worked out of a small compartment behind the pilots.” It’s true that the navigator had a table workstation behind the copilot, but to my knowledge he never doubled as a radioman. The radioman also served as a gunner, and he had a workstation opposite the navigator and behind the pilot.

The rest of the article is technically correct, and I commend Mr. Crosby for pointing out a little-known fact: that Maj. Gens. Muir S. Fairchild and O.P. Echols and other high brass had it in for the Marauder, and the first part of their “pinching out” plan was to send eight groups to the European theater, where the abundant and accurate 88mm flak of the Germans would likely eliminate them. When that didn’t work, second lieutenants right out of flying school were sent to those eight groups as co-pilots (I was one of them) in hopes that their lack of experience would result in havoc. This also didn’t work, as the seasoned first pilots in the groups gave the kids some excellent on-the-job training. Eventually most of those green co-pilots became first pilots.

Lt. Col. J.K. Havener

U.S. Air Force (ret.)

Cordova, Tenn.


The article by Paige W. Christiansen in the March issue about Arthur Goebel Jr., “Forgotten Golden Age Daredevil,” reminded me that an interest in aviation apparently ran in the Goebel family. Art’s cousin, Clara Adams, a wealthy socialite from Pennsylvania, was a minor celebrity in her own right.

Adams was frequently described by the press as a “pioneer passenger” as well as “first flighter” and “globe girdler.” Most notably, she bought the first (and only) ticket sold to a female passenger on the German airship Graf Zeppelin for a transatlantic flight (for which she paid $3,000) in 1928. In 1931 she was also the first female paying passenger to fly on the giant Dornier Do-X from Rio de Janiero to New York. She was also along for the ride during a number of Pan American’s maiden flights to many exotic destinations during the days of the Flying Clippers.

Tom Friedman

Via e-mail


Originally published in the May 2006 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.