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Germany’s Operation Bodenplatte

Concerning the article “Luftwaffe’s Last Blow!” in the March issue, I have never understood the German High Command’s reasoning for launching this operation. In 1944 the Luftwaffe desperately needed to regain air superiority over the battlefield. Somehow or other they arrived at the idea that the way to obtain this goal was to destroy at one fell swoop the maximum number of Allied aircraft based in France and Belgium.

One of the fallacies espoused about gaining air superiority is that you accomplish this by destroying a certain number of enemy aircraft. You don’t win aerial superiority by destroying enemy aircraft; you win it by causing such trauma to the enemy’s aircrews that they can no longer fly in combat. By 1944, both the Allied and Axis nations could within days replace lost aircraft. What could not be replaced within days were the pilots. It took over 100 times longer to train a pilot to fly an aircraft than it did to build one. The bottom line: It was not the number of enemy aircraft you destroyed that won you control of the air over the battlefield, but the number of enemy pilots you rendered unfit for combat.

Charles H. Bogart
Frankfort, Ky.

Cold War Memories

The “Cold War Airpower Laboratory” article [March] brought back a lot of memories. My dad was assigned to the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing at RAF Wethersfield as an F-100 nuclear weapon technician in 1957. RAF Sculthorpe had RB-50s and WB-66s. The Brits love airshows, and my dad and I went to many of them. At every show there was a flyover of an RB-50 with three F-100s hooked up behind.

In 1959 my dad was transferred to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, again supporting nuke-armed F-100s. Every 90 days a new squadron from the continental U.S. would rotate into Incirlik. Deploying them to Incirlik and then back home took a lot of tankers and transport aircraft, including the C-124s and C-130s mentioned in the article. There was a lot going on at Incirlik during that time besides the F-100s and U-2s (I bagged Gary Powers’ groceries and delivered the Stars and Stripes to his trailer home). Navy Neptune/EA-3 and Air Force RB-47 spy planes were frequently seen there.

Jim Schofield
Oklahoma City, Okla.

The Lost Squadron

I read with great interest your story about “The Lost Squadron” [January], which brought back memories of my own experience flying solo into a storm. I was part of an A-26 squadron (12 planes) crossing the Pacific when I had an engine problem while leaving Tarawa. The other 11 planes went off without me, and I followed two hours later. Having zero experience in flying through a tropical storm, I chose to fly through it rather than around (as the other planes had done). My A-26 got tossed around like a dry leaf in a tornado. Between the turbulence, rain and blinding lightning, I had great difficulty keeping the plane right-side up. My instruments said I was OK, but it didn’t feel that way. Then the worst thing happened: I developed serious vertigo. At times I thought we were flying upside down even though the instruments said we were not.

Somehow we made it to Eniwetok in one piece. That experience, though it was the most difficult flying of my life, ended far better for me than it did for most members of the “Lost Squadron.”

Robert L. Wieman
St. Paul, Minn.

Noisy Mercators

I was really shocked that you published a very good story about the forgotten Martin P4M Mercator [“Cold Warrior,” January]! When I’ve told people about the noisiest air­plane ever to serve at Sangley Point, in the Philippines, their usual response is, “What is that?”

I served there from 1952 through 1954 as a communications officer. When the P4Ms took off, you couldn’t hear anything else. They always buzzed the field when they returned, with their R-4360s and J33s going full blast. With little fuel and their noses down to maintain altitude, they were a real sight to behold!

Don Goehler
Issaquah, Wash.

Restored Vega

I was quite surprised and pleased to see the article “Rescued From the Weeds,” by Stephan Wilkinson, in the January issue [“Restored”]. While it was quite a few years ago, I recall having Wilkinson as a passenger here in our affiliated Airpower Museum’s 1931 Stinson JR-S. His kind words about the Antique Airplane Association being a vigorous group are very much appreciated, as I am now into my 90th year—having spent 61 of them trying to keep the AAA, Inc. functional.

I had the pleasure to view the latest restoration of the Vega DL-1 on July 26, 2014, when the new owner stopped in en route to the EAA Oshkosh fly-in. The restoration by Rick Barter was far better than the one that my team had finished in 1969.

Wilkinson mentioned that the Vega had served as a corporate transport for the Morrell Meat Packing Company. The John Morrell Company no longer has a plant in Ottumwa, though that was where the original plant was located. As the FBO at what was the former Ottumwa Naval Air Station in the early 1950s, I both serviced and hangared the Morrell aircraft—and was well acquainted with Morrell’s aviation department. A big thank you for bringing back some great memories.

Robert L. Taylor
President, Antique Airplane Association, Inc.
Ottumwa, Iowa

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