Thursday, October 30, 2008

October, 1962

So, 46 years ago we had the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was 46 years ago today and Friday that the four Foxtrot subs were surfaced. They were armed with one nuclear torpedo each. I think we ought to look back at that period and think about how it could have been...someone's finger could have slipped so easily...

As a result of Kennedy's entrance into the White House, and the difference between his and his predecessor's approach to world political problems, the US military had widened its conventional abilities. By the time of the Cubn Missile Crisis, the US had significant conventional forces ready for deployment. There were several exercises in the first half of 1962 that worked toward smoother communicaions, operations, and planning between services. In the Spring of 1962, forces had completed an exercise in Washington state called Exercise Coulee Crest. Inthe coming weeks (preferably sooner) I plan on writing a bit more about Operation Coulee Crest. I have received more information from Mr. Loewenstern and am working it up.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bell X-14

OK, I have to hand it to certain people. It is rare that anyone stumbles upon something of such historic value, let alone that someone knows what they are looking at when they do. Such is the case with this gentleman who is apparently travelling across country. I heartily recommend you stop at his blog and look at the pictures he took of the early attempt at VTOL. There was only one built and it would have been gone if the Ropkey Armor Museum had not saved it a decde ago. So, go to both sites and have a look! It is good when valuable aviation history can be saved. Now, about those XB-35s...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


The AF-2 Guardian was an anti-submarine aircraft. There were two variants. One had a radar(hunter) and one carried the bombs/depth charges(killer). These were sub hunters. They only operated for a comparatively short time(5 years: 1950 to 1955). I would not have known bout their existance, but I managed to stumble across one at Aero Union in Chico, CA. This was obviously a fire fighting veteran, but not much remained. I took these photos in 2004. At the time there were several C-54 hulks and a few P-2Vs sitting out in their boneyard.

One supposes, if the stars aligned and there was a need or a want, this specimen could be restored. Obviously the museums of the world have taken on much sadder cases. Here is another link that has a bit more informtion on the Guardian. And this is Aero Union's website.

Below you see what it probably looked like as a fire bomber. This is the specimen at PIMA Air Museum in Tucson, AZ. It is amazing how large these aircraft are. The wingspan was 60 feet! It was 43 feet long. It gives the A-1 a run for its money, size wise. Though, anyone who has seen an A-1 up close knows they are truely MASSIVE. The Guardian only had an R-2800(Same as on the F-4U early variants), while the A-1 had an R-3350, similar to that on the B-29.

UPDATE for Coulee Crest: "I participated in Exercise Coulee Crest. This was a III Corps exercise. III Corps consisted of the 1st and 2nd Armord Divisions at Ft. Hood, 4th Infantry Division at Ft. Lewis and the 5th Mechanized Division at Ft. Carson Colorado. The 4th and 5th Divisions artiliary units were the participants as this was a live fire exercise at the Yakima Firing Range. There were Air Force and Navy units involved to see how well communication worked between services."~Mr. Loewenstern.

Thank you for the continued input! I wonder if you remember where abouts you were billeted, if anywhere for any particular length of time. I have some local folks who remember being able to see the camps on the south side of the Firing Center, from Moxee. One gentleman also remembered that the troops would clean the local store out of beer.

Army, Air Force, and Navy...hmmm, that WAS one LARGE exercise.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Coulee Crest Revisited

I had made a request to the AFHRA (AFHRA.NEWS@MAXWELL.AF.MIL)to send me information on Operation Coulee Crest several months ago. Turns out there was literally tons of informtion on Coulee Crest in AFHRA records. There were fees attached, and given my passing interet in the subject, I decided against requesting more information. I will see if I can post the long list of records that they COULD have sent me...$30 per roll. With this information, you can, should you see fit, ask the AFHRA to retrieve this information for you. OK, it was WAY TOO LONG. If you are interested in this list, I will e-mail it to you if you leave a comment requesting such. You may want to leave your e-mail, too. (I can erase your e-mail from the comment bar if you request) If you do order from AFHRA, here is a warning: Some of the copies you receive are not altogether clear. You may have to have a second sight to read some of the papers, still, they can hold useful info.

I got a great comment the other day. A gentleman from Texas, a Mr. Loewenstern, let me know he had participated in this operation. He had this to say: "Our unit was airlifted from Fort Hood Texas on 18 C124 and after landing at Sheapard Air Force Base for refuling we next landed at Larson Air Force Base on April 24th 1963." His comment confirms the presence of C-124s in the exercise. Given that the US had tken delivery of 448 C-124s when production ended in 1955, 18 of them in 1963, was likely a sizeable portion of the fleet. They could carry upwards of 200 troops. I am unsure of how large a unit Mr. Loewenstern was part of, but one can imagine that about half of them were used for troops, that is about 1800 men. I suppose it would be important to know what kind of unit he was in, also. Armored? Infantry? Artillery? I hope Mr. Loewenstern will see fit to disclose more information in the near future, if only for my own curiousity! Thank you sir!

C-133s were also used in the transport of supplies and equipment. EB-66s were used in Electronic Warfare(See the photo of one here, taken at Larson AFB during that exercise) also. What else was used? I can only offer conjecture. I suspect A-1s, A-4s, C-130s, F-100s, RF-101s, F-105s, and maybe RB-47s. I don't know this, merely suspect.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

B-17F 42-5289, August 10, 1943

I got a comment a month or so ago concerning aircraft from Walla Walla Army Air Base. I took a look through my accident reports and located one in which the aircraft had originated from Walla Walla. I present, for your reading enjoyment, in a slightly more reader friendly format, the accident report of B-17F 42-5289 (condensed version).

B-17F 42-5289 was on a training mission out of Walla Walla AAB on the morning of Augst 10, 1943. It crashed at 0530 due to an engine fire. Seven crewmembers were lost, though three survived. The aircraft was a total loss.

(From S.Sgt. Marvin D. Anderson’s account)
Staff Sergeant Marvin D. Anderson, the engineer, was sitting on the floor of the top turret watching the instruments, when “All of a sudden the co-pilot, Lt Abel said, ‘No. three’s on fire.’” He got up and looked out to find the engine burning so hot that the cowling was melting and blowing off in the slipstream. He told the Pilot to feather it while he and the co-pilot attempted to put the fire out with the extinguisher carried by that ship. It did not work. He then feathered the prop and pushed the power to full on number two, which for some reason the pilot had reduced. The bombardier came up from the nose and asked what to do. Sgt. Anderson told him to salvo the bombs. At that point everyone began to put on their chutes. He then went through the bomb bay where he found that the bombardier had indeed dropped the bombs, but failed to open the bomb bay doors. Sgt. Block was jumping on the doors. Sgt. Anderson told him to get off the doors and then used the emergency release. The bombs fell away into the Columbia River. He called to the pilot to get out from over the river so they could jump. He waived Sgt. Block over the side and as he was watching the pilot come toward the bomb bay the fuselage melted away and the bomb bay was filled with smoke, flame, and molten metal. He jumped and floated to safety.

B-17 42-5383 was flying at 12,000 feet at 0528 and noticed a fire on the ground about two miles north of the range, across the river. When they let down to take a look, they saw three chutes and three men on the ground. They orbited giving details by radio to Boardman tower until a civilian car showed up. They landed back at Walla Walla at 0800.

The abstract of the accident says: The accident happened “12 MILES WEST OF PATTERSON COMMA OREGON AUGUST 10 COMMA 1943 AT APPROXIMATELY 0530 PERIOD NUMBER 3 ENGINE CAUGHT ON FIRE COMMA 7 FATALITIES PERIOD PLANE MANUFACTUREDJANUARY 4 COMMA 1943.” It goes on to say that the gear on that plane had been damaged in a previous accident, but the engines were new. Two things don’t add up. Patterson is in Washington State, on the North side of the river, while Boardman Range is in Oregon on the South side of the river. Elsewhere in the report it mentions that the crashed was only 2 miles West of Patterson.

The wings were torn from the aircraft and parts were strewn over a mile along the flight path. Examination of the wing indicated an internal explosion. This explosion would explain why the rest of the crew failed to exit the aircraft.

Crew list:

  • Pilot: Forrest F. Harvey, Fatal.
  • Co-pilot: Donald Abel, Fatal.
  • Navigator: Bernard Rote, Fatal.
  • Bombadier: Robert Drew, Fatal.
  • Engineer: Marion D. Andersonm, Survivor.
  • Engineer: William P. Bryant, Survivor.
  • Radio Operator: Ora W. Block, Survivor.
  • Radio Operator: Jerome J. Hatzewski, Fatal
  • Gunner: Edward R. Gesl, Fatal.
  • Army Air Force Gunner?(AAG): George W. Clark, Fatal.

The photos here are those that came from the report. They are obviously of poor quality due to the photocopying process used by the AFHRA. I also include one photo of a telegram so you can see some of the better copies, others are positively illegible. My appologies, Blogger posted it sideways.

If anyone is aware of the area of this crash, please let me know, I am curious and would appreciate any pictures you can spare of the area. I have not checked local papers.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Final Countdown

When I was young, my dad rented the movie The Final Countdown. It was a story of how the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) got sent back in time to December 7, 1941 via some sort of "time storm." It was a "what if." Of course, just as the strike group was about to lay waste to the Japanese strike force, the storm rose once more and the Nimitz strike group was recalled, Pearl Harbor be damned. History continued as though it had never had the USS Nimitz there in 1941. It was a neat movie for a kid.

I was always amazed at the ship's historian or whoever the hell he was. When he read off to the captured Japanese pilot the exact ships that participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor, I was in awe. If anything ever stuck with me, it was that scene. I hoped to be as prepared as that guy should I ever be taken back in time. (Ok, I get it, but I was young and dumb) I worked to learn more about history. Eventually, I could list the ships (American battlewagons, and Japanese Carriers present during the Pearl Harbor attack from memory...always with that stupid scene in mind. To this day, I am stuck with that scene in mind, convinced that I should be able to live out my life should I ever venture upon a time vortex unannounced...I would, of course, be shit out of luck if it landed me anywhere other than WWII or the Cold War...

Since we are on the subject of "what if," I was just reading little about the attack on Midway. The US would have been shit out of luck hd the Japanese been prepared to invade Midway on December 7, 1941. It would not have taken much manpower. I know the USS Nautilus was out there in that general neck of the woods, but it is obvious her captain was not in a position to throw back an invasion force. What if the invasion force had met the Pearl Harbor Strike Force as it was returning from Pearl? Then the Strike Force could have hit Midway and the invasion could have commenced with relatively few men. Instead, they waited six months and the US was ready for them...yes, there was considerable luck involved, but what if? What would US submarine forces done without the forward base for refueling before parol? What about the long range raids made by PB2Y Coronados on Wake? What other things would have been more difficult if not impossible without that base?

Please leave me your opinion on this what if. I appreciate a little imput, despite the subject's obvious lack of merit. I usually despise "What If" scenarios, but, curiousity has gotten the better of me...what if the Japanese had invaded Midway in December 1941? Would it have held out as long as Wake? I doubt it. I think Wake was better prepared. But, you tell me! I challenge you to play this game with me!