Here is a nice selection of original color photographs of the Curtiss XSB2C-1 Helldiver prototype, Navy Bureau Number 1758. These are from the NASM Archives, Rudy Arnold Collection.
BuNo 1758 was completed on 13DEC40 in time to wear the Navy’s colorful Yellow Wing scheme. Foreshadowing a troubled program, the prototype suffered three crashes. On 09FEB41 the prototype sustained minor damage due to an engine failure but was repaired, only to be damaged again due to landing gear failure May. The aircraft was rebuilt at this point to reduce engine overheating and stability problems. The forward fuselage was lengthened by one foot (30 cm) in an effort to improve stability. When this proved insufficient the vertical tail surface was enlarged. Cooling flaps and propeller cuffs were installed and an oil cooler scoop was added under the cowl. The prototype was lost to structural failure during dive tests on 21DEC41.
Although some sources claim these pictures were taken during the aircraft’s maiden flight, the modifications noted above are present fixing the date as AUG41 at the earliest. The Curtiss-Wright test pilot seen here is Robert Fausel. Interestingly, earlier Fausel was credited with destroying a Japanese bomber over China as a civilian Curtiss factory representative.
Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6 of Hauptmann Wilhelm Lemke, 9. / JG 3 Bad Wörishofen Germany, August 1943. Hasegawa kit.
Wilhelm Lemke scored steadily against the Soviets for the first two years after Operation Barbarossa, amassing 125 victories. Increasing pressure from American heavy bombers then forced the transfer of JG 3 back to Germany to defend the Reich. He flew this unusually marked Messerschmitt as Staffelkapitän of 9./JG 3 on 17AUG43 when he claimed two USAAF P-47 Thunderbolts for his first victories in the West. The Eighth Air Force was a much different opponent than the VVS, Lemke was only able to bring his tally to 131 before he was shot down and killed by P-47s of the 352nd Fighter Group on 04DEC43.
Paperback, 96 pages, heavily illustrated, 24 color profiles
Published by Osprey Publishing November 2009
Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.2 x 9.9 inches
The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk is one of the classics of aeronautical engineering. It was developed as a carrier-borne light attack aircraft for the U.S. Navy. It was designed by Ed Heinemann and exceeded its design expectations in every respect – it was lighter, smaller, faster, and cheaper than specified. It was also loved by both pilots and ground crews, it was easy to fly, simple to maintain, and could absorb significant punishment. Almost 3,000 were produced.
In addition to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps the Skyhawk was exported to several other air arms, Israel was the largest export customer. The A-4 was intended to replace both the French Mystere and Ourangan in IDF service. This book details the political maneuvering and negotiations which resulted in the initial acquisition of the A-4 in 1965 using first-hand accounts from the participants. I found this process fascinating, and the “What If” crowd will certainly enjoy reading about the multiple aircraft types in consideration for the contract.
The A-4 saw considerable combat while in Israeli service, and these actions are covered well here using pilot interviews and mission summaries. The factors which lead to changes in tactics and adaptations of the aircraft are interesting. There is discussion of the organizational structure of the Israeli Air Force and the evolving mission tasking of the Skyhawk force. It was surprising to see how suddenly the shifts in personnel were conducted, in many cases squadron Commanding Officers were shifted overnight.
The book covers Skyhawk service in the IDF through several major conflicts – the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War, along with more limited actions against the PLA and in Lebanon. This is an interesting narrative which did not get bogged down in dry mission statistics but struck a good balance between first hand accounts and keeping the larger strategic picture in focus. One of the better volumes in Osprey’s Combat Aircraft Series.
Another build of Monogram’s venerable F4B-4 kit. This is one of the easiest biplane kits to build, the landing gear legs and fuselage struts are molded as part of the fuselage which results in a strong assembly and proper alignment. If you struggle with biplane kits you will be pleased with this one, it is a joy to build. The markings here came from Yellow Wings sheet 72-011 and represent an aircraft operated by VB-5 from the USS Ranger (CV-4).
29 May 1943 – attacked submarine pens and locks at Saint-Nazaire. Smaller strikes were made at Rennes naval depot and U-boat yards at La Pallice. In the attack, seven YB-40s were dispatched to Saint-Nazaire; they were unable to keep up with B-17s on their return from the target and modification of the waist and tail gun feeds and ammunition supplies was found to be needed. The YB-40s were sent to Technical Service Command at the Abbots Ripton 2nd Strategic Air Depot for modifications.
15 June 1943 – four YB-40s were dispatched from Alconbury in a raid on Le Mans after completion of additional modifications.
22 June 1943 – attack on the I.G. Farben Industrie Chemische Werke synthetic rubber plant at Hüls. The plant, representing a large percentage of the Germany’s synthetic rubber producing capacity, was severely damaged. In the raid, 11 YB-40s were dispatched; aircraft 42-5735 was lost, being first damaged by flak and later shot down by Uffz. Bernhard Kunze in a Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-2 of JG 1 over Pont, Germany. The 10 crew members survived and were taken prisoner.
25 June 1943 – attack on Blohm & Voss sub shops at Oldenburg. This was the secondary target, as the primary at Hamburg was obscured by clouds. In this raid, seven YB-40s were dispatched, of which two aborted. Two German aircraft were claimed as destroyed.
26 June 1943 – scheduled but aborted participation in attack on the Luftwaffe air depot at Villacoublay, France (primary target) and also the Luftwaffe airfield at Poissy, France. The five YB-40s assigned to the attack were unable to form up with the bombing squadron, and returned to base.
28 June 1943 – attack on the U-boat pens at Saint-Nazaire. In the raid, the only serviceable lock entrance to the pens was destroyed. In this attack, six YB-40s were dispatched, and one German aircraft was claimed as destroyed.
29 June 1943 – scheduled participation in attack on the Luftwaffe air depot at Villacoublay, but aircraft returned to Alconbury due to clouds obscuring the target. In the raid, two YB-40s dispatched, one aborted.
4 July 1943 – attacks on aircraft factories at Nantes and Le Mans, France. In these raids, two YB-40s were dispatched to Nantes and one to Le Mans.
10 July 1943 – attack on Caen/Carpiquet airfield. In this raid, five YB-40s were dispatched.
14 July 1943 – attacked Luftwaffe air depot at Villacoublay. In this raid, five YB-40s were dispatched.
17 July 1943 – YB-40s recalled from a raid on Hannover due to bad weather. In this raid, two YB-40s were dispatched.
24 July 1943 – YB-40s recalled from an attack on Bergen, Norway due to cloud cover. In this raid, one YB-40 was dispatched.
28 July 1943 – attack on the Fieseler aircraft factory at Kassel. In this raid, two YB-40s were dispatched.
29 July 1943 – attack on U-boat yards at Kiel. In this raid, two YB-40s were dispatched.
Altogether of the 59 aircraft dispatched, 48 sorties were credited. Five German fighter kills and two probables were claimed, and one YB-40 was lost, shot down on 22 June mission to Hüls, Germany. Tactics were revised on the final five missions by placing a pair of YB-40s in the lead element of the strike to protect the mission commander.
Serials from Freeman:
41-24341 XB-40 prototype
42-5733 Peoria Prowler
42-5734 Seymore Angel, later renamed Red Balloon, Old Ironsides
Focke Wulf Fw 190A-8/R8 of Unteroffizer Willi Unger, 12./JG 3, Barth Germany, 20 May 1944. Built from the Eduard kit.
Fw 190A-8/R8 of Unteroffizer Willi Unger, 12./JG 3, Barth Germany, 20 May 1944. Ungar achieved 24 victories, 21 of them heavy bombers. He survived the war. This aircraft is fitted with the unusual Krebs Gerät (crab device), a 21cm mortar which was designed to fire backwards as the fighter passed through an Allied bomber formation. It was quickly withdrawn from service as being impractical to aim accurately. Markings are from EagleCals #8.
This book follows the use of tanks in the United States Marine Corps during the Second World War. For the Marines, the war in the Pacific against the Japanese brought a set of unique obstacles. The first which would have to be overcome is the US in general and the USMC in particular lacked armor, especially effective tanks of modern design. This was exasperated by the lack of the sealift capacity to land them quickly and in sufficient numbers to support the infantry. When (or in some cases if) they could be brought ashore the Pacific islands were not ideal tank country and many were unsuitable is various ways; Guadalcanal was a muddy jungle; Tarawa drowned tanks in shell craters; Cape Gloucester was a swamp; Peleliu was an oven with no water; the black sands of Iwo Jima bogged the tanks down.
The tenacity of the Japanese defenders was legendary. What they lacked in dedicated anti-tank weaponry they more than made up for in bravery. Mines disabled many tanks, these were planted in likely approach areas or hand delivered by infantry who perished as the mines detonated. Marine tankers quickly learned to operate in groups for mutual support while also being supported by infantry to prevent being swarmed. The Japanese would employ 47 mm anti-tank guns from concealed bunkers, when fired from close range these were quite capable of penetrating the armor of the Sherman medium tank. Many garrisons were also equipped with 75 mm anti-aircraft guns which were capable of penetrating the frontal armor of the Sherman at most ranges. Japanese tanks consisted of the Type 95 Ha-Go and Type 97 Chi-Ha series. In the few tank on tank battles these proved inferior to U.S. armor and were vulnerable to the Marines Infantry’s 37 mm anti-tank guns and bazookas.
This book is well-researched and depends on numerous first-hand accounts to convey what each campaign was like. The Marines pull no punches in their accounts which are often detailed and graphic. There are numerous action photographs presented which should have been a highlight of this volume but unfortunately these are not reproduced well, suffering from overly dark tones with little contrast on plain paper. In several cases the captions call out interesting details for the reader which are invisible due to the poor presentation of the photograph.
Still this book is valuable, being a detailed and well-researched history of one of the more neglected aspects of the Pacific War. If a subsequent printing corrected the issues with the presentation of the photographs it would also be useful as a modeling reference. In spite of the problems with the photographs I can recommend this book for the quality of the research and presentation of first-hand narratives.