Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando Color Photographs Part III – Exterior Details

All photographs from the NASM Hans Groenhoff collection.

21C46_Fam_01
Technicians make adjustments to the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-51 radial engine on this C-46A. The inside of the nacelle is in natural metal with stenciling visible.

 

22C46_Fam_03
Another view inside the engine panels, this time on the port engine. The panels locked up out of the way allowing for easy access.

 

23C46_Fam_04
A view from under the nacelle showing the arrangement of cooling slots and cowl flaps. Curtiss engineers located the cowl flaps on the underside of the nacelle so as to not disturb the airflow over the wing and thus reduce lift.

 

24C46_Fam_05
Hydraulic fluid leaking through the fuselage panel seams can be seen in many photos showing the underside of the nose. The streamlined teardrop fairing housed the direction-finding antenna and was commonly called the “football”.

 

25C46A_02
Another staged photograph of troops and Jeeps being loaded into a C-46. This angle gives a good view of the Curtiss Electric four-bladed propellers.

 

26C46A_07
This photograph would be interesting enough just for showing details of the cargo door interior, but what is particularly fascinating is what is being loaded – the nose section of a Sikorsky R-4 helicopter. The R-4 was the world’s first helicopter to enter large-scale production.

 

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This view gives a good impression of the size of the C-46’s vertical stabilizer.

 

28C46A_20
Nice details of engine maintenance, including the configuration of the work stand.

 

29C46A_13
A Curtiss technician on top of the starboard nacelle showing details of the exhaust and cooling arrangement. Exhaust staining and oil spills are weathering opportunities for skilled modelers.

 

30C46E_07
A C-46E showing the Troop Carrier Command logo on the nose. Note the stepped “airliner” windscreen and three-bladed prop of the “E” model.

Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando Color Photographs Part II – Factory and Interior Photos

All photographs from the NASM Hans Groenhoff collection.

11C46_Prod_01
Curtiss factory technicians posed “at work” for the photographer, giving a good view of the interior structure of the wing. Hundreds of thousands of women worked in the factories during the war, then went home to farm their own food in “Victory Gardens” in their backyards after their shifts.

12C46_Prod_02
A technician works inside the nose of a C-46 while others make adjustments to the port engine. Even at this early stage there is evidence of hydraulic fluid leaking through the fuselage seams under the nose of the aircraft, something commonly seen on Commandos.

13C46_Prod_03
A fuselage taking shape on the factory floor. Modelers should note the different hues of the natural aluminum finish. The forward access door to the lower cargo bay has not been fitted, giving a glimpse into the interior.

14C46_Prod_04
The port wing assembly is fully painted and marked prior to attachment to the aircraft. This wing is from the first group of C-46’s ordered as evidenced by the red center to the national insignia. The primer on the leading edge of the wing will be covered by a de-icer boot on the finished aircraft.

15C46_Prod_06
A fine overhead view of the forward fuselage at the Curtiss Buffalo NY plant showing the arrangement of antennas and the navigator’s astrodome.

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The spacious cargo compartment of the Commando, looking forward towards the cockpit. Tie-down points are visible on the floor, passenger seats are seen folded along the fuselage sides.

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A rare contemporary color photograph of the cockpit of a C-46E.

18C46E_Prod_08
Even more rare is this view of the switch panel located on the roof of the cockpit. Note the color coding of the switch groups.

19C46_ProdCere_04
A nice perspective of the production floor which gives an overview of the assembly line. There was constant pressure to shorten production times and improve efficiency for all manner of war materials, often the introduction of design improvements would be postponed to prevent any potential delays in production.

20C46_ProdCere_01
A presentation ceremony outside of the Curtiss plant for three C-46A’s and several P-40 Warhawks. The OD / NG camouflaged aircraft all wear inscriptions saying “City of ___” on their noses, the P-40’s in desert colors lack national insignia and serial numbers.

Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando Color Photographs Part I

All photographs from the NASM Hans Groenhoff collection unless otherwise noted.

01C46A_01_RA
The first of many! This is the first production C-46A, serial 41-5159. It left Curtiss-Wright’s Buffalo plant on 11APR42 and was accepted by the USAAF two months later. Too late for the colorful “yellow wings” era, the Commandoes left the factory in the standard Olive Drab over Neutral Gray camouflage until late in 1943 when they were delivered in Natural Metal. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)

02C46A_03_RA
The first Commando flying alongside another Curtiss product, the P-40E Warhawk. Notice the differences in the national insignia between the two aircraft. The C-46 still retains the red center to the insignia which was ordered to be removed from USAAF aircraft on 15MAY42. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)

03C46_Fam_06
The seventh production C-46A demonstrates its utility as a troop transport for the photographer. The Commando could carry up to forty fully-equipped infantrymen, seen here exiting the aircraft via the vehicle ramps.

04C46_Fam_07
41-5166 again, demonstrating the cargo capacity. The spacious fuselage allowed a wide variety of bulk loads to be carried, with room for more in a separate compartment in the lower fuselage. Here a Jeep is being unloaded using the cargo ramps; up to three Jeeps could be carried at a time.

05C46A_04
A rather worn Commando in colorful markings, the distressed paint job would make an interesting challenge for a modeler.

06C46A_06
A C-46A displaying the red-outlined national insignia authorized for a short time during the summer of 1943. On many USAAF types subassemblies were provided to the primary contractor already painted in whatever shade of Olive Drab the subcontractor deemed appropriate, resulting in tonal differences in aircraft components.

07C46A_09
By late 1943 the USAAF had begun to establish air superiority and ordered that aircraft be delivered in their Natural Metal finish. This sped production, lowered costs, and saved weight on the finished aircraft.

08C46D_08
The C-46D featured doors on each side of the fuselage which allowed for the rapid deployment of up to fifty paratroopers per aircraft. A fine photograph showing paratroopers posed in the open doorways.

09C46E_03
Seventeen of the “E” model Commando were completed, but none were finished in time to be deployed. The C-46E featured a stepped “airliner” windscreen which makes them appear similar to the rival Douglas C-47 Dakoda at first glance.

10C46F_Chinese_01
Factory-fresh C-46F’s outside of the Curtiss plant at Buffalo, NY in Chinese markings. 44-78627 never made it to service, being lost on her delivery flight to Chinese forces.

Martin PBM Mariner Color Photographs Part II

PBM_11_Martin PBM-3D Mariner
A PBM-3 prepares to enter the water from a ramp. The aircraft is finished in the Blue Gray over Light Gray scheme and 1942-43 national insignia.

PBM_12_RA
Same scheme, different markings. This is a PBM-1, distinguishable by the round gunner’s position on the fuselage side. She carries the red and white tail stripes and red center to the national insignia us use until May 1942. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)

PBM_13_RA
Another PBM-1, this one with an oversized “2” on the fuselage. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)

PBM_14
A PBM-3R refuels from a boat, the red flag signifies the handling of fuel or explosives. The PBM-3R was a dedicated transport version, this one is assigned to the Naval Air Transport Service.

PBM_15
Sailors wash down a Mariner with fresh water to reduce the potential for corrosion due to salt water. The Mariner had a bomb bay in each engine nacelle, the bomb bay doors are visible in this view.

PBM_16_PBM-3S_Mariner_VPB-206_1945
A Mariner in the Atlantic ASW scheme launched down the ramp while a crewman leans out of the fuselage to detach the beaching gear. This is a PBM-3S assigned to VPB-206.

PBM_17
A waist gunner mans the starboard fuselage gun. The oval shaped structure to the right is a wind deflector which was deployed when the fuselage hatch doors were open.

PBM_18
In March 1944 this Mariner suffered a loss of power while flying over the Arizona desert. The pilot, a LT Fitzgerald, had no choice but to land the aircraft on its hull. Due to the strength of the hull there was relatively little damage. Here the aircraft is being leveled with the help of a makeshift scaffolding.

PBM_19
Trenches were dug beneath the hull and beaching gear was installed which allowed the aircraft to be towed free. The aircraft was repaired and was able to take off under its own power from the Wilcox Playa.

PBM_20
A Mariner undergoing engine maintenance. The workstands and miscellaneous equipment scattered around in the vicinity are worthy of note for diorama builders.

Martin PBM Mariner Color Photographs Part I

PBM_01_RA
The Martin PBM Mariner was a two engined flying boat which supplemented the Consolidated PBY Catalina In U.S. Navy service during the Second World War. The first Mariner was delivered to the Navy in September 1940, the last came off the production line in April 1949. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)

PBM_02_RA
A fine side profile of PBM-1 Bureau Number 1259. Twenty PBM-1 were built, distinguishable by their round gun positions on the fuselage sides. The first Mariners were issued to Patrol Squadrons VP-55 and VP-56, this is a VP-56 machine. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)

PBM_03_RA
A PBM-1 pictured in the yellow wings and aluminum dope finish. VP-56 received their Mariners in December 1940, just in time for the Yellow Wings era which officially ended in January 1941. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)

PBM_04
A PBM-3 on the ramp in the Dark Gull Gray over White Atlantic scheme. This camouflage was found to be more effective for anti-submarine patrols.

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A PBM seen from the rear being towed. Note the mix of camouflage schemes carried by the PBMs in the background, both the Atlantic ASW scheme and the graded scheme are represented.

PBM_06_NickleBoat
The most famous Mariner was the PBM-3C “Nickle Boat” of VP-74, so named because of her formation number “-5”. She was credited with helping to sink two German U-boats of the coast of South America, U-128 on 17MAY43 and U-513 on 19JUL43.

PBM_07_NickleBoat
A close up of the forward hatch of Nickle Boat showing her U-boat kill markings. U-128 had sunk twelve Allied merchant ships, U-513 had sunk six.

PBM_08_PBM-5_J2_VPB-26_Okinawa
A PBM-5 in overall Sea Blue finish is hoisted aboard the seaplane tender USS Norton Sound (AV-11). The Mariner is assigned to VPB-26. The Norton Sound supported Mariners operating from Saipan before moving to Okinawa.

PBM_09_Martin_PBM-5_Mariner_of_VPB-26_aboard_USS_Norton_Sound_(AV-11)_off_Saipan_in_April_1945_(80-G-K-16079)
A PBM-5 on the deck of the Norton Sound. The seaplanes could be hoisted aboard the tender for maintenance, but took off and landed from the water.

PBM_10
A service boat refuels a Mariner. The flying boats would moor to a buoy in a sheltered anchorage, the crews and aircraft would be supported by a tender anchored nearby.

Naval Aircraft Factory N3N Color Photographs

N3N_01_NAS Pensacola
Superficially very similar to the N2S Stearman primary trainer, the Naval Aircraft Factory N3N shared the same role and paint scheme. The two types were used side by side throughout the Second World War training Navy and Marine aviators.

N3N_02
The Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia was unique in that it was owned and operated by the U.S. Navy. The Navy even purchased the production rights for the Wright R-760 radial engine which powered the N3N.

N3N_03
The production run lasted from 1935 through 1942, 997 examples being built. Here an upper wing is being transported to a repair shop.

N3N_04
An interesting perspective as a sailor cranks the engine. One way to tell an N3N from a Stearman is the Stearman used wire supports between the vertical and horizontal stabilizers while the N3S used struts.

http://ww2db.com/
The Marines also flew the N3N. This example is being readied to tow gliders at Parris Island in 1942.

N3N_06_
Like many U.S. Navy aircraft of the late 1930s the N3N could trade its fixed landing gear for floats and operate as a seaplane. Here a pilot poses with his foot on one of the wingtip floats at NAS Pensacola.

N3N_07_Pensacola
Another pilot strikes a pose in front of an N3N with floats. The propeller tips are marked in the pre-war convention.

N3N_08_NAS Pensacola
A fine study of an N3N floatplane on the ramp. The floats were painted in Aluminum dope. Unofficially the N3N was called the Canary due to its paint scheme.

N3N_09_N3N3
An N3N ready to be hoisted clear of the water. The style of the national insignia indicates the photograph was taken prior to May, 1942. Note the markings and anti-glare paint on the back of the propeller blade.

N3N_10_Annapolis
The N3N was the last biplane type to serve with the U.S. military. The type was used for familiarization flights at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis until 1959. The underside of the lower wing has been marked “U.S. NAVY”.

Vought SB2U Vindicator Color Photographs Part II

SB2U-3Vindicator_21
A fine study of a U.S. Marine Corps SB2U-3 Vindicator assigned to VMS-131 in the overall Light Gray scheme in use from 30DEC40 through 20AUG41, when the upper surface color was changed to Blue Gray. (NASM, Rudy Arnold archives)

SB2U-3Vindicator_22
A clear, if somewhat dusty, view of the undersides showing several details. The Vindicator was designed to carry floats for water operations if needed. (NASM, Rudy Arnold archives)

SB2U-3Vindicator_23
A Marine VMS-131 Vindicator in flight. The bomb displacement gear under the fuselage was designed to swing the bomb clear of the propeller arc in a dive. Under the wings are practice bomb dispensers. (NASM, Rudy Arnold archives)

SB2U-3Vindicator_24
Several details of the Vindicator’s construction are visible in this view. The aft fuselage and outer wing panels were fabric-covered. The arrangement of the gunner’s canopy sections when stowed forward is also visible. (NASM, Rudy Arnold archives)

SB2U-3Vindicator_25
A section of Marine Vindicators in flight. U.S. Navy and Marine squadrons were organized into six sections of three aircraft for a total of eighteen aircraft. (NASM, Rudy Arnold archives)

SB2U-3Vindicator_26
An SB2U-1 Vindicator in the overall Light Gray scheme in flight. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff archives)

White2_1
The only combat engagements using the Vindicator by U.S. forces were flown by the Marines of VMSB-241 during the Battle of Midway. John Ford filmed these aircraft in color for his documentary of the battle, three screenshots are presented here. White 2 returned from the 4 June mission, but was lost with her crew CAPT Richard E. Fleming and PFC George A. Toms during the 5 June strike against the Japanese cruiser Mikuma. CAPT Fleming flew during all three of VMSB-241s missions during the battle and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions.

White3_1
Aircraft numbered “1” would traditionally be flown by the squadron commander, in this instance that would be the leader of the SB2U-3 unit, MAJ Benjamin W. Norris and his gunner, PFC Arthur B. Whittington. If that is the case then both the crews in this screenshot did not survive, as Norris and Whittington were lost on the evening mission which failed to locate the Japanese fleet. White 3, crewed by 2LT Kenneth O. Campion and PVT Anthony J. Maday, did not return from the first strike.

White6White9_5
White 6 and White 9 are shown taking off from Midway. White 6 was flown by 2LT James H. Marmande and PFC Edby M. Colvin and was lost during the first Midway mission. The unusual fuselage striping seen on these aircraft was actually four-inch medical tape, doped onto the fuselage fabric as a field-expedient repair. More screen captures and analysis of VMSB-241 Vindicators are presented in an earlier post here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2018/11/25/the-sb2u-3-vindicators-of-vmsb-241-during-the-battle-of-midway/

Vought SB2U Vindicator Color Photographs Part I

SB2U-1Vindicator_01
Filming is underway for the Warner Brother’s film “Dive Bomber” aboard the USS Enterprise (CV-6) at San Diego, the following photographs are from that film. Enterprise has her flight deck stained Mahogany with yellow markings, she would have her deck stained Dark Blue in July 1941.

SB2U-1Vindicator_02
An SB2U-1 of VB-3 “Black Panthers” displays the colorful “Yellow Wings” scheme in use prior to December 1940. The white tail indicates an aircraft assigned to USS Saratoga (CV-3).

SB2U-1Vindicator_03
A close-up of the nose of a Black Panther SB2U-1, the solid red nose indicating the aircraft of the squadron commander. It would also carry a red fuselage stripe indicating a section leader and wing stripes in the section color.

SB2U-1Vindicator_04
A view of the undersides showing placement of the wing insignia. Note the yellow upper wing color wraps around the leading edge of the wing to ensure smooth airflow. The elongated pods under each wing are practice bomb dispensers used for training.

SB2U-1Vindicator_05
A fine shot of 3-B-3 from above showing the upper wing markings. The angled stipes on the vertical tail are to aid the Landing Signals Officer in determining the aircraft’s approach angle when landing aboard a carrier.

SB2U-1Vindicator_06
3-B-3 landing at NAS North Island at San Diego. The Vindicator had semi-retractable landing gear which rotated 90 degrees into wells under the wings.

SB2U-1Vindicator_07
The apron at NAS North Island packed full of carrier aircraft. In the left foreground is the squadron commander’s SB2U-1 Vindicator of VB-3 assigned to USS Saratoga. The first aircraft to the right is a Northrop BT-1 assigned to USS Enterprise as indicated by the blue tail.

SB2U-1Vindicator_08
VB-3 Vindicators warm up on the apron at North Island. The top hat markings were carried for filing of the movie “Dive Bomber”.

SB2U-1Vindicator_09
The VB-3 squadron commander’s Vindicator is in the foreground in this view, with a Northrop BT-1 in the background.

SB2U-1Vindicator_10Saratoga
In this scene from “Dive Bomber” SB2U Vindicators prepare to launch from the carrier while Douglas Devastators with folded wings warm up astern. The white tails indicate aircraft assigned to USS Saratoga, but the USS Enterprise was used for filming.

SB2U-1Vindicator_11
Vindicators warm up on deck, revealing several details of the Yellow Wings paint scheme. In the background a Curtis SBC Helldiver is seen in the overall Light Gray scheme authorized on 30DEC40.

Don Gentile’s North American P-51B Mustang “Shangri-La” Color Photographs

Gentile_01
P-51 B/C Mustang kits in 1/72 scale all have had some nagging inaccuracies, usually in the cowling and / or leading edge of the wings. Modelers have long awaited an accurate kit, and now Arma from Poland has announced a new tool offering. Given their previous releases and the CAD renders, hopes are high that their kit will fill the void. In anticipation, I have begun researching the high-backed Mustangs. One of the more interesting and better documented subjects is Don Gentile’s “Shangri-La”.

Gentile_02
Major Dominic “Don” Salvatore Gentile was one of the leading American aces in the European Theater. Ground kills were credited to a pilot’s totals in the ETO.  Including those some sources credit Gentile with thirty victories. Here Gentile poses for the press in his cockpit, Shangri-La displays twenty-one victory symbols.

Gentile_03_JohnFerra
Crew chief John Ferra helps Gentile with his seat harness straps. Several details are visible in this photograph. Gentile’s P-51B was serial number 43-6913, coded VF-T. Gentile volunteered for the RCAF and flew Spitfires the RAF’s Eagle Squadron, scoring his first two victories during Operation Jubilee.

Gentile_04
Photographs from the starboard side are comparatively rare, the press preferring to include the artwork and scoreboard painted on the port side. Note the white recognition stripe on the wing, and the unpainted edge of the flap. The flaps and inner wheelwell doors on the P-51 were held in position with hydraulic pressure. When the engine was off the hydraulic pump was off and the pressure in the system dropped, causing the flaps and wheel covers to droop when the aircraft was parked.

Gentile_05
Gentile poses by the nose. The ragged edge of the red paint on the spinner presents a quandary for modelers – an accurate depiction can be mistaken for sloppy modeling. Fortunately there is a way to avoid the issue in this case as the spinner was later painted entirely red as can be seen in the first photograph.

Gentile_06_John_Godfrey_and_Don_Gentile
Gentile with his wingman John Godfrey. An ace in his own right, Godfrey named his Mustang “Reggie’s Reply” and was credited with 16.33 victories.

Gentile_07
Another view from the same series of photographs, this one showing the identification stripe on the wheel cover and the red wheel hub.

Gentile_08_P-51 B Don Gentile
A beautiful color profile of 43-6913 by aviation artist Claes Sundin. If you are not familiar with Sundin’s work, you may view samples and order his books here: http://luftwaffeinprofile.se/

Gentile_09
The Press were very interested in Gentile’s accomplishments, and he played up the swashbuckling fighter pilot image. Returning to Debden from the last scheduled mission of his combat tour on 13APR44 the Press were waiting and Gentile put on a show, making several low passes for the photographers gathered below.

Gentile_10
Gentile miscalculated his height and his propeller struck the ground. Shangri-La was destroyed, but Gentile walked away. 4th Fighter Group CO Colonel Don Blakeslee grounded Gentile on the spot.

Gentile_11
Back in the U.S. the public affairs types were not yet finished with Gentile. He received a new “Shangri-La”, this time a P-51D, and went on a War Bonds tour. This aircraft displayed a wrap-around checkerboard on the nose and thirty victories.

Gentile_12
Gentile in his dress uniform poses with his P-51D. Gentile survived the war but was killed in January 1951 while flying a T-33 Shooting Star trainer.

Vought OS2U Kingfisher Color Photographs Part III

Kingfisher_21_RA
A beautiful photograph of Kingfishers in the “three tone” graded camouflage. The barred insignia with blue outline was in use from August 1943 through the end of the war. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)

Kingfisher_22
A Kingfisher aboard the portside catapult on the fantail of the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) during her work-ups in the Atlantic, August 1944. The crew appears to be conducting an abandon ship drill. Note the main float of the OS2U is painted Intermediate Blue while the wingtip floats are in Sea Blue.

Kingfisher_23_MissouriBB63_1944
Another Kingfisher aboard Missouri’s catapult, this example has the individual aircraft number 6 painted on the tip of the float. Missouri’s decks do not yet have their camouflage stain applied.

Kingfisher_24_Missouri
An excellent view of Missouri’s crane as a Kingfisher is recovered. The gun director tub for the portside 40 mm mount on the fantail is painted with the number “16”.

Kingfisher_25_Missouri
A Kingfisher is launched from Missouri’s starboard catapult. The catapults could be trained through a wide arc (even across the deck) in order to optimize the wind for launch. The Officer of the Deck was required to calculate the true wind and then determine the proper ship’s course and speed to optimize the relative wind for launching the aircraft.

Kingfisher_26_Missouri
At the end of the mission the aircraft is hoisted back aboard. Crewmen use steadying lines to keep the aircraft from rotating as it is suspended from the crane.

Kingfisher_27
A well-worn Kingfisher is being rigged to the hoist for recovery. This evolution would present an obvious hazard to the aircrew in rough weather. Note that the wingtips and tail surfaces are painted in a lighter shade of blue, perhaps Blue Gray replacements?

Kingfisher_28
An OS2U approaching the recovery sled towed behind the recovery ship. A hook on the underside of the Kingfisher’s float engaged netting on the sled, allowing crewmen aboard the ship to wench the aircraft into the optimum position for hooking up with the crane.  Practice bomb dispensers are under each wing. 

Kingfisher_29
With the hoist secured the aircraft is ready to be brought back aboard. The sailor in the center of the photograph is maneuvering a boom into position to help steady the aircraft and prevent it from swinging.

Kingfisher_30
A Kingfisher at the moment of launch in early-war markings. Note the position of the observer in the rear cockpit as he braces against the acceleration of the catapult.

Kingfisher_30B
A forlorn sight repeated around the world at the end of WWII. Among the types relegated to this boneyard are several surplus Kingfishers, their services no longer needed. Within the next five years advances in jet engine and helicopter technology would render the majority of even the most advanced WWII era aircraft designs obsolete in their intended roles.