Douglas C-47C Skytrain Floatplane Color Photographs

During the Second World War a small number of C-47 Skytrain transports were converted to amphibians  by installing two large floats.  The floats were constructed by the EDO Corporation of College Park, New York.  The amphibious Skytrains were intended for medical rescue work and supply of Pacific Island outposts.
EDO constructed a total of 33 sets of floats and Douglas manufactured approximately 50 airframes with the floatplane conversion hardware installed.  11 airframes were fitted with floats, making them the largest floatplanes ever built.
Serial numbers known to have been converted are 42‑5671, 41‑18582, 42-92577, 42‑92699 and 42-108868.
The floats were 42 feet long and were divided into fourteen compartments.  The floats each contained a 325 gallon fuel tank.  The aircraft was fully amphibious and could operate from either land or water.  The floats contained a fully retractable nosewheel and a semi-retractable mainwheel and the float step.
42‑5671 was used for the initial test program and is the most photographed of the C-47C floatplanes.  It crashed into Jamaica Bay, NY on 13NOV43 during load tests and was written off.
The floatplanes operated as far North as Alaska and as far South as Australia.  In model form the C-47C has been kitted in 1/144 scale by Minicraft.  Resin conversion sets have been produced in 1/72 scale but are currently unavailable.  An unusual subject for modelers lucky enough to locate a set!
One amphibian was operated in civilian livery by Folsom Aviation.  This is an ex-USAAF C-53D, serial 42-68834, and was converted by her civilian owners to a floatplane using a set of surplus EDO floats.  The struts are not standard, they were made from Aluminum tubing compressed into oval sections.  Her FAA certificate is Experimental, not authorized as a commercial transport for passenger service.  The floats were removed for repairs in 2008, the aircraft has since been returned to a standard wheeled configuration.
Surprisingly, there is color video footage of the EDO floats leaving the factory and the XC-47C test flights.  Screen captures are below, a link to the video is here:



























Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Interior Colors Part II

During the war B-17 Flying Fortresses were produced at three locations.  The Boeing plant at Seattle, Washington was assigned production code BO; Douglas at Long Beach, California was DL; and Lockheed Vega at Burbank, California was VE.  These codes were noted at the end of each aircraft’s batch number.  Each factory was supplied with equipment and pre-manufactured assemblies by various subcontractors.  While governed by the same set of regulations, variations in production practices and suppliers inevitably resulted detail differences.

In the first post on B-17 interiors I showed the standards for the “official” colors and appearance.  In this post I’ll show some of the variations and details of operational Fortresses.

Link to the first part is here:

Link to Part 3 is here:

Here is a very interesting color photograph of three fitters installing equipment in the aft fuselage of a Fortress.  While the official USAAF Technical Order specified the fuselage interior was to remain unpainted, here the longitudinal stringers were supplied to Boeing already primed.  Also note the supports for the gunners’ footrests are each primed, stamped, and annotated.
B-17G-105-VE serial number 44-85790 was purchased by a Mr. Art Lacey and displayed above his gas station / restaurant in Milwaukie Oregon.  In 2014 the aircraft was purchased by the B-17 Alliance Foundation and is currently being restored to airworthy condition as “Lacey Lady”.  It is a late-production Vega Fortress and is of interest because it remained unrestored, a virtual time capsule.  This is the interior of the port wheelwell looking aft.  While the skin of the nacelle is unpainted aluminum, the rear bulkhead and internal structural components have been primed.  (Photograph by Steve Heeb)
This is a photo showing the cockpit of the NMUSAF restoration of B-17F-10-BO serial number 41-24485, the “Memphis Belle”.  This shows the Dull Dark Green color specified, FS 34092.  The boots on the control columns are Olive Drab canvas.
Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress cockpit
Another restoration  showing the other color specified in Technical Order 01-20EF-2, Bronze Green.  In this picture the color looks a bit too bright due to the lighting, but it is useful as a general comparison with the previous picture.  I would doubly caution modelers attempting to directly match the colors in the photograph – the aircraft is a restoration and even if the restoration team got the color exactly right the photograph and your computer monitor may not capture the tone correctly.  Modelers should try to match FS 14058 but a little darker.
A rare color slide taken inside a B-17B showing the port waist gun position.  On the early Fortresses the gun positions were in bulged “teardrop” blisters, the guns pivoted and rotated within.  On all Fortresses the after fuselage interior was specified to remain in natural aluminum.
The B-17C eliminated the teardrop waist gun fairings but the fuselage cutout shape was unchanged.  Twenty B-17Cs were supplied to the Royal Air Force as the Fortress I.  Here is a view of the Fortress I interior as an RAF gunner poses at the starboard waist gun.  Note that the fuselage of the “shark fin” Forts is considerably smaller than the re-designed “E” model.
A nice view inside a B-17E looking aft towards the tail.  The cylindrical object in the background is a chemical toilet.  The crew access door is just visible on the starboard side.  (Photograph by Frank Sherschel for LIFE Magazine)
A waist gunner in full flying gear.  Flying at altitude required oxygen and an electrically-heated flying suit – hypothermia and hypoxia were potentially fatal.  This gunner also wears an apron-style “flak jacket” to reduce injuries from shrapnel.  The cramped quarters and precarious footing are obvious, there was little room to spare and the gunners got in each other’s way.  Crews would often fly with only one of the two gunners, particularly later in the war.
Another view of the aft fuselage, this time looking forward.  The waist gun positions on this Fortress are protected by armor plates which appear to have been primed.  The guns are fed from plywood ammo containers, and additional ammo boxes are stowed on the floor on either side of the guns.  In the background a crewman is making adjustments to the Sperry ball turret.
In the two previous photographs the crew had carried additional .50 caliber ammunition in boxes, and these boxes are commonly seen in or around operational aircraft.  This is a nice color photograph of an ammo dump which shows the stenciling and variations in colors of these boxes.  (LIFE Magazine photograph)
A B-17G Bombardier identified as Captain Bonnett poses at his station.  The device leaning to the right is the control for the Bendix chin turret.  Note the details of the seat and lap belt.  There is no acoustical insulation installed on the sides of the nose compartment, the Alcoa sheet aluminum product stenciling is clearly visible.
The interior of a B-17G nose section looking aft.  Plywood ammunition boxes for the cheek guns are to the left, the Bombardier’s control panel is to the right.  The sides of the compartment are unpainted aluminum, but the rear bulkhead is covered with Olive Drab or Dark Green canvas, part of the acoustical batting to help reduce noise in the cockpit.
TSGT Robert Siavage poses in the Radio Compartment of his 306 Bomb Group B-17F.  His .50 caliber gun is stowed overhead.  This aircraft still retains the insulation in this compartment, although crews often removed this in the field.
A color shot of LT Bob Welty posing inside a B-17G after returning Stateside.  This photograph is interesting as it shows the interior of a “Mickey” aircraft which carries an AN/APS-15 radar in place of the Sperry ball turret.  These were used as pathfinders when the target was obscured by overcast.  The receiver equipment was mounted in the Radio Compartment forward of the bulkhead.


Two photographs showing the color and stenciling of the seat cushions carried by B-17s and other U.S. aircraft.  The cushions could also be used as flotation devices.

Douglas SBD Dauntless Color Photographs Part 2

More color Dauntless photographs.  First is yet another from the LIFE magazine series posted last week, which I missed last time.
The same flight as the LIFE color photographs, but a different photographer and this time in black and white.  A nice overhead view and an incredibly tight formation.  Note that black 2 has the “Eight Ball” marking.
A stacked formation of Dauntlesses from the USS Yorktown (CV-5) seen in the pre-war overall light gray scheme.
Another Yorktown SBD from Scouting Five showing details of the overall gray scheme.  A nicely-composed picture but from an obviously damaged negative.
An SBD with her tailhook down the moment before recovering aboard a carrier.
Another landing photograph, this time aboard the USS Ranger (CV-4).  Modelers should note the color and wear of the flight deck stain.  US carrier decks were stained in the last few months before the war.
A flight deck crewman attaches a ground wire to prevent static discharge while refueling.  The large yellow numbers indicate a training aircraft.  The numbers were repeated on both sides of the fuselage, the upper surface of the starboard wing and the underside of the port wing.
Another view of a different SBD being refueled.  The red outlines to the national insignia were only used for a only few months during the summer of 1943, effectively dating the photograph.
A fine atmospheric shot of an SBD on an atoll “somewhere in the Pacific”.
SBDs of VS-37 in the Atlantic anti-submarine scheme.  Something a bit different for modelers tired of the blue Pacific schemes.
A nice study of a war-weary SBD in use by a training command.  Interesting details are the fresh outlines to the faded national insignia and the replacement cowling with the graded camo scheme.  The fading and paint wear present an interesting challenge for an experienced modeler.
The underside of the same aircraft seen in the previous photograph.  Multiple views of the same aircraft are comparatively rare but quite useful when found.

Douglas SBD Dauntless Color Photographs Part 1

A beautiful selection of color photographs of SBD Dauntless dive bombers shot “somewhere in the Pacific” for LIFE magazine.  Many of these aircraft show signs of camouflage and markings being painted out and updated.  Modelers should take particular note of the patterns of paint wear and weathering which are visible on several of these aircraft.  A particularly stunning set of pictures!























Hasegawa Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless in 1/72 Scale

This is the Hasegawa Douglas SBD-3 kit in 1/72 scale.  The dive flaps are molded as solid pieces attached to the wing sections.  There’s really no way to get a decent appearance using the kit flaps, so they were replaced with Quickboost resin.  The cockpit is also resin, canopy sections are from Falcon.

The aircraft modeled is B-1 of VB-6 from the USS Enterprise (CV-6) during the Battle of Midway, 4 June 1942.  The crew was Lieutenant Richard H. Best and Chief Radioman James F. Murray.  This was one of only three SBDs which attacked Akagi, and Best was credited with scoring the only direct hit which led to her eventual loss.  Best was also credited with a hit on Hiryu later in the day, one of only two pilots to have hit two Japanese carriers during the battle.  Best was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during the battle.







Never Call Me a Hero: A Legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway Book Review


Never Call Me a Hero: A Legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway

by  N. Jack “Dusty” Kleiss with Timothy and Laura Orr

Hardcover in dustjacket, 336 pages, illustrated

Published by William Morrow May 2017

Language: English

ISBN-10: 9780062692054

ISBN-13: 978-0062692054

Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches

The history of war is filled with epic battles, with tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of men sometimes fighting for days.  The outcomes often decide the fates of nations and alter the course of history.  Surprisingly, the difference between victory or defeat often hinges on a single decision of a leader or the actions of a few men during a crucial moment.  “Dusty” Kleiss was one such man who was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time with exactly the right skills to win an improbable victory for his nation.

LTJG Kleiss was a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber pilot with Scouting Six flying from the USS Enterprise (CV-6).  During the pivotal battle of Midway on 4  June 1942 approximately three hundred US aircraft from three aircraft carriers and Midway Island attacked the four Japanese carriers, dropping hundreds of bombs and torpedoes.  Many crews were lost.  In spite of all that effort and sacrifice, only thirteen bombs actually hit the Japanese carriers, all of them dropped by Dauntless pilots from the Yorktown and the Enterprise.  “Dusty” Kleiss hit two of the carriers, first Kaga and then Hiryu in a later strike.  On the 6th he also hit the damaged heavy cruiser Mikuma.  All three Japanese ships were sunk.  Another Enterprise SBD pilot, LT Dick Best of VB-6, scored hits on the carriers Akagi and Hiryu.  Between them, Kleiss and Best were responsible for 30% of the hits on the Japanese carriers during the Battle of Midway.

Never Call Me a Hero is Kleiss’ story.  While the Battle of Midway is the obvious focal point of the book, it also examines his early life and education, along with service in the surface fleet before flight school.  He also details Enterprise’s participation in the raids against Japanese held islands prior to Midway which are every bit as interesting as the pivotal battle itself.  A major subplot throughout is Kleiss’ courtship of Eunice “Jean” Mochon, whom he was to marry while on leave after Midway.  An interesting insight into the times.

Highly recommended.