New York City Vintage Photographs Part III

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A flight of Boeing Y1B-17 Flying Fortresses banks in to fly over Manhattan on 28 March 1937. The bombers were assigned to the 96th Bombardment Squadron, which had twelve Y1B-17s on strength. At the time these were the only heavy bombers in the USAAC inventory. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)

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The Royal Mail Ship Queen Elizabeth pulls into the pier with the skyscrapers of New York in the background. The Queen Elizabeth was a huge ship even by today’s standards – 1,031 feet in length and displacing 83,000 tons.

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Here is the RMS Queen Mary in her gray warpaint. She served as a troop transport during World War Two and was capable of carrying as many as 15,000 troops at a time. Because of her high speed she was thought to be immune to attacks by German U-boats and made the majority of her trans-Atlantic crossings unescorted. She is pictured returning U.S. servicemen home on 20JUN45. Currently Queen Mary is preserved as a museum in Long Beach, California. She is reputed to be haunted.

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The French battleship Richelieu on her way to the Brooklyn Naval Yard on 18FEB43 for repairs and modernization. While under Vichy control she was hit by the British battleship HMS Barnham and suffered an internal explosion in her number seven 15” (380 mm) gun in turret two. After her defection to the Free French she was outfitted for service in the Pacific.

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The Dornier Do-X makes an eye-level pass along New York’s skyline on 7 August 1931. The largest aircraft of her time, the Do-X was powered by twelve 524 horsepower Bristol Jupiter engines which can be clearly seen in this view.

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A Swedish Airlines DC-4 seen over Manhattan in 1946. It did not take long after World War Two for the international airline industry to establish regular routes between major cities around the world.

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Three U.S. Coast Guard Grumman JRF-2 Goose (Geese?) fly formation over New York on 10 April 1940. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)

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Another Coast Guard amphibian in pre-war livery, this time it is a Hall Aluminum PH-3. This photograph was taken on 21 February 1940. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)

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The USS Nautilus (SSN-571) enters New York harbor on 13 May 1956. The Nautilus was the world’s first nuclear powered submarine, and the first to travel to the North Pole under the ice sheet.

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The aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) travels up the Hudson River in 1939.  Considered too slow for combat in the Pacific she operated in the Atlantic for the majority of the war.  She supported the landings in North Africa on 8 November 1942, where her fighters engaged Vichy French aircraft and her dive bombers hit the French Battleship Jean Bart.

Grumman TBM Avenger Color Photographs Part 2

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An atmospheric color photograph of an Avenger making an arrested landing aboard an escort carrier as plane handlers rush to release the arresting wire and move the aircraft forward.  The large yellow “buzz numbers” indicate a training aircraft.  The national insignia carry the red border which was only authorized from 28JUN43 to 14AUG43.

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A similar photograph showing the buzz number carried on the starboard wing.  Also note where the national insignia further outboard on the wing has been painted over in accordance with directives.  On the yardarm the ship is displaying the two black ball dayshapes which indicate that she is restricted in her ability to maneuver while conducting flight operations.   Escorting ships quickly learn to keep a close watch on aircraft carriers as they will often alter course to steer into the wind with little or no notice.

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As American wartime production became sufficient to meet the needs of the front-line units, older aircraft were rotated back to the States, often to be used in training commands.  This Avenger shows heavy fading and wear to the Blue Gray over Light Gray camouflage along with areas where the paint has been touched up.

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This perspective shows details of the wing fold and landing gear.  The interior of the wing fold is finished in the upper surface color Blue Gray, the landing gear is finished in the under surface color Light Gray.

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Carrier aircraft often displayed small numbers in various locations to help crews in identifying specific airframes when the side numbers were not easily visible.  This aircraft carries the number “7” on the cowl sides and wing leading edges.  Interestingly, this does not appear to correspond to the aircraft’s buzz number on the wing upper surface.

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A sailor ties off an Avenger at the landing gear attachment point.  The decks of U.S. aircraft carriers were provided with slotted steel strips to anchor the lines, one of which is faintly visible in the lower left-hand corner of this photograph.  As soon as the aircraft was spotted on the deck the wheels were chocked and it was secured with lines or chains – aircraft could easily roll of the deck of a ship underway.

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A fine view of the Avenger’s Wright R-2600-8 powerplant.  The engine was rated at 1,700 horse power.  The Avenger was the heaviest single-engine aircraft to serve during WWII with a maximum weight of 13,667 pounds – just 400 pounds more than the P-47 Thunderbolt.  (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)

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The Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm was a major user of the Avenger, taking over one thousand aircraft into service.  In FAA service it was called the Tarpon until 01JAN44 when the American name was adopted.  These 846 Squadron Tarpon are shown on a training flight in the U.S. in late 1943, they would be assigned to the escort carrier HMS Ravager.

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The FAA also operated the Avenger in the Pacific.  This obviously staged photograph gives us a good look at the uniforms of both the flight and ground crews which differ little from their American counterparts.  Note the upper wing roundel which has minimized the white area and eliminated the red altogether to reduce the possibility of confusion with Japanese markings.

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A yellow-nosed torpedo is wheeled into position.  Red has also been removed from the Avenger’s fin flash.  Friendly fire incidents remain a problem to this day in spite of precautions to minimize their likelihood.

Grumman TBM Avenger Color Photographs Part 1

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As a result of several friendly fire incidents during and following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on 23DEC41 CinC Pacific issued a directive that all US aircraft in the Hawaiian area were to carry national markings in six locations (upper and lower surfaces of both wings, both sides of the fuselage) and red and white tail stripes on the rudder.  By early January various other commands had followed suit, and the changes became official.  Here is a beautiful color shot of a factory fresh Avenger in the standard Blue Gray over Light Gray camouflage and the specified markings in effect from 23DEC41 to 06MAY42.  (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)

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Leroy Grumman designed the wing fold mechanism which was applied to the F4F-4 Wildcat, TBM Avenger, and F6F Hellcat, and is still in use on the C-2 Greyhound today.  Called the STO-wing, it allows the wing to pivot as it is rotated along the fuselage.  Adoption of the folding wing allowed an increase of approximately 50% to the aircraft capacity of U.S. Navy carriers.  This is a relatively rare view of the wing in mid-fold.  (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)

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With the wing completely folded the space savings is obvious.  Modelers should note that the inside of the wing is finished in the upper surface Blue Gray color, not in primer.  Also note the landing gear leg, wheel hub, and gear cover are in the underside Light Gray color.  (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)

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To eliminate any confusion with the Japanese Hinomaru, the red centers of the US national insignia were ordered to be removed by ALNAV97 on 06MAY42.  Rudder stripes were also painted out at this time, preferably with blue gray to match the upper surface camouflage, but many units made do with whatever paint was available.   This is a factory-fresh Avenger in the specified markings, which the first Avengers to see combat wore during the Battle of Midway.  (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)

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There were several variations in the size and location of the insignia, modelers are well advised to seek photographs of the specific subjects they wish to portray whenever possible.  This Avenger has an unusually-small fuselage insignia.  (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)

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1943 was a confusing year for US Navy aircraft markings, with many changes being made and some only partially adopted in the field.  Effective 01FEB43, SR-2c directed that naval aircraft revert back to four national insignia, upper port wing, lower starboard wing, and both fuselage sides.  Photographic evidence suggests that many field units did not eliminate the extra wing insignia.  On 28JUN43 ALNAV 12 directed that the national insignia be modified to incorporate a white bar on either side of the star, and the entire insignia was to be outlined in red.  This directive generated considerable opposition in the Pacific Theater, commanders fearing any red might lead to confusion with the Japanese Hinomaru.  On 31JUL43 Third Fleet issued a directive for its subordinate units NOT to outline the national insignia in red, and AN-I-9b of 14AUG43 made the change official by changing the outline color to Insignia Blue.  This Avenger sports the short-lived red border to the national insignia.   (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)

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A major camouflage change came about when SR-2C of 05JAN43 introduced a graded scheme consisting of Non-Specular Sea Blue, Semi-Gloss Sea Blue, and Intermediate Blue over white.  This began showing up at the front in the summer of 1943 and was in effect until the scheme was changed to glossy Sea Blue overall by SR-2c, effective 07OCT44.  (LIFE photograph)

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An interesting photograph of the underside of an Avenger with its bomb bay doors open.  Note how the white underside color extends down the fuselage sides under the wings and horizontal tail plane. (LIFE photograph)

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This rocket-armed Avenger aboard the USS Cape Glouchester (CVE-109), a Commencement Bay-class Escort Carrier.  It wears the overall Sea Blue scheme authorized 07OCT44.

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The range and internal volume of the Avenger lent itself well to auxiliary roles, keeping  variants in service after the war ended.  This is a TBM-3R, modified for Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) transport duties.  The rear gun turret was removed and faired over and seating was provided for seven passengers.  In addition, a special basket was designed to allow cargo to be carried inside the bomb bay.  The basket could be raised and lowered using the Avenger’s internal bomb hoists facilitating a rapid exchange of the pre-loaded baskets.  This Avenger carries the post-war red barred insignia authorized on 14JAN47.

Grumman XF5F Skyrocket

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The Grumman XF5F Skyrocket was designed as a lightweight carrier-borne fighter for the U.S. Navy.  It was a distinctive design featuring twin engines and a forward fuselage which did not extend past the leading edge of the wing.  The prototype flew for the first time on 01 April 1940.  (NASM Rudy Arnold Collection)

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The Skyrocket was powered by two Wright R-1820 Cyclone radial engines which produced 1,200 each.  The R-1820 was widely used in several U.S. designs of the period and was produced under license in Spain and the Soviet Union.  Armament was two 20 mm cannon.  (NASM Rudy Arnold Collection)

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The combination of light weight and high horsepower gave the Skyrocket impressive performance.  Initial rate of climb was 4,000 feet per minute (1,220 m/min), easily outpacing the XF4U Corsair prototype.  Maximum speed was 383 mph (616 km/h).  (NASM Rudy Arnold Collection)

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The Skyrocket featured several desirable characteristics for a carrier aircraft. The propellers were engineered to rotate in opposite directions which eliminated the issue of torque on take-off.  The twin engines provided redundancy in case of damage or mechanical failure, a feature the U.S. Navy would come to require for later designs.  The stubby nose did not restrict the vision of the pilot during shipboard recovery.  (NASM Rudy Arnold Collection)

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The wings were designed to be folded to increase storage capacity aboard the aircraft carrier from the outset, a feature lacking on several of the naval aircraft in service at the time.

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Cockpit design was conventional.  Visible at the bottom of the photograph is the transparency through the lower fuselage, a common feature on naval aircraft which allowed the pilot to view the carrier deck on landing approach.

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Port side of the cockpit interior showing the twin throttle arrangement.

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Grumman also developed the design to meet a USAAC requirement for a land-based twin-engine interceptor which became known as the XP-50 Skyrocket .  This featured an extended nose and redesigned engine nacelles which improved both the maximum speed and rate of climb.

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While the XP-50 was promising, the USAAF ultimately decided not to produce either it nor the competing Lockheed XP-49, instead focusing efforts on improving the performance of the Lockheed P-38 which was already in production.

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The U.S. Navy decided not to adopt the Skyrocket as its standard shipboard fighter, opting instead for another Grumman design, the F4F Wildcat.  The Wildcat was favored because of its reduced cost and mechanical complexity.  Grumman continued to operate and make modifications to the Skyrocket prototype until it was damaged in a belly landing on 11DEC44.  However, the concepts pioneered by the Skyrocket were eventually refined and developed into the successful F7F Tigercat.

Eduard Grumman Hellcat in 1/72 Scale

Very little needs done to improve Eduard’s Hellcat.  The bar which supports the shoulder straps is molded as a ridge on the aft cockpit bulkhead.  I shaved that off and replaced it with a wire bar.  Simple fix, and the detail is prominent.   I also replaced the center canopy section with vacuform.  I re-used a set of Eduard canopy masks from an earlier build, they will work fine if they are removed carefully and placed on their backing sheets.

I didn’t originally plan to build an FAA bird, but I liked the markings on Xtradecal’s Yanks with Roundels sheet.  They worked like a champ, and the sheet includes several other schemes which I plan to use at some point. The kit is one of the very best in our scale, and just about anything needed to build any service variant of a Hellcat is included in the box.  If you haven’t built one yet, give yourself a treat and try one!

The model represents the Hellcat Mk. I of Sub. Lt. Spencer, , 800 NAS, HMS Emperor, Southern France, September 1944.

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Grumman F4F Wildcat Mishaps, Part III – USS Sable

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The USS Sable (IX-81) was a coal-fired, paddle-wheeled, fresh water aircraft carrier used by the U.S. Navy to train carrier aviators during the Second World War.  She was converted from the passenger ship Greater Buffalo by removing the superstructure down to the main deck and installing a steel flightdeck.  No hanger deck or armament were installed. She and the similar USS Wolverine (IX-64) were homeported in Chicago, Illinois and together qualified almost 18,000 Naval Aviators in carrier landings.

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An FM-2 Wildcat has nosed over on Sable’s flightdeck.  This photograph provides an excellent view of her rather Spartan island structure.  Flight operations were sometimes restricted as Sable’s maximum speed was limited to eighteen knots.  On days without wind she was unable to generate enough air flow across her flightdeck to safely operate some kinds of aircraft.

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A similar incident involving another FM-2 as viewed from the island.  This Wildcat has engaged the barrier after missing the arresting wires.  Barely visible at the top of the picture, a second Wildcat goes around to wait for the flightdeck to be cleared.

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This FM-2 has suffered a landing gear collapse and a bent prop.  One of the many advantages of training on Lake Michigan was the proximity of several airfields, if aircraft could not land aboard the carrier there was always another field nearby.  Since the paddle-wheel carriers were converted without hanger decks, the aircraft flew out to the ships from NAS Glenview.

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A different FM-2 in the barrier with Sable’s island in the background.  Sable was equipped with eight arresting wires.  If the aircraft missed these a wire barrier would stop it from going over the side, although this often resulted in damage.

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This Wildcat has spun into the island.  Unlike the wooden flightdeck built on Wolverine, Sable’s deck was made from steel so she could be used to test various non-skid coatings.

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Deck crew right an F4F-4 Wildcat, giving a nice view of the underside markings standard in the summer of 1943.  Many of the aircraft initially used for training were timed-out “war weary” planes which had seen extensive combat in the Pacific.

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In what must have been a frequent occurrence, deck crewmen shelter in the catwalk as a student pilot careens down the deck.  For all the mishaps, only eight pilots and forty crewmen were killed while training on the Great Lakes carriers.

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“Mobile sand bags” rush into position to weigh down the wing of this FM-2 after the port gear has collapsed.  Many of Sable’s original crew came from the USS Lexington (CV-2) after she was lost in the Battle of Coral Sea.

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An F4F-4 begins its journey to the bottom of Lake Michigan.  More than 130 naval aircraft of several types are known to be at the bottom of the lake.

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More than thirty five aircraft wrecks have been recovered so far, most have been quite well preserved by the cold fresh water.  Many of the naval aircraft on display in museums across the U.S. have been recovered from Lake Michigan including the F4F-3 on display at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.