Damn Lucky Audio Book Review

Damn Lucky: One Man’s Courage During the Bloodiest Military Campaign in Aviation History

Authored by Kevin Maurer, Narrated by Holter Graham, interview with John Luckadoo

Audiobook, 8 hours and 20 minutes

Published by Macmillan Audio, April 2022

Language: English

ASIN: B094DVDLS4

John “Lucky” Luckadoo, like so many Americans, joined the military after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  He trained as a pilot, and after completing flight school was assigned to the 100th Bomb Group as a co-pilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress.  The Group deployed to England in June 1943, when the Eighth Air Force’s bombing campaign against Germany was just gaining strength.  A combat rotation was considered to be twenty-five missions, after completing those the crew would be rotated home.  Unfortunately, Allied fighters did not have the range to escort the bombers all the way to many targets and the Luftwaffe was still a formidable force.  Statistically, the odds were against the bomber crews surviving to reach the magic twenty-fifth mission.

Aside from the fighters and the flak, flying itself is a dangerous endeavor.  In formations there is always the risk of collision, and weather is always a factor.  One under-appreciated aspect is the environment at 25,000 feet is inherently hostile.  Without the proper protection hypothermia or hypoxia can be deadly, and the crews had to function in that environment for up to twelve hours at a time.  On one occasion Luckaloo’s B-17 suffered relatively minor damage to the nose section over a target.  Unfortunately, damage to the metal skin of the aircraft directed a stream of freezing air directly under the instrument panel.  He had no choice but to leave his feet on the rudder peddles while the airstream progressively froze his legs throughout the return flight.  He returned frostbitten, but Doctors were able to save his legs.

This book follows Luckaloo’s career in the USAAF, both with the 100th BG and after his rotation back Stateside as an instructor pilot.  As the war ended he was working up with a B-29 group for deployment to the Pacific.  This is a well-written first hand account of the bomber offensive during the decisive period of the air war.  Recommended.

North American B-25 Mitchell Color Photographs Part IX – Early Mitchells

A fine study of a North American B-25A in flight. Forty B-25As were delivered to the USAAC beginning in February 1941. These were the first “combat ready” Mitchells, incorporating self-sealing fuel tanks and armor protection for the crew. All photos are from the NASM Rudy Arnold collection.
This B-25A carries the “Thunderbird” markings of the 34th Bomb Squadron, 17th Bomb Group and early war national insignia. The B-25A is easily identifiable by the unique tail gun position and lack of dorsal turret.
While none of the B-25As deployed overseas, they did fly anti-submarine patrol missions from the continental United States. Here a 2nd Bomb Group Mitchell refuels from an Autocar tanker prior to a patrol mission.
Here crew members simulate a scramble for the photographer while B-25A 40-2200 warms up in the background.
Crewmen board a Mitchell from the 2nd Bomb Group. A retractable skid under the tail prevented a tail strike during take-off or landing. Modelers note the possible solution to the “tail sitting” problem in the form of the boarding ladder.
The Norton bomb sight was considered to be highly classified and was to be covered or dismounted when the aircraft was on the ground. Combat experience soon showed that the nose mounted .30 caliber machine gun was inadequate and it was quickly upgraded to a .50 caliber.
The tail gun position of the B-25A was unique in the Mitchell family. The rear portion was a clamshell arrangement, and opened to allow the gun to traverse.
Mitchells in the coastal patrol role overfly a small freighter. The two nearest the camera are B-25Bs, the furthest is a B-25A.
Armorers loading 250 pound bombs. Later in the war bombs were seen in the Army standard Olive Drab, but in the early days they were often Light Gray or Yellow as seen here.
The B-25B introduced a Bendix power turret in the dorsal position, and a retractable Bendix remote turret in the belly. It was felt that these turrets offered adequate rear protection so the tail gun was deleted.
A close-up of the Bendix ventral turret. This turret was unframed, consisting of sections of clear Perspex which were glued together. Also note the slots for the guns are unsealed, certainly a problem at altitude.

B-25 Color Photographs Part I here:  https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2022/09/28/north-american-b-25-mitchell-color-photographs-part-i-production/

North American B-25 Mitchell Color Photographs Part VIII – 321st Bomb Group

The 321st Bombardment Group consisted of four Squadrons – the 445th, 446th, 447th, and 448th.  They deployed to North Africa as part of the 12th Air Force and began combat operations in March, 1943.  They fought throughout the Italian Campaign and in support of the invasion of Southern France, receiving two Distinguished Unit Citations.

Most of the photographs here were taken during the Summer of 1944 when the Group was operating from Corsica.  The photographer focused on the nose art and mission scoreboards.  Many of the paintings are the work of an exceptionally talented artist so be advised that some might consider a few of the renderings to be a bit risqué.

Modelers note that these B-25Js were delivered in overall natural metal finish and several aircraft had the uppersurfaces camouflaged in the field.  The color appears very dark, much darker than the standard Olive Drab used on most USAAF aircraft.  I am curious to hear opinions on this color.

Ave Maria was a 448th BS B-25J with an impressive scoreboard, her serial was 43-27636. The significance of the yellow three-lobed marking behind the nose escape hatch is unknown, but similar markings can be seen on other Mitchells from the Group.
A nice aerial shot of Ave Maria which reveals a number of interesting details such as the faded condition of the wing insignia and high demarcation of the field-applied camo. While chipped and faded, the upper surface color appears much darker than a typical Olive Drab finish.
Mama! was a B-25J assigned to the 447th Bomb Squadron. Some sources cite the name as “Pistol Packin’ Mama” which the artwork certainly implies but is not painted on the aircraft.
San-Antoneo Rose was still in the NMF at the time of this photograph, although the aircraft in the background has been camouflaged.
Readie Teddie was assigned to the 447th, another Mitchell with an impressive tally of mission markers. The details of the nose escape hatch have defied model kit manufacturers – the bottom edge is not in line with the rest of the nose glazing, and the two braces aft of the red handle are internal.
OH-7 is seen here in North Africa in 1943, she is one of the 445th BS initial complement of B-25Cs. Her serial was 41-13207.
Stuff was B-25J serial 43-27680 assigned to the 445th BS. She has the external armor plate protecting the cockpit area.
Big Jamoke is a NMF B-25J. She carries no mission markers, but the odd three-lobed marking is present again, this time in green.
B-25J serial 43-27551 of the 447th BS. MMR were the initials of the pilot’s girlfriend. The green marking may represent the artist’s signature. The upper surface camo avoids the transparency framing and appears darker than the faded anti-glare panel in front of the cockpit.

B-25 Color Photographs Part IX here:  https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2022/11/30/north-american-b-25-mitchell-color-photographs-part-ix-early-mitchells/

North American B-25 Mitchell Color Photographs Part VII – 17th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron

The 17th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron first saw combat operating from Guadalcanal in February, 1943.  They were initially equipped with the F-5 Lightning, a photo reconnaissance version of the P-38.  In May 1945 they transferred to Puerto Princesa Airfield, Palawan, Philippines and by that time had been re-equipped with the B-25 Mitchell, where these photos were taken.

Most of these aircraft are B-25Js with the 8-gun strafer noses, indicating the Squadron was then taking a more active role than just taking photographs.  Several of these Mitchells have had the “cheek” guns on the fuselage sides removed, reportedly they proved difficult to adjust and were problematic for armorers.  A few aircraft have the “glass” noses indicating a Bombardier, it was not uncommon for squadrons to operate a mix of sub-types.

The airfield and parking areas were covered in “Marston Mat” or Pierced Steel Planking (PSP).  These were interlocking steel planks which could be assembled over any flat, packed surface, allowing the rapid constructions of airfields.

Many of these photographs show the Mitchells being serviced or maintained, excellent inspiration for modelers looking to construct dioramas.

Several of these photographs are attributed to the Fred Hill Collection, I assume they were all taken at approximately the same time by one photographer.

B-25 Mitchell color photographs part VIII here:  https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2022/11/23/north-american-b-25-mitchell-color-photographs-part-viii-321st-bomb-group/

Tamiya Republic P-47D Thunderbolt of Captain Edwin Fisher in 1/72 Scale

Edwin “Bill” Fisher was a native of Portland, Oregon and served in the Oregon National Guard before the war.  He re-enlisted in April 1942 and completed flight training in may 1943.  Flying the P-47 Thunderbolt with the 377th FS, 362nd FG, his first victories were a trio of V-1 “Buzz Bombs” destroyed in a single mission on 29JUN44.  He was credited with seven victories over German aircraft to become the 377th Fighter Squadron’s only ace.  He survived the war, but died while flying an AT-6 Texan in March 1947.

“Shirley Jane III” piloted by Capt. Edwin Fisher, 377th FS 362nd FG, August 1944.

North American B-25 Mitchell Color Photographs Part VI –  501st BS 345th BG

The 501st Bomb Squadron was identified within the 345th Bomb Group by its yellow cowling fronts and white bands on the wings just outboard of the nacelles. This is a nice aerial view of B-25D 41-30518 “Quitch”. She was ditched on 15AUG44 but all her crew survived.
The 501st was named the “Black Panthers” and B-25D 43-3401 carried the squadron insignia on the nose. She was the mount of the squadron commander, Bob Faine, and was eventually transferred to the 38thBG. It appears the nose escape hatch has been removed, likely to help keep the interior of the aircraft cool.
B-25D 41-30089 was named the “Gay Mare” and her scoreboard shows an impressive tally. Note the forward panels of the nose glazing have only been partially over-painted. The Gay Mare crashed while attempting to land in bad weather on 30AUG44, killing all but one of her crew.
This photograph is interesting as it clearly shows the extra panel added forward of the fuselage gun packs, installed to help prevent damage from the muzzle blast of the .50 caliber guns mounted to the sides. The blast has not done the paint any good. “Special Delivery F.O.B.” was B-25D 41-30093. She was damaged by flak on 29JUL44 and was written off for salvage.
On 11JUL45 B-25J 43-36199 was damaged by flak over Formosa. With the hydraulic system inoperable her pilot, 2LT Donald Britton, was unable to lower either the landing gear or the flaps. He was forced to belly in to the squadron’s base at Clark Field, Philippines. In this view ground personnel are preparing to lift the aircraft back onto her gear. Note the replacement rudder, indicating this is not the first time this aircraft has returned home damaged.
Back on her legs, we can see 43-36199 was fitted with a replacement eight-gun nose but has had her side gun packs removed. The prop blades are bent and there is considerable debris hanging under her fuselage. The aircraft was written off.
“Chow Hound Junior” was the 345th Bomb Group’s “fat cat” or unit hack. She was a B-25D which had all armor and armament removed and was stripped of paint. In this configuration the B-25 was much lighter and faster which made it well suited for the transport role. Her full serial number was 41-30606.

B-25 Mitchell color photographs part VII here:  https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2022/11/16/north-american-b-25-mitchell-color-photographs-part-vii-17th-photographic-reconnaissance-squadron/

Tamiya North American P-51D of Major Ray Wetmore in1/72 Scale

Ray Wetmore was a native of Kerman, California.  He flew with the 370th Fighter Squadron, 359th Fighter Group, scoring 4.25 victories with the P-47 Thunderbolt before the Group transitioned to the Mustang.  His best day was on 14FEB45 when he downed a trio of Focke-Wulf Fw 190s.  His last victory was an Me 163 Komet over Wittenberg on 15MAR45.  He was credited with 21.25 aerial victories plus 2 more on the ground.  He survived the war, but died while flying an F-86 Sabre in February 1951.  He reported that his aircraft was malfunctioning, but he stayed with it to avoid hitting civilian buildings on the ground.

“Daddy’s Girl” piloted by Major Ray Wetmore, 370 FS, 359 FG, East Wretham, Norfolk.  Tamiya kit, Fündeckals decals.

Hasegawa North American B-25J Mitchell “Pretty Pat” in 1/72 Scale

Pretty Pat was named after her pilot’s wife, and was assigned to the 499th Bomb Squadron of the 345th Bomb Group.  43-3698 was converted to a strafer and began operations in November 1944.  On 27MAY1945 she was hit by flak over Formosa, her pilot made it out over the ocean and ditched successfully.  Her crew were in the water less than a half an hour before they were rescued by a waiting Catalina, all survived.  Hasegawa kit, markings from DK Decals sheet 72041.

Airfix North American B-25C Mitchell “Dirty Dora” in 1/72 Scale

“Dirty Dora” was perhaps the most famous of the 345th Bomb Group’s Mitchells, thanks in part to a series of color photographs of her taken in February, 1944.  Serial number 41-12971 was initially assigned to the 38th Bomb Group in September 1942.  She was modified into a strafer at Townville in July 1943, and was then assigned to the 499th Bomb Squadron in August, where she received her prominent nose art.  She served with the 499th for a year, after which she was declared War Weary after almost two years of combat operations.  Her final tally was 175 bombing missions, 4 aerial victories, and 3 ships sunk.   Airfix kit, markings from DK Decals sheet 72041.

Hasegawa North American B-25H Mitchell “Clana Louise” in 1/72 Scale

“Clana Louise” was named after the wife of her crew chief, who had her name painted on the port engine cowling.  43-4345 was assigned to the 498th Bomb Squadron “Falcons” of the 345th Bomb Group, whose aircraft each sported a yellow and green falcon head on the nose.  This was one of the first cannon-armed B-25H Mitchells in the Pacific Theater, and was part of the type’s service evaluation trial.  Hasegawa kit, markings from DK Decals sheet 72041.

Construction posts here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2022/09/02/north-american-b-25-mitchell-batch-build-in-1-72-scale-part-i/