The Other Blog is Back

aged newspaper formation

B-24s of the 44th Bomb Group – the new title image for the revised “Joplin’s Bomber” Blog

After a lot of noises being made offstage about my long-term history project,  which I haven’t touched for some considerable time,   it’s become apparent that now is the time to do something.

Well, it’s back.

Despite having burned a couple of good domain names with the deletion of the Blogspot blog and my complete ineptness with an early version of the WordPress  platform, the  “Joplin’s Bomber” blog is back again.  This time it’s https://joplinjalopyblog.wordpress.com/

I’m hoping that what I’ve learned about blogging, WordPress and historical research may prove beneficial in the time ahead.

There isn’t much there right now (you wouldn’t believe the machinations I’ve been through in terms of styles, templates, layouts – or if you know WordPress, maybe you do – and I’m cheap so I’m using all the free stuff)  but I hope I’ll be getting some more of my eleven-year old research back into some useful form in the pages of the site.

A Little Quiet Recently

My fault.   Mostly just getting caught up with the daily life of an adjunct professor and occasionally doing some teaching.   We’re into the 1960s next week, which means about three weeks of the semester remains and then into the long-ish summer break.  I do have a little prep work for the Fall Semester, in which I assume I’m still teaching.

In the meantime.   I want to pause and remember that we have just passed the 20th Anniversary of the crash of ATL-98 Carvair N83FA in Griffin, Georgia on April 4th. On that day I actually did sit back for a moment and took a moment for prayer and reflection.    I never for a moment imagined that a blog article which was born from reading a John Le Carre novel and thinking “huh?” would generate so much interest.  Looking at the WordPress statistics for the blog, it always seems to get a couple of hits most weeks. I was touched and honored to have received comments from Kris Whittington, son of pilot Larry Whittington who was killed in the crash of N83FA, and recently Vanessa Presley, who as a child in Griffin saw and heard the crash and who suffers from the after effects to this day.  My deepest thanks to everyone who contributed to expand a little piece of aviation history here.

HM Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip board an ANA C-54 (VH-INY) at Western Junction, Tasmania. Feb 20, 1954. This C-54 would seven years later be converted into a Carvair which, with the registration N83FA, would crash on take-off at Griffin, Georgia in April 1997
http://catalogue.statelibrary.tas.gov.au/item/?id=AB713-1-2859

 

My research project,  the history of B-24J-1-FO  42-50535  “Joplin Jalopy” got a boost this month.  For some reason an article appeared in the Joplin Globe a couple of weeks ago (which I have managed not to read) but which, I am told, listed the correct number of operations the Jalopy flew.  This would then indicate that someone read some of the research material I forked over to the globe in 2006.     Shortly afterwards I received an email from Ray Foreman from KODE12  TV in Joplin  (Hi Ray!)  who had seen my January 2016 post commemorating the anniversary of the start of the now defunct “Joplin’s Bomber”  blog.   Apart from being a military aviation history enthusiast Ray has some connection with the Joplin Civil Air Patrol so I hope to have a chat with him, and them in the near future.  This has been a timely prod not to let all that information  go to waste.

B-24 Joplin Jalopy

B24J-1-FO 42-50535 “Joplin Jalopy” – 506BS / 44BG

I was relating all of this to one of my colleagues at Pittsburg State who then said “you ought to write this up for a journal article”  (in one of the local academic journals) ,  so given a long enough period of rest  I may actually do that.

In the meantime I will continue to be fascinated by little snippets that float into my field of vision from the world of aviation.

Support Your Local Fly-In

Today (November 5th) at the Atkinson Municipal Airport in Pittsburg, I attended a Veterans’ Appreciation Warbird Fly-in. It was nice for several reasons. I didn’t have far to go – the airport is abut two miles from where I live. I’ve never seen so many people at the airport and never seen such an interesting gathering of types. It was a very pleasant morning and my thanks to all the folks who made such an effort to put it all together. It would also be appropriate to remember all the veterans who were there, and those who weren’t.

All the photographs in this blog entry are my own work and  licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Nanchang CJ-6

A couple of Nanchang CJ-6 having fun during the morning. (Own photo)

 

T6 Arrival

One of the three T-6s in attendance. This one is interesting having “modern” RAF roundels and the crest of No 1 FTS (the oldest military pilot training school in the world – celebrated its centenary in 2009) on its rudder. It wears an all black scheme reminiscent of the Tucanos currently flown by 1FTS at RAF Linton-On-Ouse, Yorkshire.

 

Grumman FM-2 Wildcat and Cessna 0-1 "Bird Dog"

Grumman FM-2 Wildcat N551TC and Cessna 0-1/L-19A ‘Bird Dog’ 51-12167 N5242G – Veterans of different wars, together at the Atkinson Municipal Airport, Pittsburg, KS.

 

T-33 arrives

If this really is Lockheed T-33A-5-LO 56-3689 then it has a fairly interesting story.   Joe Baugher says: “3689 assigned to NASA Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), Ellington Field, TX. Registered as NASA 939. Assigned to NASA Langley Research Center, Langley Field, VA Sep 28, 1970 to Mar 30, 1971. Registered as NASA 513. Assigned to 155th TRG, Nebraska ANG, Lincoln, NE. Registered to Heritage Air LLC and flying again, using the old NASA registration number of N939NA.”

 

FM-2 Wildcat N551TC

FM-2 Wildcat Bu.47160 N551TC. This example has had quite a life postwar. According to the Warbird Registry it was used as an instructional airframe by a trade school in Montana between 1950 and 1956, at which time it was sold and converted to be a crop sprayer. It seems to have been rescued and restored again in the early 1970s.

 

Slepcev Storch

Slepcev Storch N78018 “The Slepcev Storch (English: Stork) is a Serbian type-certified, kit and ultralight STOL aircraft, designed by Yugoslavian-Australian Nestor Slepcev and currently produced by Storch Aircraft Serbia in several different versions. The ultralight version is a 3/4 scale replica of the Second World War Fieseler Fi 156 and is supplied as a kit for amateur construction or as a complete ready-to-fly-aircraft. The aircraft was first flown in 1994. It was originally manufactured by Slepcev’s company, Slepcev Aircraft Industry of Beechwood, New South Wales, Australia. The company was later renamed Storch Aviation Australia. The aircraft was type-certified in 1999 to the Joint Airworthiness Requirements – Very Light Aircraft (JAR-VLA) standard. Production then moved to Serbia where a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale microlight category model was developed.” (Wikipedia)

Trafalgar Day

In two previous articles on the Battle of Britain, and the commemoration of Battle of Britain Day on September 15th, I have mentioned Trafalgar Day (October 21st) and opined that there was a danger that Trafalgar Day is fading from our consciousness and that Battle of Britain Day will do likewise. It seems appropriate and consistent with my opinions to mention Trafalgar Day even on an aviation-themed blog.

I think  J.M. W. Turner’s painting of the Battle of Trafalgar says more than my words ever could.

The Battle of Trafalgar

The Battle of Trafalgar, as seen from the starboard mizzen shrouds of the Victory by J. M. W. Turner (oil on canvas, 1806 to 1808) (Public Domain)

7th September

Many anniversaries on this day according to Brian Swopes’ excellent This Day in Aviation site, including the first flights of the F-22 and the AH-1 Cobra.

For this Brit, however, 7th September refers to 7th September 1940,  and the day the Luftwaffe campaign against the UK – aka the Battle of Britain –  saw a very distinct change.  As the Wikipedia article on the Blitz says:  “From 7 September 1940, one year into the war, London was systematically bombed by the Luftwaffe for 57 consecutive nights. More than one million London houses were destroyed or damaged and more than 40,000 civilians were killed, almost half of them in London”  A couple of memorable images were taken on September 7th, including one very iconic view of an He111 directly over the London docks.

A German Luftwaffe Heinkel He 111 bomber flying over Wapping and the Isle of Dogs in the East End of London at at the start of the Luftwaffe's evening raids of 7 September 1940. Taken from a German aircraft at 1848 hrs German time. (Imperial War Museum)

A Heinkel He 111 flying over Wapping and the Isle of Dogs in the East End of London at at the start of the Luftwaffe’s evening raids of 7 September 1940. Taken from a German aircraft at 1848 hrs German time. (Imperial War Museum)

 

Smoke rising from fires in Surrey docks, following bombing on 7 September 1940

Smoke rising from fires in Surrey docks, following bombing on 7 September 1940 (New York Times Paris Bureau Collection. National Archives and Records Administration)

Joplin’s Bomber

B-24 Joplin Jalopy

B24J-1-FO Liberator 42-50535 “Joplin Jalopy.” 506BS 44BG.   July 1944 – April 1945

This January marks the 10th anniversary of my first serious foray into the blogosphere  when I launched the blog “Joplin’s Bomber”  on the Google Blogger/Blogspot platform.    I’d discovered that the town of  Joplin, Missouri,  30-odd miles from here, had exhibited a combat veteran B-24 as a war memorial in the immediate post war era.  Not only that, but this specific B-24 was named by the city, and was one of a number of items of equipment which had been purchased from War Bond drives.

B-24J-1-FO 42-50535  was built on either May 5th or 6th 1944 at the massive Ford plant at Willow Run, Michigan. It arrived at Shipdham,  Norfolk with the 506th Bomb Squardon, 44th Bomb Group in July 1944. The aircraft carried the Codes GJ-Bar C  –  (later GJ-Bar O)  and was named  “Joplin Jalopy.”  She flew 66 (not the 63 often quoted) combat missions with 29 different crews up to the end of April 1945.   She was flown home on May 31/June 1 1945. Her next public appearance was in August 1946, when a crew from the Joplin Civil Air Patrol flew the aircraft back to Joplin from Altus, OK where it was scheduled (like the B-17F Memphis Belle, another Altus resident) to be smelted.

Joplin Jalopy in Joplin

“Joplin Jalopy” Arrives in Joplin. 11 August 1946. Photograph by Mary Day, passed to me in 2006.
Note the feathered propellers, the lack of armament, and the small boys already clambering on top of the cockpit and top turret.

Joplin Jalopy and Memphis Belle shared a similar story for a few years. Both suffered the attention of vandals and souvenir hunters.  There was no money to build a covered memorial in Joplin. Memphis Belle stood on a plinth at the National Guard Armory in Memphis. The Jalopy sat forlorn on the east side the airport, and her condition deteriorated to the point where she became a dangerous eyesore. She was taken away to be scrapped sometime in the early 1950s.

In 2006 I interviewed some of the surviving crew members by email, and  journalist from the Joplin Globe called a couple of them up.   With the assistance of the 44th Bomb Group Veteran’s Association, I managed to compile a list of all the missions the Jalopy flew, and with which crews.   I think that list is complete.   At some time I should resuscitate that blog or put my research findings into a more comprehensive site.   I would like to acknowledge publicly the assistance I’ve received  over the years from Roger Fenton, one of the historians of the 44th BGVA. Roger is the son of a 44th BG Navigator  and his dad coincidentally flew one mission with his crew on board the Jalopy.  Thanks Roger.

There is much to wrote and much which I haven’t yet found, but I should record the fact that while the project may be dormant, it isn’t forgotten.

Battle of Britain

I read somewhere that Trafalgar Day (21st October) has decreased in significance as the Battle of Trafalgar fades from collective British memory. We’ve just seen the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo (18th June), the centenary of ANZAC Day (April 25th)  and now the popular press has seized on the fact that it’s the 75th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Britain.   On a personal tangent, I can remember exactly what I was doing on May 10th 1980, which was the 40th anniversary of the start of the Blitzkrieg. I was just about to finish my undergraduate studies and on this day (it was a Saturday as I recall)  I was waiting for my parents to visit me and hoping that I had dispersed the usual male student smells from my room in the college residences.  I have no idea what I was doing two months later, which is a shame. July 10th is a significant date, and not just because it’s my wife’s birthday. It commemorates the ‘official’ start of the Battle of Britain, and is a bone of of contention with pilots who were wounded immediately before this date and failed to qualify for the Battle of Britain “Battle Clasp” on their medals.

“This was their finest hour” – the last page of Churchill’s speech to the House of Commons on June 18th 1940

I have collected books on the Air War since I was quite a small boy, but only in the last 20 years or so did I get a copy of Francis K. Mason’s Battle Over Britain, which for me is the definitive history of the period.  Even so I was dimly aware that 10th July was a fairly arbitrary date plucked out by the Air Ministry to give a firm date for the commencement of the conflict.  I don’t think the period itself can be so neatly divided, considering the headlong rush of the Wehrmacht on May 10th and the events at Dunkirk.  Winston Churchill stood up in Parliament on June 18th 1940 and delivered the speech which gave a name to the coming conflict.   Churchill had already promised “blood, toil, tears and sweat” on May 13th, and gave the assurance that “we will fight them on the beaches” on June 4th.

Francis K. Mason suggests, and who am I to disagree, that the Battle of Britain proper began at the end of June 1940 when German forces landed in the Channel Islands and commenced a direct offensive against the United Kingdom.  He also says that the suggestion of a lull in air operations after Dunkirk and through June 1940 are also inaccurate – elements of the RAF were extracting themselves from France until mid-June, and the units which had disengaged were utterly exhausted and lacking in equipment, spares and ground crews.

The period July 1- July 9  saw mixed weather conditions and a series of small attacks against coastal and other targets by the Luftwaffe . It should also be noted that in the first week of July a number of raids were mounted by Hampdens and Whitleys of Bomber Command against targets in northern Germany.

There is some indication according to Mason, that the pace of Luftwaffe operations increased on Sunday July 7th against convoys in the English Channel – and these intensified until Wednesday July 10th when the largest raid so far was carried out against convoy BREAD.  By July 10th, Mason says, the RAF had intercepted about 12 raids of more than 50 aircraft, and had lost eighteen aircraft and thirteen pilots.

I would like to note a trivial item related to this period. Spitfire Mk.1a P9444, still exhibited in the Science Museum, London, was written off the RAF inventory on July 6th 1940 while flying with 72 Squadron. Its pilot blacked out from lack of oxygen in flight. Although he recovered and landed safely the airframe was judged to  have been overstressed and the aircraft was recorded as having sustained Category 3 damage (destroyed) which is happily not the case. The original 1984 edition of Spitfire Survivors indicates it was sent to a Civilian Repair Unit and saw the light of day again, in military terms in March 1941 where it passed through a succession of training units and Maintenance Units until it was allocated for display purposes in 1949. Its 72 Squadron markings were re-applied in 1961.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Ia

Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Ia P9444 at the Science Museum, London.
P9444 was written off the RAF inventory on July 6th, 1940. Photo by Hugh Llewelyn
CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0), via Wikimedia Commons