Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April 1944: From P-47s to P-51s

April of 1944 was the last full month in which the 359th Fighter Group flew the Thunderbolts in which it trained for combat. Replacement of the P-47s, long delayed, was achieved with a rush at the end of the month, when ferry pilots flew glistening new silver Mustangs into the field at East Wretham by the dozen.

April essentially was a month of waiting: waiting for the arrival of the P-51s, waiting for the Luftwaffe to give battle, waiting for the day when strafers would find an airfield loaded with enemy aircraft, and, most of all waiting for the invasion of Festung Europa.

This was the month when the US Strategic Air Forces in Europe cascaded more than 40,000 tons of bombs upon the enemy and his installations: a larger tonnage of explosives than was achieved by the RAF Bomber Command in that magnificent organization’s systematic destruction by fire and bomb of the German and his cities, factories, and railroads.

Upper photo: March 27, 1944 photo of one of the first P-51Ds to arrive at East Wretham. Courtesy of Anthony C. Chardella: Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association.

Middle photo: On May 2, 1944, S/Sgt Marshall L. Binder (on wing) gives paperwork regarding the changeover from P-47s to P-51s, to Harold L. Hollis (standing) of the 370th Fighter Squadron, 359th Fighter Group. Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association, from records at HQ USAF Research Center, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

Lower photo: Two bombs per Mustang. Courtesy of Elsie Palicka, wife of Ed Palicka, 370th Fighter Squadron Photographer: Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association.

This text excerpt, included in
Fogg in the Cockpit, is from the April 1944 original monthly narrative History of the 359th Fighter Group, dated 4 May 1944, archived at HQ USAF Historical Research Center, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. The complete documents were transcribed and provided courtesy of Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association, from reports filed by Maurice F. X. Donohue, 359th Fighter Group historian and combat intelligence officer.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Local Authors Highlight WWII Fighter Pilots

Bruce Leaf of the Longmont Weekly interviewed us regarding Fogg in the Cockpit, and the article has just been published!

Here's the link to the article:

One slight edit, is that after we met with Bruce the release date of the book was extended a few weeks. It will be released by Casemate Publishing on June 19, 2011.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sketching Trains as Early as Age Four

Today we thought we would travel back ninety years in time, to November 24, 1921, when Howard traveled with his parents to the Mountain Lakes, New Jersey Railroad Station. This was Thanksgiving Day, and as they waited in this stone station built in 1912 by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, Howard sketched trains on a blank note card. Only four years old, even then Howard could capture the essence of a locomotive.

During his 50-year artistic career it is estimated that Howard Fogg completed more than 1,200 paintings. A number of these images continue to be printed in calendars and as greeting cards, but the majority of the original paintings reside in offices, businesses, museums, and the homes of those who loved his ability to capture the emotion of railroading.

Texas & Pacific Railroad “Texas” type 2-10-4 steam locomotive. Watercolor painting by Howard Fogg. Image courtesy of Leanin’ Tree, Inc.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The P-51 in Movies

You are treading on thin ice when you state that something is "the best". With that in mind, any reasonably informed person would have to acknowledge that the P-51 Mustang was, at the very least, one of the best fighters of WWII. No less an "authority" than Hermann Goring, the infamous head of the Luftwaffe, said he realized the war was lost when he saw P-51s over Berlin. In The Military Channel's series of "10 Best," the episode on fighter aircraft ranked the P-51 # 1, not just of WWII, but of all time.

P-51B CV-Q 44-15717 (368FS) in flight with a flight of four. Photo courtesy of Elsie Palicka, wife of Ed Palicka, 370th Fighter Squadron Photographer: Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association.

Given its illustrious history and reputation, you would think the P-51 might have been featured in multiple mainstream films. Nope. To the best of our knowledge there is a grand total of one film that is centered around the P-51, and it takes place not in WWII but Korea. The 1957 release of Battle Hymn (widescreen, color) used Air National Guard Mustangs with the American southwest substituting for Korea. There isn't any actual combat footage but the staged attack and flying sequences give the viewer a glorious look at the P-51.

A 1996 HBO movie, The Tuskegee Airmen, tells the story of the famous black aviators that flew out of North Africa and Italy in the 332nd Fighter Group. A few civilian P-51s were rounded up and repainted, and the movie has some decent flying sequences.

That's it. There are P-51 "sightings" in a few movies such as Empire Of The Sun, Saving Private Ryan, Memphis Belle, and, if memory serves, the 1968 film Dark Of The Sun, set in the Congo.

Ironically, the plane the Mustang was most often called upon to escort - the B-17, has had it's fair share of exposure. The 1943 film Air Force, set in the Pacific, revolves around the B-17 "Mary Ann", and the 1990 release of Memphis Belle follows the story (Hollywoodized) of the real "Memphis Belle". Another 1943 release, Bombardier, centers on bombardier training in B-17s. It was filmed, in part, at Kirtland Army Air Field in New Mexico, where real training was taking place. 1962's The War Lover stars Steve McQueen in the title role as a B-17 pilot. In 1948 Command Decision concentrated on the thought process behind the strategy of daylight bombing and target selection. Based on the play of the same name, there are a few B-17 scenes in the movie. The following year the Academy Award winning Twelve O'clock High emphasized the toll the decision making took on those in command, but it also utilized Allied and German combat footage of B-17s in action. Both Command Decision and Twelve O'clock High were set in 1943, before the deployment of the Mustang, and focused on the terrible losses the bombers incurred without long range fighter escort.

George Lucas is co-producing a movie titled Red Tails, about the Tuskegee airmen. Due for release in 2011, it stars Cuba Gooding, Jr, who also starred in HBO's Tuskegee Airmen. Since it will, presumably, be set in Italy, it means there still is not a single movie featuring P-51s flying out of England. Who knows, maybe Fogg In the Cockpit...

We'd love to hear from you about any other P-51 sightings in film or TV.