Thursday, January 26, 2012

WWII History Magazine - Short Bursts

From the Early Winter 2012 issue of WWII History:

Short Bursts

Fogg in the Cockpit: Howard Fogg - Master Railroad Artist, World War II Fighter Pilot
by Richard and Janet Fogg, Casemate Publishers, Havertown, PA, 2011, 360 pp., photographs, $32.95, hardcover.

Howard Fogg was one talented individual. Not only was he America's premier railroad artist, but he dropped his palette and brush to become a fighter pilot in World War II.

Originally New Yorkers, the Fogg family eventually migrated to the Midwest. After graduating from Dartmouth College, Fogg landed a job with the Union Pacific Railroad and later the Baldwin Locomotive Works prior to the war.

During the conflict, Fogg was assigned to the 359th Fighter Group and flew Republic P-47 Thunderbolts and North American P-51 Mustangs. More importantly, he kept a very detailed diary chronicling his wartime experiences which his son used as the basis for this book.

When he passed away in October 1996, his family spread his ashes along a section of Union Pacific track in Wyoming. Just moments later, a freight train sped by, a fitting end to a great artist - and fighter pilot.

WWII History Magazine website

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The P-51 in Movies

We originally posted this on April 7, 2011, and in anticipation of the release of the movie Red Tails, which recognizes the efforts and heroism of the Tuskegee airmen who served with the 332nd Fighter Group, we thought we would re-post these thoughts about 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, until 2012 and the release of Red Tails, there was 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 the 1968 film Dark Of The Sun, set in the Congo. A reader of our original post was kind enough to remind us of the P-51 sighting in the 2002 POW movie Hart’s War, starring Bruce Willis.

Ironically, the plane the Mustang was most often called upon to escort - the B-17, has had its 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. 1969’s The Thousand Plane Raid features some spectacular low level passes of B-17s filmed for the movie as well as color combat footage. 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 co-produced Red Tails, so we know the flying sequences, though all CGI, will be spectacular. Due for release on January 20, 2012, 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...

As before, we'd love to hear from you about any other P-51 sightings in film or TV!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Book review by Rene Burtner, 369th Fighter Squadron Leader, 359th Fighter Group

Fogg in the Cockpit is based on a diary by Howard Fogg. Howard, a fighter pilot in WWII with the 359th Fighter Group began his diary shortly before the Group sailed to England in October 1943. His intention at the time was to provide notes if at some later date he decided to write a book about his war years. The book did not materialize during his lifetime but has now become a reality thanks to his son and daughter-in-law, Richard and Janet Fogg. Howard’s college degree in English Literature and his artistic perception are displayed throughout the book.

As an ex fighter pilot I read the book with great anticipation and was rewarded with a gem. The time, places, events, and routines in the diary were those shared by all fighter pilots and they rekindle lost memories as well as enhance memories fading through time. First impression of England – the beauty of the countryside – quaintness of the villages – fortitude of the British people – the weather – sinus – blackouts – bicycles – air raids – buzz bombs – V2s – card games – billiards – briefings – missions – periods of dullness – perils of strafing – sports – hobbies – parties – leaves in London, Scotland – Flak Home – Me109s – Fw190s – Me262s – Me163s are there to be relived along with the lack of glory in war and the little time for mourning.

Richard and Janet Fogg have provided well chosen information connecting the individual pilot’s activities and those of the Group to the overall war effort. References to military terms are explained and timely news items are mentioned regarding the progress of the war around the world. Howard’s lifelong love affair with trains and his art work combine for a very successful career as a railroad artist and we enjoy some examples of his beautiful watercolors and oils in the appendix.

~ Rene Burtner, 369th Fighter Squadron Leader, 359th Fighter Group

On August 2, 1944, Lt. Rene L. Burtner Jr. was one of five replacement pilots assigned to the 369th Fighter Squadron, 359th Fighter Group. On his fifth mission he was shot down while strafing the St. Dizier Airfield after a bomber escort mission. He was able to evade and escape capture, and returned to Wretham on September 1, 1944. He continued flying until April 17, 1945. Photo courtesy of Anthony C. Chardella: Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association.