No time to blog – gotta work on the SBD!

The Dauntless is due aboard the Hornet on Wednesday, and here’s it’s current state:

This is after decals and a watercolor wash of Payne’s gray. I have my to-do list ready; next comes the gear and the canopies, followed by the flaps (ugh!) and the many little things that go into final assembly. The race to the finish is on…

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Shrinking Free Time, Growing Modeling Aftermarket

Last week, at a conference called DemandCon I was attending for my real job, I had a chance to see and speak to Adrian Ott, author of the 24-Hour Customer. She lays out the proposition that time is not money, as has long been said, but that there is a money value to time. Time is the one thing we can’t generate more of, and as a result people are willing to pay for things that conserve this most valuable resource.

Some of her statistics are pretty revealing. The average person spends less time shopping today, but faces more choices. The average person spends just six minutes shopping on an on-line site. The average person spends 28.8 minutes a day – or less than three percent of their waking time – in the act of shopping, and that includes shopping for staples like groceries.

Part of her focus is on the idea of competing better in the “attention economy,” that limited amount of time we have to devote to the many things competing for attention in our lives. To do that, she suggests that consumers are willing to trade time for value. Certain things, like Facebook or computer games, are obvious examples of that: people trade their time in exchange for what they get out of the use of those products, which to them is considerable if you look at the amount of time spent on them.

I think the same can be said for scale modeling – people are willing to trade time for value. But not an unlimited amount of time – a truly horrible kit that demands a lot of extra work doesn’t deliver a fair trade of value for time, and most people will shy away from it, quite understandably.

When I talked to Adrian briefly about aftermarket companies, like Obscureco, I occurred to me that they are playing right into the phenomena she is describing, but in an even more complete way. People want value – which is why they’ll pay for well-designed and well-detailed parts. They also want to save time, their least plentiful resource. Thus, aftermarket products are right in line with these trends: to get value and save time, people are willing to spend money.

That’s why I use them (and I do – in the SBD build I have bits and pieces from four aftermarket outfits in the cockpit, and I’d never be close to completion had I opted to make these parts on my own). It’s not that I don’t like scratch-building – after all, I make the masters for Obscureco products all the time. It’s that time is my most limited resource and anything I can do to save it is worth the money.

There’s a vocal minority out there who decry the aftermarket, and contend that there is virtue in building your own detail with sheet styrene, wire and lead foil. The aftermarket is for slackers, they say, and they can do it just as well and much more cheaply on their own. Perhaps they can. But their take on the equation is different than it is for most people. For them, time is of lesser value than personal satisfaction. If you yank the time savings aspect out, and if you think you can do as well or better at capturing the details as the aftermarket patternmakers, the entire time savings + value = money equation falls apart.

But not many of us operate without some time constraints, and most of us want to finish some models from time to time, and to a high standard of detail – and many of us don’t want to trade time to reach the level of accomplishment of the aftermarket patternmakers. So, as demands on our time grow, I suspect the aftermarket will grow as well.

This day in 1944: Yoxford Boys go back to Berlin

On May 19, the 357th Fighter Group was back over Berlin. Blue Flight of the 363rd had just made rendezvous with the bombers when they saw 100 German fighters headed for their charges. “Part of the squadron went for the main bunch, but I saw three slightly higher than I was, so I climbed after them in a Lufbery,” said Lt. Charles Peters. “I was out-turning and out-climbing them up to 31,000 feet. I fired at the last man and saw a strike on his canopy. The ship rolled over and went straight down. I continued turning with the other two until the last man broke away to the left and I followed him down to 12,000 feet. He finally leveled out and I got in a good burst with strikes at the wing roots. He broke hard to the left and then blew up. The pilot was thrown out and his chute opened.”

Lt. Robert Foy destroyed one Bf 109, then closed in in two more. When these aircraft spotted him, they “immediately pulled into a sharp turn to the left,” Foy reported. “The lead ship of this two-ship formation collided with the outside 109 attempting a head-on pass. The wing of this ship struck squarely in the propeller of the (other) and was shorn off at the fuselage. The ship burst into flames and I saw no chute. The (other) enemy aircraft lost its prop and the engine nacelle seemed to be crushed and the 109 started into what might be described as an irregular spin.” Foy was credited with three Bf 109s destroyed.

Maj. Irwin Dregne was leading the 364th when he spotted the same huge formation, but it was scattered before he could reach them. “I started after a Bf 109 and he split-S’ed for the deck,” Dregne said. “I dove after him. At about 14,000 feet the Bf 109 was in a vertical dive and started rolling. He went into a tight spiral and then started spinning. I followed him down waiting for him to recover. At 5000 feet his canopy came off and I saw the pilot jump. I saw the plane crash but I never saw the parachute open. I never was closer than 1000 yards to the Bf 109 and did not fire my guns.”

Capt. John Storch picked out a straggler who dived for safety. “I followed him and he began to take evasive action, skidding and slipping and half-rolling. When he reached about 13,000 feet he suddenly began to spin. I followed him on down and pulled out of my dive when I could see from the way he was spinning that he would be unable to recover. I watched the Bf 109 spin into the ground and explode. I did not observe any chute. From the way in which the enemy aircraft was spinning I believe the pilot must have in some way damaged his plane by taking such violent evasive action at excessive speeds, as we were both probably indicating about 500 mph.”

Meanwhile, Lt. Leroy Ruder spotted German fighters at higher altitude than the first group diving for the bombers. “After a few minutes, I was in position to fire on an Fw 190,” he reported. “I closed to about 300 yards and opened fire, observing numerous strikes on the fuselage and wings. The enemy aircraft completed a couple of rolls and tight turns. Finally, he straightened out long enough for me to fire a few more bursts from about 250 yards. At the time, we were going at a great speed, with my aircraft nearly out of control. As I fired my last burst, the enemy aircraft started into another roll, with pieces flying from it. Suddenly, the enemy aircraft fell apart. Large sections of the fuselage and tail assembly ripped off and the enemy aircraft tumbled toward the ground, end over end. I broke off my attack at 10,000 feet and climbed back up to locate my flight.” Additional victories were claimed by Capts. Fletcher Adams and Ed Hiro, and Lt. Arval Roberson. In all, the group scored 10 kills, and lost no Mustangs.

This day in 1944: the 4th and 357th FGs in Action Over Brux

On 12 May, the First Air Task Force received an escort to Brux. Lt. William Reese of the 357th Fighter Group was flying on Capt. John Carder’s wing when he spotted two Bf 109s coming in on Carder’s tail. “I called (Carder) to break right,” said Reese. “We came around on the two enemy aircraft’s tails. I followed the enemy aircraft from 8000 feet to the deck, firing short bursts at 400 yards and was unable to close. Finally after a 10-minute chase I observed strikes on the enemy aircraft’s engine and it began to smoke. I then closed to within 100 yards and observed strikes all over the enemy aircraft.”

“At this time, Capt. Carder passed over me from my right to the left and this was the last I saw of him.” Suffering from a balky engine, Carder bellied in and the 7-victory ace became a POW.

During the run in to the target, eight Bf 109s from JG.27 tried to attack the bombers, and three of them were destroyed by Lts. Ralph Hofer, Joseph Pierce and Grover Siems and Capt. Howard Hively. In another attack, Lt. Thomas McDill and Maj. James Goodson each bagged a Bf 109, and four pilots later combined for six more victories. George Stanford was among the last group of victors. “At 10,000 feet, we spotted three Bf 109s below us and went down to attack them from the rear. I picked the one in the middle, and he broke right and down onto the deck. I fired at him continually, starting at about 350 yards. I observed only one group of hits on his starboard wing. For some reason, however, he seemed to think his jig was up, for he pulled up in a steep climb, started to roll over, and jettisoned his canopy.”

Lt. Eliot Shapleigh dove for the same three Bf 109s, his section weaving to lose speed so as not to overshoot. “I opened fire, getting strikes on the wings and fuselage,” he said. “I pulled up as the enemy aircraft went into the deck and exploded.” At that point Shapleigh made a starboard turn and found himself on the tail of Stanford’s Bf 109. Shapleigh opened fire, and the Bf 109 completed his roll and went into the ground on its back.

Lost during the mission was Lt. Roger A. Hilsted, who was shot down by a German fighter. In exchange, the group accounted for 14 enemy aircraft. Lt. Thomas Norris shot down one and shared a second with Lt. Aubrey Hood, while single kills went to Maj. Irwin Dregne, Capts. Maurice Baker, “Bud” Anderson, Paul DeVries and William O’Brien and Lts. Joseph Pierce, Thomas McKinney, Richard Smith and Robert Smith. Shares of victories went to Capts. John Storch, Richard Peterson and Fletcher Adams and Lt. Arval Roberson.

Elsewhere above the bomber stream, the 4th Fighter Group was in action as well. Lt. Ted Lines and his wingman spotted a pair of Bf 109s and the two dropped their tanks to pursue. “They split up and headed for the deck,” said Lines. He saw his wingman destroy one Bf 109, “and just then the other Bf 109 cut right in front of me. I got on his tail and started firing. I followed the enemy aircraft for about 20 miles, and he led me into a flak area. By that time, I was out to get him. I cleared my tail and just as I faced forward I saw this Bf 109 hit the ground and blow up.” Other German fighters fell to Capt. James Happel and Lt. Robert Homuth.

During the run in to the target, eight Bf 109s from JG.27 tried to attack the bombers, and three of them were destroyed by Lts. Ralph Hofer, Joseph Pierce and Grover Siems and Capt. Howard Hively. In another attack, Lt. Thomas McDill and Maj. James Goodson each bagged a Bf 109, and four pilots later combined for six more victories. George Stanford was among the last group of victors. “At 10,000 feet, we spotted three Bf 109s below us and went down to attack them from the rear. I picked the one in the middle, and he broke right and down onto the deck. I fired at him continually, starting at about 350 yards. I observed only one group of hits on his starboard wing. For some reason, however, he seemed to think his jig was up, for he pulled up in a steep climb, started to roll over, and jettisoned his canopy.”

Lt. Eliot Shapleigh dove for the same three Bf 109s, his section weaving to lose speed so as not to overshoot. “I opened fire, getting strikes on the wings and fuselage,” he said. “I pulled up as the enemy aircraft went into the deck and exploded.” At that point Shapleigh made a starboard turn and found himself on the tail of Stanford’s Bf 109. Shapleigh opened fire, and the Bf 109 completed his roll and went into the ground on its back.

On 12 May, the First Air Task Force received an escort to Brux. Lt. William Reese of the 357th Fighter Group was flying on Capt. John Carder’s wing when he spotted two Bf 109s coming in on Carder’s tail. “I called (Carder) to break right,” said Reese. “We came around on the two enemy aircraft’s tails. I followed the enemy aircraft from 8000 feet to the deck, firing short bursts at 400 yards and was unable to close. Finally after a 10-minute chase I observed strikes on the enemy aircraft’s engine and it began to smoke. I then closed to within 100 yards and observed strikes all over the enemy aircraft.”

“At this time, Capt. Carder passed over me from my right to the left and this was the last I saw of him.” Suffering from a balky engine, Carder bellied in and the 7-victory ace became a POW.

During the run in to the target, eight Bf 109s from JG.27 tried to attack the bombers, and three of them were destroyed by Lts. Ralph Hofer, Pierce and Siems and Capt. Hively. In another attack, Lt. McDill and Maj. Goodson each bagged a Bf 109, and four pilots later combined for six more victories. George Stanford was among the last group of victors. “At 10,000 feet, we spotted three Bf 109s below us and went down to attack them from the rear. I picked the one in the middle, and he broke right and down onto the deck. I fired at him continually, starting at about 350 yards. I observed only one group of hits on his starboard wing. For some reason, however, he seemed to think his jig was up, for he pulled up in a steep climb, started to roll over, and jettisoned his canopy.”

Shapleigh dove for the same three Bf 109s, his section weaving to lose speed so as not to overshoot. “I opened fire, getting strikes on the wings and fuselage,” he said. “I pulled up as the enemy aircraft went into the deck and exploded.” At that point Shapleigh made a starboard turn and found himself on the tail of Stanford’s Bf 109. Shapleigh opened fire, and the Bf 109 completed his roll and went into the ground on its back.

Lt. Ted Lines and his wingman spotted a pair of Bf 109s and the two dropped their tanks to pursue. “They split up and headed for the deck,” said Lines. He saw his wingman destroy one Bf 109, “and just then the other Bf 109 cut right in front of me. I got on his tail and started firing. I followed the enemy aircraft for about 20 miles, and he led me into a flak area. By that time, I was out to get him. I cleared my tail and just as I faced forward I saw this Bf 109 hit the ground and blow up.” Other German fighters fell to Capt. James Happel and Lt. Robert Homuth.

Also lost during the mission was Lt. Roger A. Hilsted, who was shot down by a German fighter. In exchange, the group accounted for 14 enemy aircraft. Lt. Thomas Norris shot down one and shared a second with Lt. Aubrey Hood, while single kills went to Maj. Dregne, Reese, Capts. Maurice Baker, “Bud” Anderson, Paul DeVries and William O’Brien and Lts. Joseph Pierce, Thomas McKinney, Richard Smith and Robert Smith. Shares of victories went to Capts. John Storch, Richard Peterson and Fletcher Adams and Lt. Arval Roberson.

This day in 1944: The 379th FS loses Hugh Houghton, and Bob McKee makes a narrow escape

The 362nd Fighter Group paid a visit to the rail yards at Valenciennes on the morning of May 10, 1944, bringing along an ample supply of 500-pound bombs. The 378thwas led by Capt. Sherwin Desens, but his plane was hit by flak over St. Omer at 11,000 feet and his engine quit. He jettisoned the canopy, “getting a face full of oil in the process,” and he bailed out 3000 feet over the English Channel. When he hit the water, he quickly located his CO2 bottle and dinghy and inflated it. Seeing Spitfires overhead, he fired his flare pistol and they started circling him. Soon, he was rescued by an RAF Walrus flying boat and brought back to England. Capt. Thurman Morrison’s plane was hit by flak over Dunkirk and he was forced to return to base.

After that rough morning, the group executed an afternoon attack on the Champagne airfield near Reims using its own tactics and dropping a combination of 500-pounders, fragmentation bombs, smoke bombs and phosphorus incendiaries. The phosphorus bombs were impressive but they made it impossible to asses the damage to the target. The 379th flew as top cover, and after the other squadrons had bombed it dropped down to  strafe the remaining planes; Lt. Gordon Larsen damaged a Ju 88 and Lt. Madison Putnam damaged a Do 217 during their attacks. Capt. Hugh Houghton and Lt. Ken McCleary went down to strafe; “we started a left turn after strafing a hangar when I noticed a glow in Capt. Houghton’s cockpit, which I realized was a fire,” McCleary said. “His aircraft rolled into a vertical bank and slipped into the ground.” Lt. Gerald Major saw Houghton’s P-47D-16 42-75867 “Curtain Call” (B8*5) hit the ground with “a big flash, and it continued burning on the ground.”

Robert McKee was also in Houghton’s flight. As the shaken McCleary joined up with McKee’s wingman, “I remained on the deck in an attempt to avoid the continuing intense flak as I slowly began a turn to the northwest,” McKee later wrote. “About three miles from the airfield, I flew over a small hill and discovered a long train of boxcars moving northward, almost perpendicular to my course. I still had some ammunition remaining for my eight .50 caliber machine guns. With my gun switches and gun sight still on, I waited until I was 1000 feet from the train before I commenced firing from about 200 feet of altitude.

“Simultaneous with my opening fire, all side panels on each side of this train dropped open with their 20mm and 40mm antiaircraft guns firing on our three aircraft. Their opening salvo hit the leading edge of my right wing root and another round hit the right lower side of my engine. I continued spraying my gunfire at these boxcars while inbound, hoping to quiet them down somewhat. After passing over the train, I quickly managed to hide behind another low hill, still being fired upon but not hit. I soon noticed that I had lost some engine power and after getting out of the range of this train’s guns, I began a slow climb to a safe bailout altitude, if that became necessary.

“I eventually managed to level off at 1500 feet but was only able to maintain 155 mph maximum airspeed,” McKee wrote. “The remaining aircraft rejoined squadron formation and continued on without me. I flew on towards England alone with my canopy open, climbing to 2000 feet in case I had to make a quick exit.

“The slower airspeed extended my flight time home for rest of my return flight to England and caused me concern about my fuel supply. It was going to be close. It seemed to take forever, but eventually I had our home base in sight. As I made plans for a long straight-in approach to the runway, I descended to 1000 feet.

“Life is full of surprises and now I faced another one! The engine quit and I was still two miles from the runway. I tried switching fuel tanks with the help of the fuel booster, to no avail. Within a few seconds I was down to 500 feet and flying over many wooded sections of British countryside. I selected two small adjoining fields, about 45 degrees to my left. They were separated by a hedgerow that I hoped I would be able to plow through while making a belly landing into the first one. As I approached the field, I found that the approach side had a row of 70-foot trees that seemed to quickly loom up and above the nose of my aircraft.”

McKee recalled a conversation he had with a civilian instructor many years before involving a pilot intentionally cartwheeling a plane to avoid an obstacle like a fence, with the thinking being that the impact would be distributed around the pilot. Because the P-47 was just above stall speed, McKee knew that if he pulled to miss the fence he’d stall and crash. “Without hesitation, I moved my flight control stick to the left, dipping my left wing about 45 degrees. I then crossed both arms in front of my head and held tightly to the top of the instrument panel. I heard the crunching of tree branches as I felt the sudden deceleration of the aircraft. I sneaked a peek to my left and saw the left wing fold up and inwards as it impacted the ground. I felt the engine’s ground impact force, which threw my head against the right side of the canopy. At this point I closed my eyes and held on tight, feeling a lot of tumbling going on.”

The plane did not catch fire; when McKee opened his eyes, he saw no flames but instead “saw blood everywhere,” he wrote. “It seems that, when I hit my head against the canopy, I had received a long cut above the right eye that had spurted blood around as I turned my head to look about. I tried to slide the canopy open, but found it to be jammed by the fuselage’s twisted metal and would only open about six inches. I almost panicked at this point because I could also see that a lot of red hydraulic fluid had splashed throughout the cockpit and, being concerned that I was going to lose consciousness due to loss of blood, I was afraid of fire erupting before I could get out. I grabbed the control stick with both hands and, squeezing it hard, said aloud to myself, ‘now, hold onto yourself, Mac!’”

Five British antiaircraft gunners raced to the scene and extricated McKee from his smashed Thunderbolt. He suffered the gash on his eyebrow and a broken ankle, probably caused the by the rudder pedal when the tail of his plane was torn off.

Lt. Gerald Majors’ plane was also hit by flak, but he was able to nurse the plane home. On return to base, one of the 378th’s planes had a hung fragmentation bomb, which detonated on landing. The pilot escaped but the plane was a write-off, and it blocked the runway; only Col. Morton Magoffin was able to land. The rest of the squadron flew to Woodchurch, where Lt. John R. Lovett’s hung-up smoke bomb detonated, flipping the P-47D 42-75246 on its back and inflicting a broken back and cuts on Lovett’s face, under his arms and on his legs. Even so, once the fire-fighting crew jacked the plane enough to allow him out of the cockpit, his first request was for a cigar. Lovett was evacuated to the U.S. for recuperation from his injuries. Lt. Robert Kennedy was unhurt when his plane, P-47D 42-22773, crashed at Headcorn on his return from the continent; Lt. Joseph Lane of the 377thbanged up P-47D 42-76442 in a ground loop on his arrival.

This day in 1944: A tough show for the 4th Fighter Group

On 9 May, 1944, a sweep by the Fourth Fighter Group to the aerodrome at St. Dizier destroyed only one plane in return for four Mustangs and their pilots. “We came over the field in a dive from 200 feet down,” said Lt. Frank Speer. “I believe Lt. (Herbert) Blanchfield was shooting at a flak tower, as was his No. 2. As we passed the field, I saw his streaming white smoke as he pulled up to about 3000 feet, very slowly, on a course of 240 degrees from the field. His jacket was covered in oil, which also covered the side of the plane. He seemed to have lost both oil and glycol, and the engine was detonating violently.

“Blanchfield climbed out of the cockpit as the plane rolled in a half roll to the left. When he left the plane, it was going about 150 mph, and his chute opened almost immediately. He landed in a small woods. His plane immediately burst into flames and burned furiously about a half a mile from where he landed.”

Blanchfield ran from the woods and eventually encountered a farmer, who put him in contact with a man who hid downed allied flyers. A few days, the Gestapo discovered his hiding spot. He spent five months in the hands of the Gestapo, then was shipped to Stalag Luft 1.

Also shot down by flak on this mission were Lt. Vernon Burroughs and Lt. Lloyd Waterman. Lt. Robert S. Sherman struck the ground with his prop and ended up bellying in. All three became POWs.