Next Fighter Pilot Symposium: June 2 at the Hiller Museum

The Northern California Friends of the Aces (NCF) has announced its next – and possibly final –  symposium of American Fighter Pilot Aces, entitled simply “WWII USAAF Aces.”

On the docket to speak at this event are:

* MAJ Bill Allen  –  5 aerial victories, flying the P-51 (also flew combat in the P-38) withe the 343rd FS, 55th FG;

* COL Abner Aust – 5 aerial victories, flying the P-51 (the last pilot to achieve “ace” in WWII) with the 457th FS, 506th FG

* LT COL Frank Hurlbut – 9 aerial victories, flying the P-38 in the MTO with the 82nd FG

* MAJ Ralph Wandrey – 6 victories, flying the P-38 (flew many missions with Dick Bong) with the 9th FS, 49th FG

The event is June 2 at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California (601 Skyway Road, right out by the airport off Highway 101). The price is $30; I strongly suggest you reserve your space early by sending a check and the names of the folks in your party to:

Northern California Friends

PO Box 5943

Concord, CA 94524

These events are always interesting, and they represent your last chance to meet these aviators in person. Phil Schasker, the president of the NCF, says that it’s harder to get a quartet of aces to speak at these events, just because health and age work against such events. Once the pilots are there, though, the talk is vivid and animated; when you get four pilots speaking of events 70 years ago, they often jog each other’s memories and new stories untold for years come out.

Is anybody interested in staging a model display for this event? Let me know and I can coordinate it with the NCF!

Next Northern California Friends of the Aces Event: May 29 in Vacaville

The next Northern California Friends of the Aces event will be a bit of a grab bag of experiences and theatres, but the people tentatively scheduled to speak are well worth hearing. The lineup for the event scheduled for May 29 at the Vacaville Performing Arts Theatre is:

Lt. Col. John Bolyard

Cdr. Clarence “Spike” Borley

Cdr. Lester Gray

Gen. F. Mike Rogers

Bolyard scored five victories flying with the 23rd Fighter Group in China, and he did so in the P-4oN and P-51 flying under the Command of “Tex” Hill. Borley flew Hellcats with VF-15 aboard Essex, and scored four kills in one mission, which concluded with his being rescued by a submarine. Gray scored his 5 kills flying the Hellcat and the Corsair from Intrepid with VF-10. Mike Rogers was a member of the Pioneer Mustang Group, the 354th Fighter Group, and downed 7 enemy planes. We modelers know him as the pilot of the P-51B “Beantown Banshee.”

The event’s only $25 – which is really a bargain, considering that the Friends of the Aces pays to transport and lodge these guests. I strongly encourage you to attend if you can – if you like history, airplanes, pilots and pilots flying airplanes who made history, these events should be marked in red on your calendar!

More information can be found at the Northern California Friends of the Aces website.

Next Aces Symposium: May 23 in Belmont

The next Fighter Aces Symposium being held by the Northern California Friends of the Aces will be on May 23 at the Hiller Museum in Belmont, California. This time, the theme will be “Aces with Wings of Gold,” although it could also be “Hellcats Against the Rising Sun.” The scheduled aces on the panel are:

CDR Clarence “Spike” Borley, VF-15 (5 victories)

LCDR Fred “Buck” Dungan, VF(N)-76 (7 victories)

CDR Ralph Foltz, VF-15 (5 victories)

CDR Chuck Haverland, VF-20 (6.5 victories)

After the aces speak about their exploits, there will be an autograph session. Even the folks in the audience tend to be fairly interesting people!

As always, if you want more details on the event, e-mail the NCFA at

Mustang Aces Speak February 21

I just got the flyer for the next Northern California Friends of the Aces event, which is coming up very shortly – February 21. Whether I go may be the subject of some negotiation, since the IPMS/Santa Rosa contest is the day before in Petaluma and I am under orders not to turn entire weekends into all-airplane events.

Anyway, the guests at this Mustang Aces symposium are very interesting. They include:

Maj. Charles Hauver – 5 kills, with the 355th FG
Lt.Gen. George Loving, 5 kills with the 31st FG and author of the book Woodbine Red Leader , which I wrote about here.
Maj. Fred Ohr – 6 kills with the 52nd FG (and the only Korean-American ace!)
Capt. David Wilhelm – 5 kills with the 31st FG

There’s a big 15th Air Force presence here and a story you don’t hear nearly as often as the Eighth Air Force tales. The Mediterranean gets very little attention, even today.

The event’s at the Vacaville Performing Arts Theater, so I doubt we’ll do a model display. These events are always inspirational and give you a direct connection to history, and the organization always does a first-class job of presenting them. To get more information of the event, call (408) 725-8095 or e-mail

Navy aces in Belmont, July 19

The next Northern California Friends of the Aces event is on July 19; Phil Schasker gave me the flyer a week ago, but I’ve been so busy I failed to get the news up here until now. Anyhow, that event will again be at the Hiller Museum in San Carlos, and this time the theme is Navy and Marine Corps aces. The panelists this time will be:

Col. Dean Caswell – 7 victory Ace with VMF-221 in the F4U Corsair
Capt. Bob Coats – 9 victory Ace with VF-18, VF-17 in the F6F Hellcat
LCdr. Jim Duffy- 5 victory Ace with VF-15 in the F6F Hellcat
Capt. Sheldon Hall – 6 victory Ace with VMF-213 in the F4U Corsair
Ens. Don McPherson – 5 victory Ace with VF-83 in the F6F Hellcat

I don’t know if we’ll do a model display – I’ll poke around and see who in the region would be interested in such a thing. It would be neat to have a few Hellcats, Corsairs and maybe a Zero or two on display to show off the hardware these brave aviators worked with and against!

If you want to go to the symposium, I’d drop the Northern California Friends of the Aces a note at They’ll happily give you all the details!

Models keep coming up aces…

Last weekend was the P-47 Fighter Aces Symposium at the Hiller Aviation Museum, featuring four aces – Richard Fleischer of the 348th FG, Frank McCauley and Les Smith of the 56th FG, and David Thwaites of the 356th FG. It was an entertaining afternoon, and perhaps this nugget was the most interesting to come out of it: McCauley and Smith had been assigned the same flight and had flown many missions together, but this even was the first time they’d seen each other since 1944!

Unfortunately, we didn’t stage a model display at this symposium; I didn’t hear back from anyone about it, and so I decided to take this one off and go simply as a spectator. However, a couple people at the event asked me about the model display, since they’d enjoyed seeing it in the past, which is nifty incentive to work up a display for the next event, featuring Navy and Marine aces, on July 19 at the Hiller Museum (I’ll have names when they become available to me). I’d try to knock out a Corsair between now and then, but that would probably result in an extra-bent bent-winged bird, so I’ll fall back on my Alex Vraciu Hellcat instead!

That got me to thinking about the ace machines I have in my collection of built-ups. I’ve always tried to shy away from the over-done aircraft and leaned toward the “rank and file,” but I do have a big splash of aces in the case. To wit:

It’s pretty obvious why the aces command so much attention from modelers – they grabbed fame while flying and still command attention today, so people want to build their aircraft. Decal manufacturers respond to demand, so the aces are disproportionately represented in decal form. So that cycle continues. And, of course, a single-engine plane’s a quicker build than a multi-engine bomber or even a multi-place attack plane, so more fighters get built than any other type.
Here’s what the build queue at the workshop looks like right now:

  • Martin 167 Maryland (this week’s subject for work)
  • P-40E Warhawk
  • P-51D-5 Mustang
  • P-47D Thunderbolt
  • Fairey Firefly V

Of those, two are ace machines – the P-40E of Jim Morehead and (oddly enough) the Maryland of Adrian Warburton. So the pattern continues!

What proportion of aces ends up in your collection? And is it because the decals available happen to be aces, or do you seek out ace subjects for your models? I’d be interested to know.

Thanks for boxes, aces and friends

John McCain can go pound sand – I am clearly more of a maverick. Who else wears neckties to every model contest? Who else listens to with one earphone just to hear the crazy stereo separation on Beatles songs (“Hello Goodbye” is really sparse in just the left channel…)? And who else has a column about what he’s grateful for a week after Thanksgiving? Am I out of control or what?

Let me calm down. Okay. Whew.

I just wanted to express my belated thanks to Randy Ray. Randy was laid off about three weeks ago, and since I subscribe to the concept that idle hands are the devil’s playthings (the devil clearly needs a hobby), I asked Randy to pick up some boxes for Obscureco purposes. Being gainfully employed in San Francisco makes it a bee-yatch for me to get to my suppliers in San Jose, but Randy made the rounds and delivered the boxes during his between-work time. If you got an Obscureco item in the last couple of weeks, you should thank Randy, too. Thanks, Randy!

I’m also pleased to say that Phil Schasker of the Northern California Friends of the Aces and I had a chance to talk about the missed communication at the last aces event. Phil’s computer went kerplunk just as I started e-mailing him about the event, so he wasn’t ignoring me – his roasted motherboard was. I look forward to the next event and the next model I’ll not finish in time for a display. I’m thinking P-38 here. Actually, I’m inclined to do an F-5 more than a P-38 right now – unless Academy surprises me with a P-38F (new booms, people! C’mon!). If I had an F available, I’d like to Besby Holmes’ Yamamoto mission plane.

That’s for the future, though. Here’s a status report on what’s in the queue:

F-4B Phantom II (Bill Freckleton/Garry Weigand, VF-111): awaiting decals.
P-47D (Ray Murphy, 379th FS/362nd FG): Awaiting paint and an engine.
P-51D-5 (Bart Tenore, 354th FG): Awaits paint.
Martin 167 Maryland (Adrian Warburton, Malta): Needs to have the wings stuck on.
P-40E (Jim Morehead, 49th FG): Needs to have the fuselage sealed up.
Firefly V (no scheme selected): Needs to have anything done to it at all.

The thing I’m discovering is that I am mostly motivated to build by the story of the people who built the planes – a model of some generic aircraft, no matter how graceful or colorful it is doesn’t hold the same allure. This may make it tough when I go to build a TS-11 Iskra or some other more exotic and utilitarian plane, or an airliner; it may be hard to isolate a story out of those subjects.

Photos next time…