They actually dared to print it…!

Last Friday, I came home to a nice surprise: a single advance copy of my new book (seen here, in all its Amazon-based glory). The cover art, by Mark Postlethwait, is pictured above in its full form; it’s cropped a little horzontally to fit the book cover. Mark did a great job – it really has an illusion of motion to it. That’s Grover Siems shooting a Bf 109G off of Deacon Hively’s tail, by the way.

I have one copy so far, so please don’t feel bad you haven’t received one, if you’re one of the people who helped me out – I’ll be sending yours shortly, when I get a few more from Osprey.

Here’s what I think about the book: I like it a lot more than when I turned in the photos and manuscript! The design is very good, and there are a few extra photos plugged in that address specific incidents mentioned in the text ( a couple of which are “via Roger Freeman,” which are interesting since Roger’s died a little while ago and I have certainly not spoken to him since then). Chris Davey’s profiles are really nice; I compared them to profiles of some of the same planes that appeared in “P-51 Mustang Aces of the Eighth Air Force” and these are far superior in accuracy of markings and weathering. It’s impressive how much better the artists have gotten in the 15 years or so since Osprey started doing books of this ilk; you can thank the readers and their constructive criticism for that.

A couple of observations about this book:

1. There are a lot of dogs in the photos – Kidd Hofer’s Alsatian Duke is most prominent (he’s even labeled in a shot of personnel gathered at Debden, right next to Don Blakeslee), but there are others – Ken Peterson’s dog, Johnny Godfrey’s dog… The book is crawling with dogs.

2. There is no photo of “Shangri-La” after Don Gentile pranged it, but there’s a photo of it immediately before that mission, thanks to Wade Meyers.

3. There are a lot of photos of people who are mentioned in the text – which I think is a very good thing. It helps to humanize the stories, and I used a lot of contemporary accounts this time around, so putting a face with the words helps make things more involving.

It comes out for real on Nov. 18. Now, I just have to get the next book okay’ed by someone who doesn’t mind paying for it to be printed…

This day, in 1944…

The Fourth Fighter Group is not immediately associated with Operation Market-Garden, but U.S. airpower did play a role is that operation -and helped keep it from being a bigger fiasco than it was. On Sept. 17, 1944, group CO Col. Claiborne Kinnard led the group on a fighter sweep in advance of the paratroop landings at Eindhoven and Arnhem. A section of 335 Squadron was bounced by 15 Fw 190s near the sadly-Z-less town of Bucholt, resulting in a furball in which Ted Lines scored multiple victories. Lines, by the way, would be well known had he not been in the Fourth, with a spectacularly marked series of Mustangs with native American symbols splashed across the nose and a penchant for multiple kills under weird circumstances.

“My wingman hollered at me to break as I was trying to discard my right external wing tank,” reported Lines. “When I broke, I was head-on to five Fw 190s and immediately started firing, causing one Fw 190 to burst into flames. I turned starboard, still trying to drop my tank, as two Fw’s came under me, heading in the same direction as I was. I got on the tail of the one nearest me and started firing, and the pilot bailed out. At this point, a 190 closed on my tail and fired at me, hitting me in the tail and wing. My tank finally came off, and I was able to maneuver onto the tail of the 190 that had been firing at me. After three orbits, he broke for the deck with me right on his tail. I fired from 500 yards down to about 100 yards and saw strikes on his engine, canopy, fuselage, wings and tail. He burst into flames and went into the ground and exploded.”

Lines was not the only victorious pilot this day. Capt. Louis “Red Dog” Norley was leading his squadron when one section was bounced by 15 enemy aircraft. “Caboose Blue 3 called for a break, but it was too late,” Norley said. Lt. Vozzy’s Mustang was hit, burst into flames and crashed, killing the pilot. “The bandits had been flying at the base of a layer of haze and with their light gray color were very difficult to see.”

Norley dropped his tanks and broke to the right, into the enemy planes. “I met an aircraft head-on firing at me,” Norley said. “These were supposedly Bf 109s, and this one, with an inline engine, looked like an enemy aircraft. I fired a short burst at long range. I then noticed two Fw 190s on his tail, the closest one firing, and getting strikes as it became apparent that the plane I fired on was a P-51. I broke up, coming down on the tail of the Fw 190 as he broke off his attack and turned to port. I dropped 20 degrees of flaps and turned with him, the other 190 being attacked by my wingman. I fired. The 190 rolled and started to spilt-S, but leveled out and started to climb. I fired again with no results. He leveled off and did some skidding evasion efforts as I closed, firing and skidding past him. He dove to port, allowing me to drop back on his tail. I fired, getting many strikes on his wings and fuselage. He flicked over on his back. The canopy and some pieces flew off, and he went into a vertical dive, crashing into a farm yard where the plane blew up.” Lt. Davis also claimed Fw 190s, but Lt. Holske was shot down and captured.

More about the group’s combat will be available in my new book, coming out in about two months…!

Ouches, aces and housekeeping

Quite the weekend! On Saturday, I went to the gym and, in the process of making myself healthier, tore up my right shoulder. I apparently thought myself to be a quick healer because I didn’t stop and finished the whole workout. It still hurts a bit today, and although I just think it’s a muscle pull, it was bad enough that my wife said I was moaning in my sleep last night. I think I may have just been having a nightmare about a building a Merlin kit or something.

On Sunday we had the P-40 Aces Symposium up in Sacramento, and Mark Joyce led the way with five P-40s. Marty Sanford had his repossessed lend-lease P-40E and I brought a P-40L to make seven. When I arrived, the folks running the show at first said we couldn’t have a table, which was somewhat odd. Luckily, by now I know people at the museum, and Mark got a table and got the location for our display okay’d PDQ. We had no ace close encounters – this was an older-than-usual bunch and they weren’t really up for a lot of wandering around – but it was neat to meet Jim Morehead. Now I just have to build the man’s P-40, like I’ve been intending to do since May…

Monday was Labor Day and labor we did. Elizabeth and I cleaned the office/workshop – or at least my half was cleaned, while Elizabeth got a good start on her stuff. In the evening I had time enough to paint the black theatre stripes on my P-51D-5 and got its prop all finished up. I think I’m going to paint the props and wheels first from now on, and get the landing gear struts cleaned up right after that. That way, when I get to the end of the build and I’m excited to finish, some of the tedious small stuff will be done. Just an idea…

I also ordered the Xtrakits Canberra PR.9 and the Sea Vixen today, along with some True Details P-40 interiors (for the aforementioned Morehead P-40E). The CMK interior just doesn’t cut it compared to the True Deatils set, and the Eduard pre-painted parts just look weird to me. They just don’t seem to fit well with the rest of the model… They’re a little too stark when they’re larger parts (like entire sidewalls in the P-40’s case) and they don’t have the same feel as the rest of the model. Getting the model to look “unified” takes a real talent, and these parts may be print-quality accurate but they don’t feel right. It’s hard to explain – would someone care to take a crack at it in the comments?