Archive for the ‘Planes’ Category

Obit watch: August 21, 2015.

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Brigadier General Frederick Payne (USMC- ret.)

Gen. Payne was 104 when he died, and was the oldest surviving US fighter ace.

During two and a half weeks in 1942, from behind the guns of his Grumman F4F Wildcat flying over the Pacific near Guadalcanal, Mr. Payne, a major at the time, downed three Japanese bombers and two Zero fighters, having already shared credit with another pilot for bringing down an enemy bomber.

Gen. Payne received the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions.

With Mr. Payne’s death, there are 71 surviving aces, said Arthur Bednar, coordinator of the American Fighter Aces Association.
According to Mr. Bednar, only 1,450 American pilots qualified to be called ace, a distinction reserved for pilots who downed at least five enemy planes in aerial combat during World Wars I and II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam; in addition, six aces are recognized from the Russian Civil War, the Spanish Civil War, the Sino-Japanese War and the Arab-Israeli War. Mr. Payne was credited with five and a half kills.

Obit watch: March 31, 2015.

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Robert L. Hite passed away on Sunday.

Lt. Col. Hite was one of Doolittle’s Raiders. He was captured by the Japanese after his plane ran out of fuel and the crew bailed out over China.

Mr. Hite was imprisoned for 40 months, 38 of them in solitary confinement. His weight had dropped to 76 pounds from 180 when the war ended.

Obit watch: special Hellcats Over the Pacific edition.

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Alex Vraciu passed away on January 29th, though his death does not seem to have been widely reported until this weekend.

Mr. Vraciu shot down 19 Japanese planes in eight months, and destroyed another 21 planes on the ground.

Mr. Vraciu (which rhymes with cashew) accomplished his most spectacular feat in the South Pacific when he shot down six dive bombers within eight minutes in what became known as the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” in the Philippine Sea. He called it “a once-in-a-lifetime fighter pilot’s dream.”


Mr. Vraciu achieved his pace-setting six kills under harrowing conditions on June 19, 1944, as Japanese planes attacked a task force of American carriers and battleships. His plane’s folding wings were mistakenly unlocked, and a malfunctioning engine was spewing oil on his windshield and preventing him from climbing above 20,000 feet. Still, he downed the dive bombers firing only 360 of the 2,400 bullets in his arsenal.

A couple of random notes: November 14, 2014.

Friday, November 14th, 2014

When asked whether disparities in treatment were based on race, gender, rank or nepotism, officers overwhelmingly said they believed decisions about discipline revolved around an officer’s rank and whether he or she was well liked by their superiors in the department. Command-level officers routinely received slaps on the wrist or no punishment, while lower-ranking officers were suspended for similar misconduct, officers wrote.

From the LAT archives, some spectacular photos of firefighters responding to a DC-6 crash.

Former Seattle Sonic Robert Swift has been charged with a gun crime one month after police claim to have seized drugs, guns and a grenade launcher from the Kirkland home where he was living.

What I find interesting about this story is that, with the exception of the standard “junk on the bunk” photo, all the weapons photos are of guns “similar to one police say was seized from Bjorkstam’s Kirkland home”. No photos of the actual guns? Also, heroin dealing must not be that lucrative if all you can afford is a Taurus.

Administrative and other notes: November 5, 2014.

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Happy Guy Fawkes Day. While you’re out and about, please remember poor Guido, the last man to enter the Houses of Parliament with honorable intentions.

It seems kind of fitting that that the holiday falls today. Beyond that, I don’t have much to say about the elections for reasons of time and inclination. Battleswarm is a good place to go if you’re looking for that.

I will be updating the contact pages on this site, but I’m going to wait until after the runoffs are over, everyone is sworn in, and they actually have pages to link to. If this does get past me for some reason, please yell at me until it gets done.

I’m going to avoid my usual “what China needs” snark here, because this is a little scary: Brittney Griner attacked in China by a man with a knife.

Griner sustained a small cut when she was attacked by a man while boarding a bus after practice Monday in Shenyang. The man, who followed the players onto the bus, also stabbed one of Griner’s teammates. She was wearing two jackets and wasn’t injured because the knife didn’t go through.

How did Peter Siebold (the other Virgin Galactic pilot) survive a bailout from 50,000 feet without a pressure suit? Bonus: quotes from Bob Hoover. The Bill Weaver story is also touched on briefly: a fuller account can be found here.

Things may be slow from Thursday until Monday. We will see.

Obit watch: October 30, 2014.

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Col. Jack Broughton (USAF – ret.) passed away last Friday.

Col. Broughton was a former Thunderbird and wrote several books, including Thud Ridge and Going Downtown.

He is perhaps most famous for an incident that occurred during the Vietnam War. At the time, Col. Broughton was vice commander of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing. One of his pilots approached him after a raid and stated that he might have accidentally hit a Soviet ship with cannon fire while he was bombing Vietnamese anti-aircraft positions located nearby. The next day, the Soviets complained that one of their ships had been bombed; Col. Broughton, in an attempt to protect his pilots, ordered the gun camera film from their aircraft destroyed.

Col. Broughton and two of his pilots were court-martialled for allegedly bombing the Soviet ship. However, the gun camera film was the only evidence of what happened; since it had been destroyed, there wasn’t any evidence that the ship had actually been bombed, and Col. Broughton and the pilots were acquitted on that charge. Col. Broughton was, however, found guilty of “destruction of government property” (the gun camera film, with an estimated worth of $5). His conviction was later overturned due to “undue command influence”.

One observer on the Board for the Correction of Military Records called the court-martial ‘the grossest example of injustice in history.’ As Broughton himself wrote in his book, Going Downtown: The War Against Hanoi and Washington, ‘I found it interesting that in the entire history of the United States flying forces, only one other officer had ever had a general court-martial set aside and voided. His name was Billy Mitchell.’

Here’s a pretty good article reprinted from Vietnam magazine that covers the cases of Col. Broughton and Jack Lavelle. (I’ve also written about the Lavelle case; the linked article is from 1997, and doesn’t cover the more recent developments.)

Obit watch: September 11, 2014.

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Colonel Bernard F. Fisher (USAF – ret) passed away on August 16th, though his death does not appear to have been widely reported until today.

Col. Fisher (he was a major at the time) received the Medal of Honor for pulling off one of the greatest rescue missions in the history of the Vietnam War.

(I swear that I read this story in Reader’s Digest when I was a child, maybe as a “Drama In Real Life”.)

The paper of record does not seem to have deigned to note the passing of Richard “Jaws” Kiel, but the LATimes and the A/V Club have.

Edited to add: now the NYT gets around to it.

Random notes: July 30, 2014.

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Followup: longer, better NYT obit for Theodore Van Kirk.

One I should have noted yesterday: legendary University of Kentucky athlete Wah Wah Jones.

Jones is the only University of Kentucky athlete to have his number, 27, retired in two sports, football and basketball. He became known as Wah Wah because that was how his younger sister pronounced his given name, Wallace.


Jones lettered in four sports at Kentucky — he high-jumped in track — and was drafted by the Chicago Bears football team, and offered a contract by the Boston Braves baseball team. He was drafted in the first round by the Washington Capitols — a member of the Basketball Association of America, a forerunner of the National Basketball Association — and traded to Indianapolis, where the nascent N.B.A. was helping the Kentucky players invest in and start a new franchise.

Nearly every criminal case reviewed by the FBI and the Justice Department as part of a massive investigation started in 2012 of problems at the FBI lab has included flawed forensic testimony from the agency, government officials said.

Obit watch: July 29, 2014.

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

James Shigeta passed away yesterday. I wasn’t sure if I was going to note this, but the A/V Club ran an excellent obit for him that I believe deserves attention.

He was the lead in the film version of “Flower Drum Song”. If you look at his IMDB page, he had bit parts in basically everything during the 1970’s: the original “Mission: Impossible”, “Rockford”, “SWAT”, “Kung Fu”, “Emergency”, “Ironside”, the original “Hawaii 5-0″, etc.

He was perhaps best known (at least to my brother) as Joseph Takagi in the first “Die Hard”.

Also, the NYT is reporting the passing of Theodore VanKirk, the last surviving crew member of the Enola Gay.

Random notes: June 6, 2014.

Friday, June 6th, 2014

The NYT obit for Chester Nez clarifies a point I was confused on:

Mr. Nez was the last surviving member of the 29 original Navajo code talkers [emphasis added – DB], who at the urgent behest of the federal government devised an encrypted version of their language for wartime use. They and the hundreds of Navajos who followed them into battle used that code, with unparalleled success, throughout the Pacific theater.

About 400 Navajos followed the original 29 to war; of that later group, about 35 are still living, The Navajo Times, a tribal newspaper, reported this week.

This should not be taken as an attempt to diminish the accomplishments of Mr. Nez, the other 28 original code talkers, or the ones who followed the first 29; I’m just trying to make sure the historical record is clear. (I felt some of the other media coverage confused this point.)

This goes out to our great and good friend RoadRich: Whiskey 7 made it back to Normandy. Briefly: Whiskey 7 is a restored C-47 transport that originally dropped troops over Normandy. It was in a museum in New York, but was invited back to Normandy for the 70th anniversary. So a crew from the museum flew it across the Atlantic…

(One of these days, I want to ride in a C-47. Or a DC-3. I’m not picky.)

Fun feature piece by John Marchese in the NYT:

Maybe it was the 50th anniversary of “Hello, Dolly” having knocked the Beatles off the top of the pop charts (May 9, 1964), but it occurred to me recently that with a little advance work, I could spend an entire day in New York with Louis Armstrong.

Things I didn’t know:

Obit watch: May 9, 2014.

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Farley Mowat, perhaps most famous for his book Never Cry Wolf.

NYT obit for Bill Dana.

Obit watch: May 8, 2014.

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Bill Dana, legendary NASA test pilot.

Dana flew the sleek, black aircraft 16 times, reaching a top speed of 3,897 mph and a peak altitude of 306,900 feet. He started flying the aircraft in 1965 and was the last man to fly it in 1968.

That “sleek, black aircraft” was the X-15. Dana earned astronaut wings for two of his X-15 flights.

Over Dana’s 48-year career, he flew more than 8,000 hours in more than 60 aircraft, including helicopters and wingless experimental rocket planes.