August - Contrails.us
© copyright 1999, Oklahoma Wing, Commemorative Air Force - Col Rich Lindsey, editor
Commemorative Air Force
Col. Kathi Mersman
cellular: 226-5873 fax: 376-2447
E-mail: [email protected]
Col Mark Howard
Mobile: 659-8988 eMail: [email protected]
Col Linda Robertson
E-mail: [email protected]
Adjutant/Personnel Off: Home
Col Larry Hardin
E-mail: [email protected]
Col. Tom Rush
E-mail: [email protected]
VOL. 24 No 8
OKLAHOMA WING CALENDAR
Please Note: All OKW General Meetings are regularly scheduled for the second Saturday of each month at 1030
hours. OKW Staff Meetings are regularly scheduled for the Thursday preceding the General Meeting each month at
1900 hours. All meetings will be held in the Headquarters hangar, unless otherwise specified. Work Parties are every
Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, from 1000 - 1700 hours.
OKLAHOMA WING CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Aug 6 - Final delivery of lumber to build the hangar loft arrived
Aug 7 - Wing staff meeting
Aug 9 - Wing general meeting & luncheon.
NOTE: Loft building crew will arrive at 0830; break for the
meeting/luncheon and report back to work on the loft.
Aug 23-24 - Airshow @ Jabara Arpt, Wichita KS. We need workers.
US Naval Air Museum, Pensacola, FL
Maintenance Officer: Mobile
Col. Arnold Angelici
Home- (405) 525-6595
Work- (405) 954-6025
E-mail: [email protected]
Col Linda Robertson - see Finance Officer above
Public Information Officer: Home
Col. Graham Robertson
e-mail: [email protected]
Col Rich Lindsey
E-mail: [email protected]
Col Hugh Langston 405-598-2542
E-Mail: [email protected]
Check us out at:
Brewster SB2A Buccaneer called the Bermuda by the Brits and the A-32 by the
US Army Air Corps. The Brewster Aeronautical Corp. operated from the 1930’s
until the end of WW II. Its story is a shameful page in the American industrial
history of WW II. Starting out as a builder of motor carriages Brewster’s aircraft
division was sold to a Jimmy Work, an aeronautical engineer in 1932 for $30.000.
During WW II it became obvious that the company was badly managed. Work
hired two salesmen in spite of the fact they had spent 2 yrs each in prison for
fraud and selling illicit arms to Bolivia. They also over promised production
capabilities. As WW II progressed, the quality of the Brewster work force proved
inferior in skills and motivation with illicit strikes. Outright sabotage was suspected.. Work was eventually sued for $10M for financial misdeeds and in May,
1942 the Navy finally seized the company. When they cancelled the contract for
The Commemorative Air Force is an educational organization dedicated to the preservation of the great
combat aircraft of WW II, and a portion of our military aviation heritage. 1939 - 1945
Col Rich Lindsey
It has been almost one
month since I announced
my planned departure
from the CAF at the end
of this year and I have received eMails and phone
calls of concern from good
friends, some not even in
the CAF. One of the main
questions seems to be
what will happen to the
newsletter. I have hopes
that someone will come
forward and pick up this job. The importance of a
Wing newsletter cannot be overstated. It is the glue
that holds any organization together. It is the only
practical way to disseminate news to an organization as widely spread out as our wing and to keep
the members informed of events in a timely manner.
If you ever even thought of taking over this rewarding job please don’t back away because you
think you have to turn out a 10 - 12 page newsletter every month like I do. If you have one or two
pages it is still a newsletter and can keep the
wheels turning. You don’t need to do anything
more than collect the columns from the staff members each month; put them together in a comprehensive manner. address them and mail them out.
The rest is all just “bells and whistles” and can be
done away with and not detract from the core
newsletter. Give it a try!
This month I am writing about an airplane that
generates a lot of intense discussion when its faults
are mentioned. It has strong detractors but it also
has strong defenders. I am referring to the Curtiss
SB2C Helldiver. The fact that the CAF operates
the only one presently airworthy might be seen by
some as heresy on the part of any CAF member
thought to be ‘bad-mouthing’ the “beast”. While
the gist of my story leans toward the SB2C as a
relative disappointment to the Navy, the airplane
did have its defenders and some redeeming qualities. Decide for yourself. Enjoy
Col Kathi Mersman
Hello from your Wing
I am sure by now you
have heard that Colonel
Rich Lindsey has decided
to retire from being our go
to guy with the Oklahoma
Wing, I know this was a
hard decision for him but I
sure understand. It takes
a lot to get the van and PX
ready for events that we
go to. I am hoping that
for 2009 we will have more volunteers that will
help with all that Rich and done for the wing. I will
so miss our newsletter that Rich has provided us for
so many years.
We have scheduled our August general lunch meeting for the Saturday 9th. I don’t know the menu yet.
We will come up with something @ the Staff meeting being on Thursday the 7th.
On August 23rd & 24th, we are going to be at the
Wichita Flight Festival @ Jabara Airport. We need
some workers for this event. Please contact myself
or Colonel Linda Robertson to sign up.
We were unable to attend Bethany 4th of July event
this year, do to some mechanical problems with the
van. Also we only had four (4) workers.
I am still working to get us in @ the Mustang Western Days. This will be a Friday evening and all day
on Saturday. Fun event and does not require any
out of town travel. I will update everyone at the
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Col Robert Goodhead,
Col. Rick Hudlow, Col Kathy Mizell, Col Robert
Prater, Col Graham Robertson, Col Christopher Sakal, Col Mark Stroud, and me!!!
Until Next Time “Keep your eyes in the sky”
As you may have noted there is a marked absence of staff reports in this months newsletter. Mark has been
at Oshkosh all week and passed on this month. Arnie e-mailed me that the airplane is in Tulsa so he has
nothing to report and I have not heard from Tom or Linda so I am going to have to fill this page somehow. I
think I found the way! Here is a Butler clan update.
Left - Left
Right - Left
wing August 2008
Left - Right
Right - Right
Above left - Butler T-28C April 2008
Above right - Butler T-28C August 2008. …... One picture = 1000 words!
Both airplanes will have all new glass and
both will be flying in no time. Obviously the
T-28C has a long way to go but you can see
from the dates on these photos that no one on
the team is letting grass grow between their
American airmen who flew and fought in hostile skies during WW II were equipped with some of the finest fighting aircraft ever developed anywhere in the world. For the most part our airmen enjoyed both quantity and quality in their machines. During the last months of peace before Pearl Harbor we in America
thought that our warplanes were the equal of anything any other nation had flying Unfortunately this was, at
least in part, untrue. There were some notable disappointments. Some of the less-than-successful aircraft we
flew were the P-39 Airacobra, doomed to failure in American hands when the decision was made not to
equip the plane with a supercharger thus severely limiting its performance, especially at altitude; the Vultee
SB2U Vindicator and A-35 Vengeance, the Brewster F2A Buffalo and Vought TBU-1 Sea Wolf. Another,
the Douglas TBD Devastator, the most advanced torpedo bomber in the world in 1937, was meat on the table to the Japanese fighters at Midway by 1942 and all 35 that were deployed there were shot down. There
are more examples but you get the picture!
One of the most controversial aircraft to see service was the
Curtiss SB2C Helldiver. Although the most widely produced
dive bomber in the Navy with some 7,140 ultimately being
built, it very often played a subordinate role to the airplane it
was supposed to replace; the Douglas SBD Dauntless. In fact,
the much maligned Curtiss SB2C Helldiver is one of the principal reasons for the demise of the once-mighty Curtiss Aircraft Company. This airplane was literally that companies
swan song. With 7,140 Helldivers built and following the company’s success with the P-40 and the C-46 Commando it
would be the first of many failures Curtiss management experienced which ultimately led to their downfall as serious aircraft
While the British Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm loved our airIn a Kodak moment - One of the most widely
circulated photos of a Helldiver has to be this
planes and accepted every Wildcat, Avenger, Hellcat and Corone taken from the wing mans plane as both
sair they could lay their hands on, they totally rejected the
’birds’ bank over their carrier.
Helldiver to the point of staying with their pre-WW II relic,
the biplane Fairy Swordfish. They described the Helldivers
handling characteristics as “simply appalling”. During the Helldivers development period some 880 design
changes were made in attempts to make the design acceptable. It also didn’t help matters when the airplane
suffered a whopping 40% weight increase between the first and the final production models. Even our own
carrier commanders mistrusted the airplane and one, the captain of the USS Yorktown (CV 10) actually recommended that the type be withdrawn from service and production halted. He watched them either crashing
In some less publicized Kodak moments too many Helldivers came back to their respective carriers in less than sterling condition but providing much more adrenalin burn for their crews.
as they came on board or breaking in half when the hook engaged sending the front half crashing into anything and everything in front of it. Captain Joseph “Jocko” Clark (born in Chelsea Oklahoma) just wanted
them off his ship. Some examples of comments made by those who struggled to make the airplane work
were: * weak structure *poor handling qualities *unacceptable level of stability *dangerous stall characteristics *severe buffeting in dives *sloppy aileron response *sudden violent changes in trim
*needs strong forces on the stick.
It was claimed that taxi-ing the airplane was an unpleasant experience with one early test pilot commenting that the cockpit layout showed no evidence of constructive planning while another put it more plainly
when he reported simply that the airplane had more bugs than an Oriental cat house.
Taken from a film strip these two shots
are interesting because in the frame on the
left the gunner can be seen sticking his
tongue out and grinning at the photographer
while the frame on the right shows a rarely
seen piece of artwork on a WW II Navy airplane.
The name Rugged is painted under artwork of a running Donald Duck. Rare
enough on a Navy fighter, this is almost unheard of on something like a Helldiver.
Nose art was just never big in the Navy.
One writer summed it up this way; “ Its production life had been plagued by innumerable problems, many
of which were inherent in its basic design and incapable of solution. Yet, despite manifestly inauspicious
characteristics, production persisted. There can be no doubt that the Helldiver had been committed to quantity manufacture before the true nature of the beast had been established and once the machinery for mass
production had begun to turn, none was willing to admit the mistake and bring it to a halt”.
Another was a little kinder and wrote “The Helldiver demonstrated how some products, having got off on
the wrong foot can have terrible problems getting back on the right one. It seems that in the end Curtiss
was able to produce a reasonably satisfactory aircraft, but in the absence of any great praise for the type, it
has never lived down its bad reputation”.
During testing the first prototype crashed twice. The first time was on February 8, 1941 when the plane
suffered an engine failure while on approach and the second on December 21, 1942 when it broke up in
mid-air with the pilot B.T. Hulse parachuting to safety.
The Helldiver entered production in 1940 and saw it’s first action on November 11, 1943 when they
launched from the USS Bunker Hill (CV 17). It’s shortfalls were immediately evident and it was found to
be a less stable dive bombing platform than the Dauntless, the plane it was supposed to replace. It had less
range than the Dauntless, suffered from an unreliable electrical system and often showed poor quality of
Amazingly; in spite of it’s poor handling qualities the crews that flew and maintained “the Beast” or
“Son of a Bitch 2nd Class” (SB2C) managed to run up some amazing results. One squadron, flying the
Helldiver, sank 2 Japanese cruisers and a destroyer in one raid and on another occasion this same squadron
sank 176,000 tons of Jap shipping in 36 hours while losing a single Helldiver to enemy action. In one unfortunate case the airplane suffered severe reputation damage through no fault of it’s own. This occurred
on a raid during the first battle of the Philippine Sea when only 4 of 52 Helldivers sent out to attack a target
some 300 miles away made it back to the fleet. All of these four crash landed back aboard their carriers. A
further four were shot down over the target area. Purely through poor tactics and no fault of the plane the
remaining 35 of them ran out of fuel on the way back and were forced to ditch. Thanks to an extremely ef-
ficient American air-sea rescue system some 86 of the 104 airmen aboard these 35 ditched aircraft were
picked up and survived. This did not matter to the surviving crews who were quick to point out that out of
all the SBD’s launched on this very same mission, only two were lost; one by enemy AA fire and the second which was damaged and crashed upon landing. These facts notwithstanding, the Philippine Sea battle
was the SBD’s last major wartime action as a carrier based airplane. In spite of all of it’s shortfalls it was
deemed impossible to prevent much less reverse the change over from the Dauntless to the Helldiver and
for better or for worse the SB2C wound up the only carrier-based dive bomber of the United States Navy
from 1944 until VJ-Day.
Unbelievable; the ungainly Helldiver emerged victorious in 44 air-to-air duels with Japanese aircraft. The
leading “ace” among Helldiver pilots was Navy Lieutenant Robert B. “Zekie” Parker who had three aerial
‘kills’ to his credit at the time of his death. He had been assigned to Navy Bombing Squadron VB-19 aboard
the USS Lexington (CV-16) during early fall of 1944. Sadly, on November 5, 1944, he was in the galley on
the Lexington’s island superstructure when a Japanese kamikaze struck at the base of the island. Bob Parker
and 6 other VB-19 pilots were killed and 5 more were wounded. Two enlisted gunners who flew in the
backs of the SB2C also gained some notoriety when they were each credited with 2 Japanese ‘kills’ apiece.
A total of only 17 SB2C’s were lost to enemy fighters during the course of the war. This gave the Helldiver
the unique distinction of being the worlds only dive bomber with a 2.6 to 1 ‘kill’ ratio; not too shabby for a
plane referred to derisively by its crews as “the beast”.
The US Army had expressed an interest in the Helldiver and some 900 were delivered to them as the A25A Shrike. As was the rule at the time there were several modifications to the type to suit the Army. These
included larger wheels and no arrester hook, non-folding wings and four .50 caliber machine guns in the
wings rather than two 20mm cannons as in the Navy version. The type never saw combat with the Army but
instead were used as trainers and target towing tugs. When the US Army decided that it did not need dive
bombers at all, 10 were given to Australia and another 410 were sent to the US Marines who operated them
as trainers under the designation SB2C-1A.
The SB2C also saw limited service with the air forces of France (48 delivered), Portugal (24 delivered),
Greece (49 delivered), Italy (42 delivered) and Thailand (6 delivered).
Of the country’s flying the Helldiver, the Greeks, with their
49 made heavy use of them and by all accounts the airplanes
gave a good showing. But it was the French who really
worked their 48 airplanes. They flew them constantly in Indochina (Vietnam) right up to the fall of Dien Bien Phu in
The end came for the Curtiss Aircraft Company shortly
after the close of the war. With the war over there were massive contract cancellations across the board and government
money was in short supply. Curtiss produced several designs
in a vain attempt to stay in business but everything they submitted, such as the XP-46, the P-60 and the XP-62 for the
Curtiss XP-87 Blackhawk - Clearly one of
Army Air Corps and the XF14C, the XBTC-2 and the
the cleanest designs to ever come off a Curtiss
XBT2C-1 for the Navy met with rejection. A faint glimmer
drawing board; only one was built. I doubt it ever of hope came when the Army Air Corp announced a contract
flew as information is scarce and there are no in- would be issued for a replacement to the Northrup P-61
flight photos that I know of at this time.
Black Widow. The Curtiss XP-87 Blackhawk was the company’s entry. It would be the first and only all-jet airplane
designed by Curtiss. It would also become the last airplane built by the Curtiss company. Mores the shame
as the airplane was, esthetically, a thing of beauty as far as its design was concerned. It was said that
Photo left - US
Naval Air Museum’s SB2C-5
Photo right - US
Naval Air Museum’s SB2C
right from the git-go the Army favored the Northrup entry, the XF -89 Scorpion. Northrup had gained much
engineering experience building night fighters with their excellent P-61 Black Widow and had a big lead
over the other contractors. It was also said that the Curtiss company was only allowed to enter the competition because the Army knew that if Curtiss did not come up with some kind of a revenue-generating project
they would go under. It was to be an ignominious end for a company that had been a household name in
aviation since the Wright Brothers.
Surviving Helldivers are rare with the Royal Thai Air Force having one, an SB2C-5 on display in their
museum at Don Muong AB, Bangkok, Thailand. A second SB2C-5 is on display at the Royal Hellanic Air
Force museum in Athens, Greece, with a third SB2C-5 (BuNo
89255) on display at a French airbase named Lann-Bihone. In
the states one is in the US Naval Air Museum at Pensacola,
Florida. It is reported that this museum is looking for a second
Helldiver for the collection, possibly because the one they
have is only on loan from the Smithsonian and it is reported
that the Smithsonian wants to display one as an Army Air
Corps A-25A Shrike. The Yanks Air museum at Chino, California has an SB2C-3 (BuNo 19075) undergoing restoration at
this time and Mike Rawson has a long-term restoration of an
SB2C-1 underway at the Wings of the North Air Museum at
the Anoka County airport, Blaire, Minnesota. Mikes restoration is actually no less than 3 aircraft he recovered from a
crash site at the bottom of Lake Washington (Washington
Mike Rawson’s 3 into 1 project SB2C-1 at
state???). Two of these are actually Army A-25A Shrikes
Wings of the North Air Museum. This is one of
the last photos posted on his web site and it is
that they gave to the Marines when the Army decided to get
dated around mid-2005. I am looking for more
out of the dive-bomber business and go with fightercurrent info on this airplane at this time.
bombers while the third is an actual Navy SB2C.
Today a single example of the more than 7,100 Helldivers built remains airworthy and this airplane, an
SB2C-5 (N92879) is operated by the West Texas Wing of the Commemorative Air Force. It saw service
with the US Navy and after passing through several hands was purchased by the CAF in 1970 for $25,000.
It flew the airshow circuit for the next 10 years. In September, 1982, the airplane suffered an engine failure
on take-off and the subsequent emergency landing resulted in extensive damage to the plane. After a
lengthy (and costly) restoration the “Big Tailed Beast” was back in the air on September 27, 1988. It has
been a star performer at airshows ever since.
Editors note: Thanks to our very own radio luminary, Dan Stroud, I was able to fill in some specific details in the writing of this
article. As he has many times in the past, he came up with photos and/or answers to all my inquiries. Thanx Danno!
The CAF’s SB2C-5 Helldiver BuNo83589
N92879 is seen here during three stages of its
life. Photo #1 was taken at Ed Malony’s Planes
of Fame museum in California early on. This
paint job was the original one the airplane flew
in during its WW II wartime service. Photo #2
was taken in 1984 at Nelson Ezell’s shops at
Breckenridge, TX when the airplane was being
rebuilt. Photo #3 shows the airplane today,
thrilling the crowd and somewhat intimidating
on-lookers by its mere physical size.
Photo left - This is the SB2C-3
BuNo19075 undergoing restoration at the Yanks Air Museum at
Chino California. The airplane
will be restored to fully flightcapable condition but in keeping
with past policy of never flying
their pristine restorations, it is
unlikely that this ‘bird’ will ever
take flight unless Yanks sells it
to someone at some later date
who would want to fly it.
Will the real Curtiss Helldiver please stand up. In one of WW II’s more ironic coincidences two different aviation
company's each designed and built a dive bomber for the Navy at the same time and both airplanes bore a striking resemblance to each other. The profile on the left, above, is of a Brewster SB2A Buccaneer while the profile above right is of
a Curtiss SB2C Helldiver. As unhappy as the Navy was with its Helldiver they favored it over its competitor, the Buccaneer. The Brewster was a terrible machine and of the 771 built, none saw combat with only 1 surviving today. Found
along with a second one in a swamp in Tullahoma, Tennessee in the mid-1970’s it resides at the Naval Air Museum at
Pensacola, FL. The Brits very briefly tested the airplane as the Brewster Bermuda and promptly gave them all back. The
US Army called it the A-34 Buccaneer. Those built mostly served as grounded instructional airframes at various technical schools. The aircraft was directly responsible for the collapse of the Brewster Aircraft Company in 1943.
One last reference to the Helldiver involves one of our own long time wing members, Col Bill Van Osdol.
After graduating college Bill served in the US Navy from Aug 15, 1945 until December 15, 1947. He
was assigned to the escort carrier USS Barnes (CVE-20). The Barnes was one of thirty-seven USS Bogue
class carriers of 7,800 tons with a flight deck of some 495’. The Barnes was laid down on January 19,
1942; launched on May 2, 1942; commissioned on February 20, 1943 and decommissioned on August 29,
1946 and soon thereafter, sold for scrap.
Twenty-six Bogue-class CVE’s were lend-leased to the British Royal Navy with the other 11 joining different units of the US Navy as replenishment carriers for the larger fast-attack Midway and Essex-class
flattops. The task of a replenishment carrier was to travel some 150 miles behind the fast-attack fleet and
serve as an escort for the otherwise vulnerable supply ships that kept the main battle groups going. To accomplish this the Barnes carried around 28 airplanes; mostly Avengers and Wildcats. It is not thought that
any Helldivers ever served operationally aboard a CVE. They were too big and not enough could be carried to be practical. When Barnes was utilized as a delivery ship for aircraft she could carry from 40 to 75
airplanes. These had to be crane loaded and unloaded but whole fighter wings could arrive at their destination on a single run.
Bill made at least three runs from the Pacific to the east coast via the Panama Canal delivering warplanes
back to America after the war ended. On one trip he recalls that some seven PBY Catalina's were aboard.
Another trip had a full deck of P-38 Lightning's and P-47 Thunderbolt’s.
The third trip was all Navy. Bill thinks that the airplanes on the last trip were off-loaded at Norfolk and the
Barnes continued on to New York for decommission.
USS Barnes CVE-20 - This undated photograph of
the Barnes shows her delivering a wartime deck load
of P-38 Lightning’s and P-47 Thunderbolt’s. I count
some 25 Lightning’s and 17 Thunderbolt’s utilizing
S1Y William Van Osdol (Captains Yeoman)
and a Helldiver aboard the USS Barnes (CVE20) enroute to Norfolk, VA. in April, 1946, over
62 yrs ago. Is this not a picture of a lean, mean,
American fighting machine?
More proof that
(left) and the
The Greek Civil War was fought between
1946-1949 when the internationally recognized Greek government returned from
exile in England and confronted Communist-backed military forces within Greece
with both sides struggled to fill the vacuum left by the withdrawal of German
forces from the country at the end of WW
II.. Receiving logistical support from first
the British and then the United States, the
Greek democratic forces prevailed, Communist forces were contained, and Greece
became a valuable NATO ally. This
SB2C-5 is on display in the Royal Hellanic Air Force Museum in Athens,
Greece. It was one of 49 given to Greece
during the civil war and saw action there.
The funding for this issue of the Oklahoma Wing newsletter is made possible
through the contribution of Col Kathi Mersman.
If you have any interest in working on the newsletter give us a call
COMMEMORATIVE AIR FORCE
P.O. BOX 42532
7100 NW63, PWA Hangar 301
Oklahoma City, OK 73123-3532