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    WW2 U.S. Naval Aviation

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  1. Phil, I don't have a date, but without question, he is wearing an A-11. The chin strap on the A-16 is fleece covered and attaches differently (with a snap) than the one found on the A-11, which was lined leather and sewn to a D-ring on the wearer's right side, using a Bennett buckle on the left. The A-11 in the photo is an early model without the factory installed oxygen mask snaps. It has the web tabs found in the A-14 mask box, which were to be sewn on after issue. For your impression, one with factory oxygen mask snaps should be fine though. Regards, Paul
  2. Charlie, I don't recognize the pistol, but the plane is a late-war model Me-109. Regards, Paul
  3. mozinoz Good luck with your research. Let us know if you find anything that solves the mystery!
  4. The insignia as shown in the unit history and an original example in my collection that was removed from a flight jacket. The design is silk screened on the waterproof canvas used for engine and cockpit covers.
  5. No problem. It seems the time difference in our locations is a big factor. Anyway, from what I've read, the smaller three digit number (sometimes 4 digits) was applied at the factory and represented the number of that plane down the production line. In some cases, those numbers were allowed to stay on the nose of the planes after they reached a unit, while in other units, they were routinely removed. First image below is an example from the 392nd FS in the PTO, with nose markings similar to Bong's P-38, showing the smaller production number, covered by the larger depot number and the production number reapplied below that. I've no idea why they felt the need to reapply it since it had long left the factory. Second, a P-38 from the 38th FS in the ETO with just the "down the line" production number (4 digits) applied and no depot number, so no second application.
  6. Phil, Best of luck with your project, and happy to be of small help. It's funny, but when I thought of that photo as a reference for you, I too noticed a slight resemblance to your uncle Joe just from the crew photo. Best regards, Paul
  7. Phil, Way back in January of 2019, we discussed what Phil was wearing in your photo, and the use of the HBT coveralls, in your post on bomber crew uniforms: https://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/321436-b17-bomber-crew-flightsuit/ I seem to recall a discussion about the A-14 oxygen mask in another of your threads too. It sounds like your uncle Joe would have dressed in a similar, if not exact fashion to Phil, as I have outlined a bit here in this thread so far. From the photo you have, I can't say with certainty whether Joe is wearing HBT coveralls or an A-4 fight suit (either would be fine), but the flight jacket, cap and B-4 vest are unmistakable. The A-11 helmet (with earphones) sounds like what he would wear when flying, the B-1 cap in the photo probably only when on the ground, being more comfortable. If he used the F-1 electric suit, electric gloves and boot liners could also be worn. Those suits were prone to failure though, so A-9 gunner's mittens and B-6 boots were probably used at some point as well, or kept close at hand. Over all that would go the parachute harness, a QAC type, probably a "red group", with the D rings on the harness and hooks on the pack, which would be stowed near an exit, rather than worn, until needed in an emergency. Flak armor and a flak helmet may have been put on over top of everything when they were in the target area. You mention the uniform being worn under the F-1 suit. This would have been not only an extra layer of wool clothing for warmth, but more importantly, something to wear and identify you as American military if captured. A pair of sturdy GI shoes was also recommended, in case you had to hoof it. The B-6 boots would have been sized large enough to fit over them. Forgot to mention the goggles, which were probably B-7 type, or the very similar AN-6530s. The image below is probably similar to how he would have looked, except replacing the earlier B-3 vest in the photo with a B-4 vest.
  8. Phil, If I understand correctly, it is your Uncle Joe you are trying to represent? If so, I'd say he is not wearing the winter flight suit, rather is similarly dressed to your friend Phil. What you are seeing in the photo appears to be an A-2 leather flight jacket worn over either an A-4 summer flight suit, or an HBT suit. I would guess he wears an F-1 electric suit under that. The life vest is a B-4 type and his hat is a summer weight B-1 made of olive drab gaberdine. Phil, and the man to your uncles left, both wear the B-2 winter cap, which was fleece lined leather. Regards, Paul
  9. mozinoz, "I don't have mission records for kills 26-28, only 2 separate kill lists that show the same info, supposedly taken from his log books, so I don't know if they were over more than one mission or not. I was hoping someone on the forum would know." If you read my last previous post, your question is answered there by Bong himself. His three kills (26-28) were on the same mission, but his gun camera malfunctioned. To summarize, his first two kills were confirmed by other pilots on the mission, but only he saw his third kill. Until that could be proved, by recovering the wreckage at a later date, was he given credit for number 28. After that, he was sent back to the US again, for a time, and several months passed before he scored numbers 29 and 30. As for your other concern about his "3993" being lost prior to his 25th kill, do you have a source other than "Pacific Wrecks" to confirm the date they state for its loss? Possibly they are in error, as I could find nothing to confirm their information. The aircraft in question was surely lost, with another pilot flying it, but I can't find a date showing it to have happened before his 25th victory in that plane, other than "Pacific Wrecks". I would think more research would be required to confirm that. I can't think of a reason they would alter the serial number on a plane in the manor you hypothesize. The larger numbers painted on the nose we see in some photos were applied at the P-38 J modification depot, not in theater. I suspect that they were photographed as partially obscured while in the process of being removed by the ground crew. See images below for a "before" and "after" view. As for Marge's photos, it has been recorded that they were enlargements made by the group photographic officer, who actually hand tinted them before they were applied to the port gun door and more than one came off in flight, having to be replaced periodically.
  10. Hunt, One thing to remember is that the fleece lined leather clothing, for both air and ground crews, was developed pre-war. At the time, they were state-of-the-art for a peacetime air force of that era. As the war progressed, and the ranks swelled, their drawbacks and impracticality was readily apparent. By order of General Arnold, they were phased out and replaced by various alpaca lined (or down filled) clothing with cotton sateen exteriors (B-9, B-10, B-15, A-9, etc.) that was cheaper to manufacture while being lighter weight and more flexible, but equally as warm. Again, this was true for both air and ground crews. The D-2 parka, B-2 trousers and B-9 helmet are examples of improved clothing developed specifically for mechanics. Regards, Paul
  11. Phil, These trousers, and the jacket that goes with them, have been pushed by some militaria dealers for literally decades, saying they were "worn by aircrew" as a way to move them along. If you want to represent a ground crew member, then these would be perfect. If you want to represent an aircrewman, I would recommend you wait and find actual aircrew clothing. Sure, it's within the realm of possibility that they made it on a bombing mission somewhere, at some time, but do you want your impression, or mannequin, of an aircrewman to be partially dressed as a mechanic? The choice is yours, of course. Regards, Paul
  12. Sorry for this long post, but I found this newspaper article from 5/11/44 that tells the story of Bong's 26th, 27th and 28th victories, in his own words, and answers one of your previous questions: "First, apart from my feeling that the image of Bong is superimposed over the P-38 in the first photo, that a/c shows 27 kill markings. Given Bong scored kill numbers 26-28 on the same day, why on earth would his a/c show 27 kills?" Maj. Bong Topped Record In Last Pacific Combat Major Bong (In the final chapter of his thrilling story of aerial exploits against the Japs. Maj. Richard I. Bong, of Poplar, Wis., America's No. 1 ace of the Pacific war theater, describes his last combat mission over Hollandia where he broke and surpassed Eddie Rickenbacker's World War I record of enemy aircraft destroyed. Maj. Bong is officially credited with 27 Japanese shot down, but he may he credited with an additional one, as he reveals in the fallowing chapter) By MAJ. RICHARD IRA BONG, Leading American Ace in the Pacific War Theater (As told to Lee Van Atta) ADVANCED FIGHTER BASE, New Guinea, 11 May 1944 - My last combat in the air was on April 12 at Hollandia which our forces have recently captured from the Japs. I say my last because Gen. Kenney, air chief in this theater, put me on "the shelf" that day, the day I both tied and bettered Eddie Rickenbacker's World War I record of 26 enemy aircraft shot down. Now I have come home again — this time to learn gunnery school teaching techniques. I can't say I'm very happy about it — although I'm looking forward to seeing my family again. But as for just coming home -well, I'd rather be staying on in the southwest Pacific with the same kind of status I've had these last few months. I suppose I have had a few close calls and have been a little bit worried more often than that. But the hardest I ever sweated was the night and morning following my last combat mission over Hollandia. You see I had my cameras set wrong so there was no really accurate photographic report of the victories I claimed that day. It depended on whether or not members of the flight and squadron I had gone with could give positive confirmation. The fighter pilots were strung from one end of New Guinea to the other that night and it wasn't until the next morning that the fighter command could get them together and take a reading on what had happened. Fortunately for me, not one but several pilots witnessed my first two "kills" — so that put me over the top. I rested a lot easier after that. I didn't have any real ideas of trying to crack Rickenbacker's record until after the "Flying Circus" Tom Lynch and I started, really got rolling. By the time you start pounding away at the 25 mark, you know darned well that nothing can keep you from trying to tie and beat the Rickenbacker score — and that's the way it happened with me. CLAIMS ANOTHER PLANE Actually, I'm claiming another plane at Hollandia that day. I got separated from the rest of the unit after the first couple of minutes of combat. I had spotted one lone Nip roaming around and doing his best to keep away from us. I went over and had it out with him. I know the exact spot where he crashed into the water — it's on a kind of coral shell, not very deep. General Kenney has promised he'll get a diver to go down there and collect enough wreckage to justify officially confirming it as another "kill." That's good enough for me — and in this case, I'm as certain as if the Nip were in my own backyard that they will be able to find the remnants of his plane. But coming back to that last day of combat - I had tacked on to a flock of long range P-38's which were being led by Maj. Jay Rodkins of Collidge, Tex. (Jay is the No. 2 ace in New Guinea now with 18 confirmed victories). We were escorting "heavies" to Hollandia and although the place had been knocked all over by previous raids we were still looking for some interception. Incidentally, I should mention here that I was out on a mission every day during the first nine days of April, trying to do something about my score of 25 and every time I picked a spot the Japs just weren't there. I was getting a little discouraged by April 10, so I took two days off, waiting for the Hollandia mission. We couldn't see the Japs anywhere when we first hit the target area that day. We were flying in staggered formation from about 12,000 feet on up. Then over the radio, I heard there were about 20 Zeros hugging, close as they could, to the jungles around Hollandia and Lake Sentani. That was good enough for all of us and we went tearing down en masse. LAST COMBAT I wish I could report that my last combat — well, my last until I talked General Kenney and Wurtsmith into putting me back on active status anyway — was the most exciting of them all. But that would be stretching my imagination beyond the realm of fact. It was, in fact, a little dull. The Japs didn't want to fight and didn't seem to disguise the fact, either. They just seemed to want to run away. Of course, when we closed in on them they made a pretense of resistance, but it wasn't much of an effort. The last one I snared that day — the one I'm counting on to bring my score to 28 — was probably the cagiest of all I ever tangled with. He really didn't want to fight for sour apples and when he wasn't trying to make tracks toward Tokyo, he was engaging in some plain and fancy acrobatics. That made my shots — especially since we were about 10 feet off the water most of the time — a little more difficult than usual. I really got in one long burst though, and it must have raised Cain with his right wing. He went down right after the burst and looking back I could spot some wreckage already on the surface - when he fell. Personally, I think that particular Japanese was more scared than anything else. He was strictly a third-rate flier, although his acrobatics weren't too bad. The general caliber of all those Nips we've met recently, either at Hollandia or Wewak, hasn't even begun to approach the talent we used to meet when we were operating from Port Moresby and later Dobodura. They seem to have lost all their enthusiasm and most of their skill - and with regard to the P-38's job in dispensing with Japs. I'm prejudiced enough to think the quality of our planes has had a decisively negative psychological effect on the Japanese. We haven't lost a combat to him yet. I think he knows by now that whenever our two-engined twin-tailed P-38 turns up, it's a sad day for his team. That "lightning strikes twice" quotation is a description of what they've done to the Japs — except that twice is an understatement.
  13. An original wartime color image of Bong's "4380" taken at Nadzab:
  14. A better image of "3993", showing the last 3 digits of the serial number on the nose:
  15. Hello mozinoz, Welcome to the Forum. Probably just a typo, but I don't see any photos posted on the 15th of April by P-59A, only those on the 14th? He did post two photos showing closeups of Bong in front of two aircraft scoreboards, if that is what you are referring to as being "superimposed". My take is that the first photo shows Bong when back in the USA, as he is wearing his service dress uniform. Without doing research, I would also guess that image was taken at Lockheed and that he is standing in front of an enlargement of a photo of one of his P-38s taken in theater. The second closeup appears to have been "enhanced" before being published, as you can see where an editor added dark lines to his eyebrows and around his lips and darkened his nostrils. Not at all uncommon, especially if a photo from theater was sent via "wire", where the quality tended to deteriorate. As to your question about the number of kills on the planes not matching the official record, again, I can only speculate, not having researched the subject. One thing to remember is that Bong tying, then surpassing, Rickenbacker's WW1 scoring record was well covered by the press at the time. If you are correct that he scored 26, 27 and 28 on the same day, it may be possible he scored the kills in two or more missions on that same day? If so, the 27th flag could have been painted on to satisfy the press and document the breaking of the record. Another thing to note about the photo and name "Marge" is their location on the plane. Both are intentionally located on the port nose gun door, which would allow the door to be removed and reinstalled on another aircraft if need be. This was pretty common on P-38s when the nose was adorned with artwork. 38Driver has already documented that the portrait of Marge was subject to damage and wasn't always displayed. The image provided by the original poster showing Marge with a different font was taken in Minneapolis after Bong's overseas tour and that is the real Marge pointing out her own portrait on a plane done up for the War Bond drive. "Second, the pic of 42-103993 shows 25 kill markings. Bong scored his 25th kill on 3 April 1944. But according to the Pacific Wrecks website, that a/c was lost on 22 March 1944. So how is the a/c in the photo possible?" I can't answer your question, but here is another photo of "3993" showing the entire scoreboard at the time with 25 kills. Regards, Paul
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