In the summer of 1945, the U.S. military spawned a generation of poets who shared one sentiment: “Those who want to be a hero, They number almost zero. Those who want to be civilians… Gee—they number in the millions!” As early as 1943, the Pentagon began contingency planning for returning millions of personnel from overseas […]
Disarming and Digesting the Luftwaffe. The gathering of German aviation technology by the United States in the final days of World War II was not a happenstance. As early as October 1944, the AAF created the Air Disarmament Division in England with a two-fold mission: collect examples of German technology, and scrap everything else that […]
The German word was Vergeltungswaffe, which means “retribution weapon” but is normally translated as “vengeance.” Generically, the V program included a family of advanced concepts beginning with the V-1 cruise missile. The “buzz bomb” carried an 1,800 lb. warhead at around 400mph, but was susceptible to defending fighters and anti-aircraft guns. The V-2 was unlike […]
Flying Piper Cubs and Stinson biplanes, aircraft sometimes borrowed for the mission, the Civil Air Patrol guarded the American coast and helped turn back the U-boat onslaught that might otherwise have turned the tide of World War II. Men and women answered the call to serve as the nation went to war, joining the volunteer […]
Learning the Hard Way Low-altitude combat in the P-40 October 1940: Off I go into the wild blue yonder! I was the oldest of six kids growing up in Tarboro, North Carolina, and enlisted in the Army Air Corps in October 1940. I was assigned to the Third Reconnaissance Squadron in Orlando, Florida, as an aerial […]
Ever wonder what an editor’s office looks like? Well, as a lifelong “accumulator” of neat stuff (as opposed to a “collector” in which a theme or direction is connoted), I wholeheartedly admit that my larger-than-normal office has the moldy ambience of a hoarder’s disheveled living room. Rather than piles of discarded clothing and grandma’s kitchen […]
The P-40 Warhawk will never be enshrined in the Hall of Fame of Fantastic Fighters. It was too slow, couldnít turn tight enough, was hard to handle on the ground and, compared to some fighters, had nasty stall characteristics. Further, its hydraulic system was too complicated, its landing gear too rudimentary and its Allison V-12 […]
It happened twice in the same morning: The same question (more or less) was asked about World War II wristwatches. My question was first. We had just received a raft of e-mailed WW II images concerning watches from two of our most appreciated archivists: Stan Piet and Jack Cook. As I was going through the […]
Today the name of Isaac Newton Lewis is little known outside of firearms circles, but he exerted a major influence on aerial combat.
In 1911, Colonel Lewis, a U.S. Army ordnance officer, adapted a machine gun design patented by inventor Samuel McLean. With a soldier’s eye toward utility, Lewis worked with the Automatic Arms Co. in New York to simplify the original design as a workable weapon. Light and potent, it was a revolutionary design.
Bent-Wing Beauty You don’t have to inspect a Corsair closely to know that it is a very complex airplane. The characteristics that make it so identifiable—among them, its inverted “gull” wing—must have kept manufacturing people up nights trying to figure out how to build them fast enough to meet the requirements of the War. From […]