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Bell P-39N Airacobra – Little Sir Echo – Small Fry

Bell P-39 Airacobra - Little Sir Echo

This is P-39N-5 “Little Sir Echo / Small Fry” Serial Number 42-19027 which served with the USAAF 5th Air Force (AF), 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group (TRG), 82nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (TRS), from June 1943 to July 16, 1944. It was abandoned at Tadji, Papua New Guinea, a Japanese airfield that was liberated by the US Army on April 26, 1944. Tadji became a major Allied air depot for American and Australian forces, and the resting place for this P-39 for the next thirty years. It is now on static display at the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, CA.

This specific P-39 was delivered to the US Army on April 28, 1943, and sent to the Pacific in May. Lyndall W. Tate was assigned to this aircraft. Lyndall was born Oct 20, 1920 in Texas, and passed away Sept 15, 2008. He served over 28 years in the military. If anyone else has any further information on Lyndall, please let us know more about this hero. The aircraft was recovered from Tadji in a 1974 salvage operation funded by David Talichet’s Yesterday’s Air Force (MARC). It currently is on static display at the Planes of Fame museum. It still supports its original markings of Olive Drab over Neutral Grey with White New Guinea theatre markings on tail unit, wing leading edges and spinner (thin White band on nose). In addition it features an interesting shark mouth on the center drop-tank.

The Bell P-39 was one of the US’s main-line fighters when war first broke out in the Pacific at the beginning of World War II. It was unique at the time for having a tricycle undercarriage and a mid-mounted engine located behind the pilot. This arrangement was due to the proposed installation of a powerful 30 mm cannon in the nose. Ultimately, the P-39 was unable to achieve the same performance of later US and European fighters, mainly due to a lack of a turbo-supercharged engine which greatly limited the P-39’s ceiling and speed. However, its low-altitude performance, mid-mounted engine, and armor plating allowed it to become a great ground-support aircraft, most notably used by the Soviet Air Force. In the end, the Bell P-39 became Bell’s most successful fixed-wing aircraft that they ever produced.


Tondelayo – The Collings Foundation B-25 Mitchell

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The famed “Tondelayo” of the 345th Bombardment Group known as the “Air Apaches” as it served in the 500th BS. The Tondelayo was one of three B-25Ds that sunk a 6,000-ton freighter in the South Pacific during World War II. Its story was unique in the fact that During the battle, the Tondelayo’s engine was shot out and for over an hour it combated 50 Japanese fighter planes as it headed down the New Britain coast. The other two accompanying B-25s were shot down during the battle. The plane’s turret gunner was given credit for shooting down five Japanese fighters and the crew earned the Distinguished Unit Citation and Silver Stars. Despite tremendous damage “Tondelayo” was returned to service after it was repaired… like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Tondelayo was named after the sexy actress Hedy Lamar’s character “Tondelayo” in the 1942 film White Cargo.


Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

The B-17 Flying Fortress is one of the most famous airplanes ever built. The B17 prototype first flew July 28, 1935. Few B-17s were in service on Dec. 7, 1941, but production quickly accelerated. The aircraft served in every World War II combat zone, but is best known for daylight strategic bombing of German industrial targets. Production ended in May 1945, and totaled 12,726.


In response for the Army’s request for a large, multiengine bomber, the B-17 (Model 299) prototype, financed entirely by Boeing, went from design board to flight test in less than 12 months. General features on the B-17 include its mid-wing monoplane design, aluminum-clad exterior, four radial engines, massive wing structure and heavy armament. It was the first Boeing airplane with the distinctive, and enormous, tail for improved control and stability during high-altitude bombing.

Although many U.S. airmen and craft contributed to the Allied victory in World War II, the B-17 has become especially symbolic of the self-reliance, daring and sacrifice of American airmen during the war. American confidence in the B-17 became the cornerstone for the Air Corps doctrine of strategic “daylight” bombing in German-occupied Europe.

The G series could hold a crew of 10, including pilot, co-pilot, bombardier, radio operator, navigator, dorsal turret gunner, two waist gunners, ball turret gunner and tail gunner. Typical for B-17Gs are the four 1,380-horsepower Wright GR1820-97 Cyclone air-cooled, nine-cylinder radial engines equipped with exhaust driven turbochargers.  General features include the raised cockpit section and Plexiglas nose cone. Characteristic of all B-17s, starting with the E series, is the massive dorsal fin, which gracefully sweeps to merge with the fuselage. All B-17s have retractable tail-wheel landing gear. The empty weight of the airplane is 32,720 pounds. Fully armed and loaded, B-17s weigh 65,600 pounds. Payloads of 4,000-5,000 pounds were typical but up to 17,600 pounds could be carried for less than maximum range. The maximum speed was 300 miles per hour at 30,000 feet.

While the B-17s were used in the Pacific, by 1944 the B-29 had replaced the B-17 for use in the Pacific Theater. While in the Pacific, the planes earned a deadly reputation with the Japanese, who dubbed them “four-engine fighters.” The Fortresses were also legendary for their ability to stay in the air after taking brutal poundings. They sometimes limped back to their bases with large chunks of the fuselage shot off. B-17s were initially intended as a fast, land-based bomber, which could patrol at sea and intercept naval vessels.

The B-17 went through several alterations in each of its design stages and variants. By the time the definitive B-17 G appeared, the number of guns had been increased from seven to 13, the designs of the gun stations were finalized, and other adjustments were complete. The B-17 G was the final version of the B-17, incorporating all changes made to its predecessor, the B-17 F, and in total 8,680 was built, the last one on 9 April 1945. Boeing plants built a total of 6,981 B-17s in various models, and another 5,745 were built under a nationwide collaborative effort by Douglas and Lockheed (Vega). Many B-17 Gs were converted for other missions such as cargo hauling, engine testing and reconnaissance. Initially designated SB-17G, a number of B-17Gs were also converted for search-and-rescue duties, later to be re-designated B-17H.

Late in World War II, at least 25 B-17s were fitted with radio controls, loaded with 20,000 pounds (9,000 kg) of high-explosives, dubbed “BQ-7 Aphrodite missiles”, and used against U-boat pens and bomb-resistant fortifications.

Specifications

Wing Span: 103 feet, 10 inches
Length: 74 feet, 4 inches
Height: 19 feet, 1 inches
Weight: 55,000 pounds loaded
Armament: Thirteen .50-caliber machine guns with normal bomb load of 6,000 pounds
Engines: Four Wright “Cyclone” R-1820s of 1,200 horsepower each
Cost: $276,000
Maximum speed: 300 mph.
Cruising speed: 170 mph.
Range: 1,850 miles
Service Ceiling: 35,000 feet

EASTERN EUROPE -- The vapor trails from two Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress  aircraft light up the night sky. The B-17 is one of the most famous airplanes ever built. The B-17 prototype first flew on July 28, 1935. Few B-17s were in service on December 7, 1941, but production quickly accelerated. The aircraft served in every WW II combat zone, but is best known for daylight strategic bombing of German industrial targets. (U.S. Air Force file photo)

Vapor trails from Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses.The Flying Fortress is one of the most famous airplanes ever built. The B-17 prototype first flew on July 28, 1935. Few B-17s were in service on December 7, 1941, but production quickly accelerated. The aircraft served in every WW II combat zone, but is best known for daylight strategic bombing of German industrial targets. Production ended in May 1945 and totaled 12,726.


Lockheed P-38 Lightning

The P-38 was not just a pursuit fighter, it  was so versatile it could also be a bomber, a ground strafer, a reconnaissance plane, and an escort.  It flew at a very high-rate of speed and altitude for its time.   The P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a single, central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. The multi-engine configuration reduced the Lightning loss-rate to anti-aircraft gunfire during ground attack missions.


That second engine was vitally important, single-engine airplanes equipped with power plants cooled by pressurized liquid were particularly vulnerable to ground fire. Even a small puncture in one coolant line could cause the engine to seize in a matter of minutes.

The firepower was equally as impressive consisting of one 20MM cannon and four .50 caliber machine guns mounted in the central nacelle.  These guns allowed for incredible precision and concentrated fire power when shooting at the target because they were all lined up right in front of the pilot.

In April 1943, America’s intelligence decoded a Japanese message that informed them that Admiral Yamamoto was going to visit the northern Solomon Islands on April 18th. Yamamoto was still considered to be a major figure in the Pacific War and the decision was taken to  kill him. Sixteen P-38 Lightning fighters from 339th Fighter Squadron were ordered to intercept and shoot down Yamamoto’s plane. They intercepted two G4M ‘Betty’ bombers escorted by six Zero fighter planes. Both ‘Betty’ bombers were shot down and Yamamoto was killed

By the end of the war, over 10,000 P-38 Lightning’s had been built in a variety of versions, and was the only American fighter aircraft in active production throughout the duration of American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to Victory over Japan Day.

The P-38 Lightning turned out to be a real “work horse” for the USAAF. It served around the world as a fighter, fighter-bomber, and photographic reconnaissance aircraft and will always be considered one of three great USAAF fighters of World War II.

Lockheed P-38 Lightning

Type: Fighter
Crew: 1 Pilot
Armament:(4) .50 cal machine guns and (1) 20 mm cannon

Specifications
Length: 37″-10 inches;
Height: 12″-10 inches;
Wingspan: 52″
Max Weight: 17500 lbs loaded

Propulsion
No. of Engines: 2
Power plant: Allison V-1710’s
Horsepower: 1745 hp each
Range: 1100 miles
Ceiling: 40000 feet