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January 2023
Vote for the National Museum of World War II Aviation
as "Best of the Springs 2023"!
It's "Best of the Springs 2023" voting time; please show your support for the National Museum of World War II Aviation by casting a vote!

Last year we were elated to win the Bronze Medal in the "Museum" category, coming in behind the Pioneer Museum and the Olympic Museum; this year we'd like to take the Gold!

With a fantastic collection of fully airworthy aircraft, we bring the history of WWII to life. Attend any of our historical presentations, aircraft fly days, special events, and of course the Pikes Peak Regional Airshow to see our aircraft in action, with all the sights, sounds and smells of WWII planes! Check out our calendar at for upcoming events.

To vote for the museum, just go to; there under the Arts & Entertainment tab scroll down to "Museum", then click on the National Museum of World War II Aviation. It's that easy!

The final day for voting is February 5. Help your Museum become Best of the Springs in 2023 by voting today; it only takes a minute!
The Connie at Eighty!
While we don't usually think of the Lockheed Constellation, or "Connie" as it is affectionately known by airplane enthusiasts worldwide, as a World War II aircraft, the Constellation made its first flight 80 years ago this month, on January 9, 1943.

With Boeing Chief Test Pilot Eddie Allen in the left seat -- at the insistence of the U.S. Army Air Forces -- and Lockheed's Chief Test Pilot Milo Burcham in the right seat, the plane was flown from the Lockheed Air terminal at Burbank, California, to Muroc Army Airfield, California. Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson, Lockheed's chief research engineer, was one of three other Lockheed employees on board. The plane was flown back to Burbank later that day.

Johnson was one of several Lockheed engineers who designed the Constellation at the instigation of Howard Hughes, a major stockholder of Transcontinental and Western Airlines (TWA). Hughes wanted a 40-passenger, pressurized airliner with a range of 3,500 miles, well beyond the capabilities of other airliners of the late 1930s.

With World War II underway, Constellations in production for TWA were designated C-69 and sent to the USAAF as military transports. Lockheed built 859 Constellations for commercial and military duties between 1943 and 1958.

A January 10, 1943, Los Angeles Times story describing the first flight of the Constellation said there was "a brief blaze in one of the four engines following a backfire as the ship turned to roll back to the head of the runway. The fire was doused quickly and the Constellation stood ready for her maiden flight...."

When the plane landed at Muroc, Boeing pilot Allen said, "This machine works so well that you don't need me anymore!"
Allen was a famous test pilot who had flown many types of planes. In 1939, while working for Boeing, he was given a permanent position as head of the company's Research Division. Boeing agreed to lend him to the USAAF for the first flight of the Constellation.

Just over a month after that flight, on February 18, 1943, Allen and eight other crewmen, as well as 19 workers in a meat processing plant, were killed when the second prototype of the Boeing B-29 bomber crashed on approach to Boeing Field near Seattle, Washington. The cause was an engine fire.

The Constellation, described as the classic propeller-driven transcontinental and transoceanic airliner, used some of the design features of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter. Its wing, for instance, was based on that of the P-38.

Editor's Note: Some of my very earliest aircraft memories are of standing outside in my grandmother's backyard and watching the "Triple Tails" fly overhead on their way from Boston, Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island. We could always hear them coming from inside the house, and would run out the back door with our necks craned. Looking north over the twelve-foot granite wall separating her backyard from the Oak Grove Cemetery (one of the largest in New England, and of which I had a spectacularly spooky view from my bedroom window), they would appear above the trees, pass almost directly over the garage, and then head out of sight as they went south over the Taunton River. Even though they were thousands of feet high I could see them perfectly; I can remember them as clear as day even now, fifty years later. GHW

Story Credit: Rich Tuttle
Museum's P-38 Lightning and Both F7F Tigercats
Make 3000-Mile Round-Trip Flights to Florida
Three of the Museum's planes -- the Lockheed P-38 Lightning "White 33" and two Grumman F7F Tigercats -- flew to Florida to participate in an annual show of vintage planes, cars and yachts. The Tigercats departed Colorado Springs November 12 and the P-38 left November 17. All three returned December 8.
They participated in a December 1-4 show at the exclusive Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida. They were invited by Museum benefactor and Chairman of the Board, Jim Slattery, who is a member of the club and has a residence there.

"The Annual Vintage Weekend is a four-day celebration of antique and classic aircraft, automobiles and yachts," the Ocean Reef Club said. "This year we [celebrated] 26 years, continuing to showcase the world’s finest classic automobiles, vintage yachts and antique aircraft all in one unique setting." One participant in a recent show was a two-seat Curtiss TP-40N Warhawk, "American Dream," owned and operated by Incredible Adventures of Sarasota, Florida.

Reflecting the phenomenal work and care put into restoring and maintaining the Museum's aircraft, the two Grumman F7F Tigercats won "Best of Show", while P-38 "White 33" flew away with "Best Restoration"; congratulations to the entire team!
After serving on the support team and driving cross-country ahead of the aircraft, Museum President and CEO Bill Klaers, his wife and museum volunteer Debi Klaers, and son and museum pilot Scott Klaers welcomed the Lightning and Tigercats back to Colorado Springs. It was the first time that any of the airplanes in the Museum's collection of 29 flying aircraft had traveled such a distance, about 3,000 miles round trip. They made a couple of overnight stops going to Florida and coming back.

Among other things, the trip demonstrated how the Museum Volunteers and WestPac Restorations maintain the durability and ruggedness of the rare existing examples of the 300,000 or so planes built by American companies like Grumman and Lockheed during World War II. Grumman, for instance, was known as the Iron Works for their aircraft durability in combat situations.

Pilot Steve Hinton flew the P-38 Lightning to Florida. Steve is president of Planes of Fame Air Museum with locations in Chino, California, and Valle-Grande, Arizona, and owner of Fighter Rebuilders, also of Chino. Rick Sharpe flew the P-38 at the show and flew it back to Colorado. Rick is owner of Ricks Aviation Inc. of Houston, Texas.

One of the F7F Tigercats was flown during the show and to Florida and back by Charlie Hainline, chief pilot of the Museum. The other Tigercat was flown there and back by Ian Wayman, a volunteer for the Museum. Stu Dawson from Celina, Texas, flew an acrobatic demonstration in one of the F7F’s during the show.

Story Credit: Rich Tuttle
The End of World War II in the Pacific:
Atomic Bombs, Soviet Moves, No Invasion of Japan
Allied plans for the invasion of Japan were ready as the end of World War II in the Pacific approached in the summer of 1945. But plans were shelved because of several factors, including the use by the United States of two atomic bombs against Japan that August, the Soviet Union's declaration of war against Japan, and the Soviet attack immediately thereafter on Japanese forces in Manchuria.

The Japanese people had suffered badly as a result of air attacks and a partial naval blockade. However, militants in the senior leadership insisted Japan fight on after the atomic bomb attacks. Even then, dissident Army elements attempted to prevent the emperor from announcing his intent to surrender on August 15, 1945.

The planned U.S.-led invasion, Operation Downfall, would have been the largest amphibious operation in history, surpassing even the Allies' massive Normandy invasion of June 6, 1944, which led to the end of the war in Europe on May 8, 1945.

Operation Downfall had two components, Museum Docent Johnny Drury said during a September 3 presentation at the WestPac hangar on the Museum campus at the Colorado Springs Airport.

The first component, Operation Olympic, was slated to start on November 1, 1945. Aimed at the southern part of Japan's southernmost home island of Kyushu, it would have used Okinawa as a staging base and involved 14 Allied divisions of some 706,000 personnel and 40 air groups. Operation Olympic was initially slated for December 1, 1945 but was moved up a month because of expected winter storms in Japan.

The second component, Operation Coronet, was bigger still. Slated for March 1, 1946, it targeted the Japanese home island of Honshu and would have used 25 divisions, 1.7 million personnel and 50 air groups. The personnel numbers for both components were large because planners wanted a man-to-man advantage of at least three-to-one, and preferably four-to-one, Drury said.

Planners hoped to be successful in Kyushu first, and then to launch aircraft from there to strike Honshu and bolster air raids on Tokyo. Aircraft to be used in Operation Downfall would have included premier American fighters, like the Grumman F7F Tigercat, for tactical support. One of the Museum's two Tigercats was flown before an enthusiastic crowd after Drury's presentation.

Use of the previously super-secret atomic bomb on two Japanese cities -- Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9 – helped put invasion plans on hold. The U.S.-U.K. atomic bomb program was so secret that the generals and admirals planning the invasion didn't know about it. President Harry S. Truman wasn’t briefed on the program until he became President upon the death of Franklin Roosevelt on April 12, 1945. 
The Soviet declaration of war against Japan came on August 8, 1945, and the invasion of Japanese-held Manchuria started at one minute past midnight on August 9, 1945. Those events plus the dropping of the atom bombs rendered the invasion of Japan unnecessary.

Docent Drury outlined top-level discussions in Japan and the U.S. about these events.

In Japan, before the first atomic bomb was dropped, Foreign Minister Togo Shigenori had been communicating with Sato Naotake, the Japanese ambassador to Moscow. He wanted Sato to ask the Soviets to act as intermediaries in talks with the U.S. about the end of the war. Sato was puzzled because, in an Imperial conference of a couple of months before, Emperor Hirohito had said that Japan would fight to end. But since then, Togo implied, Hirohito had indicated that he favored talks.

Sato asked what terms of surrender he should approach the Soviets with, but Togo had no answer because the six-man Supreme Council for the Direction of the war, or "Big Six," of which Togo was a member, had none. In fact, the first time they discussed terms of surrender among themselves was just hours after the Soviets began their invasion of Manchuria, Drury said.

He said three of the Big Six not only wanted Japan's imperial dynasty to remain, but said that Japan should do its own disarmament, have its own war crimes trials, if there were any, and that no invasion forces should occupy Japan after surrender.
The other three said, "It's too late. Let's just surrender and maybe we can keep the Imperial institution itself," Drury said.

After the first atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, there were two areas of thought in the Big Six, Drury said. The Army minister said little was known about an atomic bomb, so studies were required. The Navy minister said there can't be more than one of these bombs, so let's keep fighting.

Following the second bombing on August 9, the Army thought there could be many atomic bombs, and that the next target might be Tokyo. Still, no decision was made.

At around midnight on August 9, as the Soviet invasion of Manchuria began, Hirohito convened the Big Six and made three main points. First, that he had lost confidence in the military's ability to defend Japan; second, that Japan had been suffering mightily under conventional bombing and now was suffering even more with the atomic bomb attacks; and third that, with deterioration at home and talk of insurrection, he wanted to end the war.

He did so, making it an unconditional surrender with the hope that the Imperial palace would be retained. He recorded a message to that effect on August 15 and had it transmitted to the public and the world at large. Some members of the military did not want to surrender, but finally did so.
In the U.S., the Joint Chiefs Staff were guided by the goal of the Casablanca Conference in 1943 -- unconditional surrender of the Axis powers to ensure peace after the war. On April 30, 1945, the JCS issued an order to begin planning the invasion of Japan, calling it Operation Downfall.

The concern, however, was time versus casualties. The Army said time was the critical factor, and that a direct invasion would finish the war quickly and maintain public support. The Navy said continued bombardment and a blockade would keep casualties low, and that this would ensure support by the public.

The JCS, along with President Truman, decided to continue the blockade and bombardment. It was a loose agreement that, for the time being, was acceptable to both the Army and the Navy. In the meantime, they kept planning for an invasion.

Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations, favored continued planning but said he would address the issue again before a final decision was made. An eyes-only message to King from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Supreme Allied Commander of the Pacific Ocean Areas, said such obvious Allied objectives as southern Kyushu and the Tokyo Plain would be heavily defended, implying that an invasion would be costly. He had earlier favored an invasion.

On August 7, 1945, the day after the first atomic bomb was dropped, General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the Army, asked General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander of the Southwest Pacific Area, if he still favored an invasion. MacArthur said yes.

Admiral King put the Marshall and MacArthur messages together in a package for Nimitz, and asked Nimitz if an invasion should proceed. King would not have asked the question unless he knew the answer, Drury said. "And, of course, Nimitz wasn't going to say yes" to a blockade.

But Nimitz did not reply, and never gave a reason, Drury said.

But, he said, "Look at the date: 9 August, the day of the second" atomic bombing. Drury speculated that Nimitz didn't want to be on record as continuing a blockade and perhaps causing "one of the biggest disagreements in one of the biggest conflicts we've ever had in the history of the world."

Story Credit: Rich Tuttle and Gene Pfeffer
The Lockheed P2V-5 Neptune Emerson Electric Ball Turret
The restored nose of a Lockheed P2V-5 Neptune anti-submarine aircraft, complete with its Emerson Electric ball turret, is on display at the Museum.

The first Neptune flew on May 17, 1945, and production began in 1946. The P2V was designed to replace the Lockheed PV-1 Ventura and PV-2 Harpoon.
The P2V-5 was manned by a crew of 7-9 men. With a wingspan of 101 feet 4 inches, length of 91 feet 8 inches, height of 29 feet 4 inches, and at a gross weight of 79,778 pounds, it’s two 3,700 horsepower Wright-Cyclone R-3350-32W engines gave it a range of 4,350 miles. Its ordnance consisted of two 20mm cannons in the nose and tail turret, and two .50 caliber Browning machine guns in the dorsal turret. The nose ammunition supply was 1200 rounds, and it had a firing rate of 700 rounds per minute. Total ordnance load was 10,000 pounds. Lockheed produced 1,036 Neptunes for the US Navy and 193 for export. 
The ball turret was a spherical, manned gun turret. The manning of the ball turret was typically based on size; as you can see in the accompanying photos, there wasn’t a lot of space for the gunner, so normally the smallest member of the crew operated it. The electrically actuated ball was operated by two hand grips with firing buttons. The right foot operated the push-to-talk intercoms while the left foot operated the gun sight reticule. With the introduction of the Neptune P2V-5, the nose included the Emerson ball turret which held a gunner and two 20mm Mk-24 cannons built by International Harvester.
Emerson and Sperry each developed ball turrets. Sperry, the preferred design, was used on the B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, and the Consolidate PB4Y-1; it was also used on the later Convair B-32 Dominator.
Check out this display -- and more than 100 others -- when you visit the Museum at the Colorado Springs Airport!

Story Credit: Rich Tuttle and George White
First Flight of the XP-38 Was Cut Short
The first flight of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter took place 84 years ago, on January 27, 1939. The flight was brief.

U.S. Army Air Corps test pilot 1st Lt. Benjamin Kelsey made the first flight of prototype XP-38 from March Field, California. Just after liftoff he felt severe vibrations and landed quickly. Three of the four flap support rods had failed, making the flaps unusable. Without flaps, Kelsey had to land fast. He kept the nose high to help reduce speed, dragging the tail in the process. Damage was minimal and the flap problem was fixed.

Minor problems appeared in following flights, but the prototype's promising performance -- 413 mph at 20,000 feet and a service ceiling of 38,000 feet -- prompted a decision to fly across the country before delivering the plane to Wright Field, Ohio. So, on February 11, 1939, just weeks after the first flight, Kelsey departed March Field on the way to Mitchel Field, New York, by way of Amarillo, Texas, and Wright Field.

But as he descended to land at Mitchel, the engines would not respond to advanced throttles because of carburetor icing. Kelsey was able to put the plane down on a golf course short of the runway. He was not hurt but the XP-38 was damaged beyond repair.

Work continued on 13 YP-38 service-test prototypes, and an order was placed for full production. Lockheed ultimately built over 10,000 P-38s. P-38s are said to have destroyed more Japanese aircraft in World War II than any other American fighter.
The Museum has a one-of-a-kind P-38 that flew in combat, "White 33”, which it continues to fly today. "White 33" was recovered from New Guinea in 1999 and restored by WestPac Restorations on the Museum's campus at the Colorado Springs Airport. It made its first post-restoration flight on October 17, 2016.

"White 33" was one of the planes flown in World War II by Frank Royal, a Colorado Springs resident who watched that flight, and who passed away a short time later at age 101.

Frank was checked out in the P-38 at Selfridge Field in Michigan before the U.S. entered World War II by Oliver Cellini, who died in 2020 at age 107. Both men lived in Colorado Springs.

Cellini flew the No. 3 YP-38 prototype from Southern California to Selfridge in 1941. He and another pilot flew the hot new YP-38s in an airshow at Selfridge, where they were the hit of the show.

Cellini loved the P-38. "First time I flew it," he said in a 2016 interview at the Museum, "I thought I was a direct descendant of Jesus Christ."

Story Credit: Rich Tuttle
The Bell XFM-1 Airacuda and the Saga of the Escort Fighter
This photo of a Bell YFM-1 Airacuda aircraft is included in a Museum display about attempts by the U.S. Army Air Corps, and later the U.S. Army Air Forces, to develop a fighter to be both a long-range interceptor and escort fighter for bombers on long-range missions.

Prototype fighters like the YFM-1 were considered, but performance was poor. Specially armed and armored B-17 bombers, designated the YB-40, were also tested but excess weight made them too slow to keep up with the B-17s.
When the air war intensified in 1943, it was quickly found that bomber missions deep into Germany produced unsustainable losses. Two developments solved the escort fighter problem -- external tanks called drop tanks that allowed fighters like the P-38 Lightning and P-47 Thunderbolt to fly deeper into Germany, and a new wing design called the laminar flow wing that extended the range of new fighters like the P-51 Mustang.
The escort fighter problem would be solved, but not before many bombers and many men were lost. The display, called "The Saga of the Escort Fighter," is one of over a hundred displays at the Museum!
An excellent video overview of the Bell XFM-1 Airacuda can be viewed on YouTube here:
Story Credit: Rich Tuttle
Volunteers Recognized at Ceremony
Two Museum volunteers, Arnie Easterly and Bryan McMeeking, were recognized for their efforts in a ceremony January 14 in the Museum's Hangar 1A. Both received plaques acknowledging their accomplishments; Arnie Easterly was honored for the third quarter 2022, and Bryan McMeekin for the fourth quarter.

A plaque also was awarded to Merrick Dunphy, who was recognized earlier as volunteer of the first quarter and volunteer of the year. Rich Tuttle was named previously as volunteer of the second quarter.

"All of our volunteers are terrific so it's hard to pick out individuals to recognize," said Mark Earle, a member of the Museum's board of directors, who officiated at the gathering. But, he said, Arnie Easterly was chosen for the third quarter award because he readily stepped up to substitute for those who were temporarily unable to fulfill docent duties. Arnie had "a positive attitude, a can-do attitude, a how-do-we-get-this-done attitude, and that really goes out to the rest of the staff."

Arnie, a former U.S. Marine Corps aviator, said, "It's been a pleasure working here. I liken this to being back in the squadron, back in the ready-room with the guys."

Bryan McMeekin, who has been with the Museum for seven years, was recognized for his length of service. He brings with that "a steady approach," Mark said, adding that Bryan demonstrated the Link trainer for some time before becoming a docent.

"Everything Arnie said goes double for me," Bryan said.

"I think every volunteer is the volunteer of the quarter," said Bill Klaers, president and CEO of the Museum. "Everything is done by the volunteers." And, he said, "It bustles in here...people are working and there's things going on -- it's the life of the museum. The volunteers do that."
Story Credit: Rich Tuttle
Upcoming Events
Special Presentation -- "Flying The Hump"

Over the Himalayas to Supply U.S. Bases in China

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Museum opens 10:00 a.m.
Presentation 11:00 a.m.

In WWII, the India-China Airlift, known as “Flying the Hump”, was the highest loss, highest risk air transport mission of the war. Pioneering aviators flew thousands of tons of gasoline and materiel across the highest terrain on earth to supply U.S. Army Air Forces’ fighter and bomber bases deep in the interior of China. The “Hump” was the range of Himalayan Mountains, some reaching altitudes over 25,000 feet, that separated India from China. The route became known as the Aluminum Trail for all the crashed aircraft located along the route.

Many missions supported the early B-29 Superfortress bombing missions from China against the Japanese home islands. The aircraft were flown by pilots of the 10th Air Force and XX Bomber Command.

Frank Martin flew 66 missions over the Hump following his prior pioneering flights delivering B-17 bombers to the 8th Air Force in Europe over the North Atlantic.

On Saturday, February 18, at 11:00 am, Frank Martin's son, Colorado author Fred Martin, will make a special presentation at the museum about his father’s exploits flying “Hump” missions. After the war, Frank Martin became Vice President of the Cessna Aircraft Company and was inducted into the Kansas Governor’s Aviation Hall of Fame.
Fred Martin will present a sweeping view of the history and context of the India-China Airlift as described in the eye-witness accounts of men who flew the missions.

10:00 am Doors Open
11:00 am Presentation

Standard admission prices are in effect. The purchase of advance on-line tickets is encouraged and may be purchased at . Advance ticket prices are:

Adult $15
Child (4-12) $11
Senior and Military $13
WWII Veterans - Always Free
Museum Members - Included in membership; please call 719-637-7559 or stop by the front desk to make your reservations.

And of course, parking is always Free!
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Newsletter Staff

Gene Pfeffer
Historian & Curator
Rich Tuttle

Rich Tuttle
Docent, Newsletter Writer, Social Media Writer, Photographer

John Henry
Lead Volunteer for Communications

George White
Newsletter Editor, Social Media Writer, Photographer