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December 2021
Note that the National Museum of World War II Aviation will be open normal hours on Tuesday, December 7, 2021, in recognition of the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Be sure to visit the Pearl Harbor exhibit which includes a piece of the USS Arizona honoring those who gave their lives during the attack. Our Docents would be happy to share their knowledge of the events that led to the attack as well as the significance of Pearl Harbor with respect to World War II. If you have relatives or friends who lost their lives on December 7, 1941, a visit to the Museum would be a great way to honor their memory. Share your knowledge of Pearl Harbor with the next generation.
Museum’s PBY and SBD Echo Pearl Harbor Attack;
‘More Shock Than Surprise’
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 80 years ago was shocking. The U.S. was suddenly in World War II and appeared to be on its knees. But at the Battle of Midway six months later, the U.S. halted Japan’s advance.

Two of the aircraft types in the museum's flying collection, the Consolidated PBY Catalina patrol bomber and the Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber, were at both historic events. At Pearl Harbor, the U.S. was caught flat-footed. American commanders had little or no chance to respond. But at Midway the reverse was true, and PBYs and SBDs helped turn the tide of World War II in the Pacific.

PBYs at Pearl Harbor and Midway were commanded by Rear Admiral Patrick N.L. (Pat) Bellinger. He had arrived at Pearl Harbor in late 1940 to become Commander of Patrol Wing 2.

Bellinger was a naval aviation pioneer. He was designated as Naval Aviator No. 8 in 1913, and in 1919 he participated in the historic trans-Atlantic flight from Newfoundland to the Azores.

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on that Sunday morning of December 7, 1941, Bellinger raced from his quarters to Patrol Wing Two operations at the other end of Ford Island. He is responsible for sending out a message that would become famous: "Air Raid Pearl Harbor. This is no drill."

Bellinger initially came under criticism for failure to use his PBYs to detect the Japanese carriers that launched the attack. But, said museum historian and curator Col. Gene Pfeffer (USAF-ret.), “he was ordered to deploy many of his aircraft to islands in the Pacific, was woefully short of aircraft, personnel and supplies, and could only conduct limited searches for short periods.”
Bellinger, in March of 1941, authored a report with Maj. Gen. Frederick L. Martin, Commander of the Hawaiian Air Force, that warned of Japan's ability to use carrier-based planes to attack Hawaii. Their report included a plan to conduct daily long-range patrols to look for Japanese carriers. The plan was not implemented due to shortages of aircraft, personnel and supplies.

Photo is the Consolidated PBY Catalina (Photo by Paul Gordon)

But a similar plan was in effect six months later at Midway. Twenty-four of Bellinger’s PBYs flew from the island covering sectors from south to north, looking for Japanese carriers. The flights began on May 30, 1942. On June 3, one of the PBYs spotted enemy ships and the fight was on.

During the battle, Bellinger came up with the idea of arming the slow and vulnerable PBYs with torpedoes and using radar to attack Japanese ships at night. Damage inflicted on the enemy was relatively minor but it “illustrated the feasibility of the concept and suggested a new and more aggressive role for the much-maligned PBYs,” said one author.

The tactic was used to great effect by PBY “Black Cat” squadrons at Guadalcanal and other campaigns in the Pacific. PBYs also played a starring role in the Pacific in at-sea rescue of downed Allied airmen.

Just before the Pearl Harbor attack, eighteen SBDs were launched from the USS Enterprise on a routine patrol, which was intended to end with a routine landing at Ford Island Naval Air Station. “As the planes, flying in pairs, neared Pearl Harbor, they found themselves caught between the attacking Japanese planes and the defensive fire from ships and shore stations below,” according to, a website devoted to the USS Enterprise.

“Six SBDs were lost, some to enemy attacks, others to friendly fire,” says the website. “Eight airmen were killed, and two were wounded.”

The SBDs were led by Lt. Cdr. Howard L ”Brigham” Young, Commander of the Enterprise Air Group, the website says. As they approached Ford Island, “I noticed considerable ‘AA’ fire ahead,” Young wrote in an after-action report included on the website. “At almost the same instant I was attacked by Japanese planes from the rear without warning.” He “immediately dove toward the ground zig-zagging….
“My wingman was attacked at the same time but was not hit and stayed with me, circling low over cane field north of Pearl City,” Young wrote. “It was immediately evident that I was under AA fire regardless of which direction I went. I did not have sufficient fuel to return to ship had I been able to get away from the island.”

He “decided to make a low approach to Ford Island field and land – I had no alternative, it seemed. From this point on until I had landed, I was subjected to heavy AA fire from ships and shore batteries in spite of making recognition maneuvers and the fact that my wheels and flaps were down for landing.

“My wingman turned away just prior to landing. I could not communicate with the Ford Island Field control tower…. Inspection of the plane revealed several bullet holes through the wings but no serious damage.”

Young first reported to Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet. He then reported to Rear Adm. Bellinger, the Commander of Patrol Wing Two.
That evening, six F4F Wildcat fighters from the Enterprise “were directed to land at Ford Island,” the Enterprise website says. “Triggering a panic, five were shot down by friendly anti-aircraft fire: three pilots were killed and two were wounded.”
Douglas SBD dive bomber. (Photo by Paul Gordon)

Three days later, an SBD from the Enterprise sighted a Japanese submarine, one of a group of subs sent to patrol near Pearl Harbor. The SBD dropped a 1,000-pound bomb which damaged the sub and prevented it from diving. Another SBD from the Enterprise hit the sub, which sank.

The Pearl Harbor attack "was more shock than surprise to the young naval aviators" in training at Norfolk, Virginia, according to Harold L. Buell, who was one of those trainees and who would soon be assigned to fly the SBD.

"The ease with which Japan's naval flyers had destroyed much of the battleship component of the Pacific Fleet was a bitter blow to our pride," Buell wrote in his book, "Dauntless Helldivers," published in 1986.

"There was a sense of relief that none of the aircraft carriers had been in port and thus had missed destruction," Buell wrote, "but why had naval aviation been of no apparent consequence in the battle? The stories we were getting talked of total destruction by the Japanese pilots of all Navy and Army Air Corps aircraft at all of the fields in the islands. Such a complete success, even though a sneak attack without warning, made the Japanese flyers look like supermen and their aircraft indestructible.

"Our group had been expecting a declaration of war for some time, but against a different enemy -- the Axis,” Buell wrote. "We had orders to Atlantic Fleet carriers -- Yorktown, Hornet, Wasp, or Ranger -- where the enemy was German submarines, with possible clashes against the German Luftwaffe or Italian Air Force if action came in the Mediterranean Sea or English Channel areas.

"Thus," Buell wrote, "the Pearl Harbor attack, and President Roosevelt's response, and the declaration of war by Congress did little immediately except to speed up the already ongoing preparation of all ACTG [Advanced Carrier Training Group] pilots to be ready for their squadron assignments. Yorktown came in, stayed briefly for resupply and repair, and departed on reassignment to the Pacific.... For those of us waiting to go aboard Wasp, Hornet, and Ranger, training was accelerated to prepare us for joining our squadrons when these ships came next into Norfolk from sea...."

Buell was soon assigned to squadron VS-5, flying SBDs from Yorktown in the Pacific. He and several other new pilots arrived aboard the ship on April 29, 1942 -- just before the May 4-8, 1942, Battle of the Coral Sea. Buell flew in that battle and many others. In addition to the SBD, Buell flew the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, one of which is being restored to flying condition by the museum.

Japan had the advantage of surprise at Pearl Harbor. At Midway, it intended to defeat the U.S. in a final battle. But intelligence, luck, and accurate dive-bombing by SBDs gave the victory to the U.S. It was a turning point in the Pacific war.
Rich Tuttle

Rich Tuttle
(Museum historian and curator Col. Gene Pfeffer (USAF-ret.) contributed to this article.)
Sources for this article include:, Enterprise Air Group Action Reports - 7 December 1941
Buell, Harold L., Dauntless Helldivers, New York: Orion Books, 1986.
Knott, Richard C., Black Cat Raiders of WW II, Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1981.
Corsair, Designed for Speed, Proved Itself in the Pacific
The Vought-designed Corsair compiled an impressive 11:1 kill ratio over Japanese planes in the Pacific during World War II, Docent Matt Ouding said during a recent special presentation about the plane at the museum. The Corsair, distinguished by its unusual inverted gull wing, "was a very effective airplane" in the hands of U.S. Navy and Marine Corps pilots, Ouding told an audience at the WestPac hangar on Oct. 23.
During the presentation, Ouding outlined the Corsair's development, its use in combat, and the story of our rare F3A-1, the world’s only flying Brewster-built Corsair. Corsairs were built by three companies. Vought built 4,699 F4Us; Goodyear built 4,006 FGs, and Brewster built 735 F3As, with 431 going to the British Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. Another 3,131 Corsairs were built after the war. Production lines ran from 1942 to 1952, turning out a total of 12,571.

Our Corsair presentation drew a crowd. (Photo by Rich Tuttle)

None of the Brewster-built Corsairs were sent to American units overseas, primarily because of logistics, Ouding said. At a relatively low total, support at home in the states was easier.

The museum’s Brewster Corsair, Navy Bureau of Aeronautics No. 04634, was accepted on January 8, 1944. It was assigned to Marine Fighter Squadron VMF-914 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. It crashed during a training mission on December 19, 1944. The pilot, 2nd Lt. Robin Craig Pennington, was killed in bail-out.

The plane was recovered from a swamp in 1990. The Navy relinquished ownership 14 years later, and a seven-year restoration project by Ezell Aviation of Breckenridge, Texas, was completed in 2018. It was then acquired by the museum.

It had been slated to fly after Ouding’s presentation. But a check-flight confirmed that the low tail gear with which the plane was built gives it a tendency to track to the left when the tail comes down on landing, said Bill Klaers, museum president and CEO. He said the relatively minor issue can be corrected.

But because there was little time to do that before the presentation, the museum's B-25, "In the Mood," flew instead -- with several lucky ticket-winning members of the audience aboard.

The Navy and Marines flew a mix of Vought and Goodyear Corsairs from the Solomon Islands early in the war all the way to the home islands of Japan. Pilots of these Corsairs downed a total of 2,079 Japanese planes. Corsair losses totaled 189.

The top overall Corsair ace was 1st Lt. Robert M. Hanson of Marine Fighter Squadrons VMF-214 and -215, with 25 victories. Maj. Gregory "Pappy" Boyington of VMF-214 was the second with 22. Both men were awarded the Medal of Honor.

The top Navy Corsair ace, with 16 victories, was Lt. (jg) Ira C. Kepford of Fighter Squadron VF-17, nicknamed the "Jolly Rogers.”

VF-17 Corsair pilots downed over 300 enemy planes in two deployments. In their first deployment, flying from Ondonga, New Georgia, under Lt. Cdr. John T. "Tommy" Blackburn, the squadron shot down 156 enemy aircraft in 76 days. In their second deployment, flying from the carrier USS Hornet under Lt. Cdr. M.U. Beebe and supporting the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the squadron downed 146.5 enemy planes in 31 days.
Our F3A rests outside the Westpac hangar. (Photo by Rich Tuttle)

VMF-214 pilots claimed 97 victories under the command of "Pappy" Boyington, a colorful figure who himself was shot down on Jan. 8, 1944, and presumed to have been killed. He was nominated for, and was awarded posthumously, the Medal of Honor. But twenty months later, "he emerged from the Japanese POW camp and was presented with his Medal of Honor," Ouding said.

VMF-214 pilots, "with the encouragement of the public affairs folks, decided to call themselves the 'Black Sheep,'" Ouding said. "The PA folks said the original name was not going to be printable in the press, so they went with the 'Black Sheep.'"

In the battle for Okinawa, the last major land battle of the Pacific, Corsair pilots of Marine Air Groups 31 and 33 protected the U.S. Fifth Fleet. MAG-33 claimed 241 enemy planes shot down. One squadron, VMF-322, claimed 32 enemy aircraft. The museum has on display some artifacts from Dan Camp, a member of VMF-322, who flew combat air patrol missions over Okinawa and the 5th Fleet.

Ouding traced development of the Corsair to a Feb. 1, 1938, U.S. Navy invitation to industry to fill a requirement for a single-seat, high performance carrier fighter. Bell, Grumman and Vought responded. The Navy selected Vought's design, which promised to go 400 mph in level flight, and ordered the plane, called the XF4U-1, on June 11, 1938. It was powered by the Pratt & Whitney XR-2800-2, rated at 1,800 hp. The R-2800 grew to 2,000 hp by war’s end.

Vought’s plane had an inverted gull wing. Company designers wanted landing gear that stowed completely in the wing to reduce drag and knew from wind tunnel tests that if a wing is fitted at 90 degrees to the fuselage, drag is at a minimum.
The inverted gull wing was their compromise solution. The "bend" in the wing is at the point where the wheels retract, allowing them to be completely enclosed to reduce drag and increase speed while providing clearance for the over-13-foot-long propeller.

Was an inverted gull wing necessary? "No," said Ouding. "Look at the P-47 [Thunderbolt], the F6F [Hellcat]. The both had the same engine, the same basic propeller size." The teams that designed the Republic P-47 and the Grumman F6F "took different approaches." But "this is what Vought thought was the most efficient way to meet their design goal, which was speed."

A narrow fuselage also helped reduce drag. But it meant moving the engine’s air inlets, usually on a plane’s cowl, to the inboard leading edge section of each wing. The inlets gave the Corsair its own distinctive sound. Japanese troops came to call it “Whistling Death.”

The prototype Corsair flew for the first time on May 29, 1940, and, following repairs caused by a crash on July 11, 1940, hit 400 mph on Oct. 1, 1940.

A number of modifications were required. Because of the folding wings and the placement of guns and ammunition in the wings, there was no room for fuel tanks. The main fuel tank was placed between the engine and cockpit. This also made the plane more aerodynamically stable -- a good thing in a dogfight – but it moved the pilot’s seat aft by 32 inches, making it harder to see over the nose when landing.
One hundred and fifty-five pounds of armor and a bullet-resistant windscreen were added; the vertical struts of the "birdcage" canopy were eliminated in favor of a canopy that allowed greater visibility and that could be jettisoned in flight; larger-span ailerons were added to make the plane more maneuverable at lower speeds; the flaps were improved; guns that fired through the propeller were deleted, and three .50-cal. machine guns were added to each wing. Photo by Paul Gordon

Fleet pilots encountered issues when landing the early model F4U-1 aboard a carrier. British test pilot Eric "Winkle" Brown called the Corsair "a dog to deck land.” Vought launched a program called "Operation Dog" to help resolve the issue, Ouding said.

The Corsair also bounced over a carrier deck’s arresting wires, preventing the tail hook from engaging them. The hook would then dig into the wooden deck and snap off. The bounce, Ouding said, was a by-product of the main landing gear's short struts. Adjustments to their air-oil mixture helped.

Also, in early Corsairs, the left wing would drop without pilot input. "It tended to be a low-speed issue," Ouding said. The fix was to install a small wedge on the right wing, just outboard of the machine guns. It affected lift on the right wing enough to dampen the left-roll tendency. "The cost to fix that was $3.67 -- in 1943 dollars," Ouding said. He said the first Corsair to get the fix was No. 943 off the production line.

Modifications were made, issues were resolved, and the Corsair became one of the most capable aircraft-carrier-borne fighters of World War II. Some Japanese pilots regarded it as the most formidable American fighter of the war.
Even so, it took a steady hand to bring it aboard a carrier, especially at night. Lt. Col. W.R. (Bill) Lucas (USMC-ret.), now 98, and pictured right, flew Corsairs during the latter stages of World War II. He was with Marine Fighter Squadrons 216, 225, 155 and 224 in Guam, Kwajalein and Okinawa, according to the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Chino, Calif. He logged about 2,000 hours in Corsairs. (Photo by Rich Tuttle).

Lucas went on to fight in Korea, flying L-19 liaison planes at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in 1950. In Vietnam, from 1965 to 1966, he was commanding officer of Marine Helicopter Squadron HMM-364, the “Purple Foxes.” Over his career, he won the Silver Star and two Distinguished Flying Crosses.

"If you want a thrill, try landing [a Corsair] on a bobbing carrier, single-deck [going] up and down fifty feet" with no lights on the ship, Lucas said during Ouding's presentation.

The Landing Signal Officer, or LSO, who stands at the aft end of the deck, signals the pilot with paddles, telling him if he’s "high, low, slow, speed up, " Lucas said. “He's trying to keep you at a level fifty feet. You're in a skid, flaps down, right rudder -- a lot of right rudder -- and aileron. You bring it in nose high and wing down. It's a real thrill."

At the moment to land, the LSO gives the "cut" signal. "When he gives you that cut, you hope the deck is there.”
Rich Tuttle

Rich Tuttle
Anna Gorka is Volunteer of the Fourth Quarter
Anna Gorka has been named the National Museum of World War II Aviation's volunteer of the fourth quarter of 2021.

She is our graphics designer, taking draft graphics and turning them into finished, ready-to-print formats. You can see her work everywhere, from the large 4’ x 8’ wall graphics, smaller graphics and directional signs, to all the aircraft placards in the museum and WestPac. She completed over 100 of the 350 or so graphics in the current pavilion. She has saved the museum the many tens of thousands of dollars it would otherwise have cost to pay outside graphics designers. Anna is providing graphics for the planned new pavilion, and has completed the design of 40 new graphics.

Anna and her husband Mike will attend our Christmas party Dec. 12, where she will be officially recognized.

Congratulations, Anna!
Lt. Col. Robert Taylor Passes Away at Age 97
Lt. Col. Robert H. Taylor (USAF retired) died in his sleep in Colorado Springs Nov. 13. He was 97.
Bob, who attended many of the museum's special presentations, had a long career in the U.S. Air Force. He was a flight instructor in World War II, won the Bronze Star flying F-51s in Korea, and was on flight status in the T-33 and T-39 until retirement from the service in 1968.

Pictured here is Taylor with his F-51 in Korea. (Family photo)

He wore several hats in retirement. He was chaplain of the local chapter of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association, a group of fighter pilots who survived the Vietnam War. The group would meet at the Airplane Restaurant, not far from the museum, and "give everybody a chance to tell their war stories," he said in a recent interview (see the Newsletter of November 2021).

He also helped with a Christian outreach and ministry that aims radio broadcasts at Arabic-speaking people. Bob said he had "30 years of flying for Uncle Sam, then 45 years of being responsible for radio programs in the language of Arabic."

And he loved restoring old cars. He took a 1932 Dodge from a Colorado Springs junk pile to a beauty. "It's driveable," he said. "I put a hemi in it, so I don't slow up too many people."

Bob was a flight instructor in the BT-14 and T-6 from 1943 to 1945, and checked out in the P-40 and P-47. He joined the New Jersey Air National Guard after World War II and flew 85 combat missions in Korea. He won the Bronze star while in Korea for greatly improving the ground-striking accuracy of his group and simultaneously minimizing exposure to ground fire.

His experiences included ejecting from a T-33 and flying VIPs in T-39s

Bob would love to eat at the Airplane Restaurant -- his favorite booth was No. 41 -- and then watch planes at the Colorado Springs Airport. In booth 41 he also enjoyed teaching aerodynamics to tourist families.

Bob was born October 15, 1924, in Albany, New York.

He is survived by his daughter Susan Aluise of Colorado Springs, his son Bob of Bel Aire, Kansas, and six grandchildren.