Monthly Archives: July 2012

“What’s in a Name?” – The Curious Case of “Butch II” and the 352nd Fighter Squadron

I should start this piece with a confession. Although I have been involved in 353rd FG history and heritage for a long time, I have never kept a list of its aircraft before the one on this blog. Knowing that a particular aircraft had a particular name, code, serial and was flown on a particular occasion by a particular pilot does not add anything to our historical understanding to my mind. There are, however, dedicated people out there who devote many hours of painstaking research to such matters and I would be the very first to concede the limitations of my knowledge and the superiority of theirs in this area.

I use a fairly academic definition of history that probably needs some clarifying. Historians

divide over whether vast impersonal forces, individuals, blind chance or the divine drive history. They also divide over whether history has a lesson or is essentially meaningless and should be studied purely for its own sake. They probably all agree that history is all about explaining continuity or change in human affairs using the evidence available (though they again divide over what constitutes evidence and how it should be used). So from an academic perspective it’s difficult to see how aircraft serial lists could ever help answer questions relevant to historians. As a caveat I would suggest that important facts do not become so until a historian attributes significance to them, so maybe someday somebody will discover the historical significance of serial numbers.

I would be lying, of course, if I did not admit that I carry around in my head a certain amount of knowledge on whose aircraft carried what names or if I denied some interest in such things. Aircraft identities, and the stories behind them, are often a very direct way to connect to the personal and human heritage (I prefer this term to “history”) behind the military exterior. They serve to open up what many perceive as the glamorous world of the fighter pilot and the often tragic stories behind a faded photograph or tattered document. The families of veterans, of course, can gain great satisfaction and comfort from confirmation that an aircraft is “Dad’s aircraft” rather than just a “Thunderbolt” or “Mustang.” It’s much more widespread than this though – from the “spotters” who enjoy compiling lists to the war-bird restorers, re-enactors, modellers and computer gamers, literally thousands of people have an intense fascination for accuracy and detail on the aircraft of the Eighth Air Force and the 353rd as a subsection of this.

So here are some good serial numbers that will hopefully resolve some of the confusion that has banded around the internet over the last few years (though I hope it does not cause too much angst among the modelling community). The origins of the confusion go back to 1969 and the publication of Ken Rust’s Slybird Group. Page 73 has a picture of SX-B “Butch II” that “Weep” Juntilla supplied and that Rust attributes to Bill Bailey – commander of the 352nd Fighter Squadron. SX-B was Bailey’s aircraft code and has a long association with him. So it would seem obvious to attribute the name to him also. But here’s the thing – it’s not Bailey’s aircraft. Bailey flew it, but another pilot was responsible for the name “Butch II.”

As I said, I’m new to this list game and I have not yet compiled a full listing of all Bailey’s SX-B’s. What I do know is that he didn’t actually name his Thunderbolts – when I asked him once if he named his P-47s he was very vague and said that some people had attributed names to my aircraft. In actual fact the record suggests he didn’t name them, preferring just to have a lion painted on his early aircraft by Phil Rossi, the former Disney artist in the 378th Service Squadron. Names for Bailey’s aircraft only begin with his P-51s “Double Trouble” and “Double Trouble Two.”

The earliest SX-B I can confirm at the moment is a P-47D-22-RE (a/c 42-26036). The aircraft had a rough time with the Squadron – Lt Reinhardt crashed landed it at Wattisham on June 10, 1944 and it was repaired and recoded as SX-P. Its new life did not last long, however, and it was lost to flak August 1, 1944. The pilot, Lt. Del Harris, survived the experience and became a POW. Meanwhile Bailey, still flying operations, was given a P-47D-25-RE as replaceme (a/c 42-26459). Bailey completed his first tour on August 8, 1944 and left for leave in the United States – he would not be back until around October 15, by which time the Group had converted to Mustangs. This left the last P-47 SX-B to be flown and named by somebody else in Bailey’s absence.

Lt. William T. ‘Bill’ McGarry joined the Squadron on May 19, 1944 and just under a month

later was assigned his first regular aircraft – a P-47D-25-RE (a/c 42-26631) coded SX-I. He named the aircraft “Butch” and flew it regularly on operations throughout the summer until August 4. The aircraft was lost, along with its pilot Lt. Richard Daines, to flak a few days later on August 7. Bill McGarry therefore needed a replacement aircraft and, as Bailey’s aircraft was available, he took SX-B and soon named it “Butch II.” McGarry flew the aircraft through the remainder of his tour completing on September 21, 1944.

Answering questions often leads to further questions and this post was actually prompted by a photo of another earlier “Butch II” in the 352nd Fighter Squadron. As the white identification band shows, this aircraft dates from the Squadron’s Metfield days and my strong hunch is that it is Mac McCollom’s aircraft. As commander of the 61st FS, 56th FG he called his P-47 “Butch.” His daughter Patty explains that “Butch” was her father’s humorous nickname for her mother – a very diminutive, feminine and educated woman who you could never imagine calling “Butch.” When he left the 56th to join the 353rd, McCollom’s old P-47 would likely have remained on the 56th FG books and the natural thing to do would be to call the new 353rd aircraft “Butch II.” Roger Freeman lists McCollom as operating SX-C with the Group, but I have no confirmation of a serial yet or what caused the wing tip damage in the photo.

So that’s some of what’s in a name – I’m not sure any of this is historically significant, but hopefully it’s interesting to some of you out there…

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“Cockle Calling” – 353rd Fighter Group Flying Control

The close watchers of some of the pages will have noticed I haven’t been twiddling my thumbs rather than posting for the last week. I’ve managed instead to complete a couple of updates to the ‘Other Unit’ page – namely some photos of the Medical section and some information and photos of Flying Control.

Capt. Henry H. Zielinski (SFCO)

Flying Control was vital for Group operations at all its

1st Lt. Saul Jaffe (Control Officer) on the Control Tower balcony.

bases and the page section aims to give a brief description of these functions and the personnel involved. Lt. William Snell and Lt. Walter Williams first established Group Flying Control at Metfield at the start of August, 1943. The Group Senior Flying Control Officer for most of the war, however, was Capt. Henry H. Zielinski. He (and the other flying control officers) kept a daily log book recording all activity concerning aircraft movements on the airfields. Luckily, Zielinski had the foresight to keep the log and

1st Lt Karl R. Ulrey (Control Officer)

passed a copy on the Roger Freeman who let me have a

Cpl. Carmine E. Ciampa (Control Clerk) with Mortar Cover

copy (yet another reason to thank Roger). It’s a fascinating record of operational station life from the mundane to the tragic. It’s also very funny at times – you can read the frustration of the control staff as they try to maintain

airfield discipline in the face of the GIs best efforts to circumvent it. Aircraft regularly go the wrong way or try to land ‘wheels up’, people walk around on live runways and, at one point, resourceful cyclists even get a cheeky tow from a passing P-47.

Sgt. Charles ‘Arthur’ McCray in the Crow’s Nest

The log is not the only record of life in Flying Control. Cpl.

Cpl. Henry C. Jiminez

Henry C. Jiminez worked on the Flarepath Party and then the Alert Crew. In the last role he used the black and white chequered ‘Follow Me’ Jeep to guide visiting aircraft to the correct revetment and then ensured they were refuelled and had any other requirements attended to. Henry is still with us and enjoys remembering his time in the service. He  also ensured that the Library of Congress Veterans History Project preserved a wonderful record of his experiences (including some nice photos). You can view the documents and a video interview at the following Henry C. Jiminez link.

Sgt. Charles ‘Arthur’ McCray on the Control Tower roof

Now, I’m sure you haven’t missed the wonderful colour photographs peppered throughout this post. They were taken by Sgt Charles ‘Arthur’ McCray, a Communications Specialist and Radio operator in Flying Control. The photos were discovered in Oklahoma in 2007 by Ray Sims who sent them on to Rob Truman – the producer of the Control Towers Website.  If you haven’t seen Rob’s excellent website I recommend you take a look to get a much broader picture of the scale and extent of both airfields and flying control in the United Kingdom during WWII. The colour pictures are reproduced here with Rob’s kind permission and help.

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Lt. James G. Bartley – ‘Jockey 74’ of the 352nd Fighter Squadron

Bartley’s P-51D10-NA SX-B (bar) 44-14905 ‘Little Midget (L) ‘Missy’ (R)

Back in 1995 I had the pleasure of meeting James G. Bartley when he returned to Raydon for a Group reunion. Originally from Adron, Ohio, he flew P-51s with the 352nd Squadron. He was assigned January 25, 1945 and remained at Raydon until the summer of that year. A few weeks after meeting him, a nice letter arrived along with copies of two wartime colour photographs as a remembrance of his visit – one of his aircraft SX-B ‘Little Midget’ and ‘Missy’ and one of Lt Lindsay W. ‘Red’ Grove’s SX-D ‘Miss Jackie II.’ The photos have since become fairly commonplace on the internet, but at the time I remember being very excited – it was only the second batch of wartime colour photos from the 353rd I had ever seen. I stayed in touch with Jim first by letter and then by email. He passed away March 11, 2010.

Lt Lindsay ‘Red’ W. Grove’s P51D-15-NA SX-D (bar) ‘Miss Jackie II’

Luckily Jim wrote down some of his experiences and stories that are available on the World  War II Pilots website along with some more of his photos. Click on this Jim Bartley link to read his story. This, however, is not the end of the story about the colour photos. Apparently they were part of a larger batch that is available to view at the Jeffrey L. Ethell collection website. If you click on this link and then click to open the search page you can view the pictures. Just type ‘Raydon’ into the location field of the search engine and you will be able to see eleven further colour photos taken at Raydon by Jim Bartley and friends. Interestingly, one shows a P-47D-22-RE SX-Q (a/c 42-25959) that was assigned to the Group in July 1945 for training purposes. The credits say it is Lt Bill Parker’s aircraft, but I have no information, as yet, to confirm this.

The search should also bring up a nice photo of a 353rd aircraft ‘Betty’ from the Robert Astrella collection taken at Mount Farm. Again, sadly I do not have any further information on this aircraft. In Astrella’s photographs there is also a shot of the Group’s AT6A Texan (a/c 43-13048) taken in 1945, so it is definitely worth searching through this archive website. If you are in the United Kingdom, the Imperial War Museum also holds the Astrella collection.

Trawling the internet I note the World War II Fighter Aircraft Foundation are restoring a P-51 to represent Bartley’s aircraft. It seems the 352nd are a popular choice for warbird operators these days – take a look at SX-H ‘The Little Witch’ with some wartime photos and SX-B ‘Double Trouble Two’. There are no versions of SX-Q or ‘Betty’ that I know of out there, but I should also say somebody is restoring an AT6 Texan to represent the 353rd’s wartime ‘hack’ aircraft. In both restoration projects they don’t lack historically accurate photographs and we can all thank Jim Bartley and Robert Astrella for an important and fascinating colour record.

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Facebook Page Change

In the interest of getting more traffic through Facebook, I’ve deleted the old page and created one with a title more friendly to user search terms. Sorry for any inconvenience caused – blame my technical inadequacy and the WordPress requirement for a one word site title. Hope the new name makes it easier to connect and share the history of the 353rd!

It’s now at 353rd Fighter Group

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Lt Col. Joseph A. Morris and Early Training Operations with other Fighter Groups

So I’ve taken a break from posting while I read through the proofs of an exciting new book on the 353rd. It’s a major contribution to the Group history, but I can’t say more than that at the moment I’m afraid – my lips are sealed at the request of the author.

A fairly well known shot of the 84th FS, 78th FG. Copies of the photo turn up in 353rd collections and this perhaps suggests it was taken while Duncan and Bailey flew with the Squadron. Sadly, I don’t know enough about the 78th to date it accurately.

Another shot of the 84th FS tacken at the same time as the first photo

In an attempt to get back to the group chronology, I’ve been looking at the familiarisation missions some Group pilots flew with the 4th, 56th and 78th Fighter Groups during July 1943 and it has turned up some interesting points. The following discussion is based on what the Air Force records at Maxwell AFB show. Major Duncan and Major Bailey flew  a series of fighter sweeps with the 84th and 83rd Squadrons of the 78th FG and didn’t see much action, but gained valuable experience. Rimerman and Stafford seem to have had a more ‘exciting’ time with the 334th, 4th FG encountering the enemy on July 28 and witnessing the more experienced pilots claim four kills. Shannon Christian is the only recorded pilot with the 63rd FS, 56th FG. Cross’s Jonah’s Feet Are Dry seems to be incorrect in stating Pidduck of the 350th also went to the 4th FG. He may well have done (three aircraft LH-K, J and X went to Debden) but there’s no record of him flying that I can find. Similarly, there is no record of Lt Col. Morris, the

A rather poor shot of 62nd FS, 56th FG P-47s. It looks a fairly early photo – maybe connected to Morris’s time with the 56th?

353rd FG leader, flying with the 56th FG although it’s often stated he did. The 56th might not have kept good records at this time or maybe Morris flew on some missions elsewhere and had some difficult experiences? Perhaps experts on the 4th and 56th can clear this up? The 353rd and 56th went on to have something of a special relationship during their time in England. Their respective bases at Halesworth and Metfield and Boxted and Raydon were very close to each other and the 56th acted as a kind of bigger, more experienced, brother to the younger Group.  The officers at least would also often turn up at each other’s officer club parties.

Lt Col. Joseph A. Morris October 15, 1942 – August 16, 1943

The absence of Morris in the records is intriguing. Bill Price recounted a story that when Morris came back from the familiarisation flights he had developed a ‘nervous tick’ – so if true, he certainly must have encountered something challenging. Morris is a controversial figure in Group history and is somebody that has never had his story fully told. He’s sometimes seen in a negative light and there are some understandable reasons for this. For a start he was a lot older than most of the Group – at 32 he would have been seen as an ‘old man’ to men in their early twenties and perhaps difficult to relate to. He had also been in the army since 1936. If you had that much regular army experience then it would be unsurprising if you did not see eye to eye with the hoards of civilians filling the Air Corp and changing its nature fundamentally by force of numbers. Finally, he had a difficult relationship with some of the 350th FS members after he dismissed Wallace Hopkins, their popular first squadron leader, for not being ‘military enough.’ Hopkins went on to become the Executive Officer of the 361st FG and, according to 361st expert Steve Gotts, was known as a bit of a stickler for military discipline. It would not be surprising that he would  later pay extra attention to discipline if lacking it had been the cause of him losing his first command.

There’s clearly a lot more to be said (and written) on Morris and his time with the Group. A relative of his did email me some photos of him a few years back with some more of his story. There is also a good amount of information on the following link about Lt Col. Morris. For your interest I attach a summary below of the these early flights before the 353rd officially entered combat operations.

Postscript: July 24, 2012

A couple of further details have come up since I originally posted. The first is that Mac McCollom’s daughter kindly sent me details of a brief diary entry her father made – he commanded the 61st FS, 56th FG at this time.

His diary for July 26, 1943 reads: “Led  two more fighter sweeps today. They were most uneventful. Col. Morris the Group  Commander of the 353rd Group has been flying my wing the last few  missions.  His Group is going to be stationed at Metfield about six miles  from here. They will probably be operational in about three weeks.”

So now we know for sure that Morris was flying with the 61st FS. In addition I checked the 351st Squadron records and they record that Morris took a P-47C-5-RE (a/c 41-6583) from the Squadron to fly while seconded to the 61st FS. I then did some further digging and discovered he wrecked it in a landing accident at Halesworth on July 25. I don’t know how serious the accident was (I’m awaiting sight of a copy of the accident report) but maybe this was part of the ‘challenging’ circumstances he encountered at the time.

Clearly, there is more to the story here…

Pilot Type Unit A/C Area Date Time Up Time Down Flight Time
Duncan Fighter Sweep 84th FS French/Dutch Coast 25-Jul-43 14:15 15:56 01:41:00
Duncan Fighter Sweep 84th FS Dutch Coast 26-Jul-43 09:40 11:28 01:48:00
Duncan Fighter Sweep 84th FS Abbeville 26-Jul-43 16:44 17:20 00:36:00
Duncan Fighter Sweep 84th FS French Coast 27-Jul-43 17:23 19:05 01:42:00
Duncan Fighter Sweep 84th FS Dutch Coast 28-Jul-43 10:49 Abort
Duncan Fighter Sweep 84th FS Dunkirk 28-Jul-43 18:15 19:55 01:40:00
Bailey Fighter Sweep 83rd FS French/Dutch Coast 25-Jul-43 14:13 15:48 01:35:00
Bailey Fighter Sweep 83rd FS Dutch Coast 26-Jul-43 09:37 11:20 01:43:00
Bailey Fighter Sweep 83rd FS Abbeville 26-Jul-43 16:46 18:17 01:31:00
Bailey Fighter Sweep 83rd FS French Coast 27-Jul-43 17:20 19:06 01:46:00
Bailey Fighter Sweep 83rd FS Dutch Coast 28-Jul-43 10:45 12:55 02:10:00
Bailey Fighter Sweep 83rd FS Dunkirk 28-Jul-43 18:15 20:00 01:45:00
Rimerman Fighter Sweep 334th FS LH-K French/Dutch Coast 25-Jul-43 14:15 15:46 01:31:00
Rimerman Fighter Sweep 334th FS LH-K Dutch Coast 26-Jul-43 09:40 11:15 01:35:00
Rimerman Fighter Sweep 334th FS LH-K Lille 26-Jul-43 17:05 18:25 01:20:00
Rimerman Fighter Sweep 334th FS LH-K Dieppe 27-Jul-43 17:20 18:55 01:35:00
Rimerman Escort 334th FS LH-K Westhoofd 28-Jul-43 10:40 13:00 02:20:00
Rimerman Fighter Sweep 334th FS LH-K Cayeux 28-Jul-43 18:10 19:50 01:40:00
Stafford Fighter Sweep 334th FS LH-J French/Dutch Coast 25-Jul-43 14:15 15:46 01:31:00
Stafford Fighter Sweep 334th FS LH-J Dutch Coast 26-Jul-43 09:40 11:15 01:35:00
Stafford Fighter Sweep 334th FS LH-X Lille 26-Jul-43 17:05 18:25 01:20:00
Stafford Fighter Sweep 334th FS QP-J Dieppe 27-Jul-43 17:20 17:40 00:20:00 Abort (radio).
Stafford Escort 334th FS QP-N Westhoofd 28-Jul-43 10:40 13:00 02:20:00
Stafford Fighter Sweep 334th FS LH-J Cayeux 28-Jul-43 18:10 19:50 01:40:00
Christian Escort 63rd FS Netherlands 25-Jul-43 u/k u/k u/k
Christian Fighter Sweep 63rd FS Lille 26-Jul-43 u/k u/k u/k

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350th Fighter Squadron Wartime Colour Film

Many years ago Roger Freeman gave me a VHS tape (remember those) of some colour film taken at Raydon during the war by Don Kammer, a 350th Squadron P-51 pilot. Roger was instrumental in getting the film preserved at the East Anglian Film (EAFA) Archive at the University of East Anglia along with Kammer’s complete flight suit which is still on display at Duxford. Sadly I lent the VHS tape to someone and never got it back – a lesson learnt! I wasn’t too bothered as I knew EAFA had a copy and they have recently put it online. It’s a great piece of film and gives you a good idea of what Raydon looked like when operational. It can be viewed on the below link and I thought it would be useful if I include some viewing notes.

Click this link to see the film: Raydon Film

Viewing Notes:

0.10-0.18 Three unknown 350th pilots (I’m working on this, but ideas welcome).

0.32-1.36 This is John Balason, an original pilot with the 350th, who was kicked out of the Squadron by Ben Rimerman when he found him asleep in the Link Trainer at Baltimore after a heavy night out. Balason flew a tour of duty in the Aleutians and then (as a friend of Wayne ‘Blick’ Blickenstaff) came back to the Squadron October 29, 1944. The film must have been taken at some point in 1945 (because of the eight rows of chequers on the aircraft nose), but before February 22, 1945 when his aircraft ‘Miss Betsy D’ (a/c LH-J P-51D10-NA 44-14793) was hit by flak and he became a POW.

1.37 Interestingly this shows LH-U which is a code with a long association with Blickenstaff. The end serial number seems to be 353 which does not fit with what I currently have so I’ll have to wait until I reach that point in the chronology to confirm.

1.46-1.49 Balason’s aircraft again.

2.13 Note the nice shot of the ‘RA’ identifying Raydon.

2.21 Balason’s aircraft again.

2.26-3.38 This is Don Kammer – the pilot responsible for taking the film. I can’t say whether this is his aircraft ‘Baltimore Belle (a/c LH-F P51D-20-NA 44-72096) as there is no name painted on it and no serial visible. There was another LH-F in the Squadron until Bill Tanner bailed out of it on March 27, 1945, so rather than attempt to be conclusive here I’ll leave it for future discussion.

3.53 This is the ‘Thunderbolt Theatre’ on the main airfield mess site (another picture of the complex is on the ‘other units’  page banner).

3.58-4.06 This is Ed Rosentretter, 350th Intelligence officer. Rosentretter was known as a bit of a whizz at table tennis and often played in the fierce competitions held in the Squadron ready room.

5.21 This seems to be an earlier roll of film as the Mustangs taking off have three rows of chequers. Where the Mustangs come into view is roughly where the airfield memorial is now.

6.26 The famous ‘cart shed’ in Little Wenham (now demolished). Famous both for being sketched by John Constable and for ‘Killer’ Spriggs of the 350th driving a jeep under it!

6.56 I assume this is the RAF Air Sea Rescue station at Great Yarmouth as pilots would often visit for familiarisation trips.

9.15 Ed Rosentretter.

9.48 Don Kammer.

Further Film

A 350th Squadron war weary P-51c1-NT (a/c LH-M 42-103302) makes an ever so brief appearance in the following film taken at the 447th Bomb Group base at Rattlesden. It is available to view on the Internet Archive website.

Enjoy the show!

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Capt. Harrison “Bud” Tordoff, 352nd Fighter Squadron and “Upupa Epops.”

A friend who has an interest in the 352nd Fighter Squadron recently reminded me about the excellent  Flying Heritage Collection P51-D-20-NA (A/C 44-723364) SX-L “Upupa Epops.” Now I know this breaks the historical sequence of my blog and I have said elsewhere on this site I’m interested in the historical record and not heritage, but I think I can justify breaking my rule. Firstly, it is a rare survivor – it actually flew from Raydon during WWII and is not, like most, just painted to represent a 353rd aircraft. Secondly, they have gone to immense effort to restore the aircraft as authentically as possible – the detail is incredible. If you check out the Flying Heritage website on the above link they also have some nice wartime pictures of the aircraft – so that covers the historical record. Oh, and I just love Mustangs.

Capt. Harrison “Bud” Tordoff, 352nd Fighter Squadron.

The aircraft was flown by Capt. Harrison “Bud” Tordoff and was his second Mustang to carry the name “Upupa Epops.”  Tordoff got the name from the Latin for the Hoopoe bird – noted for its ungainly flight. This certainly wasn’t the case with Tordoff whose career with the 352nd included shooting down an Me262 on March 31, 1945. Sadly Tordoff passed away July 23, 2008, but I was lucky to correspond with him and learn more about his time with the Squadron (which I’ll detail when I get to it chronologically) and of his important work at the University of Minnesota to restore the devastated Peregrine Falcon population.

If it’s possible to give the Flying Heritage Collection a negative review in any sense it has to be on some of their focus. As with a lot of heritage (which is not history) there is a tendency to cherry pick topics and avoid awkward questions and aspects of the air war. There are clear dangers for institutions here of getting too far ahead of the public – as the Smithsonian Institute found to their cost with the Enola Gay controversy of the 1990s. Clearly much sensitivity is required in dealing with emotive topics and this does mean sometimes not all aspects of the air war are covered by organisations. To their credit, Flying Heritage, on their website, try to set the aircraft in the context of developments in “airframe, power, weaponry, means and capacity, support technology and political will.”  Political will aside, to my mind, this rather ignores a large part of the human element of the story. While it is important to know about Bud Tordoff and his aircraft, we also need the wider context of how these aircraft were operated in new and innovative ways. Technological development went hand in hand with tactical and strategic development. The website, at least, leaves the non-specialist wondering what, for instance, the 352nd Fighter Squadron or 353rd Fighter Group actually were – how were they constituted, how did they operate, what part did organisation play in bringing the Mustang to bear? This is clearly not just a question of the arrival of the Mustang with superior performance and range. It’s a question of human trial and error in the development of command and control tactics to deploy  airpower effectively. I have not visited the museum so maybe they cover these aspects further there, but the website, at least, misses a big part of the story which is disappointing for such a well-funded organisation.

Getting back to “Upupa Epops,” there are some really nice videos posted on the internet by the Flying Heritage Collection that I link at the bottom of this post. Note that the aircraft name artwork was originally incorrectly painted in yellow – now changed to the correct red. Enjoy…

Flying Heritage Collection 1

Flying Heritage Collection 2

Flying Heritage Collection 3


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