By JShumate in Model Airplane NewsLiving history has a shelf life, and the expiration date cannot be extended. I’ve been interviewing WW II veterans since the early 1970s when I got serious about writing history, and it’s been a bittersweet experience. Anyone who’s made a career documenting aviation (or anything else) will tell you the same thing: you make older friends who become almost like family, and you know that you’re going to lose them.
That knowledge does not make the inevitable losses much easier. The rate of attrition among WW II veterans has accelerated immensely of late. Four of my books provided a fairly reliable “howgozit” on the mortality scale.
When Clash of the Carriers was published in 2005, 25% of the contributors were already deceased. In other words, one in four of the Marianas Turkey Shoot participants who survived the war had died in 60 years. It was a typical demographic for that generation.
Raider crew for Plane Ten. As a teenager, Flight Journal’s Editor-in-Chief knew pilot Richard Joyce (front, left)
but had no idea he was a Raider, so never interviewed him.
Five years later came Whirlwind, the first one-volume history of all air operations over Japan. It made Amazon.com’s overall top 40 list, but 40% of the veterans I consulted never saw the book. The rate of attrition had increased by nearly two-thirds between 2005 and 2010.
Then in 2012 I published Enterprise, the story of “America’s fightingest ship.” At least 53% of the “Big E” men I had known were deceased by then. For the first time, fewer than half the contributors to one of my books never lived to see the work.
Last year—2014—U.S. Marine Corps Fighter Squadrons of World War II was released by Osprey, my UK publisher. It occurred to me during writing that I no longer knew any WW II flying leathernecks. The last one was Col. Jim Swett, a Medal of Honor ace who died in 2009.
From 25% to 100% losses in nine years.
None of those books could be written today, at least not with the first-person contributions from men who lived the events.
The most recent loss was intensely personal. Cdr. Alexander Vraciu, who became the Navy’s top ace during the Turkey Shoot, was the ranking U.S. ace at the time of his death in January, age 96. Al and Kay practically became a second set of parents from the 1970s on, and I was fortunate to inherit five “Romanian cousins” as well. When Al departed the pattern he left about 82 living American aces of whom only 31 wore Wings of Gold, including four Marines.
When I attended the American Fighter Aces Association reunion three years ago, the median age was 90. In 2013-14 we lost 47 aces; two a month.
Other attrition is no better. We’ve seen the Doolittle Raiders reduced from the 63 who survived the war to three this year.
Of the 133 RAF “Dambusters” who flew the classic 1943 mission, 53 died attacking the Ruhr dams. Three were living last year.
Some units sustained 25% or more casualties throughout a combat tour. But attrition extends far beyond war zones. The Army Air Forces lost some 13,000 personnel just in Stateside training accidents. Postwar attrition continued, and not only from flying. Cols. David Schilling and James Jabara of WW II and Korean fame, respectively, died in automobile accidents. Two 8th Air Force standouts, Duane Beeson and John Godfrey, succumbed to disease at ages 25 and 36. Maj. Gen. Marion Carl, The first Marine ace and a record-setting test pilot, was murdered in his home by a piece of human trash who remains on Oregon’s “death” row 17 years later.
Veterans of later wars also are thinning out. America produced 40 jet aces in Korea; seven remain today.
Unfortunately, because we’re aviation oriented, we sometimes forget that vets of all persuasions are leaving us at similar rates. For every ace who passes, we lose tens of thousands of other fliers, GIs and swabbies who helped write the history we have inherited. The shelf life of history is so evident today because the shelves are rapidly emptying as our once-young men reach their expiration date or survive a war to meet another tragic end. The most public of those in recent years was America’s all-time top sniper, SEAL Chris Kyle. He survived four combat tours in Iraq only to be killed by a fellow veteran reportedly suffering from post-traumatic stress.
There’s a philosophical difference among historians regarding the value of long-after interviews. Rick Atkinson, whose impressive works include his landmark trilogy of the U.S. Army in WW II, seldom conducts interviews. He has more confidence in contemporary accounts because they were fresh in the participants’ memories. However, researchers and oral historians who interview veterans believe there’s room for both. So there’s always room for new information, new perspectives. There is, however, no room for procrastination.
Whatever your conclusions, whatever your preferred method of research—even if it’s just sitting with a veteran uncle, one thing becomes absolutely clear with the passage of time: Do it now.
Tomorrow may not come.
By Barrett Tillman
The post A Tribute to Our Veterans appeared first on Model Airplane News.
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By JShumate in Model Airplane NewsIgnore the Wind with this Golden Age Racer
When it comes the air racers from the Golden Age of Aviation, nothing even comes close to the Gee Bee aircraft the Granville Brothers built. And, of all the Gee Bee racers, the awesome R-2 was by far the most famous. Years ahead of the competition, the very powerful and fast R-2 had a reputation for being very difficult to fly. Though some pilots crashed in the R-2, it wasn’t the aircraft’s design that was at fault. Rather, there simply weren’t any pilots available that had the skills to safely fly the aircraft.
This was proven decades later when, in the late 1990s when Delmar Benjamin and Steve Wolf built and successfully flew an exact replica R-2 as a fully aerobatic airshow plane.
(Above) Delmar spent a lot of time proving the R-2 was an amazing aircraft and flew the Bee Bee inverted at many airshows.
New and Improved UMX Gee Bee R-2
Priced at $129.99, the new re-released UMX Gee Bee R-2 from E-flite captures all of the excitement and performance of the full size aircraft. With a wingspan of only 20 inches, the R-2 comes equipped with a more powerful motor, AS3X and optional use SAFE Select technology making it even easier to fly than the original UMX Gee Bee.
What we liked
Recently reviewed in the January 2019 issue of Model Airplane News, we put the mini Gee Bee racer through its paces and there was a lot to be impressed with. As with all UMX models, the R-2 comes out of the box fully assembled and ready to fly. All you need to add is your own DSMX- or DSM2-compatible transmitter and a 2S 200 to 280mAh LiPo flight battery. Molded from rugged and lightweight foam, the R-2 comes factory painted and has loads of molded in details. The big wheel pants and the flying wires even come installed, so there is nothing to do but charge you battery and go to the flying field.
In the Air
The E-flite Gee Bee was always a great flying backyard flyer, but the newest version is a step above. As soon as you launch the R-2 you can feel the added flight stability making it feel like a larger airplane. It can be flown wind conditions that would otherwise ground other lightweight airplanes, and it feels completely unaffected by wind gusts.
When it comes to aerobatics, the Gee Bee holds a straight line easily with amazing tracking and stability, while also having excellent control response. It will do any aerobatic maneuver you’d care to perform. The added power gives the model a noticeable increase in speed which adds to the fun in a big way.
Flown from a smooth surface, you can take off and land easily but it’s small size requires hand launches when operating from a turf flying field. Landings in the taller grass are not an issue at all since the model is so lightweight and ruggedly designed.
If you long for the excitement of the Golden Age of Aviation and want to pilot the most famous Gee Bee racer of them all, then the UMX Gee Bee R-2 is just what the doctor ordered!
The post E-flite/Horizon Hobby Gee Bee R-2 appeared first on Model Airplane News.
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By JShumate in Model Airplane NewsErik van den Hoogen’s scratch-built, all-wood Gotha P.60A flies quite well, especially considering that the full-size interceptor it is modeled after was never completed! With a wingspan of 10 feet, 10 inches, this 1/4-scale, 77-pound model Is powered by two AMT Mercury turbine engines, each with 9.5kg of thrust. Our thanks to RCScaleAirplanes for taking this great video at the Model Airshow of MFC-Hurlach in Germany earlier this month.
The post RC WW II Luftwaffe Flying Wing Takes Flight appeared first on Model Airplane News.
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By JShumate in Model Airplane NewsWhen it comes to setting up airplanes, one of the most important things to get right is Aileron Differential. Being able to fly proper coordinated turns all depends on the type of airplane you are flying. The difference between 3D aerobatic airplanes and vintage WW I biplanes can be very big. This article highlights how to setup and then test fly your airplane to make sure you get the settings dialed in correctly. Excellent information for beginner pilots wondering why the nose of their plane skids out of turns, world class aerobatic champion John Glezellis explains it all.
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The post New for Premium Members — Aileron Differential –The secret to coordinated turns appeared first on Model Airplane News.
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By JShumate in Model Airplane NewsWhen it comes to flying your new model airplane, get into the habit of checking everything out before cranking up your engine. Finding problems before you take off is a lot better than dealing with them in the air. This video highlights some of the basics.
The post Basic RC Plane Setup Video appeared first on Model Airplane News.
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