AMERICAN AVIATION HISTORICAL SOCIETY

   1956 - 2017, Celebrating  over 60 Years of Service
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Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 49, No. 3 - Fall 2004
Table of Contents 

Arlington Sisu 1A: Rise and Demise of America’s Most Successful Competition Sailplane

     SISU -('see-sue') A popular Finnish word with no precise English equivalent that describes a unique blend of will and tenacity. Sisu "refers not to the courage of optimism," wrote Aini Rajanen in Of Finnish Ways (Barnes & Noble, 1984), "but to a concept of life that says, ‘I may not win, but I will give up my life gladly for what I believe.’ ...Sisu is the only word for the Finns’ strongest national characteristic."
     Leonard A. Niemi designed the most successful high-performance sailplane design in American history and he named this aircraft ‘ Sisu’ to honor his Finnish heritage. Pilots flying the Sisu set world and national records and conquered soaring competitions for a half decade until an onslaught of fast-glass, high-speed sailplanes designed and built in Europe entirely from marble-smooth, fiberglass-reinforced plastic, drove the Sisu into obsolescence. It is ironic that the laminar flow airfoils like the one that Niemi used on his Sisu had to migrate across the Atlantic Ocean to reach their ultimate potential in the hands of the designers of European sailplanes.
     Government action at the end of World War II helped to set the stage for Niemi to begin designing his Sisu seven years later. Almost as soon as hostilities in Europe ceased in May 1945, War Department officials offered for public sale hundreds of surplus military training sailplanes. Soaring schools welcomed this deluge of inexpensive two-seat trainers in good or brand-new condition but the sale landed a body blow to American sailplane manufacturers and designers because it eliminated their incentive to spend the time and money required . . . . . .



Al Parker and his Sisu


Charles P. "Chuck" Doyle

     When a person thinks of aviation in Minnesota, the first person that comes to mind is Charles Lindbergh, and rightfully so. The "Lone Eagle" was from Little Falls, Minnesota, about 100 miles north of Minneapolis. There are other famous Minnesotans that were in the aviation field like Charles "Speed" Holman, stunt pilot and the first pilot of Northwest Airlines, and the "Flying Grandfather," Max Conrad. But the man that comes to mind for me is living legend, Charles P. "Chuck" Doyle.
     Doyle was born May 26, 1916, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the only son of an Irish plumber. He had a normal childhood, but was always fascinated by things that went fast and dare doing. Doyle was always a daredevil with an interest in anything exciting, and he had an "air" about him. When Doyle was 11 years old, he rode his bicycle to the Minneapolis airport to see Charles Lindbergh, who was touring the nation after his historic flight across the Atlantic Ocean. It was there that Doyle got his first ride in an airplane, a U. S. Navy trainer. Doyle’s father, Fred, had been hired to do the plumbing for the new Navy hanger. He swapped the plumbing work for 2 hours of flight time. Chuck flew for forty minutes and his father flew for an hour and twenty minutes. As a young teen, Doyle would race his motorcycle around the streets of Minneapolis. What really caught his interest, other than girls, was airplanes and flying, so he started hanging around the Minneapolis Airport, Wold-Chamberlain Field (now Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport MSP). In those days, it was a huge grass field out in the countryside, that at one time had been a race track for cars . . . . . . .



Chuck Doyle transferring to Piper Cub


The Fighting 54th,  The Forgotten Squadron of the Forgotten War Part I 

     The Air Force, on 28 April 2000, inactivated the 54th Fighter Squadron for. the third, and possibly :he last time, during ceremonies held on Elmendorf Air Force Base, near Anchorage, Alaska. Colonel Bill Preble, USAF Retired, who had served as the last war time commander, was among those who witnessed its passing. The squadron had fallen victim to an Air Force decision to reduce by one the number of fighter squadrons then serving in the Pacific region.
      In applying the heritage points, the Air Force Historical Research Agency at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, determined what squadron would remain. The 54th Fighter Squadron, with 78.4 points, came in last in order of ranking when compared to the others. It lacked the necessary unit and individual awards, length of service, number of aces and honors of other more illustrious units. The 12th Fighter Squadron, which had been slated for inactivation, had accumulated 574.8 points.
     The ranking criteria had overlooked many intangibles, including the fact that the 54th Fighter Squadron was the first to operationally employ the Lockheed P-38 Lightning in combat and the first to achieve an aerial victory with the twin-engine fighter. Also left out was the fact that the squadron had ,served in one of the most brutal theaters of operations during World War II, the Aleutian Islands. It had sustained high combat and operational losses, losing 12 of its 25 original pilots . . . . . . . .



P-38E Lightening at Aleutian base


Finding the Redheaded Woman

Prologue

     Initially, finding the Red Headed Woman was to be a very short story about how curiosity and the Internet managed to identify the B-24 in a small black and white snapshot. Rather than the expected dearth of information on the aircraft, a wealth was found, along with a personal friendship (albeit electronic). The photo story soon became only a lead-in to a far more interesting, historic snapshot of an American airman.
     First Lieutenant Bill Blair was not a storied hero in World War II. He did survive forty combat missions in the Pacific and he received appropriate medals for that service. His family name is still familiar in his home town, but not on the level of a Kennedy or Carnegie name. He didn’t gain a place in history for personal achievement or setting records, although he witnessed or participated in, sometimes unknowingly, events that are now notable parts of history.
     The Bill Blair of today, like many others who share his background, strives to keep his generation’s history alive by teaching today’s generations. Bill visits schools, tells his story and shows his functioning Norden bombsight demonstrator. Most important, he has been a mentor and inspiration to many, including one outstanding high school girl who made Bill the subject of a living history documentary video for her senior project. For these reasons, Bill Blair is a hero.

The Snapshot

     It may have been a slow day in sick bay. Or, perhaps, some medical supplies were due to be air-freighted into Guiuan Army Air Base, on Samar Island in the Philippines. Whatever his reason for being at the . . . . . . . . .



Red Headed Woman


Cold War in Alaska

     In 1939, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) was given the job of organizing various airfields in Alaska, but was actually aimed at shoring up the defensive posture of the northern flank of the Pacific. The Army Corps of Engineers were the construction arm of this development. They had the difficult task of carving out airfields from the wilderness in a very shortened timetable.
     That fall, the Cold Weather Testing division of the U.S. Army who conducted test on aircraft, machinery, clothing, and other equipment, picked newly carved out Ladd Field in Fairbanks, Alaska, for their location. Major Dale V. Gaffney became commanding officer of the new airfield. Most of the work was done by the fall of 1940. Construction of Elmendorf Field near Anchorage was also nearing completion.
     Ladd Field was named in the honor of Maj. Arthur K. Ladd, killed in an aircraft accident in South Carolina in 1935. It was Alaska’s first military airfield.
     The deteriorating world events led to the creation of the Alaskan Defense Command in 1941, who coordinated military efforts in the Alaska Territory. On September 5, 1941, the first military aircraft landed at Ladd Field when a Douglas B-18 bomber flown by Lt. J. C. Bowen arrived from Anchorage. Also on that day, a U.S. Army Douglas C-47 transport left Sacramento for Ladd Field loaded with supplies. It was flown by Capt. Kolb.
     When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the aerial reinforcement was immediate. The Alaska Defense Command was commanded by Brig. Gen. Simon B. Buckner
. They had a handful of P-36s and Douglas B-18s. . . . . . . . . .



Caterpillar going into C-82


 Army Cooperation in the former Netherlands East Indies, 1945-1950. The Story of the Piper L--4J Cubs of the NEIAF

     The Japanese-occupied former Netherlands East Indies (NEI), present-day Indonesia, saw the birth of the Republic of Indonesia on August 17, 1945. Japanese support to the new republic was massive, with hundreds of Japanese soldiers becoming involved in training the Indonesian armed forces on Japanese supplied equipment, including some aircraft. Resurrection of the former Dutch colonial administration would become difficult and even the rescue of former POWs and civil internees in Java and Sumatra, the main islands of the NEI and now the heartland of the new republic, gave enormous problems. Allied or Dutch troops to disarm the large numbers of Japanese troops in the NEI were not available at first and it took until September/October 1945, before British troops with support of the Royal Air Force gradually moved in and occupied enclaves around the larger cities in Java and Sumatra. The 1st Infantry Battalion of the Royal NEI Army disembarked at Batavia in October 1945, and was followed by several battalions consisting of ex-POWs of this army and Dutch volunteers from the Netherlands in December 1945, and February-March 1946.
     The Netherlands East Indies Air Force (NEIAF), part of the Royal NEI Army, returned to the enclaves from October 1945. It had fought alongside the Royal Australian Air Force with Curtiss P-40N fighters and NAA B-25 medium-bombers and also operated Douglas C-47 and Lockheed C-60 transports. Apart from one Taylorcraft L-2M it did not possess any liaison-type aircraft, however, that could be used for army support . . .



Grenade rack on Piper L-4J


Max Holtzem: An "Old Eagle" of the First World War. 
Part One: Flight Instructor and Test Pilot

     This biography about a (German tighter pilot of the First World War is different from written accounts about other combat fliers. He is not a ruthless killer; his score is modest; he never commanded a unit; and his decorations are not outstanding. Then, why do we write about this man? He loves airplanes. Like many of us he loves to look at them; be with them; touch them; fly them; look at photographs of them; build models of them; and work on them. Unlike many of us he has been able to whet his aeronautical appetite throughout his long and eventful life with interesting experiences in war and peace. Since before World War One Max Holtzem was an aviation pioneer, observation plane pilot, flight instructor, test pilot, fighter pilot, mechanic, airport manager, stunt flyer, and airline pilot over three major continents. He was on intimate terms with famous personalities such as Ernst Udet, Anthony Fokker, and the Eversbusch brothers and played an important role 'in the activities of these men. This is his amazing story:

     Max Holtzem was born in Elberfeld near Cologne 'in the Rhineland, Germany, on December 1, 1892, the son of Carl Holtzem. After attending elementary school and Gymnasium (College Prep. School) he entered an apprenticeship with one of the leading architects in Cologne. At the same time he attended evening classes at the University. The Rhinelander became increasingly interested in aviation as he grew older until, at the age of nineteen, he quit the University and the architect and entered the study of automobile and what was known . . . . . . . .



Max Holtzem and Pfalz A.1


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