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1956 - 2023, Celebrating over 65+ Years of Service

Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 52, No. 1 - Spring 2007
Table of Contents 

Canadensis in Alaska

     Canadensis: a large amphibious rodent of the family Castoridae of Europe and North America. It possesses thick fur, is gregarious and lives in colonies. Its body grows to an average length of 30 inches or more, and often weighs as much as 50 pounds.
     It is commonly known as the beaver, the same name bestowed upon a famous Canadian built bush plane, designed and built by De Havilland Aircraft of Canada.
     This utility aircraft served in the U.S. Army, USAF and foreign Army Aviation units. Decades after production ceased, it still performs yeoman passenger and cargo work throughout the world. The following short treatise introduces the USAF, and to a lesser extent, the Army’s L-20 Beavers operated in the Territory of Alaska, where it figured into North America’s defense beyond the usual notations in a light utility transport’s portfolio.


     After WWII ended in September 1945, U.S. government regulated censorship imposed upon Territorial Alaska during the Japanese occupation of Attu in the Near Islands group, and Kiska in the Rat Islands group, was finally lifted. Alaska military and civilian aviation activity was described in American magazine articles.
     Returning Alaska-based servicemen described the land, sea and air war against the Japanese, building the "Alcan" (Alaska-Canadian Highway), and enthusiastically described its rugged beauty, fantastic fishing, hunting and gold mining. Many ex-GIs became licensed pilots and mechanics, and returned to gain employment in Alaska’s aviation community.
     Despite a continued military presence in Alaska, rapid post WWII demobilization included surplusing of military aircraft. Tired combat weary Alaska-based P-38s, P-39s, P-40s, and those with mere factory to Alaska ferry times were buried, abandoned on various islands or flown to Elmendorf Field, where weapons were removed and the hulks sold to local scrap dealers. However, valuable C-46, C-47, G-21A Goose, B-25 Mitchell, at least one or more tired old B-18A Bolo aircraft were sold at Elmendorf Field.
     Occasional sales also included a few Army Land-Sea-Air Rescue Unit UC-64A and UC-64B floatplane Norseman (several were transferred to the newly formed 10th ARS in 1946), Stinson L-5, L-1E ambulance, an SR-9C plus at least one SNJ-4 sold at bargain prices to government agencies and civilians with hard cash.1"Lower forty-eight"2 surplus sales of Curtiss C-46 Commandos, weary C-47s, Stinson AT-19s and other aircraft were purchased, overhauled, then flown to Alaska and put to work, hauling passengers and freight into the bush. Militarily, Alaska reverted to an undefended Territory.
     Postwar Alaska military aviation was heavily downsized, leaving the USAAF to defend approximately 571,065 valuable square miles of Territory with several squadrons of 56th FG NAA F-51H Mustang fighters,3 and 449th FS Northrop P-61  . . . . 

DeHavilland DHC-2 Beaver

Edwin C. Musick, Master of Ocean Flying Boats

     On November 11, 1935, a giant Martin-130 Pan American Airways "China Clipper" piloted by Captain Edwin Charles Musick inaugurated the first trans-Pacific airmail flight from San Francisco to Honolulu and then flew onto the islands of Wake, Midway and Guam terminating this pioneering venture at Manila. Nearly three thousand people showed up at the arrival of this historic flight that commenced ocean airmail service and eventually commercial air flights across the Pacific. The captain of this clipper was known in his day as the chief pilot for Pan American Airways founded by Juan Trippe with the assistance of Charles Lindbergh in 1927.Musick was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on August 3, 1894, but at the age of nine moved with his family to California. Seven years later, in 1910, when Musick was just 16 years old and a gangling brown-haired kid with an intense interest in horseless carriages and the concept of flight, he attended the first air meet in the United States at Dominguez Field near Los Angeles with a good friend Harry Reynolds. The French pilot Paulhan had received $50,000 for setting a new altitude record of 4,165 feet and Glenn Curtiss had won half the prizes and set a speed record of 55 mph with a passenger onboard. Following the extravaganza of aerial acrobatics and precision flying, Musick knew then he would devote the rest of his life to aviation. Learning to fly at the Schiller Flying School at Venice near his home, but lacking the $6,000 to buy an airplane, he and Reynolds were determined to build their own. With much hard work and ingenuity, they finally managed to complete their task and made ready for their first flight. Unfortunately, the attempt was a failure, the plane was a total wreck, but Musick survived to fly again. Later, Musick acted as a mechanic at road races and air shows and when no one was around sat in empty planes at night imagining himself as a pilot. When he finally received his flying license he helped devise a flying technique to get out of tailspins by pushing the stick forward even though every instinct said to pull backwards. Amazingly the tailspin, so named because when an airplane tumbled out of the sky it seemed to have its tail weaving in a circle, was solved by Musick following the death of a pilot named Ted Mason who had gone into a spin and had mistakenly pulled the stick backwards and from side to side. Mason failed to survive the aircraft’s crash and, now with great motivation and determination, Musick tested his theory to solve the problem of aerial spins that had killed so many pilots in the past and his technique proved successful. Later, he also toured air shows as "Monseer Musick" the famous French flier and other times he was called "Daredevil Musick."
     During WWI, Musick, as a civilian instructor in the Army Air Corps in San Diego, Miami, Florida and Wichita Falls, Texas, trained pilots for war duties overseas. In 1918 he enrolled as a 2nd Lieutenant with the Maine Flying Corps. He continued as an instructor and became licensed to fly any type of plane and was given every opportunity to prove his expertise resulting in his setting 10 world records including making the inaugural air mail flight across the Pacific aboard . . . . . .

Ed Musick (left) with another crew member

Confederate Responses to Union Balloon Operations 
during the American Civil War

     Some time after 1887, Thaddeus S. C. Lowe,(1) an American aeronaut and inventor, learned about a curious incident that had occurred during the Peninsular Campaign of the American Civil War.(2) The story was recounted by Confederate General James Longstreet, who described how he had been accompanying Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America (CSA), and Robert E. Lee, Commanding General of the CSA’s Army of Northern Virginia, on an inspection of a Confederate artillery battery. The gunners were demonstrating their skills for the president’s party and had just opened fire. "Instantly," Longstreet recalled, "the Federal batteries responded most spitefully. It was impossible for the enemy to see us as we sat on our horses . . . surrounded by tall heavy timber and thick undergrowth . . . yet a battery by chance had our range and exact distance."(3) One shell landed near the party, killing some horses and wounding several soldiers. Davis, Lee, Longstreet, and their staffs quickly withdrew from the area. Afterwards, Longstreet wondered at their near escape. "The Federals doubtless had no idea that the Confederate President, commanding generals, and division commanders were receiving point-blank shot from their batteries."(4)
     Lowe had information not available to Longstreet, which he revealed in his memoirs. He confirmed that Longstreet was correct in assuming that the Union forces did not know at whom they were firing. The general was mistaken, however, in believing that the Federals could not see them. The attack had been directed. The inspection party had been under observation for some time. Lowe had been the Chief of the Union Army’s Aeronautical Corps for two years and knew that a "man in [a] balloon from a height of one or two thousand feet could very well discern the distinguished group of officials in the field beyond the "˜tall timber’ though he may not have known the personnel of which it was composed."(5)  Such an observer could easily call artillery fire down upon on the assembled Confederate officers. 
     Such balloon-directed artillery fire was possible, Lowe knew. He had, after all, helped pioneer the technique. During the fighting around Fall’s Church, Virginia, in September 1861, Lowe had relayed corrections to a Union battery firing "at an object the gunners themselves could not see"6 from his balloon. Never before in history had an aerial observer directed artillery . . . . .

Professor Lowe’s Intrepid

The F-8 Mosquito in AAF Service

     Aviation literature has scant information on the De Havilland of Canada F-8 Mosquito history. The United States Army Air Forces (AAF) selected this aircraft as an interim solution to solve a long-standing problem during World War II. The following is an edited version from an unpublished copyright manuscript on AAF Mosquito, providing background information regarding its selection and problems encountered bringing the F-8 into operational service. The accidents and incidents detailed in the article are not all-inclusive and more are yet to be uncovered.
     Shortly after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, an RAF official visited Washington to explore Army Air Corps (AAC) Intelligence requirements. It was agreed the British Air Ministry (AM) would supply the USA with intelligence concerning Axis forces and targets. The RAF, already with two years of war experience, served as mentor and role model for Army Air Force photo reconnaissance, assisting in all aspects of photo intelligence development.
     Prior to December 7, the Americans confronted an ambiguity when various departments within the AAF had different photo requirements that one aircraft could not achieve. Charting required high-altitude photography for constant-scale, navigation chart production. Mapping required low- and medium-altitude prints to create detailed maps for tactical and strategic use by both ground and air forces. And photo reconnaissance (PR) provided low- and medium-level photos fort actical use, while medium- and high-level photography aided strategic targeting.
     Not only was the AAF lacking in tactical and strategic intelligence areas, they had no aircraft specifically designed to collect this information. Air Transport Command (ATC) diverted four B-24s to photography work for charting but not mapping as requested by the Corps of Engineers. In June 1942, four B-17s were modified for mapping in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) but proved unsuitable for tactical use. In late 1942 a number of B-25s underwent modification for mapping, but again were not considered prudent operationally in combat areas. In war-torn regions conventional aircraft such as the P-39 and P-40 were converted into camera ships on an ad hoc basis for short-range, close-support role. Finally in 1942 . . . .

RCAF Mosquito that would later come AAF F-8

The Douglas Weilandcraft Venture

     During the late 1950s and early "˜60s many aircraft companies, still recovering from the sudden close of production at the end of WWII, searched for new or different products to submit to the buying public and military organizations. The Douglas Aircraft Company could see the end of the aircraft production line at its Santa Monica plant with the DC-7 airliner phasing out as the Boeing 707 came into view. The plant remained active for several years, designing and producing missiles and related equipment, after which the missile production activity was moved to the new Douglas Space Center in Huntington Beach, California. The last Navy airplane was delivered from the El Segundo plant in 1961 and soon thereafter Douglas moved out and the plant reverted to its owner, the U.S. Air Force.
     The Douglas Long Beach plant continued to produce aircraft for the Air Force. The C-124 Loadmaster was replaced in production by the C-133 Cargomaster, powered by four turboprop engines, of which only 50 were produced, were the last propeller-driven aircraft produced at the Long Beach plant. The B-66 Destroyer delivered from Long Beach and the A-4 Skyhawk, manufactured at Long Beach and assembled and flown at the Douglas Palmdale location, phased out in the late 1950s and early "˜60s.
     With FAA certification of the DC-8 four-engine turbojet-powered transport taking place in late August 1959, the future for the company began to show promise. As with most forward looking companies, Douglas was searching the market place for potential requirements for new products in the aviation related field. 
     Air cushion vehicle studies had been conducted by companies within the United States as well as in other countries, including the United Kingdom, Poland, Sweden and Russia. All were of the same general description in that the supporting medium was a cushion of air generated by fans contained within the confines of the vehicle. Hydrofoil craft also were looked at by Douglas, but research in this area was discontinued when the company was approached by a Swiss inventor, Carl Weiland, who proposed that the company build and produce his latest design, the Weilandcraft. 
     Mr. Weiland had previously designed and built two flying machines that operated on the principle of ground effect created by vertically directed airflow from engine-driven . . . . .

Weilandcraft "roll-out"

 Aircraft Photographs by Bill Yeager

     In 1933, Emil Strasser and Bill Yeager started a friendship that would last a lifetime. Both Bill and Emil were from Ohio, Bill from Cleveland and Emil from Akron.  In 1939 they were official photographers for the National Air Races in Cleveland, Ohio.
     When WWII engulfed the U.S., Bill became a Martin B-26 pilot in the U.S. Army Air Forces and Emil went to work for Goodyear Aircraft in Akron, Ohio. Bill Yeager made the USAF a career. Emil moved to California in 1945 but remained friends with Yeager until his death.
     We hope these photographs from days long gone by will bring back some happy memories.

Fokker Super Universal

2 MiGs versus 1 PBM

     Never let it be said shanghaiing was not practiced by the U.S. Navy in the 1950s! My only personal involvement with this practice began on Oct. 1,1953. I was in Crew 5 of Patrol Squadron 50 deployed to NAS Iwakuni, Japan. We mustered as usual at 0800 in the hanger area down by the seaplane ramp. Following muster we were treated to the monthly payday and I recall taking out about $110 in military payment script. More about my money later.
     VP-50 had 12 PBM Martin Mariner flying boats and 12 flight crews. These aircraft were getting a little long in the tooth, the type having performed all through WWII after being first flown in 1939. Very few aircraft flew operationally both during WWII and a couple of years past the Korean War. Our planes were pure flying boats, meaning no landing gear, so we had to operate strictly from water. The PBM only had two engines but they were R-2800S rated at 2100 hp each. Their 118-foot wingspan was greater than its contemporaries, the famous B-17 and B-24 four engine bombers. Our patrol weight was upwards of 50,000 pounds that required the use of four JATO bottles to get airborne.
     Back to the day in question, we crewmen were just hanging around waiting for all of our crew to be paid and to learn what our work assignment would be that day (we were not scheduled to fly) from our Plane Captain, John Price AD1. Our crew was scheduled for liberty after noon chow. It was not to be, as John soon cornered Charley Fix AO3, Ray Cook ADAN and me, Rinehart ATS, to stand the watch on 9 Boat since its crew had not yet returned from R&R. We moaned and groaned since this meant 24 hours on the plane tied to a buoy outside the breakwater and no liberty tonight. No amount of complaining would sway good ole John.
     Since the seaplane ramp at Iwakuni could only accommodate about six planes on a paved surface, this meant that the other six had to be flying or secured to a buoy outside the breakwater. Buoy watches were stood by three enlisted men continuously, generally from about 0900 until the same time the following day, as long as a plane was on a buoy. These watches were very boring as there was nothing to do but talk, smoke, read or sleep. One crewman had to be awake at all times and we generally split the night into three 3-hour watches, 2100 to 2400, then to 0300 and finally to 0600.
     The Navy certainly took care of us in the chow category. Some time each morning a bowser boat would come alongside and give us large boxes of food for the nine total meals we would need during the next 24 hours. It was all "unprepared rations" as were the flight rations when flying. Part of the time on the buoy was spent in preparing our meals. But it was a lot easier to cook for three than it was an entire flight crew of 12 to 13 men plus an occasional extra man. Our patrols lasted anywhere from 9 to 12 hours and we were given either 15. . . .

Martin PBM-5 Mariner

The Curtiss-Wright XA-43 Attack Airplane

     The breakthrough year for jet-propelled military aircraft appears to be 1944, primarily due to the advent of the axial-flow jet engine. The axial-flow turbojet offered many advantages over the earlier-developed jet engine using the centrifugal flow compressor. These advantages included less weight and less frontal area of the engine, translating to less drag. The axial-flow jet engine consisted of alternate rows of rotating blades attached to the rotating shaft and stationary vanes attached to the engine casing to compress the air before feeding it into the combustion chambers.(1) The U.S. War Department saw the potential of this type of jet engine and in September 1943 directed Air Materiel Command (AMC) at Wright Field to initiate studies for an experimental airplane to incorporate one or more GE TG-180 axial-flow jet engines (redesignated J-35 in 1946 when military designation for jet engines was introduced). This engine was still under development under Project Number MX-414. Further studies of the TG-180 engine conducted by the AMC indicated that this engine would probably be well suited for high altitude photographic aircraft or light bombardment types. In 1944, encouraged by the result of the studies, AAF requested the aircraft industries to submit design proposals for various types of airplanes to be powered by this General Electric jet engine. Aircraft types to be considered included a day fighter, a bomber and an attack airplane. The day fighter developed into the Republic P-84. Three aircraft manufacturers, Boeing, Convair, and North American Aviation, initially submitted proposals for the bomber competition. Martin was later added to the contender list. The Boeing design was eventually selected and became the B-47. Army Air Forces (AAF) approached Curtiss-Wright Corporation for the attack aircraft, providing them with a preliminary set of performance characteristics in September 1944. By October 16, 1944, Curtiss-Wright had submitted their Model 100 design proposal to the AAF. A Letter Contract was signed on November 22, 1944. Attack aircraft designation XA-43 was applied and Project Number MX-582 was assigned. Curtiss-Wright was authorized toproceed with Phase I development of the proposed aircraft that included preliminary engineering and data, wind tunnel model, tests, test report and a mock-up. Phase I work was to be completed by March 15, 1945. Figure 1 shows an artist’s impression of the XA-43 by AAF.
     The XA-43 was to be a tandem two-seat attack aircraft powered by four GE TG-180 jet engines. Curtiss-Wright came up with a straight wing design with two TG-180 engines in the mid-section of each wing housed in a single nacelle. This method of grouping two or three engines. . . . .

C-W XA-43 artist concept

 Remember When - the Stinson Voyager

     For those of us who recall the period, a boom in general aviation was to take place following World War II. It was anticipated that returning airmen would trade their wartime aircraft, flown in hostile skies, for light planes flown over peaceful American terrain. The return of many veteran pilots, aviators and airmen was to be the catalyst behind the figurative statement "an airplane in every garage," and it gave impetus to artists’ conceptions of smiling families flying to vacation destinations in futuristic light planes. Aviation magazines of the day reinforced this vision by depicting modern-day housing developments with a runway and individual taxiways leading up to each new home.
     Aircraft companies and subcontractors shared this optimism as they converted their wartime facilities into the manufacturing of general-aviation aircraft. Soon their drawing boards were busy as they transitioned from the manufacturing of bomber and pursuit aircraft of war to the postwar pursuit of building light planes. In some cases, and for expediency, their aircraft were prewar or updated designs. Other companies, however, capitalized on wartime knowledge and transferred newly developed technology into modern and innovative aircraft designs.
     New light-plane designs and prototypes from major aircraft manufacturers, including Douglas, Grumman, Lockheed, North American and Republic, entered into development. Additionally, new light planes from many other aircraft companies entered the developmental stage at the end of the war (see listing of aircraft). Concurrently, production was resumed on prewar aircraft, including the ERCo Ercoupe, Globe Swift, and the Luscombe Silvaire.
     However, the aviation boom was not to be. Many war-weary pilots turned their vision from the sky to earthbound goals, including home, automobile, family and peacetime employment. Also, the exigencies and economic conditions at the time helped to fuel the death knell of the aviation boom.

Stinson Voyager brochure