Category Archives: Air Force

Craig’s Most Excellent Birthday

…and a bit of recent Napa County history

From time to time, I have come across some tales that I have felt should be put to paper (or at least digital binary bits), so others can hear of it.

Our car club has a monthly drive that has been popular for some years. The host will plan a route somewhere in No CA and people are advised of it via email. They can show up Sunday mornings or not, no reservations required.

The drive for August was a drive through the back roads of Napa County, culminating at a Napa County institution in St Helena, Gotts Roadside. To call Gott’s a “hamburger stand” does it an injustice, although gourmet hamburgers is the main faire. How many hamburger stands offer a complete wine list?

After all, this is the Napa Valley.

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Filed under Air Force, Humor

Paul Tibbets Interview

This is a fascinating 2 part interview with Kermit Weeks. Tibbets tells the story of the B-29 development and why Boeing wanted to cancel the development. Tibbets was instrumental in helping Boeing finish the development.

He talks about the preparation of the mission, and what happened during that mission.



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Filed under Air Force, History

The Memphis Belle – Her Final Mission

I’m watching a wonderfully produced program on YouTube on the Memphis Belle. Beautifully made because it goes from the restoration crew at Wright-Patterson doing the restoration, telling you how they refabricated parts, to voices of the now-gone crew talking about certain missions, to general information on her missions first to France, then Germany.

The Belle was famous – became an iconic piece of American history, for finishing 25 missions and boosting the morale of a war-weary American public.

Among the things I learned during her 6 month combat tour was that 10 engines were replaced, major wing parts, and the vertical stabilizer.

That a flight crew had only a 28% chance of surviving though the magic 25 combat missions and the ticket home.

How A-List Hollywood Director William Wyler, in Europe as an Army Major, picked the Belle as the B-17 he would use to document the war.

How every day in the War, the Pentagon sent 297 telegrams to the families of the 8th AAF crewmen giving them the worst news.

When I reviewed the book by Erik Larson on Churchill’s first year as PM, I came to the realization to get those fantastic recollections of family members, they had to have kept diaries.

Apparently many people in the 40s kept diaries, including the co-pilot of the Belle and a waist gunner.

We are the richer for it.

“After 13 years in the restoration hanger, the Memphis Belle was ready for her final mission. She would tell a story of valor and sacrifice for those whose voices are now silent”

It is well worth the hour it takes to view it.

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Filed under Air Force, Army Aviation, History, Movie Review

An Act of Chivalry and Nobility Amid the Carnage

A painting by John Hall commemorating that event.

For those you who have used the Internet awhile, you probably heard the story decades ago. Probably in the early 90s. The interesting thing about this is that when it was revealed it was a mystery solved after 47 years.

In the darkness of a December 20, 1943 morning in an English side Quonset hut, an orderly shined a light into the face of Lt Charles “Charlie” Brown to tell him that it was time to get up and attend the briefing.

Members of the 379th Bomb Group of the mighty 8th Army Air Force were to receive their briefing for that day’s bombing raid.

They were to bomb the Focke-wulf aircraft factory on the Northern German coast at Bremen.

They were told to expect heavy flak and hundreds of fighters in opposition. The CO giving the briefing, Col “Mo” Preston, would be leading the massive formation. He was no commander who led from the desk.

Although LT Brown and his crew had trained together and had 100s of hours stateside in the Flying Fortress, this would be his first bombing mission with that crew. After 100s of hours, the crew became as a family.

At Bremen during that same hour, a German Luftwaffe Leutnant, Franz Stigler, was most likely sleeping. They wouldn’t know about the raid until hours later. The B-17 crews deliberately had no radio communication once they started up on the tarmac.

Because the enemy was listening.

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Filed under Air Force, Army, Army Aviation, History

Blackbird

Posted by lex, on March 8, 2008

A beautiful paean to the SR-71 over at Maggie’s Farm, courtesy of Marianne and Maj. Shul.

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Filed under Air Force, Airplanes, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Flying

Angels on our shoulders

Posted by lex, on August 30, 2006

It’s hard for me as a born and bred, high speed, low drag, strike fighter guy to admit this, but if I was a ground pounder? In a pinch? In a relatively permissive surface-to-air threat environment? I maybe wouldn’t want a Hornet on call. I’d maybe ask for an AC-130, if one was available.

I mean, a 2000 pound bomb leaves an impression, no doubt about it. A couple of them even more so. But one or two big thumps, bad guys die in clumps, but then the air goes home.

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Filed under Air Force, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Lex, Neptunus Lex

Little not enough air?

Posted by lex, on September 24, 2006

At least one British Army officer in Afghanistan appears to think so.

The R.A.F. have been utterly, utterly useless,’’ Maj. Loden was quoted as saying, referring to two instances involving Harrier warplanes during close ground combat.

“A female Harrier pilot ‘couldn’t identify the target,’ fired two phosphorous rockets that just missed our own compound so that we thought they were incoming RPG’s, and then strafed our perimeter, missing the enemy by 200 meters,’’ he wrote, according to British news reports. RPG stands for rocket-propelled grenade.

In contrast to Britain’s Royal Air Force, Maj. Loden said, the United States Air Force had been “fantastic.’’

As you might suspect, that comparison went over like a fart in church up-echelon. Hard to make any general conclusions from one man’s specific observations, but it’s interesting how in this fight, the voices of the troops – for better or worse – are much more likely to pass through the filters, military, civil, media and that once would have held them in check.

Back To The Index 

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Filed under Afghanistan, Air Force, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, GWOT

The Mighty Eighth

TheColdBlue

Last year, I screened The Cold Blue, which was an amazing film. In WW2, 5 famous Hollywood directors, William Wyler, John Huston, John Ford, George Stevens, and Frank Capra went into harm’s way with small film crews and documented the war. John Ford, for example shot – I believe- the only footage of Midway as it was being attacked.

I’m in danger of swaying into this fascinating story, but I will say one thing. The war affected them all, and it can be reflected in their post war work. George Stevens, for example, having seen so much death and destruction in Europe, in making Shane, thought gunfire and being shot should be portrayed realistically, a first for a Hollywood Western.

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Filed under Air Force, Army Aviation, Movie Review, Patriotism, USAF, Valor

A Short Cold War Story

During my time in the Army, I had 2 stations. The first, I was assigned to and the 2nd, I requested a transfer.

My first station was a radar station on a hill overlooking Ramstein AFB, near Landstuhl. You have probably heard of Landstuhl from time to time, as it contains the Army’s – if not main hospital in Europe, certainly one of the top hospitals.

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It Wasn’t The Most Beautiful Plane…

in WW2, but its pilots loved it – considering it to be a flying tank. Of course, I’m talking about the P-47 Thunderbolt.

I’ve just come across a fantastic video – on order from General Hap Arnold it was shot in color during the closing months of WW2 in the ETO with the 362nd Fighter Group.

Coupled with the color film are interviews with former squadron members many years later, on what it was like in those days.

A few things I learned:

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