Monday, April 21, 2008


Hello everyone. Long time no post. As some of you know, I love WWII aircraft and the aura surrounding the men and machines. So on Friday, I visited the Marana Regional Airport (a very small airport with one 6500' landing strip) after hearing that WWII vintage bombers were going to spend the weekend there. The group consisted of a B-17 (pictured below, in flight over Tucson at sunset,) a B-24 and a B-25. You could take a ride on these planes, but two things discouraged me. First, let's not forget that these airframes are over 65 years old. Are they safe? Probably. Would I take the chance? Probably not. Second, it cost $400 for the ride. Case closed!

For those who don't know what a B-17 looks like, here it is. The pilots and crew loved them because they had a reputation of being able to take enormous damage and still bring their crews home safely.

Another view of the B-17. Although built for an ugly (but necessary) purpose, the plane can look very pretty from certain angles.

Which brings me to this story. I cannot authenticate it. It was told to me by one of the crew of this B-25, below. This type of plane was made famous by Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle and his squadron of B-25s that bombed Tokyo ("The Doolittle Raid") in the early part of WWII. If you're too young to know of this story then......shame on you and look it up! If it weren't for these brave people and many more like them, we probably wouldn't be here today under anywhere near the same circumstances that we're enjoying (sorry about that. Carried away as usual. Here's a link to a useful web site explaining the Doolittle Raid. Anyway, the story. This plane was named after an early 1940s movie starring Dorothy Lamour. Quite the glamour girl back then. This B-25 and two other B-25s were chosen for a raid on the Japanese occupied Island of British New Guinea to bomb the harbor there. The raid was initially successful. They sunk a 6,000 ton Japanese freighter (hence the ship painted on the side of the B-25) and were on their way out of the harbor when the other two B-25s saw 50 Japanese "Zero" fighters about to attack them. During the initial attack, the other two B-25s were shot down and the pictured B-25 had one engine destroyed and two of it's crew killed outright. The Tondelayo's pilot had few choices. He decided quickly to put the plane in a dive and pulled up 30' over the ocean. He reasoned that now he didn't have to defend the belly of his aircraft and perhaps of more importance, the extreme dive helped them pick up speed which was critical due to having to fly with only one engine. The first four Zeros to attack miscalculated their dive and hit the ocean. For the next 75 minutes, the Tondelayo and crew had a running gun battle with the 46 remaining fighters. In the end, 10 Zeros were destroyed (you can see the 10 rising sun flags painted just forward of the cockpit) and the Tondelayo made it back to home base. All crew members received the "Silver Star." A hair raising story!
Well, I saw other interesting things at the airport Friday. One in particular involving some American presidential history. But enough for one post.


James Boehme said...

Very nice shots. Also nice grouping. We (your internet public) are glad to see your back. We (your internet Public) expect to see more posting soon. BTW, what happen to your tag line "Family Blog"?

Monica Surfaro Spigelman said...

there is an art/culture movement connected with war aircraft. all the crews painted interesting symbols and figures on their planes. you could create your own book collection of the very graphic images you have shot of various planes. yes, most of the images are of women (and naked ones at that)...but I am wondering if there are other images (like animals, or symbolic graphics) that were painted. do you know?

Leigh said...

To Jim. Thanks. And I've no idea why the "family blog" fell off of the header. It's back now.
To Monica. I'd have to tour a lot of war bird museums to do this. Hmmmmm. I could think of worse things to do. And I'm sure that this art contained lots of images other than provocative women.