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Tag Archives: WWII

Running a little late here on the posting….

Back in early October I ran back up to Fort Worth to do Mom Stuff again. While I was there I got the chance to duck out and see a couple of things, including a convoy of Vintage Military Vehicles driving through Fort Worth, retracing the first coast-to-coast military convoy along the Bankhead Highway*.

I was hoping the convoy pix would become part of my larger Bankhead story-in-progress, but unfortunately, for whatever reason, the relevant authorities opted to bring the convoy in along the old DFW turnpike and avoid the Bankhead route entirely.


But still… I like history, and I like old machines, and this was both, so I went out and found a good spot on the side of the road, where I could shoot as the convoy passed.

(Yup. That’s the front of the convoy. By now you should know that the rest of the convoy is behind it, right?)

After they’d gone by and some of the traffic had cleared, I jumped in the truck and followed the convoy over to Farrington Field for their rest-and-maintenance day. Learned some interesting stuff there… This trip was 3000+ miles at 30 mph, and on a haul like that the old machines require a fair bit of wrenching. Also, it turns out there are several thousand people involved in this particular flavor of historical preservation. The umbrella group is the Military Vehicle Preservation Association. They do long-haul convoys for public education and such about every year or so, they LOVE it when you ask questions, and yes, they DO take new members. If I needed a new hobby and had the money…. It’s probably lucky I’m ALREADY broke, since otherwise I’d go broke chasing all the interesting things I run into.

Later in the week I caught the train over to the State Fair. That post is coming soon.

In the meantime, enjoy the pictures, and charge up the batteries because the weather’s cooling off and there are more things to shoot.

*You will probably hear more about the Bankhead, and other old Texas highways, if you sign up for the mailing list at The Other Texas. (Yes. That is a Hint. It’s also a link. You should click and sign up. Please. It’s safe; I’m probably the one person you know who hates spam and spammers more than you do.)

Little-known and totally useless aviation factoid: I have a great liking for the old Douglas DC-3, the “Gooney Bird.” (I actually have a great liking for almost ANY old machine that just keeps going and going and going, year in and year out, far past any reasonable life expectancy. But even in that class, the old Douglas masterpieces stand out.) So when I read that the Bluebonnet Belle, a gorgeously restored and maintained 1944-vintage C-47 which belongs to the Highland Lakes Squadron of the CAF, was scheduled to make an appearance at the 1940 Air Terminal Museum down at Hobby Airport, I ditched my previous plan, “drink coffee and catch up on reading,” and headed down to see her. As with the majority of Gooneys, the Belle is designated “C-47” because she was built for the military. The “DC-3” (Douglas Commercial) is the civilian version (of which only a few were built before production was switched over to the war effort); it’s the same plane with a different badge.

Couple years ago the museum had offered a “quick hop in a C47” (which was actually a C-49, a slightly later variant) as a promotional deal at one of their monthly Wings & Wheels events, and I went for that like a cat on a mouse. Sadly, when I got to the airport it turned out that the weather between D-FW, where the plane was based, and Houston, where the riders were, was bad (hail and funnel clouds) and they’d had to cancel – the turbulence was making the CREW queasy and hail and tornadoes aren’t really good for vintage aircraft. So I was hoping they’d offer a similar deal yesterday, which I could have (barely) afforded. But that plane wasn’t the Belle and yesterday wasn’t a promo deal – the price for rides was up where it needs to be, and my inner adult said “you don’t have it to spare today.” (Meanwhile, of course, the inner child was screaming, turning blue, and banging his head on the floor, but believe it or not he doesn’t always win.)

Understand, I have no problem with a $200 fee, any more than I do with the price of a Leica. I simply can’t spare the money. Old aircraft are terrifically expensive to fly and maintain, and the CAF folks are mostly “ordinary folks” with ordinary incomes, many of them retired and with virtually NO incomes. And officially, the Belle costs almost $600 an hour to fly, just in gas and oil. Tires, other consumables, maintenance, and all the thousands of other things are extra.

These old radials shove a lot of oil out the exhaust in a hurry when you start them up. (They also have “new engines someday” on the “gotta do” list – at 180 grand for the pair. Ouch.)

So I settled for the ground tour, courtesy of John Long, who knows his C47s AND the Belle.

The Belle, in her current role as an educator, is fitted out in a unique pattern to show four of the major roles filled by the C-47 during the war. There’s a cargo section (bare floor with lots of tiedown points), a passenger section (coach class or less), a patient transport section (stretchers hung on the walls), and a paratroop section (hard metal seats along the sides).

(Patient Transport Configuration)

The Gooney Bird was basically the Swiss Army Knife of aircraft – does anything, anywhere, anytime. There was even an early fork off the predecessor DC-2 design which became the B-18 “Bolo” medium bomber. Those were used primarily as trainers, though some were used for offshore patrol and one is credited with sinking a German U-boat in the Caribbean during the early days of the war. (The things I learn doing this…)

C-47s were also used heavily for towing gliders and ferrying troops and cargo (including jeeps and field artillery!). Over in the Pacific, they were the backbone of the India-China route, the fabled “Burma Hump,” where they kept the war effort in China alive, and paid for it as they and their crews died by the hundreds.

Aside from learning historical stuff, the best part of the tour was being able to climb (yeah, there’s quite a bit of slant to the floor when she’s on the ground – old taildraggers are like that…) right up to the cockpit. Not quite so complex as the Space Shuttle, no, but there’s a family resemblance.

As fascinating as the wartime history of the DC-3 is, for me it’s much simpler: This is what an airplane should look like.



Happy 70th, Beautiful Belle.

Was looking through a few more of the 6th Cav shots, and ran across this one. This is Hunter Miertschin, who’s portraying a Navy SeaBee radioman.

We think of the vets from WWII and they’re old men now. Gramps, great-grandpa, “Uncle” George (who’s really dad’s uncle but he hates to be treated like an old man, even when his knees don’t work and his hair’s gone and he shuffles more than walks…)

And here’s Hunter, looking for all the world like a kid caught playing with stuff he found in an old trunk in the back of the attic.

He’s a kid. And just barely a kid, at that. He ought to be curled around a book somewhere dreaming of kings and knights and explorers, or wandering the woods by a stream somewhere with a hook on a string, pestering the fish, or maybe patching a bike tube or tweaking the engine of his goosed-up little Honda. The helmet’s too big, the carbine (which is a little bitty rifle) looks like it’d knock him ass-over-backwards if he had to shoot it.

He’s 18.

Let that sink in. We’ll wait.

He’s exactly the right age. When the old man climbed over the side of a ship in the surf off Normandy, or Tarawa, or some other hell on some other sand, going to put an end to the big war started by the biggest madmen of the age (maybe of all ages) he looked like this. JUST like this.

Think about that. Think HARD.

And then if it happens that you’ve got a grampa or great grampa, or an “Uncle” George, who was there, at Normandy or Anzio or Saipan or Iwo Jima or any of the other hells, and he made it back and he’s still with us, go find him and shake his hand and say thank you… and if he’s willing, let the old man tell his tales again. (And this time take notes and maybe a recorder, if he’ll let you, because these are the guys who did one of the Great Things, and we’re losing their stories WAY too fast. And if we lose the stories, we lose the history… and if we can at the least keep the history, there’s at least some chance we won’t have to send kids like Hunter to do it again.)

Because they’re just kids.