"From the Flying Tigers to the F/A-22"
LtCol Dirk D. Smith
Capt Ray Thaler
Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition 2006
Sept. 25, 2006
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General Peterson: This is history in the making, I guess you could say. Weíre lucky to have some wonderful folks today on a panel. Weíre going to talk about Flying Tigers to the F-22 is the title of what weíre starting with.
What makes it so good and important I think for us all is the heritage we have here. Itís a heritage that goes long back. Then of course we have a new heritage that continues to grow every day. With the examples we have on this panel and todayís Airmen it makes you very proud of the United States Air Force and what it does for our nation and others.
Iím pleased to announce that today we have with us Johnny Alison. Johnny Alison is a businessman now, but he was a member of the Flying Tigers flying the P-40. Heís flown a lot of other airplanes. He is a legend for us all.
Heís sitting right next to a legend, Don Lopez, who also flew the P-40 in the Flying Tigers, along with many other airplanes in his very distinguished career in the Air Force. Heís now the Deputy Director of the Smithsonian Air and Space.
Next we have as our moderator Doug Birkey who is going to moderate the panel today as they give a little bit of their background and the activities that theyíve been involved in and begin to compare the P-40 days with todayís Raptor.
Next on the panel is Lieutenant Colonel Dirk Smith who is a very happy guy, I know, because heís the Commander of the 94th Fighter Squadron and the F-22.
Next to him is a member of that squadron, a captain, which I wish we could be a captain today -- One of the best parts of our lives. You believe that, donít you?
Captain Thaler: I do, yes, sir.
General Peterson: Ray Thaler. Heís smart enough to know. Donít worry about budgets, donít worry about all the rest, just keep your jet going.
So weíre delighted to have these four plus a moderator here to talk about from the P-40 to the F-22 and I hope youíll take advantage of the opportunity to hear and also with your questions later on if you have them.
Doug, Iím going to turn it over to you now.
Moderator: Great. I want to thank everybody for coming out today.
The genesis for this panel actually came from an AFA Capital Hill Staffer Education program. It was all part of kind of thinking about parallel constructs of comparing history and then our current status. The notion of risk management. And when we were thinking about the F-22 and balancing notions of having a stated need of 381 yet weíre only buying 183, what does that mean? When you talk to staffers and youíre trying to say well, in the future I really canít tell you want those threats may be that might be very very severe. You try to think back in time to past examples when weíve been in similar situations, and the Flying Tigers, the early days of the World War II period definitely harken back to that.
So Iíd like to start off the discussion asking General Alison to talk about the early days of the Air Corps, right before World War II. What it was like. A tremendously resource constricted environment. What was it like?
General Alison: Well itís always wonderful to be in the United States Air Force. A great organization. I had a great privilege, and Iím indebted. But prior to World War II we were not ready for combat. We had the P-40, and it was a great airplane down low. I went with the P-40s to England prior to Pearl Harbor because the British expected a cross-channel invasion. They had great fighters. The Spitfire and the Hurricane were great fighters. They could fight up where the combat was. The P-40 was a great fighter down low, but it had no super charger. Therefore when you got up around 9,000 feet the P-40 was out of steam compared to airplanes that could fight up at 30,000 feet.
But the P-40s, most of them were held in crates in England, expecting the Germans to try and cross the English Channel. If the Germans had tried to cross the English Channel the P-40 would have been really a great airplane, because down low its performance was impressive.
I had an opportunity to test the P-40 out in simulated combat with both a Hurricane and a Spitfire. At low altitude the P-40 would more than hold its own against some of the best pilots that the RAF had. But the fighting wasnít at low altitude. The fighting was up above limit and the P-40 never really got into the war in England.
However, when the Germans marched into Russia we were, well, we hadnít declared war but we were really in the war. [Laughter]. It was decided that the only thing we had to give to the Russians at the moment were the P-40s that were in crates in England. So the President sent Harry Hopkins to Moscow to negotiate an arms agreement with the Soviets that they would accept American equipment if we sent it. This was done under lend lease, which meant we gave the equipment to the Russians but the Russians maintained it, they were buying it, and that made it a little difficult. But we survived.
Hub Zimpky and I were in England with the P-40s. We went to Russia and the only way to get the airplanes into Russia at that time was up through the Arctic and into the Arctic ports of Arcangel and Murmansk. The first airplanes arrived at Arcangel, they were unloaded. Arcangel is right on the Arctic Circle and outside of the city thereís a lot of Arctic bog. The Russians built a timber airport on an Arctic bog and we landed, it was beautiful. We had timber runways which were mostly built by slave labor. There was an enormous prison camp right next to our airport and the inmates, of course, you didnít have the slightest idea who they were, but they did the hard work. They did the work down in the cold water in the bog and they built this marvelous airport and we began to deliver airplanes to the Russians.
The P-40 wasnít ready for combat. We had a lot of work that had to be done on it. Finally we got it in shape.
The Russians said that the P-40 would, we explained to them that it was not an altitude airplane. They said we donít need an altitude airplane. Weíre fighting tanks and troops on the ground. Thatís what they used the P-40 for, and they said it was quite useful.
Moderator: Don, in growing up in the days right before World War II, what was the political environment like that led to a lot of the issues that the military faced in the opening days of the World War II?
Mr. Lopez: I was in high school. I donít know. [Laughter].
I really didnít know too much about it. I used to watch the airplanes land at Drew Field in Tampa with my mouth hanging open. I just really wanted to fly them, and I did, as soon as they started the civilian pilot training program, and you could learn to fly free and theyíd send you through Cubs, so I got 40 hours in a Cub before I got in the Air Force.
When the war started I went down to join up and they said if youíll learn to fly in school, stay there for another few months because if you join us youíll just be marching some place for about six months before thereís enough room in the flying schools for you. They were expanding so much that they didnít have the facilities to train you.
So I joined up and I didnít go in until September of í42. They called me up and I went through training, went through, I got to fly ten hours in the P-40 in flying school and then I went to Sarasota and trained in P-40s there. I assumed then when they sent me overseas that I would be going to China probably because, or India, because no place else was flying P-40s by then.
I was very disappointed when I got assigned to P-40s at first, but once you fly them a lot you start to love them, and it was really a nice airplane as John said. It handled nice. It was very rugged. Had good guns. But it didnít have any altitude performance. But in China we didnít need it that much. Although weíd have to watch the Japanese come over and just wave to them, we couldnít get up as high as they were usually.
But with the tactics that were taught us by General Chenault, we did very well with them.
Moderator: You both operated the P-51 later on in the war. How did that help change? It brought on a whole new array of tactics and everything that were available.
General Alison: The thing that made the difference between the P-40 and the P-51 was the engine. The Rolls Royce engine was just a better performer than the Allison engine. Although the Allison engine was very rugged, as a matter of fact I fought for three minutes once with a five inch hole right through the crank case of the Allison engine. All the oil ran out and the damn thing kept running. [Laughter]. But eventually of course it started to burn and I had to put it down.
But the airplane had been hit pretty badly. I always had contempt for bombers until that evening. It was my fault and not the P-40ís fault. At night you donít have any depth perception and all of a sudden all you can see is the exhaust of the bombers and I didnít want them to get away so I was going full bore until I realized that I was flying into their formation. I tried to slow down and I slipped the airplane and I slipped right into the formation. They put all their guns on me. [Laughter]. One thing you can say for the P-40, it was rugged. [Laughter].
One of the turrets hit me from the side. I had several holes through the propeller, then started the five inch hole through the crank case, then right through the cockpit and just, as luck would have it, I was only grazed by the bullet. But I had one right into my parachute. The radio was sitting right by me and the radio was gone, it just took the radio out. Then right out the back end of the airplane.
By that time I had recovered my composure from -- [Laughter] -- overshooting.
Our big advantage was the ruggedness of the P-40 and the guns. We had far better guns. Our 650 caliber machine guns would fire 600 rounds a minute, with a higher muzzle velocity. It was just a lot better than what the Japanese had. And Chenault told us how to use it to our advantage. I didnít obey him all the time because I had been taught to dog fight. I thought I was just wonderful until I met that first Japanese boy. Theyíre highly maneuverable fighters. Chenault had warned us, he said, in a little ditty. He said itís better to shoot and run away and live to shoot another day.
I lived, but not because I was smart. I just lived simply because the P-40 was so rugged it would take a terrible beating and occasionally I got that. [Laughter].
Moderator: How was it for you, transitioning to the Mustang?
Mr. Lopez: I flew 96 missions in the P-40 and only five in the Mustang, but it was a much nicer airplane as far as performance. It was much faster, it was much higher, it would fly much higher, and we had much more range. So we could fly longer missions. We could always catch the enemy. We were faster than any of them with the Mustang. We were about even with the P-40.
The one thing I didnít like about the first Mustangs I flew was the B model, the B and C. They were the same except different props. They only had four guns and the guns were mounted, instead of on the base like this they were mounted like this because the wing was so thin. When you pulled Gs they would jam. It was very disconcerting when you got in a good position and shot at somebody and the machine gun just went bang and thatís it. They only fired one round and then stopped. And you couldnít fix them until you landed. So I didnít like that about them. [Laughter]. But the later ones, the D had six guns that were real good. I liked the Mustang an awful lot.
Moderator: You both had lunch with the Chief today in terms of talking about netting effect on the enemy. How would you compare the P-40 with its limitations and then later on the advantages that newer aircraft had?
General Alison: The P-40 had a tremendously good record simply because Chenault knew what his limitations were and he knew what the limitations on the Japanese aircraft were, so we matched or strength against the Japanese airplanesí weaknesses, and as a result we had a victory ratio very much in our favor. But it was like donít fight them, run away. You donít like to do that until it gets serious. [Laughter]. Then the better part of valor is to run.
Mr. Lopez: I donít think we did any better against them with the Mustangs particularly, but they were starting to get a little better planes in too. They got the Tojo and the Frank when I was still over there. The Frank was a pretty good airplane. The other ones, the Oscars that we flew, were Army versions of the Zero. They were so light, we had a captured one. You could look in the tail wheel inspection plate and see the instrument panel. There was nothing in it. It was a very light weight airplane. It weighed about 5,000 pounds where ewe weighed about 8,000 or 9,000. We didnít even call it turning, we called it flipping. You just lined up with one and all of a sudden there were two streamers there and no airplane. So we quit doing that. As John said, we fired and got away.
Moderator: Turning to the modern context today. You guys are operating out of Langley, F-15s as well as F-22s. You are both former F-15 pilots. Weíre in a situation, weíre in two concurrent ground wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Weíre looking at a scenario of budget issues. Why do you think we need to stick with the plan to continue to acquire the F-22? Why not just stick with the F-15s, F-16s, things like that?
LtCol Smith: I think today control of the air is absolutely critical in everything that we do. Weíve gotten so good at it weíve almost got ourselves out of a job, quite honestly, and people seem to forget how much we had to invest to be able to be where we are today and be able to go into any country any place in the world and control the skies. So I think we need to continue to not just be satisfied with what we have today because there are a lot of other folks out there that are building other aircraft and other capabilities that are going to try to take that away from us. If we do not stay ahead of that we will be in a bad situation in the future.
Moderator: If you fly an F-22 against an F-15 or another aircraft thatís still very high end, how does it compare?
Capt Thaler: There really is no comparison. The F-22 is definitely head and shoulders above the rest. Not just because of the integrated avionics, the supercruise -- it can go faster than Mach without using after-burners. Itís got sensors that can detect everything out there. All that aside, its stealth is the bottom line. Youíd like to be killing them before they even know that youíre there and the Raptor can do that.
Moderator: One big difference with World War II, a lot of the aircraft weíre referring to, the P-51, the P-40, their design times to production and then ramping up for production was very small. Whatís the story on the P-51? It was very short.
Mr. Lopez: It was very short, about a year. It was in operation in a year.
General Alison: They flew it in less than a year, designed it. We had some famous designers, both Germans, spoke with a broken accent. Edgar Schmud, I think Faulker brought him to the United States. He became the chief designer at North American and he designed the P-51. He laid it out fully by hand, did it himself. It turned out to be an absolutely wonderful airplane to fly. It was much better than the P-40, a lot faster. The first time I got into it, Iíd never been to altitude simply because we didnít have airplanes that would get up there. The P-51 went right up above 40,000 feet. I stayed up for about 30 minutes or so above 40,000 feet, which is nothing for an F-22. [Laughter].
One of the things, we listened to General Moseley this morning and he said our objective -- and theyíre going to reach it, weíre spending only 3.2 percent of our gross national product on our air defense. Thatís far inadequate. We were spending more than that in the days of the P-40. Of course weíre getting a lot more for the three percent, simply because weíve got a bigger gross national product. But in my opinion weíre not spending enough.
What you want to do, you want to be there in overwhelming numbers, which we werenít in the beginning of World War II and we suffered a lot. We lost a lot of kids. I want to see the United States military the best equipped military in the world simply because we face great dangers ahead. The thing thatís so disturbing, the newspapers carry it, the numbers that are killed. That discourages, although it is not catastrophic, that discourages lots of Americans. Itís terrible to say letís get out of there because thatís not going to solve anything.
I think this country faces some very serious problems in the future and Iíd like to see us have a tremendous advantage, both in the air and on the ground. I just am afraid that there are many Americans who donít appreciate what the United States military does for them. Iíve seen people on the losing side and I donít want that to happen to us.
Iíd like to be flying again, but Ė
Mr. Lopez: They arenít hiring us 80 year olds. [Laughter].
Moderator: Going on that number issue of having proper equipment in volume, how is it different today? Are the references to the P-51, quick turn-around time and all Ė
I was born in 1980. Thatís when the F-22 program began. Why so long? Why are we in a different era of complexities and all that? How does that really met itself when weíre buying things and having to think about that?
LtCol Smith: I just fly them I donít build them. Thereís a lot of guys in this room that are involved in building that aircraft. But the requirements that we have in order to have overwhelming air superiority the technology, as long as it takes with our system that our government has for acquiring new assets, it just takes that long. So what weíve got to be careful about is that we donít buy just a few F-22s and then allow that line to shut down and then in ten years go man, we sure wish weíd had 380 of them instead of 180 of them.
Moderator: When youíre looking at the international threat arena, what are some of the threats that youíre considering that youíd have to be up against?
LtCol Smith: The biggest thing I think weíve got to consider is what we call the double digit SAMs, the very advanced surface-to-air missiles. In addition, some of the other fighter aircraft that are being developed all over the world, by Russia, by other European countries. If we didnít have the F-22 today we would be at a disadvantage. We would be behind. We would be continuing to fall further behind.
The F-15 is a great airplane. I flew it my entire career until about a year ago. F-16 is also a great airplane. But theyíre getting old and you can only do so much with increasing capabilities on those aircraft and making up for shortfalls in the airplanes with tactics. So weíve I think gotten just about all the blood we can get out of the F-16 and the F-15 so we need to move on and make sure we get increased capabilities.
Moderator: How does it change your strategy when you engage in a combat scenario? For example in Kosovo we lost the F-16, the F-117 to the SAMs. If youíre going to have to go down and, to borrow General Jumperís phrase, kick down the door, how is that modifying our approaches?
LtCol Smith: Because most countries know that we will defeat them in an air-to-air engagement they have decided maybe not to spend so much money on buying aircraft to try to defeat us, but --
Moderator: When youíre actually employing.
LtCol Smith: So these surface-to-air missiles, they now have such large engagement envelopes that unless you have stealth you cannot get inside of that envelope. What the F-22 can do is essentially shrink that weapons engagement zone, envelope, enough so that we can get in there and hit some targets that will then start to work toward taking down that air defense system, which will then allow other aircraft that maybe arenít stealth, to get in there and also gain control of the air so if we need to move ground forces we can and we can maintain our superiority over the top of that.
Moderator: When you transitioned from the F-15 to the F-22, what went through your mind? Itís radically different.
Capt Thaler: How did I get so lucky? [Laughter].
Flying is flying. The basics of just getting the plane from A to B are going to be the same no matter what youíre in, P-40 up to Raptor. What really makes a difference is the tactics and the way you employ it.
In F-15s, F-16s you never once thought about not being detected. You knew where they were and they knew where you were. In the F-22, a lot of your tactics are just based on who youíre trying to hide from, who youíre trying to let see you, who youíre trying to shoot and that kind of thing. So the tactics, especially beyond visual range, are a lot different.
LtCol Smith: Whatís really amazing about the airplane is in all the so-called legacy fighters, like in an F-15 youíve got a radar scope, youíve got a radar warning receiver, and youíve got other information that youíve got to look around the cockpit to build a tactical picture in your scope. What the F-22 does is it does that for you. So when youíre spinning your one brain cell in the F-15 trying to basically figure out whatís going on, you then donít have a brain cell left to figure out what to do about it. In the F-22 if youíve only got one brain cell you have the situation given to you so now you can spend that one brain cell trying to figure out what to do about the situation.
Moderator: In terms of the rest of the community, how are they receiving the aircraft? The guys that are still fling legacy aircraft when they go up against you and all. Are they surprised? [Laughter].
LtCol Smith: They hate us. I was fortunate in that in the 94th we flew F-15s until December and then we transferred to the F-22. As most of you probably know, the 27th Fighter Squadron is the first Raptor squadron, so while I was still flying F-15s we would go up and fly as adversaries for the 27th. It is just absolutely no fun at all. Youíre in the airspace and you drive to where you think they are, you have no idea where the Raptors are, and then you just get called dead. It is absolutely no fun. [Laughter].
Unfortunately, the secretís out. Initially we could get a lot of guys to sign up to fly a DAC2 with us because theyíd go yeah, I want to fly against the F-22. But the secretís out now and nobody wants to play any more. Itís not much fun.
Moderator: Itís rough for you guys.
In terms of other elements of the aircraft -- maintenance, affordability, things like that. They just deployed to Alaska. Howís that going?
LtCol Smith: Itís going great. This summer for two and a half months our runway was closed so all the fighters at Langley, we had to beat feet. We divided the F-22s up into two chunks. We took 12, which was primarily the 27th Fighter Squadron up to Alaska for the Northern Edge exercise. Then we took the other 16 and gained four more during that period out to Hill Air Force Base and dropped 40 JDAMs. Then we went down to Tindall and shot some air-to-air missiles and shot the gun. So during that whole period, I was on the Hill-Tindall piece, I did not go on the Alaska piece so I donít have all the details there, but I do know that while in Alaska they were fragged for 105 missions in Northern Edge and they were able to fly 102 of them. So thatís about 97 percent of the task sorties they were able to meet. Thatís good in any airplane, in any exercise, and for the F-22 being as new is it is, thatís a huge success.
While we were at Hill, no-kidding, we have some really young maintainers who have, some of them have some experience working on other airplanes but a lot of them are brand new. These guys, most of them just like any other young Airman, they are very motivated, extremely smart. They are figuring this airplane out and getting very very good at maintaining it.
Moderator: That brings up another point in terms of the F-15. While it is losing the edge in terms of capabilities and all of that, maintenance and upkeep. Itís an aging aircraft. General Peterson who did the introduction, flew those in the Ď70s. A lot of those are still the same airframes that are down at the ramp at Langley, the other squadrons.
How was that affecting your operations earlier on?
LtCol Smith: As far as the fact that the F-15s are old?
LtCol Smith: What we are seeing in the F-15 community is a lot more emergency procedures or things going wrong with the airplane that we didnít think about. Wire bundles that are 30 years old, they donít last for 30 years. So strange electrical problems, different fires that are created because of that. So it is no-kidding like continually putting bandaids on top of bandaids to keep the airplane flying.
Moderator: Not exactly what you want in combat too much.
General Alison: Or any time. [Laughter].
Moderator: In terms of listening to the guys and their past experiences from World War II, how would you apply some of those lessons learned? How do you think they filtered through the Air Force in which youíre now a member and flying on the front lines?
LtCol Smith: I think the biggest thing that we can take away from that is that we cannot have a just in time force. We need to be ready at all times. If weíre not careful weíll forget about that lesson. Certainly we will always figure out a way to get the job done, no matter what, just because thatís what we do. But we would be remiss if we do not make sure that those that come after us, if they donít have the right equipment. So I think itís extremely important that we donít forget about these lessons.
Moderator: Do you guys have any Ė
Mr. Lopez: Itís real easy, checking out like in a P-40 or 51 is not a problem. I imagine these are a lot more difficult. I checked myself out in a Mustang. [Laughter]. Someone landed one at our field in Guelin and left it there and went away. I donít know who it was. I was the ranking officer that day, I was a first lieutenant. I was a flight leader, though. So I decided Iíd fly it. So I went and jumped in it and everything was pretty much the same. I took off and climbed up and started to do a few aerobatics in it. I did a loop, and when I pulled through the top it snapped into a [emelman]. I said boy, that must have looked great, now Iíll do another good loop. When I went to the top it went totally out of control. It just started flopping all over the sky. Every time Iíd look out at the top of the canopy there was the ground. Fortunately, I was pretty high. I finally cut the power and got into a dive. I know how to get out of dives any place. [Laughter]. So I landed after a few minutes, after I calmed down.
It turned out, youíre not supposed to fly any aerobatics with the fuselage tank full. In the P-40 you left it full for the last because it was gravity feed. When I landed, everybody ran up and said hey Lope, what was the name of that maneuver you did? I said itís a new one I just invented called the Tootsie Roll. [Laughter]. It must have impressed them because about 15 years later we were at that reunion at Nashville. A guy I hadnít seen since I left China said Lope, done any Tootsie Rolls lately? So he remembered it. Not as well as I did, though. [Laughter].
General Alison: Itís surprising that many things are fundamental and remain the same. People have wondered why early in the war Chenault had so much better record than any other theater. It was very simple. He said you have to know where the enemy is before the enemy knows where you are. So he set up a warning net. We knew when he was coming, we knew essentially about how high he was and how long we had to get ready to be in a position of advantage when he arrived. As a result, the P-40 did very well.
Unfortunately, down in the South Pacific they were on islands and the Japanese would come from their carriers and right down on the deck. The airplanes sitting on the islands had no warning whatsoever until the Japanese airplanes crossed the destroyer line. The destroyers then would signal the airfield, theyíre on the way. They caught the P-40s taking off. The Japanese, down low, with a P-40 which didnít climb very fast, it was very discouraging.
We had a wonderful Air Force pilot early in the war who came back and just said the P-40 was an inadequate airplane, and under the conditions in which he had to fight, it was an inadequate airplane.
So they had the Truman Commission. Harry Truman formed a commission to find out why we were buying these inadequate airplanes. Then, understandably, the workers at the Curtis-Wright plant revolted. They said weíre not going to build an inadequate airplane so they stopped working.
The Air Corps picked about four pilots who had all fought, some had fought the Germans in North Africa and two of us had fought the Japanese in the Far East and we assured the workers at Curtis-Wright that they were building a good airplane, and for goodness sake, keep on building them because we didnít have anything else. That was the condition early in the war.
If you donít have warning, and the thing that is so impressive about the F-22 matched with the other technologies which the Air Force has got, the information theyíve got is tremendous. Theyíve touched on that. It is just tremendously important that you know more about the enemy than he knows about you.
Moderator: That really hits home to the point, a lot of references you made there. These guys did a wonderful, wonderful job with what they had, devised tactics to make it work, but we donít want to be in that situation again. These guys now on the front lines shouldnít be placed in that situation. Itís not fair and the country in certain situations could be on the line. Thatís something that we try to impart on the Hill to congressional staffers and to members as well. So events like these to try to bring lessons learned and to put reality in it and touch points.
As a bit of a treat, Don has actually brought some pictures in that are from China. So weíll quickly review those, and then weíre going to open it up to Q&A.
Mr. Lopez: Thatís not in China. Thatís in the Air and Space Museum, but -- [Laughter].
Thatís a map of China.
The Japanese in í43 when I got there had all the coastal areas. We were in those three bases that went up and down the mainland. I was at Hengyang which was the northern most one. Most of our fighting was up there on the lakes. Although recently I had a Chinese delegation to the museum and they heard Iíd been in China. They said have you ever been to Hong Kong? I said no, but I bombed it. [Laughter]. They were a little surprised.
Thatís the hump, the Himalaya Mountains between Asam and India and China. All our supplies had to come by air. We had no entrance to China through ground or sea, so everything came over the hump. This is how they made runways over there, they broke rocks all the time. The Chinese working out there day and night. Thatís at Kung Ming, and just breaking those rocks up.
The men broke the big ones and the women broke the little ones. But they were there constantly. And they could fix a hole in the runway so fast you wouldnít believe it.
Then theyíd seal it with mud, which was good except when it got dry, and then youíd have big clouds of dust when you tried to take off.
All the runways were gravel, as you see there. When you landed your wheels threw gravel up against the flaps. It made a heck of a noise but it helped slow you down so it wasnít too bad. [Laughter].
This is how they rolled them. See that giant roller at the end there? Theyíd get all these Chinese people there and theyíd stand there a while. Then theyíd start yelling and pull it about maybe 100 feet and stop. Occasionally someone would stumble and theyíd roll them into the runway. They thought that was the funniest thing in the world. Theyíd all laugh at this poor dead person there. They didnít have much entertainment over there, but I thought that was -- [Laughter].
Thatís what the terrain looked like around there.
That was our control tower at Henyang. We didnít have any radios so it didnít matter. [Laughter].
Thatís us on alert.
This is Guelin. The mountains are very distinctive there. Thatís the 75th Fighter Squadron lined up along the runway there. Those are really distinctive mountains. They run about 60 or 70 miles north and south and a little bit east and west. Itís a big resort area now. It wasnít then.
Thatís another view of them.
Thatís General Chenault. Thatís how he looked when he was happy. [Laughter]. He was a tough guy. He sounded like he ate ground glass. He had a very raspy voice.
Thereís a P-40 taking off there from Guelin.
Thatís our squadron. We had white spinners on ours.
The mechanics. You canít say enough about the maintenance men we had. They worked outdoors all the time. They had no indoor facilities whatsoever. They did all the work by hand and kept the planes running. My heart missed many a beat, but my engine never did.
Theyíre changing an engine there.
This is my first victory. The Japanese had attacked us at Hengyang on the 10th of December. It was monsoon season, real bad visibility. I wasnít flying that day. Our squadron took off to intercept them but they went up to about 15,000 feet or so and they came in at 1,000 feet with the bombers and bombed the heck out of our field. Some of our guys came down and shot some of them, but we lost on that battle.
Two days later, we only had 12 airplanes left that could fly. They came in again and the commander, our CO, said the first two flights will stay down and the third flight will go up. I was the second man in the third flight. So we climbed up through the haze and broke out in the sun and I heard them engaging the bombers. I was looking up for enemy fighters and I didnít see any. All of a sudden my leader yelled ďZeroesĒ and dropped his belly tank and rolled over. I dropped mine and miraculously remembered to switch tanks and dive through them. We werenít in a good spot so we didnít really get a good shot at any of them, but our number four man got shot down and killed on that pass. When I got in the haze I lost sight of the leader and the next spin lost fight of me. So I climbed up above the layer again and circled once and I saw in the distance a P-40 being chased by an Oscar. I was way out of range, but I took a lead and fired over at him just to scare him off, which I did, but he turned toward me, which wasnít part of the plan. [Laughter].
So we were making a head-on pass at each other, both firing and both hitting. I could see my bullets hitting his plane, see the flashes. I didnít know I was hit until I landed. I had a lot of holes in my propeller in the front.
But just before we hit engine to engine, he made a vertical bank to the right as hard as he could, and my left wing hit his left wing and knocked his off. As soon as I got my eyeballs tucked in, it seemed like the P-40 hadnít any difference, it flew just about the same. [Laughter]. So I got a couple more fights with a couple of other Oscars. The other fellow shot one down, then I came in and landed. But it was a good old rugged airplane.
Thatís another fight over in Changsha. I shot down a plane there, a Tojo going straight down. I nearly went into the river. I didnít pull out as soon as I should have, but he didnít pull out at all. [Laughter].
Thatís a double exposure which you canít do now. A fellow was taking a picture of the P-40 landing and it ran off the runway into a pile of rocks and collapsed the gear. Itís the same airplane. He forgot to advance the film so heís got both airplanes coming and going, or staying, I guess.
Thatís just a line of planes there.
This was, we got to take our planes down to -- We only had four airplanes left when the Japanese drive was on in í44. We had to take our four airplanes down to Guelin and the 74th Squadron moved up to Hengyang. They had a fighter strip there, it was very narrow. That was my airplane parked on the fighter strip. I was in the alert jacket and I heard a P-51 taking off and then cut his engine. You heard that every now and then. Someone said hey Lope, somebody just ran into your airplane. Thatís a Mustang wing tip. It bit it right off when it went by. [Laughter].
It didnít hurt my airplane very much except it dented in that part they call the bathtub with the teeth on it. They got a new one to put on it, but the squadron dentist, the guy who painted the teeth on, wasnít there so I had to gum the Japs for about two weeks -- [Laughter].
Thatís how they got everything by hand. Thatís fuel tanks coming in.
Thatís us in our alert shack again.
Thatís a guy from Atlanta. He told his mother that was his airplane. They had these dummy planes along there. She was from a little farm and she believed him. [Laughter]. She called her congressman, but he knew beter so nothing ever happened.
Thatís an Oscar, a captured Oscar. Itís a nice looking little airplane.
Thatís one of our guards there. He loved to show you his hand grenade. We didnít want to touch it. It was an old World War I German potato masher hand grenade. Heíd show you his bullets. He was like Barney Fife. He had three bullets, all different, and none for that gun. [Laughter].
Thatís me on the left and my roommate Dick Jones. I was on a mission. We were fighting, some Oscars attacked the B-25s we were escorting. The fight was over and everybody separated and I looked around and didnít see anybody. I started to go home and I saw a guy go in a parachute. So I looked around and made sure I didnít see any airplanes and dived down to go by him so I could see who it was so I could report it. He was waving frantically. I thought he was just glad to see me, but there was a Jap right behind me. He shot at my left aileron, my rudder, and he bounced a couple off my armor plate and blew out the glass back there. Scared me half to death. I ran around the cockpit and yelled help every time I passed the radio, but it didnít help much. [Laughter].
Thatís after the mission. Thatís me on the left and my commander, Don Quigley there.
Thatís our CO, Elmer Richardson. That man is Vtolder Bonovitz. He was the second leading Polish ace in World War II in the Battle of Britain. He came over to fly with us for a while, a very fine pilot. He shot down two Japanese while he was there. He was really a fine man.
Thatís Elmer Richardson. He went down to Kunming for some business. It was a bad day. We were playing softball, and he came back suddenly and we all had to lie down because I think he would have given us a haircut if we hadnít. He was the commander, he could do what he wanted.
Thatís a P-40 that got hit by a bomb.
Thatís a gooney bird that got hit by a bomb. It was kind of interesting.
That was one of those big buzzards. Thatís the cockpit of a DC-3. Thatís the nose of a big buzzard that came right through there. He said the looks were better than the smell. [Laughter].
We hadnít much to do over there. [Laughter]. These were two of our guys who got shot down. Both walked back. He had to shave Mooseís head so he looked Chinese.
Thatís a picture of Moose with his hat and hair on. A really great guy.
We had contests to see who could lean the furthest without falling over. [Laughter].
We were going to try to get everybody to learn to do that, and then when they called attention weíd do that and see if General Chenault would fall over. [Laughter]. But we lost our nerve.
Moose became a dog trainer later. [Laughter].
Thatís me standing by my P-40.
Thatís a Mustang that crashed. They had a frag bomb hang up and it wouldnít release and he landed and it went off and killed him.
Thatís a B-24 trying to get into the act.
That was a B-25, ran off the end of our runway. Several people got killed in that. I was down there trying to help a guy who was trapped in the beginning, and finally the fire got so bad that our base commander, Colonel John Dunning, shot the man so he wouldnít burn to death.
Thatís me by my Mustang. Lopeís Hope was the name of my airplane. That was the third one.
We painted our tails black. The teeth didnít look so good on a Mustang so we just did that. Thatís the only color paint we had.
That was a guy who guarded us against low altitude attacks. [Laughter].
Thatís Flash Segura. He became an Air Force general. Great guy. When we were training in India he had a Zut uniform made, and thatís it. It was really something. He had a string in his pocket he could pull and his wings would flap.
Thatís Segura in his airplane over there.
We got a really bad CO toward the end of our time. He didnít want to fight. He wouldnít lead missions. Heíd go out by himself with one other man and come back with his guns not fired and out of oxygen. He came back and reported some planes on the ground once on a Japanese field. Dunning asked him why he didnít go down and get them. He said I wanted to come back and tell you about them. Dunning wouldnít talk to him any more. So Segura and I were the two senior officers in the squadron and we had to go up and get briefed.
Finally he heard we were saying bad things about him, the commander. He called all the officers together and chewed us out for a while, and he said, Segura, stand up. He said, did you tell all these new pilots I was a yellow SOB? He said, no sir, I donít know how they found out. [Laughter].
So he gave him a Mustang with no canopy and sent him to a little auxiliary field. Then he got relieved of the squadron the next day so we told Segura to come back. He didnít show up for three days. We asked him why. He said he camouflaged his airplane so good he couldnít find it. It was a little tiny thing.
Thatís me in my cockpit after my last mission in the Mustang.
Thatís all of them.
Moderator: Any questions from the audience?
Question: General Alison, working with the Russians had to be kind of exciting. I suspect there was a very strong language barrier and maybe a whole lot of other barriers. Could you tell us a little bit about that? That was 1940, I assume?
General Alison: Yes. In the newspapers you would have thought the Russians were our allies, but we were their obstacle to taking over the world after this war was over, so it was very difficult. Hub Zimpky and I delivered the first order of P-40s that came in by boat up at Arcangel, and we wanted to go to the front with this unit that we deliver the airplanes to. The Russians would never let us go there. They would never let us see any of the pilots or the commander of this unit, and it was very difficult to give them things.
We said look, thereís a lend lease program. These airplanes are being given to you. They said no, weíre buying them. Of course they werenít buying them, we were giving them to them. Later I delivered B-25s to them and that was almost impossible because they would go over the airplanes with a fine tooth comb and list the defects and then want me to sign the list of defects. A defect was a light bulb that was burned out. They kind of ran me crazy.
Finally they said to me -- One day, I was so exasperated, I had a B-25 all ready to go but it had a five ply cut in a ten ply tire. Of course we werenít carrying heavy loads. All we had to do was ferry it to Russia from Iraq. I was in Iraq at the time. The Russians went over this airplane with a fine tooth comb. If Iíd been smarter, I would have just rolled the airplane forward, the cut would have been on the bottom of the tire, the Russians would have never known it. [Laughter]. But they wouldnít accept the airplane. I just threw up my hands and I said Iíll be a son of a bitch. And I walked away. Their chief engineer, who was really a very decent fellow, finally came to me and he said Captain Alison -- Now these guys are colonels, Iím a captain. Our country said deliver the airplanes and it was my responsibility. They had a team there and they had no authority. They just did everything by the numbers and it was difficult.
He explained to me, he said you know, when these airplanes get to Russia, we do an inspection here, but when they get to Russia they go over it with a fine tooth comb, and if we havenít listed everything they give us a very hard time. So I said I understand, my friend, but what weíre trying to do is help you win this war because itís to our advantage if you do.
From then on we were reasonably friendly with the Russians. We got along with them. But it was very difficult to deliver the airplanes to a bureaucracy which had the minutia would just kind of wear you down.
Moderator: Any others?
Iíd like to thank our panel members very very much for participating, and thank all of you for attending.
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