Monthly Archives: April 2016

War Correspondents

Research and story by Clarence Simonsen

War correspondents are a special breed of men and women who continue today risking their own personal safety to capture a story, photo, or painting, and communicate the news back to the public. These people are neither soldiers of war or members of the armed forces. However they were given the same uniform and are treated with the same priority and respect as the fighting man and women. It is an exhausting, dirty, and deadly business, facing the sniper’s bullet and land mine which is impervious to the war correspondent badge. Near the end of World War Two [30 April 1945], LIFE magazine presented a portfolio on ten artists who had been in the conflict since December 1941.

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My favorite American LIFE war correspondent artist was Capt. Tom Lea who wore the standard uniform of the United States Army Air Force. Only a small strip of cloth on his shoulders identified him as a war correspondent. Through the medium of pencil and paint Tom captured the mysteries, death, and spectacle of war art such as the American pilot expression and the four leaf clover he wore for good luck. His art appeared in many issues of LIFE magazine and dramatically showed how deep Americans had been plunged into the Second World War. It was the magic of the airplane and the U. S. Air Transport Command that flew Tom to the strange and new world at war.

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This image is from the 1944 book titled Flight to Everywhere by Ivan Dmitri, the story of the United States Air Transport Command in WWII.

The badge of the U.S. Army’s Air Transport Command contained the new boundary lines which changed the very shape of the world as these big transport aircraft flew the new circle routes. These routes opened up new remote landing strips and way stations for the aircraft to refuel and then depart on a network of bases from the Arctic to Australia.

By 1945, U. S. Air Transport Command flew regular plane routes that totaled over 160,000 miles. Artist Tom Lea, flew over 38,000 miles with Air Transport Command, including many trips around the world. He painted and brought back hundreds of images of the little-known places in the world, including Arctic Canada. When he stopped at Goose Bay, Labrador, in 1942, he painted images of the Arctic Northern Lights and the virgin forest that surrounded the remote air base.

He reported a Canadian, Eric Fry, found the base location while flying over the area in an amphibious aircraft in the spring of 1941. This was the only flat, sandy ledge, with room for runways and proximity to coastal waterways for thousands of miles. The base construction was a joint undertaking shared by both American and Canadian funds, containing both American and Canadian base camp areas. By 1943, the base could service and feed the crews of 100 aircraft in just 24 hours. Then weather permitting, they continued the Great Circle route to Greenland, England, and the war in Europe.

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This Tom Lea painting records one of the thousand rivers that cross the plateau near the great base of Goose Bay airport. This was recorded as being near the 300 foot Hamilton waterfall where the Indian spirit Manitou, lives.

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The next day Tom painted the enormous piece of Danish ice covering 700,000 miles of frozen island Greenland.

Many American airmen in Goose Bay came from the southern states. They were not prepared for the cold Arctic life style and from this was born the legend of the “Kee-kee Bird.”

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The Kee-kee Bird
This bird looks just like a buzzard;
It’s large, it’s hideous, it’s bold.
In the night, it circles the North Pole.
Crying “Kee, Kee, Kee-rist but it’s cold!”

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Images taken in December 1943, from book “Flight to Everywhere.”
Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada became the hub for the hundreds of American war correspondents traveling to the war in Europe and many of these men and women never returned to the United States.

On 20 September 1948, at 5 p.m. American Secretary of Defense James Forrestal dedicated a special memorial wall honoring the 80 plus American war correspondents who died or were killed during their war service. The wall was located in the National Military establishment Press room, [2E 676] of the Pentagon building. On any given day, forty war correspondents photographs will be mounted on the memorial wall, giving the location and date of death or missing in action.

In 1945, Gillis Purcell and Ross Munro formed the Canadian War Correspondents Association, which today records and represents over 100 Canadian reporters who served and died scattered all over the world. Two Canadian War Correspondents from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Art Holmes and Robert Bowman, departed Halifax, Nova Scotia, in a convoy for England in late December 1939. They would spend the duration of the war wearing the standard Canadian Army attire which was identical to the front line soldiers they served beside in action.

Other Canadian newspapermen served as civilian war correspondents, while many served as members of the armed services in the public relations sector. Several didn’t come home. To their roll of honor, you can add the name of RCAF Flying Officer David Francis Griffin # C24863.

David Griffin was born in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1907, and began his newspaper career at age seventeen, working as a press boy for the Hamilton Spectator.

He moved on to become a newspaper reporter and was employed with the Windsor Star, Sudbury Star, and became assistant city editor of the Toronto Star newspaper. He was a widely-known and very well respected newspaperman with 18 years’ service when he enlisted in the RCAF in late 1941.

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The sudden crippling attack by Japan on the United States naval and air forces at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, quickly changed the war defenses in Canada and Alaska. F/O Griffin was assigned to cover this air defence of British Columbia and Alaska, attached to the new formed No. 111 [Thunderbird] Squadron. Some of his RCAF reporting would appear in his old newspaper the “Toronto Star” including the special color center-section titled “Star Weekly.”

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By May 1942, the tide of war was running very strongly in favour of Japan, and the U.S. War Department had to immediately booster its Alaska Air defence and ask if Canada could led air assistance to the American Forces in Alaska. On 27 May 42, Maj./Gen. S.B. Buckner, commanding the Alaska Defence Command, sent an urgent message requesting one RCAF Bomber Squadron and one RCAF fighter Squadron to proceed at once to Yakutat at the north end of the Alaska panhandle. On 2 June 42, twelve Bolingbroke bombers of No. 8 [B.R.] Squadron RCAF left Patrica Bay, B.C., for the 1,000 mile flight north to Yakutat, where they all arrived the next day. On 4 June No. 111 [F] Squadron under command of S/L A. D. Nesbitt arrived at Yakutat. The RCAF ground crews arrived by old Stranraer aircraft on 2 June and one of the passengers was F/O David Griffin. Lorne Bruce of Vancouver, B.C. the former superintendent of the Canadian Press at Edmonton, Alberta, was also selected to cover the RCAF in the Aleutians.

S/L Nesbitt joined the RCAF on 15 September 1939, then served with No. 1 Squadron in the Battle of Britain. Nesbitt returned to Ottawa on 18 September 1941, and took command of the new formed No. 111 Squadron on 1 November 1941. After the attack by Japan at Pearl Harbor, No. 111 Squadron was ordered to Sea Island, [Vancouver] B.C. on 14 December 1941. On 18 February 1942, they were moved to Patricia Bay, where they completed training in the new Kittyhawk Mk. I fighter aircraft, becoming operational on 12 March 1942. During this time period, public relations officer F/O David Griffin was attached to No. 111 Squadron and recorded all the squadron activities until August 1943.

On 17 March 42, a special ceremony was held when the West Coast Saanich Indians adopted the fighter squadron and presented S/L Nesbitt with a 20 inch carved and painted “Thunderbird” totem pole. This was reported by F/O Griffin and images appeared in the Star Weekly magazine.

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17 March 1942, S/L Nesbitt, D.F.C. and his Thunderbird. Star Weekly image

On 15 June 42, Nesbitt was promoted to Wing Commander and given command of RCAF Station Annette Island. The little “Thunderbird” totem stood on his desk for all to see.

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Ottawa image PMR 75-603

No. 111 flew their first operation on 1 July 1942, from Elmendorf Field, to intercept an unidentified aircraft. A few of the fighter aircraft painted the Thunderbird totem as nose art, as seen in the recovery image of Kittyhawk Mk. I, serial RAF AL194, [RCAF #1087].

The RCAF No. 111 Squadron formed “F” flight of the 11th Pursuit Squadron commanded by Major John S. Chennault, the son of the famous Major Gen. Claire Chennault of the Flying Tigers fame.

In a few days motion picture producer Col. D. F. Zanuck arrived and shot color flying scenes of the war in Alaska. This film can be downloaded and watched today, including the unrehearsed scenes of the RCAF “Thunderbird” squadron.

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In 1943, the U. S. Navy commissioned war correspondent artist Lt. William F. Draper to capture the war in Alaska. These two of 42 paintings, record the conditions at Umnak Island where the RCAF No. 111 Squadron were based.

Public Relations Officer F/O David Griffin was attached to No. 111 Squadron from March 1942 until August 1943, completing two tours of operations against the Japanese forces. During this time he recorded the interesting account of RCAF operations and of the life involving the Canadians who served in the Aleutians. His unpublished manuscript was titled – “First Steps To Tokyo.”

After taking thirty days leave, he was assigned to cover the story of the Norwegian patrol bombers flying from Iceland, protecting the Atlantic convoy ships from German U-boat attacks.

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Images from the 1945 book “Little Norway” Publisher unknown

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When Hitler suddenly attacked Norway on 9 April 1940, the Norwegian Government fled to Canada and purchased 20 million dollars of American combat aircraft. The first training of the Royal Norwegian Air Force began 10 November 1940, next to the Toronto “Maple Leaf” baseball stadium which was now named “Little Norway.” Fairchild trainers, Curtiss fighters, Douglas attack bombers and new Northrop patrol bombers were now seen on the Toronto Island Airport, which had been obtained for use from the Toronto Harbour Commission. By 1942, the Canada trained Norwegian fighter squadrons were taking the fight to Hitler, and this included Catalina flying boats and new Northrop N3-PB patrol bombers flying from Iceland bases.

flag

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The training in the N3-PB float aircraft at Toronto Island Airport, “Little Norway” July 1941

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Wings parade at Toronto Island Airport, “Little Norway” 1941

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LIFE magazine 29 May 1944

Bernt Balchen sketch by war correspondent Tom Lea in Iceland, 1943. He learned to ski at age eight and flew in the Norwegian Naval Air Force. He piloted Admiral Byrd to the South Pole 1927, then became an American citizen in 1931. In 1940, he assisted the Norwegian Government to begin pilot training at “Little Norway” in Toronto. In 1941, he was placed in command of the northern U.S. air base at Goose Bay, Labrador, and the main base in Greenland. All his life he was involved with snow, ice, and aviation.

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In February 1944, F/O Griffin completed his story on the Royal Norwegian Air Force in Iceland, but his story would never be published.

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Reykjavik, Iceland, was the H.Q. for No. 330 [N] Royal Norwegian Air Force and a major base for the RCAF Liberator bombers that were hunting German U-Boats. No. 10 [Dumbo] Squadron of the RCAF used this as refueling base on flights from Gander, Newfoundland.

On 18 February 1944, F/O Griffin secured a ride in a No. 10 [Dumbo] Squadron Liberator GR. V 856 bomber returning to its base at Gander, Newfoundland, from Iceland. This B-24 had delivered ground personnel from No. 162 [B.R.] Squadron to Reykjavik, Iceland, and was returning home empty with crew of five.

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No. 10 [Bomber] Squadron had been formed at Halifax, Nova Scotia, 5 September 1939, and established a record of 22 attacks on German submarines, with three confirmed sinking’s. They were also proud to have two unofficial titles “North Atlantic” and “Dumbo” Squadron. Walt Disney artists in Burbank, California, created the unofficial insignia. They had moved to Gander, Newfoundland, on 8 May 1943 and continued anti-submarine duty until disbanded on 15 August 1945.

F/O Griffin would be the only passenger in Liberator [U.S. #42-40526] RCAF serial 586, the very first bomber assigned to the squadron on 15 April 1943. This bomber had scored the units very first U-Boat kill 15 September 1943, when it sunk U-341. This should have been a safe normal flight but freezing temperatures caused icing problems. Three inches of ice built up under the wings and this cause the aircraft to consume more than normal fuel for the flight. The last contact with the crew was when they acknowledged a signal to divert to Goose Bay, Labrador. The story of this crash first appeared on 5 January 1945, in the British magazine “The Aeroplane” titled – Crash in Labrador. It can be found online, but in short the ice covered bomber ran out of fuel in three engines, and then just thirteen miles from Goose Bay, the fourth over-stressed engine caught fire. The Liberator plunged headlong into the thick bush and struck many large eighteen inch diameter trees, snapping the bomber fuselage in half. F/O Griffin was thrown out and killed instantly. The other five crew members all survived.

In the fall of 1944, the RCAF published the manuscript of Flying Officer David Griffin, titled First Steps To Tokyo. The front covers were designed by another RCAF famous Official War Artist, Donald Kenneth Anderson. In the early 1990s, I had the pleasure to meet this artist at a dinner in Nanton, Alberta. It is possible this original art survives today in Anderson’s War Museum collection in Ottawa.

It is also possible that F/O David Griffin and RCAF artist Sgt. Donald Anderson knew each other. Anderson had painted covers for the Star Weekly magazine as early as 1940, and Griffin was then employed as assistance city editor for the Toronto Star.

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Booklet here

Chennault

War correspondent artist Tom Lea drawing of Gen. Claire Chennault, China 1943.
[LIFE magazine 29 May 1944]

F/O David Francis GRIFFIN C24863 is buried in the Goose Bay Cemetery, Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada.

The war correspondent from Canada and the United States represent a free press, for the free people, and they are not afraid to die for both. In the United States the newspapermen and women killed as a direct result of their chosen war correspondent assignment are remembered in memorial walls, arches, and special televised dedication by the Overseas Press Club.

In Canada, we forget about our Newspaper Heroes, but they are there, being killed in a far off dirty land just to bring us a story to read with our morning coffee.

On 30 December 2009, a young 34 year old Calgary Herald reporter was on a six-week assignment as a war correspondent in the War in Afghanistan. She wore the same uniform as the four Canadian soldiers that carried out a route patrol in an armoured military vehicle. They struck a roadside bomb and all five were killed together in the blast.

This World War Two story is dedicated to Canadian War Correspondent Michelle Justine Lang, 31 January 1975 – 30 December 2009. The first Canadian journalist to die in the war in Afghanistan, but never forgotten.

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Calgary Herald image

Copyright Clarence Simonsen 2016

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The Calgary “Clunk”

Research and story by Clarence Simonsen

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The new design to meet the RCAF specification for a Canadian all-weather fighter was initiated at Avro Canada in October 1946. The fighter would be able to patrol the vast areas of Canada’s far north and operate in all weather conditions day or night. The two seat fighter was crewed by a pilot and navigator powered by the Canadian built Avro Orenda gas turbojet engines.

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The first two aircraft were given the Mark I prototype designation and serial number 18101 and 18102.

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The first CF-100 prototype serial 18101 emerged from the factory wearing overall gloss black finish with white lightning bolts running full length on the fuselage and twin engines. The pilot was the chief test pilot for Gloster Aircraft Company, S/L Bill Waterton, who was on loan to Avro Canada. The twin engines Rolls-Royce Avon RA3 turbojets. She carried the code letters FB-D and flew her maiden flight on 19 January 1950. Testing continued until 3 September 1952, then taken on strength by RCAF. The aircraft then conducted testing while on loan to A.V. Roe until 15 July 1954. Struck off charge by the RCAF on 31 May 1965 and scrapped.

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The second CF-100 prototype was serial 18102, painted in overall gloss black finish, with yellow lightning bolt running full length on each side of fuselage. The wing tip tanks had red fins and the RCAF insignia appeared on both sides of the nose just ahead of cockpit. The code letters were FB-K. The engines were Rolls-Royce Avon RA-3 turbojets.

The book “The Avro Arrow Story” by Bill Zuk explains the reason for the markings on 18102. Avro test pilot S/L William A. “Bill” Waterton and rear seat new test pilot F/Lt. Bruce “Duke” Warren flew the second prototype to compete against the Americans in a tactical air show at Logan Field, Boston, 30 August 1950. Pilot Waterton arranged for the painting of the yellow lightning bolt, red wing tip tank fins and the addition of the RCAF insignia.

F/Lt. Duke Warren replaced S/L Waterton as the chief test pilot and on 5 April 1951 he was killed flying the second prototype 18102. Duke had cleaned his flying helmet and oxygen gear the night before and forgot to replace one section in his air tube. Duke and observer Robert Ostrander were killed when the pilot oxygen mask failed and Duke blacked out. A passing Trans-Canada Airlines crew witnesses the straight down vertical dive of one all black jet, which never pulled out and impacted the ground at high speed. Crash site Komoka Bog, west of London, Ontario. They were the first two Avro Test Pilots to be killed, but others followed. After the investigation was completed, CF-100 #18102 was taken off strength officially by the RCAF on 23 June 1951.

The next five production aircraft were Mk. 2 test aircraft, and two were fitted with dual controls and designated Mk. 2 T [trainer].

#18103 Mk. 2 Indefinite loan to A.V. Roe, 20 June 1951, off charge 3 June 1955.

#18104 Mk. 2 Testing as FB-F, to RCAF 17 October 1951, off charge 6 November 1974, Preserved at St. Jean, Quebec.

#18105 Mk. 2 T indefinite loan to A.V. Roe, damaged 23 September 1953, off 27 May 1955.

#18106 Mk. 2 After testing was active until 2 May 1956. Became instructional airframe, off 14 November 1966. Preserved at Lambeth, Ontario.

#18107 Mk. 2 T indefinite loan to A.V. Roe, first gun firing trials. Off charge 21 July 1958.

These five test aircraft became the first fitted with the Canadian designed, developed, and new tested Orenda 2 engines.

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The next four production aircraft were RCAF test aircraft, with designation Mk. 3 T [Trainer], two seat long range fighter aircraft.

#18108 Mk. 3 T Testing then to RCAF 6 May 1952, first to operational training unit, off 5 August 1955.

#18109 Mk. 3 T Testing to RCAF 22 May 1952, code JF-R, off charge 18 April 1955.

#18110 Mk. 3 T Testing to RCAF 5 June 1952, code JF-S, overstressed and bend wings at CNE air show 20 September 1952. Off charge 5 August 1955.

#18111 Mk. 3 T Indefinite loan to A.V. Roe, burnt hanger fire Malton, 22 March 1956.

The fourth test pre-production aircraft was #18112, built as a Mk. 4 for testing 11 October 1952. It was on indefinite load to A.V. Roe for testing and had a Cat. “A” crash on 23 August 1954.

Full production now begins on the CF-100 Mk. 3 A, and 21 will be built. They are powered by the Orenda 2 turbine engines.

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#18113 3 A Taken on charge RCAF 15 August 1952, off charge North Bay 23 March 1955

#18114 3 D Built as a dual control version for RCAF operational training unit. Delivered 31 March 1953, off charge North Bay, 3 August 1960.

#18115 3 A Delivered RCAF 4 November 1952, crashed North Bay 31 December 1954.

#18116 3 A Delivered RCAF 4 November 1952, off charge 3 O.T.U. 3 August 1960.

#18117 3 A Delivered RCAF 4 November 1952, crashed 3 O. T. U. 15 October 1954.

#18118 3 A Delivered RCAF 10 December 1952, converted to 3 T on 30 October 1953, off charge 23 May 1958.

#18119 3 A Delivered RCAF 3 January 1953, converted to 3 T on 2 November 1953, off charge 3 August 1960.

#18120 3 A Delivered RCAF 19 June 1953, converted to 3 T on 22 March 1954. Coded JF-120, off charge 3 August 1960.

#18121 3 A Delivered 1953, converted to Mk. 3 D in 1955, off charge 9 September 1968.

#18122 3 A Delivered RCAF 8 January 1953. Code JF122, crashed North Bay 17 October 1954.

#18123 3 A Delivered RCAF 8 January 1953, converted to Mk. 3 D, off charge Cold Lake 3 August 1960.

#18124 3 A Delivered RCAF 21 January 1952, converted 3 T on 8 January 1954, coded JF-124, off charge 3 August 1960.

#18125 3 A Delivered RCAF 22 January 1953, converted 3 T on 19 January 1954, off charge 3 August 1960.

The 26th built CF-100 is serial #18126, the 13th production Mk. 3 A, assigned No. 12 Technical Services at A.V. Roe on 27 January 1953. It was delivered by A.V. Roe on 2 March 1953, and immediately assigned to Air Defence Command and transferred to No. 3 All-Weather Operational Training Unit at RCAF Station North Bay, Ontario.

RCAF Station North Bay was founded on 1 September 1951, as part of Canada’s air defence system due to the “Cold War” and rising threat of air attack from the Soviet Union. Like it or not Canada was situated between the Soviet Union and United States and this could become a nuclear battlefront. A massive building program began around North Bay involving all radar, air control, runways and weapons facilities for American and Canadian aircraft. The base received a new 10,000 foot runway and a peak strength of 2,200 military personnel, including 34 United States Air Force and 100 American civilian personnel. The sole purpose for the base was air defence, to monitor and protect the skies over northern Canada. On 1 November 1951, No. 3 All-Weather [Fighter] Operational Training Unit was formed featuring state of the art school teaching in fighter interception, combat, and cutting edge techniques to defend against the Russians in all weather conditions, day or night. Five RCAF fighter interceptor squadrons would serve at North Bay, No. 430, No. 445, No. 419, No. 433 and No. 414 Squadrons.

Canuck 18126 was returned to No. 12 Technical Services Unit [A.V. Roe, Malton] on 24 August 1953 and it is believed this is the date the dual trainer conversion to a Mk. 3 D was completed.

CF-100 serial 18126 was assigned to No. 440 [Bat] All-Weather [F] Squadron at Bagotville, Quebec, on 23 November 1953. She flew as KE-126 and wore the green colored engine cowlings, rudder, with white ‘crocodile tears.”

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Black and white photo image RCAF from Chris Charland

On 14 July 1954, #18126 was transferred to No. 3 A.W. [F] Operational Training Unit at North Bay along with three other CF-100’s [ #18120, #18127, and #18137]. The code letters marking became JP-126 and she now flew with the impressive “Night Witches” insignia on her nose. The adopted nickname was suggested by the wife of the unit Engineering Officer and thus became the unofficial insignia beginning in summer of 1953.

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Night Witch image from 22 Wing Heritage Office Archives

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Milton Caniff was one of the most famous and successful comic strip American artists of all time. A pro-American he was best described as a ‘drawing board patriot’ who produced special strips celebrating Christmas, Armed Forces Day and Air Force Day. Caniff never glamorized war and always paid respect to those who gave their all, including the pilots of the RCAF.

President Truman established “Air Force Day” on 1 August 1947, in recognition of all personnel who were victorious in the U.S. Army Air Forces. On 18 September 1947, the U. S. Air Force became a separate military service and the Army Air Forces were officially abolished on 26 September 1947. On 18 September 1948, Caniff created his first special strip – Today Is Air Force Day.”

On 19 September 1953, Caniff created a special strip which featured Steve Canyon giving a special salute to the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian built CF-100 which joined with the U.S.A.F. to protect the free world. The RCAF unit is No. 3 All-Weather [Fighter] Operational Training Unit at North Bay, featuring the little “Night Witch” and #18126 is one of the aircraft. The first American instructors to arrive at North Bay No. 3 A.W. [F] O.T.U. were USAF Major John Eiser and Captain B. Delosier, who arrived on 9 January 1952.

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Milton Caniff strip – 19 September 1953 copyright Shel Dorf.

On 8 November 1954, 18126 [coded JF-126] makes a very heavy landing at night piloted by Wing Commander E.G. “Irish” Ireland.

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RCAF image from Chris Charland

The right main landing gear broke, causing Category “B” damage. The damage is repaired and the fighter continues training duties.

On 22 May 1955, No. 3 A.W. [F] O.T.U. was transferred to RCAF Station Cold Lake, Alberta. On 24 January 1956, the Canuck went to Bristol Aerospace at Winnipeg, for refit modifications, special and periodic inspection maintenance. On 18 January 1957, the aircraft was declared “serviceable Reserve.” On 14 March 1957, the aircraft is re-designated as Inactive Reserve on paper RCAF Station Lincoln Park, Calgary, Alberta. 3 April 1958, classified as “War Reserve” again only on paper records at Lincoln Park. 12 August 1960, flown for storage at Lethbridge, Alberta, which was the storage detachment for Calgary. The runway at Lincoln Park was too short for a safe landing of a CF-100.

18 October 1962, Canuck 18126 is designated [A.P.D.A.L] Aircraft Pending disposal at Location, RCAF detachment at Lethbridge, Alberta.

In March 1963, Lynn Garrison found this rare Canuck and purchased the fighter from Crown Assets Disposal Corporation on 22 November 1963 for $1,000.00.

It was purchased in the name of his Alberta Aviation Museum at 2732 Brecken Road, Calgary, Alberta. This was the first operating name of the Calgary museum which consisted of nothing more than a letterhead printed by Roy Farran and Graham Smith of the North Hill News.

Herb Spear drives to Lethbridge in a truck loaned by Gerry Wolton’s Lumber Yard in Calgary. On the return trip Spear encounters many problems getting the aircraft to Calgary where it is placed in the Shell Oil pipe storage yards. This became the second aircraft purchased by Lynn Garrison for his new museum and it joined Mosquito CF-HMS [RS700] in the storage yard for protection.

In April 1964, the “Air Museum of Canada” was incorporated by lawyer Albert Ludwig, however none of the aircraft are transferred into the museum’s new title.

In the following years, a major battle developed between Lynn Garrison and his friend powerful lawyer Milt Harradence. The Air Museum of Canada floundered in its development and Lynn Garrison departed for California. Peter D. Norman seized control of the Air Museum of Canada in 1966, and in the following seven years a large number [45 plus] of aircraft were sold without permission to interested collectors. Today these aircraft remain in collections and museums around the world.

On 23 April 1973, Peter D. Norman sold the Air Museum of Canada to the City of Calgary for “one dollar” and only seven aircraft are listed on the official Bill of Sale, #22407 dated 1:39 p.m. 23 July 1973. Schedule “A” listed the aircraft as follows:

1. Avro CF-100 #18126
2. de Havilland DH98 Mosquito CF-HMS, serial RS700
3. de Havilland DH100 Vampire CF-RLK, serial 17069
4. Hawker Hurricane XIIA AC41, serial 48084
5. N.A. Harvard Ground Trainer [unmarked]
6. Sikorsky H5 serial 9607
7. de Havilland Tiger moth

The aircraft are now moved to the rear south side of the new Calgary Planetarium property and left to rot in the extreme hot and cold climate of southern Alberta. Bob Nelson is the technical supervisor of the Calgary Planetarium and he is given control of the ex-Lynn Garrison collection for safe keeping. Recently retired Calgary Airport manager Bill Watts is next appointed by the City of Calgary to run the daily operations of the nameless organization. Mr. Watts is given a central office in the Calgary Planetarium and paid as a manager for safekeeping and display of the seven ex-Garrison aircraft.

In the summer of 1975, the “Aero Space Museum Association of Calgary” is formed and registered as a non-profit, charitable, organization. The museum processed no building, no storage or protection for their aircraft, and meetings are held in the basement of the Planetarium.

In January 1978, my father passed away in the Foothills Hospital at Calgary and I decided to leave my twelve year career as a Metro Toronto Police officer and return to my home near Acme, Alberta. At this date, I was heavily involved in the research, collection, and repainting of WWII aviation aircraft ‘nose art’ which began in the summer of 1967, at Malton, Ontario.

In 1968, I joined the Royal Canadian Legion at Malton, Ontario, and thanks to being a police officer, I was allowed to tour the very plant where the Lancaster Mk. X, Avro CF-100, and famous Avro Arrow was developed, tested, and put into full production for the RCAF. On a cold winter day in 1969, I snapped a number of images of the CF-100 located in front of the Malton, Ontario, Legion building, located across the road from the plant where this fighter was built.

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In June 1978, [after the death of my father] I relocated to the farm in southern Alberta, where I continued my research into the aircraft markings known as ‘nose art.’ I also processed a wealth of Canadian aviation knowledge which I had gained in the past ten years living in Toronto.

In January 1979, I met Richard de Boer and made my first contact with a paid member of the Aero Space Museum Association of Calgary. In describing Richard, it was very clear he was not a very humble person, he was a know-it-all, tell-it-all, find-it-all, combined with being very articulate in his knowledge of aviation history and aircraft.

His smug tone in speaking came across to some people as being arrogant, however that was just his style and for many years we formed a friendship in the world of aviation. He taught me the complete operation of the museum, where items were located, plus the good, bad, and ugly, of the people in charge. It soon became very clear that Richard had one bad point, he expressed a high degree of biasness towards a Mr. Lynn Garrison, a man he had never even met. I had learned during my Military Police and Metro. Toronto Police training that an investigator must never show bias in any investigation and must always have a neutral viewpoint. This must also apply to professional historians when they display our past in professional operated museums.

In March 1979, I became a member of the Aero Space Museum of Calgary, and learned the small amount of money allotted each year paid the wages of the manager, financial officer, and directors.

credit Estate of Sig Wieser

We volunteers, attended monthly meetings in the Planetarium basement, drank coffee, talked of future plans and went home. Compared to Eastern Canada, the Calgary ‘paper museum’ was a told joke to the Canadian aviation community.

In 1984, Bullock Helicopters were renting the 1940 Royal Air Force drill hall as a hangar for their fleet of helicopters. They had paid in full to the City of Calgary the building rental fees until 1986. The old WWII RAF drill hall was a fire trap, with a leaking roof, electrical wiring from WWII that shorted out and a furnace that provided very little heat. In 1985, Bullock located a much safer location and the old drill hall was suddenly vacant. This WWII drill hall became the first home to the newly formed Aero Space Museum Association of Calgary and has housed the aircraft collection and related artifacts since that date.

In 1986, the Aero Space Museum of Calgary collection of aircraft were moved to their new home and this included CF-100 “Canuck” 18126. In 1987, the life at the new museum was very busy with the restoration of aircraft, created by the Federal Government. The City of Calgary obtained money through the assistance of the Canadian Government Job Development Training Program Grant, and then professionals were hired to restore the collection of aircraft. The funny part was the fact these restored aircraft were then sold to persons or museums however the museum remained broke. [this will be covered in detail in another story]

In 1973, the City of Calgary took over all assets of the Air Museum of Canada, including two WWII Hurricane aircraft. Lynn Garrison originally purchased Hurricane 5424, which was later leased by the City of Calgary to a Rem Walker in Regina, Saskatchewan. The City of Calgary then sold one new Merlin 29 engine to this Regina group for $900.00. In 1983, Rem Walker sold one Hurricane without serial number to a wealthy British collector Steven Grey in U.K. By the time the Calgary City Police began their investigation this stolen WWII Hurricane was in England and remains there today. [This story is covered in full detail in another history titled “Paper Kill.”]

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Lynn Garrison photo image 1946

Norseman CF-MAM, serial N29-26 was recovered in Northern Ontario, by Petro-Canada, then flown to Calgary in a Canadian Forces Hercules transport in fall of 1984. In 1986, it was restored by the Canadian Government Job Training Grant Program, then in 1988 it was sold back to Petro-Canada where you can find it displayed in the Atrium at 150-6th Ave. S.W. Calgary. This was the beginning of at least six aircraft being restored and then sold for profit, but I still wonder if this was all legal?

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Calgary Architect Bill Boucock was the man who designed the Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta. In 1986, his Beech SC17R Staggerwing aircraft was restored by the Government Grant Program in the Aero Space Museum of Calgary. After being restored to flying condition, it was never seen again, and I always wondered what money was involved in this scheme to restore a private owned aircraft?

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A second Noorduyn Norseman CF-SAN serial N29-29 crashed at Fort Simpson airport, N.W.T. on 15 December 1981. Constructed in 1946, this aircraft had flown with the Saskatchewan Government Department of Natural Resources. The aircraft was purchased by George Stevenson of Rocky Mountain Air and trucked to the Aero Space Museum of Calgary for restoration in 1988. It was found to be beyond economical cost for repairs and donated to the Aero Space Museum of Calgary for a tax receipt. I obtained one damaged port elevator from this aircraft and painted WWII Walt Disney art on it for an auction. This Calgary auction raised $800.00 for the Aero Space Museum, however the aircraft was sold to Joe McBryan of Buffalo Airways and today can be seen in the series named “Ice Pilot’s.” How much money was made on the sale of this Norseman?

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Next a rare Swordfish was sold to the Reynolds-Alberta Museum located at Wetaskiwin, and it became clear someone was making money using the Aero Space Museum as a restoration base. The Calgary taxpayers had no idea what was taking place under their nose. They owned an aviation museum but ‘their’ aircraft were being sold to other museums.

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This selling of aircraft and restoration scheme would now be exposed to the public of Calgary, thanks to unexpected legal action taken by Lynn Garrison.

In 1962, Lynn Garrison was at a Confederate Air Force air show in Texas, [Rebel Field] where he met the original three organizers, Lloyd Nolan, Lefty Gardner and Connie Edwards.

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This C.A.F. friendship spanned a lifetime and proved to be very important in the spring of 1991. Lynn was coordinating events in Haiti, when he received a call from Lefty Gardner, informing him a Mr. Bill Watts, Manager of the Aero Space Museum of Calgary, was offering the sale of one complete Calgary Lancaster FM136 to the C.A.F. [today the renamed Commemorative Air Force]. Lynn contacted Calgary lawyer Andy Robertson and initiated a lawsuit to prevent the sale of his old bomber. Garrison had the original bill of sale for the Lancaster, and the bomber had never been part of the legal purchase of seven aircraft from Peter D. Norman in 1973. When Peter Norman seized the old “Air Museum of Canada” in 1966, he only seized a bunch of papers.

The Lancaster bomber never appeared on any legal forms, and Garrison believed he still held legal title. A court of law would decide, and the City of Calgary lawyers were in fact worried Garrison had a sound case. Part of the original evidence from Lynn Garrison.

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Original Bill of Sale and delivery notice received by Lynn Garrison 20 April 1961

This is the original Bill of Sale for the purchase of Lancaster Mk. X., serial FM136, dated and signed by Lynn Garrison on 15 April 1961.

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The purchase of FM136 began in late May 1961, when Garrison made a phone call to Crown Assets Disposal Corporation in regards to the Lancaster stored at Macleod, Alberta. A cheque from Garrison was received in payment of $975.00 on 5 April 1961, and the bomber was owned by him on 15 April 61.

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In 1989, the new manager of the Aero Space Museum became Everett Bunnell, a Canadian pioneer in the field of aviation, with a career that spanned over half a century. He joined the RCAF in Regina, and served as a Flying Instructor, then became a Mosquito pilot and was posted overseas as the war came to an end. He became a full time test pilot for the new CF-100 flying out of Winnipeg, and survived an in-flight starboard engine explosion. He next became the chief test pilot for Bristol Aeroplane and then Spartan Air Services and Field Aviation in Ottawa. In his retirement he remained busy in the aviation world and had just arrived in Calgary when the Garrison lawsuit confronted him.

Ev Bunnell ran the museum like he was still in command of an Air Force unit in WWII. He was totally in charge of everything and the only person to tell Richard de Boer to shut up, as Mr. Bunnell would conduct all future lectures. Under his authority two more aircraft just disappeared, a Canadair T-33 and North American Harvard. I have no idea if they were sold or just given away. This Garrison purchased T-33 serial 21001 is now on display in Edmonton, thanks to Ev Bunnell. Was it sold or just given away?

Prior to the 1991 Garrison court action, his original seven remaining aircraft [including CF-100 #18126] and the Lancaster FM136 mounted on the pedestal, had remained neglected by the City of Calgary. That suddenly all changed. I learned the Calgary lawyers advised that the Lancaster be moved to the property in front of the Aero Space Museum 1940 R.A.F. Drill Hall, and it be cleaned up, to show the City of Calgary cared. On 10 March 1992, a special committee was formed to complete the reverse operation moving the aircraft from gate guardian to museum static display. This was completed on 23 April 1992, and I took this image soon after. The Lancaster is being cleaned up, [bird nests, etc.] located on the museum property for protection.

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Andy Robertson of Calgary’s Macleod Dixon, represented Lynn Garrison at the lawsuit. When Bill Watts and the City of Calgary were confronted, they both denied making the offer of sale to the C.A.F in Texas. Today Lynn Garrison retains copies of the original Bill Watts offer to sell Lancaster FM136 to the Confederate Air Force.

Garrison also retains a 1965 document that states – “Should the City of Calgary decide in the future, that Lancaster FM136 is no longer wanted, the bomber will revert back to Lynn Garrison.”

The court ruled in favor of the City of Calgary and they became the lawful owners of the aircraft collection and museum artifacts’. They now became responsible for the upkeep and protection of the aircraft collection, required under Canadian law. Lynn Garrison not only prevents the sale of the WWII Lancaster to the C.A.F., he made the taxpayers of Calgary the legal owners of ‘their’ Aero Space Museum and all the artifacts.

This appeared to give new life to the future of the aircraft and museum, followed in 1993 with the sudden announcement by the Aero Space Museum Association of Calgary and the Board of Directors that a new museum would be constructed on airport property. A proposal for the new building was submitted by Bill Boucock Partnership Architects and I obtained a free copy. Where had I heard that name before. Oh, yes, he was the owner of Beech SC17R Staggerwing registered as CF-GKW restored to flying condition by the Aero Space Museum under the Canadian Government Job Training Grant Program. Canadian Federal taxpayer money used to restore a privately owned aircraft, which had nothing to do with the museum?

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The new museum proposal was turned down by the City of Calgary and many aircraft remained outdoors in the elements. To protect these outdoor displayed aircraft, General Manager and Executive Director Everett Bunnell created a new program where all aircraft would be painted in any color markings requested by a donor. Not the best way to run an aviation museum, which must historically display and educate future generations, and honor our past veterans. The good point was the aircraft skin was protected from the harsh Calgary weather.

When it came to the painting of Avro CF-100 “Canuck” serial 18126, Mr. Bunnell was in charge and like normal would not take any suggestions or offers of advice. The fighter still contained the original markings of the last unit it served with No. 3 A.W. [F] Operational Training Unit at RCAF Station North Bay, with code letters JF-126. The fighter was painted by Kenn Borek Air Ltd. at a cost of $10,000 and when it arrived at the museum there was total shock. Under orders received directly from Ev Bunnell, the CF-100 fighter had been painted in gloss black overall, with white lightning bolts running down the fuselage and engines. This was the correct markings of the CF-100 Mk. 1 prototype, serial 18101, code letters FB-D. However the Calgary CF-100 was incorrectly painted with serial number 18126, and then given the code letters KE-126, used at Bagotville, Quebec, in November 1953. What a total embarrassing paint job, combining three aircraft in one, thanks to the paid leader of the Aero Space Museum Association of Calgary.

What came next was even stranger, when the Board of Directors, and others in control, would not dare tell Mr. Bunnell the huge error he had created. So, like the Hans Christian Anderson tale of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” members walked around and pretended the paint job was OK. In two years Bunnell had departed for Edmonton, but his huge error still remains parked in front of the museum for all to see. Everyday thousands of Calgary taxpayers drive past this ‘unknown’ Canadian built aircraft and most have no idea it is painted wrong and that they in fact own this “Clunk.”

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The Canadian built CF-100 was manufactured in sixteen different variants, with a total of 692 produced in its lifetime. Today thirty still survive in static displays around the world. Calgary CF-100 serial 18126 is the third oldest in the world and the oldest surviving dual training version Mk. 3D in the world. Built by Canadians, for protection of Canadians, but still left outside and painted incorrectly.

If the Aero Space Museum Association of Calgary ever wish to exorcise their past demons, they must slowly start by learning the true history of each aircraft and painting them correctly. A very good start would be CF-100 serial number 18126. This would also erase the legacy Mr. Bunnell created for himself, a former CF-100 test pilot, who should have known better.

The True History of the No. 424 Squadron [Tiger] Badge and Nose Art

Research and story by Clarence Simonsen

The original “Hamilton Tigers” motto [Noli me Tangere] ‘Touch Me Not’ and Tiger Head badge represented the City of Hamilton and the very first squadron [No. 19] formed in this city. The badge never flew in the City of Hamilton.

No. 19 [Auxiliary] Squadron RCAF was formed in Hamilton, Ontario, on 15 May 1935, and began flying four Tiger Moth aircraft in May 1937. They were renumbered No. 119 Squadron on 15 November 1939, and called to full duty when war was declared [England] 3 September 1939. They left Hamilton [for Western Air Command] on 4 January 1940 and flew out of Jericho Bay, B.C. from 9 Jan. 1940 to 15 July 1940.

On 21 July 1940 the squadron returned to Eastern Air Command at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. On 23 August 1942, S/L H. Wigle took over command at Sydney, N.S., at which time approval was granted for an official crest. The Hamilton Tigers Football [rugby] club allowed the use of their tiger which was prepared by artist J.D. Heaton-Armstrong, then submitted to the Chester of Herald of the Royal College of Arms, in London, England.

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This image was taken from the Hamilton Tigers [Rugby] Football team insignia and was not created until after 23 August 1942. It was officially approved October 1942 by King George VI. The unit was now based at Sydney, Nova Scotia, flying four aircraft [Lockheed Hudson Mk. III] on anti-submarine reconnaissance over the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Cape Breton Island. I can find no proof the official badge appeared on any aircraft from this date until disbanded on 15 March 1944.

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Official No. 119 Squadron Canadian badge, which featured
the Hamilton Tigers Football [rugby] club image

The squadron title or nickname became “Hamilton Tigers” with motto – [Touch Me Not] approved by King George VII, October 1942. This first tiger insignia was used in Canada for only eighteen months or until the unit was disbanded at Sydney, Nova Scotia, 15 March 1944. Note- this Tiger face is not the same as the original British design and the B.R. for Bomber Reconnaissance is omitted.

The History of the Second Tiger Insignia [and the forgotten “Erk” who created the badge]

No. 424 Squadron began to form at Topcliffe, Yorkshire, England, 15 October 1942, under No. 4 Group RAF Bomber Command. They had no badge, motto, or connections to the City of Hamilton. Wing Commander H.M. Carscallen, DFC, a Canadian pilot who had been on operations since the beginning of the war, became the first Commanding Officer on 20 October 1942. The next two months marked a period of intensive training, and by the end of December the squadron had on charge one-hundred and twenty-two aircrew with two-hundred and eight-five ground crew. On 1 January 1943, they became part of the newly formed No. 6 [RCAF] Group of Bomber Command. In the next four months they took part in major bombing raids on targets as Cologne, Wilhelmshaven, Oldenburg, Essen, Hamburg, Duisburg, and mine laying [gardening] at the Frisian Islands, Heligoland, and Den Helder. On 3 April 1943, the British Air Minister asks the Canadian government for their approval to deploy three RCAF experienced Wellington squadrons for a two month tour of operations in support of the invasion of Sicily. No. 420, 424, and 425 squadrons were selected to serve under number 331 Wing, Mediterranean Air Command, part of 205 [RAF] Group. On 1 May 43, they were taken off bombing operations and informed they were part of a new formed Canadian Wing going to North Africa. The squadron aircrew departed England for North Africa, [Tunisia] on 16 May 1943, flying new tropicalized Vickers Wellington B. Mk. X bombers. The ground crew were issued tropical gear and departed by boat, arriving in Algiers on 26 May. A young artistic air engine mechanic from Calgary, Alberta, was part of the ground crew, LAC Matthew Cecil Ferguson.

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LAC Mat Ferguson from Calgary, Alberta. [From his loving wife Levina 2001]

The main targets in the Sicilian campaign became the enemy airfields on Sicily and mainland Italy, preventing the Luftwaffe and Italian Regia Aeronautica from taking off and bombing the landing Allied troops. Canadian operations began on 26/27 June 1943. Beginning in mid-June 1943, Calgary artist Mat Ferguson painted at least nine squadron Wellington bombers with Canadian Nose Art

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One contained the side profile of a tiger on a Maple Leaf with name “The “A” Train”. The name was in reference to a train that was leaving track “A” in a Canadian train station. [More trains would follow from Canada]

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Replica of Ferguson’s nose art on Wellington aircraft North Africa by Clarence Simonsen

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“Marie and Black Bull” painted by Ferguson at Kairouan, Tunisia, North Africa June 1943

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This Wellington nose art was found in the Mat Ferguson photo album and it is based on the same nude image he painted for 424 bomber “Jersey Bounce”. The original art was created by Norman Pett for an RAF night fighter squadron in England, and the nude was the famous “Jane.” I believe this was in fact a Wellington Mk. X that served with No. 425 Alouette Squadron who shared the two dirt landing stripes with No. 424 and No. 420 squadrons in Tunisia.

Group Captain Clarence Rupert Larry Dunlap was in charge of the three RCAF squadrons that arrived in the Tunisia theatre of operations on 21 June 1943. They would operate under RAF No. 331 Wing, however the area was taken by three RAF squadrons and the Canadians were informed they would fly from a mountainous area further south-west on the region between Algerian and Tunisia. Thanks to some cash lost in poker games and a few bottles of rare Scotch whiskey, two new RCAF dirt landing strips were constructed in four days by a Major in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. RCAF G/Capt. Dunlap then informed the RAF Mediterranean Air Command Headquarters his three squadrons would be located beside the RAF in the Tunisian plains, and the British should find the means to supply his squadrons with fuel, ammunition, and food. The RAF reluctantly agreed and the RCAF went to war in a much safer landing zone, thirty miles from the Mediterranean coastal city of Sousse. The two dirt strips were only ten miles apart, and this would allow Mat Ferguson to paint nose art on other squadron aircraft.

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The same nose art would appear on a No. 425 Halifax at Tholthorpe, Yorkshire, England in 1944.

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The Capture of Sicily was not intended to be the pre-invasion of Italy, but that changed with a new campaign to capture Naples and southern Italy. Bombing support for this invasion meant an extension for the Canadians of 331 Wing, and the planned return to England was delayed from late July until 10 October 43. Throughout the month of September and the first week of October the Wellington bombers pounded the area around Naples and the airfields of Foggia. In early October the Germans were pushed north, the front line was stabilized and the Canadians of 331 Wing prepared to depart for return to cold and wet England. The RCAF Wellington bombers had flown 2,182 sorties and only lost eighteen aircraft in combat, a further eighteen written off in accidents. One of the Wellingtons lost in an accident carried the art work of tiger face with words – The “A” Train.

The old trusty RCAF Wellington aircraft were left for the British RAF as the three squadrons boarded troop ships at Algiers on 27 October 1943. The nose art of The “A” Train was cut from the crashed Wellington bomber by ground crew and taken to England. [This was confirmed by 424 pilot Jack Dundas, who saw it in the Officers Mess at Skipton]. On 6 November 1943, No. 424 Squadron returned to No. 63 RCAF base in England, Skipton-on-Swale, where they received new four engine Handley-Page Halifax Mk. III bombers.

The original aircrew of the North African flown Wellington [The “A” Train] request Mat Ferguson to repaint the same Tiger “A” Train nose art on their new Halifax Mk. III, serial LV951, code QB-A. On 12/13 August 1944, 36 RCAF Halifax bombers and 12 Lancaster bombers attack German ground troops at Draunschweig, in the Falaise Gap. Hamilton born pilot F/O Jack Dundas was hit by flak but returned to base in his Halifax painted by Mat Ferguson, “Bambi.” The crew of F/O G. Campbell are flying QB-A, “The A Train” and they are attacked by a German night fighter and six jump becoming prisoners of war. F/O G. Campbell, Sgt. E. Harvey, F/O W. Barrett, F/O W. Cram, Sgt. L. Maki, and Sgt. R. Austin. Sgt. W. Harris never leaves his burning bomber and is killed in the crash of LV951. “The A Train.” That should have been the end of the Tiger nose art, however it is only the beginning.

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Nose artist Mat Ferguson [far right] sits on the Halifax Mk. III serial LV951 in spring of 1944. The other two ground crew are unknown but I’m sure they were assigned to the bomber which Mat has just painted with nose art of “The A Train.” This is the second nose art to feature the Tiger face profile.

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Mat Ferguson continues to paint nose art such as “Hellzapoppin”

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This image came from the private photo album of Mat Ferguson.

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Mat Ferguson painted nose art from the pages of Esquire magazine such as March 1944.

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Hamilton born pilot Jack Dundas wanted Bambi for his Halifax serial MZ813, nose art and that is what Mat Ferguson painted.

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1995 replica painted on original Halifax skin from NA337, Bomber Command Museum Nanton, Alberta
On 10 March 1944, the City of Hamilton was advised that No. 119 [Hamilton Tigers”] Squadron was being disbanded by the RCAF on 15 March. No. 119 Squadron died that day, but the City of Hamilton Tiger had nine lives.

In May 1944, the City of Hamilton decided to officially adopt No. 424 Squadron and a special committee of prominent citizens was set up. The new fund was called the “Hamilton Tiger Squadron Fund”. Each month supplies of cigarettes, lifesavers, gum, and chocolate bars were sent to the squadron through the Canadian Red Cross.

The Squadron was officially adopted by the City of Hamilton in September 1944 and received the nickname “Tiger” Squadron. In October, Mat Ferguson painted the new squadron badge which was the same art as the nose painting on the “A” Train. This nose art was loved by all squadron members and voted to become the new squadron badge. The Ferguson painting was submitted to the Chester Herald of the Royal College of Arms and for some unknown reason the British rejected the Ferguson badge and created a new badge which is today the official 424 badge. This badge was approved by King George VI in June 1945.

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This is the original Mat Ferguson drawing [from his photo album] submitted to the British Chester Herald

Pilot Jack Dundas [born in Hamilton] recalled when the British design appeared the Canadian 424 squadron members refused to wear it and called it the “Fucking British Dog”. This caused a small munity and the C.O. [W.C. G.A. Roy] had to step in and inform his squadron this was their official badge and that was it.

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This is the official No. 424 Squadron badge [British dog] worn in Trenton by the squadron today.
The upset squadron members ask Mat Ferguson to create a new cloth badge using the original “A” train image. This drawing was mailed to Mrs. Ferguson in Calgary, with instructions to have 100 cloth badges made by Crest Craft in Saskatoon. Mrs. Ferguson divided the new cloth crests into three packages of 33 and mailed them off to her husband [Mat] in England. She kept the 100th badge which is pictured below. This 100th Tiger badge was donated to Bomber Command Museum of Canada, Nanton, on 12 May 2003 by Mrs. Ferguson.

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The most amazing part is the fact the Mat Ferguson rejected badge from the “A” Train nose art, is still worn [unofficially] today by 424 squadron members. As you can see it is by far the most impressive “Tiger Squadron” insignia. Mat Ferguson was murdered in his backyard in Calgary in 1982, so he never knew the lasting power of his little nose art; he created for a RCAF Wellington bomber in far off North African 1943. I was very lucky to meet Mrs. Levina Ferguson just two years [2001] before she passed away from cancer. Thanks to this brave lady, the true story of the 424 Tiger squadron Badge was saved. God Bless her.

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Clarence Simonsen and Mrs. Levina Ferguson – Nanton 12 May 2003

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Mat Ferguson is the only RCAF artist I have located who painted “Canadian” WWII jacket art, just like the Americans. This is very rare and again the unofficial No. 424 Tiger has appeared on the jacket of an unknown RCAF member [far left]. Artist Mat [right] wears another of his creations which possibly flew in Tiger Squadron. I believe this Grim Reaper with yellow bomb also appeared as nose art in No. 424, but photo evidence has never been found.

It was common for RCAF artists to copy WWII nose art and insignia from the United States. Mat Ferguson was “Canada’s Greatest Nose Artist of WWII” and his talent was always in high demand. The skeleton in black cloak, wearing black aviator’s helmet, and holding a yellow aerial bomb was the official emblem of the United States 308th Bombardment Group, 375th Bomb Squadron, flying B-24 bombers from Chengkung, and Hsinching, China, 1942-45. It was officially approved on 11 January 1943, and copied by Mat for use in 424 Squadron in 1944. Replica art painted on original skin from Halifax NA337, in private collection of Mr. Robert Curtin, Calgary, Alberta, 2009.

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During the last three months of WW2 the squadron converted to the British built Mk. B. I and B. III bomber aircraft which were also decorated by nose artist Mat Ferguson. In total 31 British Lancaster aircraft were flown by Tiger Squadron and the 2,000 sortie was flown by QB-V, serial RF128, with nose art by Mat. He also painted the special bomb Tiger “Easter Egg” which was dropped by the Lancaster “V” Victorious Virgin. Struck Off Charge by R.A.F. on 25 March 1948.

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British built Lancaster aircraft used by No. 424 [Tiger] Squadron

QB-A PB899 Missing 15 February 1945.

QB-A RF148 Struck off charge RAF 15 May 1947.

QB-B PB897 Struck off charge RAF 16 January 1947.

QB-B RA504 Swung on take-off hit dispersal pen, 27 November 1945.

QB-C NG457 Missing Dessau, 8 March 1945.

QB-D NG456 Struck off charge RAF 24 January 1947.

QB-E NG451 Struck off charge RAF 10 September 1946.

QB-F NN777 Ran out of fuel, crash landed Dishforth, 15 March 1945.

QB-G NG277 Struck off charge RAF 16 October 1946.

QB-H NG457 Used code letter “C” lost 8 March 1945.

QB-H PA286 Struck off charge RAF 9 January 1947.

QB-J NG446 Went to 427 Sqn. Struck off charge RAF 7 April 1949.

QB-K ME456 Missing Dortmund 21 February 1945.

QB-K NG459 Struck off charge RAF 29 January 1947.

QB-K PA324 Struck off charge RAF 12 December 1946.

QB-L NG441 Struck off charge RAF 16 July 1946.

QB-L NG484 Struck off charge RAF 20 January 1947. Painted by Mat Ferguson.

QB-M RA504 Used code “B” crashed 27 November 1945.

QB-N NG346 Missing Dessau 8 March 1945.

QB-N NX587 Struck of charge RAF 7 May 1947.

QB-O NG279 Struck off charge RAF 25 March 1948.

QB-P NG347 Struck off charge RAF 15 May 1947.

QB-Q NG348 Struck off charge RAF 9 December 1946.

QB-R NG400 Struck off charge RAF 15 May 1947.

QB-S RA507 Struck off charge RAF 13 February 1947.

QB-T ME458 Struck off charge RAF 14 November 1946.

QB-U NG280 Struck off charge RAF 15 May 1947.

QB-V RF128 Struck off charge RAF 25 March 1948. Painted by Mat, dropped “Easter Egg’

QB-W PA326 Struck off charge RAF 24 March 1947.

QB-W RF150 Flew into hill High Wycombe, 5 April 1945.

QB-X NG281 Struck off charge RAF 24 March 1947.

QB-Y NN780 Struck off charge RAF 3 September 1947.

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This is the most famous Tiger Squadron nose art created by Mat for British Lancaster code “L”.

The squadron had two Lancaster aircraft coded “L” and I believe this is serial NG484 which was struck off charge by RAF on 20 January 1946. The other RCAF Lancaster first served with No. 433 [Porcupine] Squadron as BM-L and then transferred to No. 424 as serial NG441. This photo was found in the Ferguson photo album with no serial number recorded.

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Author painting in Nanton, Alberta

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Hank Porter [right] and Roy Williams who created over 1,200 Walt Disney insignia during WWII.

In 1941, Walt Disney put together a team of five experienced artists to just create insignia designs for WWII units. The team was headed by Hank Porter [left with glasses] and six-foot four inch, 250 lb. Roy Williams. Roy created the very first “Flying Tiger” insignia which was used by General Chennault in China. On 4 July 1942, the original American Volunteer Group, [Flying Tigers] became the new 23rd Fighter Group of the 14th Air Force. This new 23rd F.G. insignia of a tiger with wings on a lightning bolt was created by Roy Williams. This Williams Tiger image was copied by Mat Ferguson and used on Lancaster NG484, QB-L, “The “ELL CAT.”

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No. 424 [Tiger] Squadron remained in England after the end of war in Europe, transferred to No. 1 Group R.A.F. on 30 August 1945. Based at Skipton-on-Swale, Yorkshire, they transported 884 British and Canadian troops from Italy back to United Kingdom, making 39 trips. They were disbanded on 15 October 1945 and returned to Canada.

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The unofficial 424 badge created by Mat Ferguson is still in use by 424 Helicopter Squadron today.

The sad fact remains that the true history of the Mat Ferguson creation is still not recorded in the RCAF history books and this proud LAC is still forgotten by the very members that still fly Helicopters and use his unofficial WWII “Tiger” badge. This error must be changed.

Mat Ferguson became the first “Erk” who created No. 424 Squadron nose art history and the first to be forgotten by the passage of time.

A second WW II Sgt. wireless/air gunner was the man who created the postwar Tiger image on five of the P-51 Mustang aircraft fuselages, and again Tom Walton has been forgotten by his squadron and the City of Hamilton where he was born.

Postwar artist Thomas Walton from Hamilton, Ontario

Hamilton born Sgt. Thomas Walton served as a wireless/air gunner on a No. 428 [Ghost] squadron Lancaster KB864. In 1945 he was promoted to the RCAF rank of Pilot Officer. Tom was the nose artist who decorated both sides of his bomber with impressive paintings completed on request of his American pilot Latumer and his favorite 1931 Jazz song “Sugar Blues.” Pilot Officer Latumer was known as Capt. “Overshoot” after he had crash landed two Canadian Lancaster bombers, KB766 [3 December 1944] and KB795 [7 April 1945].

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Tom Walton Images

Photo image P/O Tom Walton, England 1945. This image of KB864 was taken after 8 May 1945 and during the preparation for the return to Canada of No. 428 [Ghost] Squadron on 31 May 1945. The Squadron would arrive at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, on 8 June 1945.

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The impressive “Vargas” Redhead in the January 1945 issue of Esquire magazine.

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Sgt. Tom Walton painting the nose art of “Sugar’s Blues”

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Tom Walton images

No. 428 [Ghost] Squadron arrive at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, 8 June 1945, and the RCAF members crowd around looking at a veteran WWII Lancaster Mk. X. The impressive starboard nose art of a Ghost dropping a bomb was painted by Sgt. Tom Walton. [photo credits Tom Walton]

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Ray Wish image – September 1945

10 September 1945, Pearce, Alberta, and Canada’s veteran WWII bombers arrive for long-term storage. The five man RCAF crew stationed at Pearce must start the four engines on each of 83 Lancaster aircraft once every day. Three pose to have their photo taken in KB864, Sugar’s Blues. LAC Cook in the cockpit, LAC Wyers on left and LAC Raymond Wise in white coveralls and hand on prop. [Photo credit – Ray Wise]

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A number of WWII veteran Lancaster aircraft will forever remain at Pearce, Alberta, including Sugar’s Blues, KB864. This is the last known photo taken in summer of 1955. The once proud bomber is now home to the pigeons of southern Alberta. I had the pleasure to meet the lady in the photo at Nanton, Alberta, 2003.

Tom Walton returned to the postwar world of art, becoming an art director in the City of Hamilton. On 15 April 1946, No. 424 [City of Hamilton] Squadron was formed as an RCAF Auxiliary squadron. From November 1950 until September 1956, the squadron flew the North American Mustang Mk. IV. On each side of the fighter fuselage a large yellow tiger was painted posed on a rock searching for prey. The artist who created this fuselage art is still unknown. North American Mustang Mk. IV [US serial 44-74582] RCAF 9253, taken on strength 6 December 1950, code BA-S, flew until 10 August 1959.

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In 1997, Clarence Simonsen freehand painted the nose art of KB864 on the movie prop Lancaster nose section in the Nanton [Bomber Command Museum of Canada]. In 1998, the original nose artist Tom Walton came to visit Nanton and I enjoyed the afternoon with Tom and his wife Millie. I insisted Tom repaint his original “Sugar’s Blues” but being the perfect gentleman he is, he just said, “Leave her as is, just change the shoes and skirt to the correct color Green.”

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Millie and Tom Walton at Nanton in 1998

Tom and I would became close friends and he shared his full RCAF history with me. When I ask about his postwar career, he surprised me by stating he rejoined the RCAF Auxiliary in Hamilton and he was the artist who painted the Tiger insignia on five of the squadron Mustang aircraft.

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Tom Walton was very kind to autograph this 424 Squadron Mustang print in 1998, however he then surprised me stating – “This was not my work, but the art of another earlier unknown squadron artist.”

This P-51 was flown by Warplane Heritage as CF-BAU, RCAF #9567. which was destroyed by fire after a forced landing in 1984. This fuselage art had been based on the early Tiger badge which contained cat stripes that were painted in solid lines like rings. This art appeared on both sides of the Mustang fuselage and appeared on at least six of the aircraft in July 1951.

In the summer of 1953, Tom was ask by a squadron pilot [F/O Murray E. Linkert] to paint the same style insignia on five of the remaining P-51 Mustang fighters. Tom first created a scale stencil of the first Tiger insignia and using the pin pricked outline applied blue powder to the fuselage of the Mustang. He then free handed the new tiger image with black paint and completed the painting in three to four hours. Tom painted outside in the summer evenings, and his insignia only appeared on the port [left] side of the five fighters. Tom lived twelve miles from the Mount Hope airport and painted two nights each week, receiving $10 per aircraft, cost of paint. While the original July 1951 striped Tiger art featured a downed fighter plane under the paw of the tiger, a P-51 fighter circled near the face of the tiger. Tom changed these two aircraft to a WWII German Messerschmitt Bf109.

While Tom took no images of his Tiger insignia, he did have copies of his art work from an old newspaper article, which also pointed out his painting of two WW II German fighters aircraft.

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The style of the original P-51 Tiger insignia by unknown artist in July 1951.

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It is still not confirmed if the early art was painted on both sides of the fuselage.

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This is the Tom Walton 424 Tiger insignia painted on Mustang serial 92577, PV577, for friend and pilot F/O Murray E. Linkert.

The writing is by Tom Walton showing he painted the German Bf109 fighter twice, for his WWII wireless/air gunner Lancaster operations.

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Mustang serial 9577 was taken on strength 7 June 1947, ex-U.S. serial 44-74311A. This Tiger insignia was painted by Tom in August 1953, and the aircraft flew until taken off charge by RCAF on 27 December 1957. This was the P-51 of C.O. and flight Instructor F/O M. E. Linkert, he was not the pilot who crashed.

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Three newspaper clippings from artist Tom Walton

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Unpublished painting by Clarence Simonsen

These colors have been confirmed by original artist Thomas Walton. Rock – Dark Blue, German aircraft are both Bf109’s and both are dark green in overall color. Luftwaffe cross was painted on both aircraft. Tiger was yellow, orange and white with blood coming from mouth.

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Tom Walton also painted the Tiger on Mustang serial 9252, PV252.
Taken on charge 6 December 1947, U.S. serial 44-74543. Flew until 17 December 1959.

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In 1965, Tom Walton was transferred to a new studio opened in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where he became Mid-West Art Director. Photo from Tom taken at Saskatoon in 1977. At age 93 years, he remains a close friend and the only living WWII RCAF nose artist.

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Not original Tom Walton replica but close [author collection Calgary, Alberta, 1996]

North American Mustang Mk. IV flown by 424 [Tiger] Squadron

9247 6 December 1950 to 27 December 1957 U.S. 44-73849 Code BA-R

9252 6 December 1947 to 17 December 1959 U.S. 44-74543 BA-252
Painted by Tom Walton

9253 6 December 1950 to 10 August 1959 U.S. 44-74582 Code “T” & “S”
Stripe tiger art

9254 6 December 1950 to 17 September 1957 U.S. 44-74325 BA-254

9255 6 December 1950 to 1 November 1960 U.S. 44-74603 BA-U & “N”
Stripe tiger art

9259 10 January 1951 to 17 September 1957 U.S. 44-74878

9264 10 January 1950 to 17 September 1957 U.S. 44-74860 BA-264 & PV-264

9275 11 January 1951 to 17 September 1957 U.S 44-74009 BA-275

9276 11 January 1951 to 27 December 1957 U.S. 44-74404

9277 11 January 1951 to 17 September 1957 U.S. 44-74472

9557 7 June 1947 to 20 September 1960 U.S. 44-63843 BA-Z

9567 7 June 1947 to 20 September 1960 U.S. 44-73140 BA-U

9577 7 June 1947 to 27 December 1957 U.S. 44-74311 PV-577
Painted by Tom Walton

9583 12 October 1950 to 17 September 1957 U.S. 44-74327

9584 13 October 1950 to 12 November 1952 U.S. 44-74341
Stripe tiger art

9585 12 October 1950 to 17 September 1957 U.S. 44-74360 BA-585

9587 8 November 1950 to 6 April 1953 U.S. 44-74421
Crashed “A”

9588 8 November 1950 to 14 May 1959 U.S. 44-74430

9589 8 November 1950 to 14 July 1952 U.S. 44-74438 BA-W
Crashed June 52 – killing pilot F/O D.K. Russell Stripe tiger art.

9590 8 November 1950 to 1 November 1960 U.S. 44-74451

This is dedicated to WWII nose artists Mathew Ferguson and Thomas Walton. Today Warplane Heritage at Hamilton, Ontario, are repainting the nose art of WWII and I hope these two men will be remembered.

Destroyers for Bases

Research and story by Clarence Simonsen

That was the title in LIFE magazine for the 16 September 1941 issue describing the trade of 50 old American destroyers for control of the North Atlantic. President Roosevelt acted alone when he transferred the 50 warships to Britain and acquired a 99 year lease for eight U. S. air and naval bases from Newfoundland to British Guiana.

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These first eight American bases would become the stepping stones for a new series of outpost air fields that would become dominant in transporting new American and Canadian built aircraft across the Atlantic to the war fronts. The northern route from Gander, Newfoundland, Goose Bay, Labrador, to Greenland, and Iceland, became the early staging routes to Scotland and England, but they became impossible in the Arctic winter months. That led to construction of a southern route from Miami, Florida, to Borinquen Field, Puerto Rico, then 1,058 miles to Georgetown, British Guiana, then landing at an airstrip carved out of the jungle near Belem, Brazil. The next flight was 1,000 miles to a malaria infested air strip at Natal, Brazil. Air crews could remain at this large base for up to 14 days, and their departure was shrouded in total secrecy. The Atlantic Ocean around Ascension Island was also patrolled by German U-Boats looking for the ferry aircraft, which flew at 5,000 feet when they began landing descent.

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This map from the inside cover of 1944 book “Flight to Everywhere” details the north and south routes that transported man, material, and aircraft to the war in Europe and Africa. From 1942 to 1945, thousands of aircraft containing officers and men were lost in this remote part of the world. The most dangerous part of the journey became the 1,450 miles of flight over the Atlantic from Natal, Brazil, to a dot in the Ocean named Ascension Island. To avoid a navigational error, the fighter aircraft flew in groups of four, led by a C-87 Liberator transport carrying a navigator.

While the air crews enjoyed Natal’s beach, others drink beer [Cervesa] at the Grande Hotel. The Liberator Transport aircraft are loaded for the trip to Africa, while the P-38 fighters wait for a departure time. Note the extra fuel pods for the long 1,450 mile flight.

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Images from 1944 book – Flight to Everywhere

LIFE war correspondent artist Peter Hurd painted Ascension in 1943.

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Named for the Christian Holy Thursday, 39 days after Easter, and the bodily ascension of Jesus into heaven, this 34 square miles of barren lava rock was discovered by Portuguese navigator Joo Nova on Ascension day in 1501, but the worthless spot was not claimed or desired by any country. The island has no water supply, little rain fall, and the only vegetation grows high up on the only mountain top named “Green Mountain.” A small British naval force took the island without any opposition in 1815, and why the British wanted this rock “Clinker” is not fully understood. When the South Atlantic cable was laid the complete island was leased to the English communications firm, Cable and Wireless Ltd. It became a cable station and the lonesome island was home to seventy-five Britons who lived on the rock and were dependent on one ship a year bringing water, provisions, and a welcome replacement. The island is the most populated bird haven on the earth and if you like eggs cooked in any fashion, they are eatable.

The island was leased from the British in January 1942, and a detachment of American Army engineers arrived in March. In 91 days, they had blasted, bulldozed, and carved out a 6,700 foot landing strip. Then they constructed a barracks, mess hall, machine shop, and tents for the 2,000 U. S. Army Air Force staff that would live on this rock. The air base named “Wideawake”was in full operation by the Americans in September 1942.

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The completed 1942 airport lava rock runway and the living conditions. Weekly water ration was five gallons per man.

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Peter Hurd painting of runway in July 1943, when over one hundred aircraft arrived that single day. This was also the peak period for German U-boat attacks on the ship convoys approaching the Straits of Gibraltar.

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Images from 1944 book Flight to Everywhere

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American Colonel John C. Mullinex and British Governor Colonel J. N. Tomlinson supervise the remote base activities.

While the island remained the loneliest place Americans were serving, they are also called upon for hard work, with plenty of time to eat and sleep. The airport was one of the busiest with all food, thousands of tons of aviation fuel and boxes of spare parts flown in daily. The water purifying plant makes sea water fit to drink and each man is allowed five gallons per day.

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While the island appears from the air to be heavily defended, the antiaircraft batteries are just dummy.

The real protection of Ascension has not been left to dummies or imitation guns. It is performed by a special group of pilots and aircrew who land on the island every day and take every precaution to prevent any surprise attack by enemy ship or submarine. The strategic importance of this rock island in delivering supplies and combat aircraft to Africa, year around, was the first priority. It also became a very special re-fueling point and rest stop for the newly formed 480th U.S. Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Group from 20 June 1943 until 29 January 1944.

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This early 480th Group B-24D flew with Type 2 National Insignia, introduced 18 August 1942 until 29 June 1943. The aircraft number 15 was orange. Only the upper surface is Olive Drab, remainder is insignia white. This could be the first 480th Group B-24D to land on Ascension, May 1943.

On 8 December 1941, the U.S.A.A.F. First Air Force received new orders to begin overwater reconnaissance patrols looking for German U-Boats on the Atlantic coast of United States. This was a new style of war for the Americans and it would take time to form and learn new anti-submarine tactics. The First Air Force had been activated on 18 December 1940, to train new air force organizations and provide air defense for the eastern United States of America.

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On 15 October 1942, the Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Command was activated, and a good portion of its tactics and techniques would be learned from the British at RAF Station St. Eval. RAF St. Eval was situated near Cornwall, England, with the primary role to provide anti-shipping and anti-submarine patrols off the south-west coast.

On 7 September 1942, Consolidated B-24D bombers from the 93rd Bomb Group, 409th Bomb Squadron, based at RAF Station Alconbury, were transferred to RAF St. Eval and the first American antisubmarine bomber training began. At this point many plans were being made in haste and with great secrecy.

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Some of these B-24D Liberators came with the official 409th Squadron nose art emblem of a running Panda bear, carrying a white 500 pound aerial bomb. These standard B24D Liberator antisubmarine training aircraft and crews were returned to the 93rd Bomb Group on 6 December 1942, replaced by the new formed 1st Antisubmarine Squadron from Langley Field, Virginia, U.S., who arrived at St. Eval on 10 November 1942. The 2nd Antisubmarine Squadron from Langley arrived at St. Eval on 2 January 1943, and these two squadrons took over the first American operational submarine attack training. They arrived with new modified B-24D aircraft with radar and modern detection equipment.

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These two American Army Antisubmarine squadrons began combat training on 15 January 1943, flying from RAF Station St. Eval on operational killer hunts against German U-boats in the Bay of Biscay. They were placed under command of Colonel Roberts, working as a detachment of the 25th Antisubmarine Wing. The 1st Squadron flew its first mission on 16 November 1942. The 2nd Squadron flew their first mission on 16 January 1943, exactly two months later. On 20 occasions the Americans sighted a German U-boat and in eleven instances the submarines were attacked. The squadrons encountered four German Ju-88 aircraft and two were damaged and possibly shot down. During training they lost 65 officers and men, with seven B-24D aircraft destroyed.

In late March 1943, the two squadrons were next reassigned to Port Lyautey, French Morocco, and on 19 June 1943 they became the 480th American Antisubmarine Group. They flew a modified B-24D Liberator bomber equipped with radar, external long range fuel tanks, and other special equipment for hunting German U-boats. Their new combat operating area was north and middle Atlantic from Newfoundland to Trinidad. The southern route was from the Bay of Biscay to Ascension Island, a major part of the Battle of the Atlantic.

The B-24Ds used by the 480th Group were initially painted in normal olive drab and grey camouflage with the serial number and radio call letter in yellow on the tail fin. With their arrival at Port Lyautey in June, the aircraft all received insignia white sprayed undersurfaces, which modellers call shade 46. This white was sprayed up the aircraft fuselage sides and some even painted the outer two vertical tail fins. Code single letters appear in white, while aircraft numbers on nose are yellow. No two aircraft appear to have the same white sprayed color markings, just a wave pattern.

On 10 May 1943, two B-24D aircraft were dispatched to Natal, Brazil, as an experimental detachment to protect Ascension Island. On 27th of May this detachment moved its ground echelon to Ascension Island, and the following month increased its B-24D strength to four aircraft. It is believed they were the 480th Antisubmarine Group men and aircraft. The following four nose art images were 480 Group B-24D aircraft, possibly taken on Ascension Island in August 1943.

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Refueling a B-24D Liberator code letter “C” from the 480 Antisubmarine Group on Ascension Island 1943. The nose art appears to show a red devil with horns about to attack a nude lady floating on the surface of the ocean. The words are ‘EM DIVING, possibly for “keep them German U-Boats diving?” This could be one of four B-24D aircraft that were moved from Natal, Brazil, to Ascension Island on 27 June 1943.

It could also be one of the long-range B-24D aircraft that flew over one thousand miles from home base at Port Lyautey and then re-fueled at Ascension.

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Another view of B-24D code letter “C” named ‘EM DIVING, showing eleven German submarine attacks. The months of July and August 1943, was the period when the most submarine attacks were made.

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Impressive nude lady with double meaning nose art name. It appears the B-24D serial number has been painted over.

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More B-24D nose art from the 480th Antisubmarine Group taken on Ascension Island. Note the long line of eleven German U-boat attacks painted as sub silhouettes. These appear in the same color order as those painted on “The Sad Sac” and I believe they were the total 480th Group German submarine and aircraft attacks, displayed on each B-24D.

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This B-24D nose art reflected on the life style of Ascension Island. This image was taken on Ascension Island and it is possible this B-24D was one of those based on the rock 27 May 1943.

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The Sad Sac was painted on both sides.

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These B-24D aircraft carried the Type 3 U.S.A.A.F. National Insignia, introduced on 29 June 1943. This featured the new 2″ wide red band running around the complete national insignia. This shows in the photo with nose art name ‘EM DIVING.

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After hours of long range patrol looking for German aircraft and U-boats, the Liberators crews would land at Ascension for fuel and a rest period. A normal long range flight covered over 1,000 miles of the Atlantic Ocean. Compared to their home base at Port Lyautey, French Morocco, the tent living conditions on Ascension were a hell hole. The nose art of the famous “Sad Sack” appeared on hundreds of WWII aircraft but this spelling of “SAC” referred to the poor aircrews who stayed on Ascension.

The WWII spelling of “SAC” was a common derogatory term to define the poor soldier as the skin that surrounds the male balls.

This photo image of “The Sad Sac” appeared in the 1944 book titled “Flight to Everywhere” by Jvan Dmitri. The photo was taken in August 1943 on Ascension Island, and records the white kill of three Fw 200C-1 long range convoy attack aircraft. The last kill was recorded on 17 August 1943.

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The list of German submarine attacks only appears on the port [pilot] side of the B-24D bombers. The submarine silhouette was painted in three colors, white [possible surface day kills] yellow, [possible kill] and black for [under water kill].

The nose art marking on “The Sad Sac” clearly show three aircraft attacks in white, which appear to be German Focke-Wulf Fw 200C-1 Condor, identified by the large vertical gondola.

The Condor began patrols in mid-October 1943, providing target information for the German U-boats on Allied convoys leaving Gibraltar. They operated over a huge area from Gibraltar to the west coast of Africa, and made contact with 480th Antisubmarine Group B-24D aircraft on a number of occasions. The first came 18 July 1943, when Capt. Hugh Maxwell’s Liberator fired on a condor making a bomb run on a convoy. On 28 July 43, Lt. Elbert Hyde and crew chased a Condor which was attacking a straggler ship some fifteen miles behind the main convoy. The firefight took place as low as 30 feet off the water surface and the Condor plunged into the ocean. The next attack occurred in the same area west of Portugal on 31 July, when Capt. Gerald Mosier shot down a Condor that exploded when it struck the ocean. On 13 August 43, Lt. F. W. McKinnon damaged a Fw 200 which later crashed at El Ferrol, Spain, a claimed victory. On 17 August 43, Capt. Hugh Maxwell found two Fw 200 aircraft making bomb runs on a convoy and attacked. The two German aircraft then attacked the B-24D causing damage, and in the gun fight one Condor was shot down. The B-24D had to ditch and three crew members were pinned in the wreckage and died in the sinking. On 27 August 43, two more Condor aircraft were attacked by Capt. Maxwell but both eluded the Liberator in cloud cover. The last attack by the 480th came on 28 October 43, Lt. W. S. McDonnell chased a Condor into the clouds and it escaped.

It would appear the three Fw 200 Condor kills marked in white on the B-24D Liberators stood for the three kills – 28 July, 31 July and 17 August 1943.

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“Off Limits” was the June 1943, Vargas pin-up in Esquire magazine. Photo taken Port Lyautey.

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Another B-24D at Port Lyautey, showing a Beetle in flight.

The U.S. Army Air Force antisubmarine units were dispersed on the 28 October 1943, and their duties were slowly turned over to the United States Navy. The 480th Antisubmarine Group returned to Langley Field, Virginia, in November and they were disbanded on 29 January 1944.

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Albert W. James collection taken at Langley Field, Virginia, November 1943.

“Old Bessie” was one of the veteran B-24D aircraft that won and survived the antisubmarine Battle of the Atlantic, then returned to the United States. The nose art image was the most famous 1936 Borden Milk company marking mascot named “Elsie the Cow.” In 1940, this American cow ranked very close to Santa Claus in popularity. From 1941-45 Elsie raised 1.6 million in war bond sales and remained a huge draw until the early 1970’s. She also flew with the 480th Antisubmarine Group as nose art.

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Elsie the Cow at the New York World’s Fair 1939. [New York Public Liberty].

This proud Old Cow [Elsie] had done her part and was rewarded when the 480th Antisubmarine Group was presented with a Distinguished Unit Citation in 1944. How many German aircraft and U-boats did Bessie attack, and how many landings did she make on Ascension Island.

Today it’s hard to believe the U.S. Army Air Force pioneered the American attacks on German long range aircraft and U-boats, but that is the fact. Their unit combat action lasted only twelve months [10 November 1942 to 28 October 1943] and often they are forgotten in the war on German U-boats. It is also long forgotten that a little rock island named Ascension, played such a strategic part in winning World War Two.

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This is dedicated to the Officers and men of the United States Army Air Force 480th Antisubmarine Group, the first sub-chasers.