Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Swoose comes to Wright Patterson

The Swoose comes home!

Growing-up watching “Twelve O’clock High” on TV in the 1960’s (and because my Dad flew over 50 combat missions in B-17’s), I’ve come to think that the B-17 is one of the most amazing aircraft ever built.

On July 15th 2008, the Air Force announced that “The Swoose”, one of the most famous aircraft of WWII has been moved from the Smithsonian to a permanent hone at National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright Patterson in Dayton Ohio.

The Swoose - a rare sharkfin B-17 D

A very rare B-17 D (the only one still in existence), the Swoose got her name from the popular song of the day, about a half-goose, half-swan, the “Swoose”. It’s a national treasure and will sit nest to the “Memphis Belle”, but it hold special significance to me because it was one of the B-17’s that my father maintained in the Philippines.

The battle for the Pacific

I’m currently researching the history of the US Air Corp in the desperate days following Pearl Harbor (and the horrendous damage to the Air Corp at Clark Field in the Philippines), and I’m reading the book “Queens Die Proudly”, by W. L. White (1943).

This is a firsthand account (from the men of the 19th Bomb Group), how they were chased by the invading Japanese into Australia, and how we fought back to regain a foothold against overwhelming odds.

The Swoose became a transport aircraft for Generals

I’m especially interested in accounts of the 5th Air Force from late 1941 up to September 1942, events during their stay in Australia, and their raid against the Japanese forcesin Java.

In his book, White does extensive interviews with Frank Kurtz (Olympic athlete and one of the most famous pilots of WWII, with three distinguished Flying Crosses, three Air Medals, and three silver stars).

The 19th bomb group in Australia in WWII:

- March Field, Calif, 25 Oct 1935;
- Albuquerque, NM, 7 Jul 1941 to 29 Sep 1941;
- Clark Field, Luzon, 23 Oct 1941;
- Batchelor, Australia, 24 Dec 1941;
- Singosari, Java, 30 Dec 1941;
- Melbourne, Australia, 2 Mar 1942;
- Garbutt Field, Australia, 18 Apr 1942;
- Longreach, Australia, 18 May 1942;
- Mareeba, Australia, 24 Jul-23 Oct 1942;

It’s always been my dream to take a flight in a B-17 (they are available this week is Oshkosh air show this week for $450 for a 20 minute ride). For B-17 books, here is a great collection of B-17 books, including this book about the Swoose.

Interestingly, Coward-general Douglas MacArthur ("Dugout Doug") rode the Swoose once, in August 1942 when being ferried to Washington DC, which brings me to a far more interesting story.

LBJ gets swiftboated

One great surprise in my research was that Congressman turned Naval Officer Lyndon Johnson, flew a combat mission in 1 B-25 out of Port Moresby, and the shameful prick put himself in for the Silver Star, even though the plane never even got to the target!

Read this, the amazing story how LBJ gave himself an award for bravery that he did not earn.

“For most of his life as a politician, Johnson proudly wore a Silver Star pin identifying him as a war hero. The small lapel pin can be seen in the famous photograph of Johnson taking the oath of office aboard Air Force One following John F. Kennedy's assassination in November 1963.

For three decades, on occasions mundane and momentous, the small red, white and blue badge of courage was often visible on Johnson's suit coat.”

LBJ taking the oath of the presidency while wearing a stolen Silver Star

According to all reports from the flight crew, LBJ did nothing to receive this award, and was in collusion with “Dugout Doug”, the despised 5-star General MacArthur, the biggest medal-grabbing asswipe in history:

“What I concluded," Dallek said," was that there was an agreement, a deal made between LBJ and Gen. MacArthur. And the deal was Johnson would get this medal, which somebody later said was the least deserved and most talked about medal in American military history.

And MacArthur, in return, had a pledge from Johnson that he would lobby FDR to provide greater resources for the southwest Pacific theater."

According to my father (who was there in Corregidor with Big Mac), MacArthur was an amazing coward and widely detested by his men. Soldiers openly mocked his “I shall Return” quote (i.e. "I’m going to the latrine. . . I shall return”)!

In one of the most shameful acts in the history of the USA, MacArthur got himself the Congressional Medal of Honor for his unsuccessful defense of the Philippines (while he cowered in a tunnel).

Read my notes on why I think that people should know what a dishonest and disgraceful man MacArthur was.