Monday, November 22, 2010

Cub's and Flattops

I got an E-mail from a friend a few days ago asking about the Piper L-4 being launched off the USS Ranger. He had read that L-4s were launched from LST's that were converter to carriers for them.
Which of us was right?


Captain Allcorn didn't get very far with his first flight during Operation Torch, but the other two cubs did.

Fighters of the day carried four to six machine guns. Bombers carried a couple of tons of bombs early in the war. But the L-4 Pilot and Radio Operator directed the guns of one battle ship, to an entire task force. When spotting for the Army the could call fire from over 100 + guns at times down on a target.

After their combat trial in North Africa the Army wanted more of the liaison planes as 'eyes in the sky' for future invasions.

The L-4 next became the only plane in history that had an aircraft carrier designed just for it. The Navy needed it's carriers for their own aircraft, so LST's were converted with a plywood deck laid the length of the ship. There were six slanted parking ramps, three on each side, to store planes prior to launch. I believe the plan was to keep four planes lashed down to the rear of the flight deck, figuring they would still have room to take off.

Officers who didn't fly, and weren't flying in the cubs, were sure they could crowed six and still get off OK. The best I can say to that logic is that cubs take care of their people. No one seems to be sure how many LSTs were converted in this manner.

The biggest drawback to the LST carriers is that the L-4s were on a one way trip. The little planes had no arresting gear and the LSTs had no cable system. They could not land back on the LST after launching. In fact, after the last plane was off, the plywood deck was torn apart and pushed overboard in most cases.

Below is a photograph from the National Archives taken aboard one of the converted LSTs, #906, in the harbor of Naples, Italy. It shows the liaison plane crews gathered in front of an L-4. I treasure this photo because the names of the men are listed.

In the Pacific there were places the L-birds had no choice but to return to the ship. My friends, you ain't gonna believe the answer they came up with!

Note: I found these photos on the net. If the owners object to my use of them, drop me an E-mail and I will take them down.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Need a new handgrip for the Mossberg 500

I need a new handgrip for the Mossberg 500. I got this one last year, mainly because they look so cool. The little beast is handy, and as I've said before, that clack-clack sound of it cycling is about as close to a universal language as you can get.

I've watched big bad Arnold pump thirty plus rounds through one of these (without reloading) and thought "I gotta get me one of these!" I did, and I don't regret it, but some adjustment is required.

Anyone who has fired this weapon will know what I am talking about. For those who have not, I dirrect your attention to the right angle handgrip. When the weapon is fired all the recoil goes here, into the web between thumb and forefinger. Hardly a surprise but it can't be appreciated until experienced. With light loads it's a jolt.

My trouble load here at HomePlace is double OO buck interspersed with slugs. This weapon holds seven rounds in the tube, and one in the chamber. Take a moment to think about that.

Three loaded sets with this weapon left my hand numb, which wasn't good. When the feeling came back, that wasn't good either.

I have thought about a gel glove, will probably get one regardless, but I would like to try another apporach. I have noticed when firing regular shotguns from the hip the recoil against the hand isn't that bad. I fired a shotgun like this one during my Cowboy Action Shooting days and didn't have any problems with them.

The reason is the grip is sloped rather than a right angle.

I believe someone out there makes a grip like this for the Mossberg, but I have had no luck locating one. Failing that, I can cut down a standard Mossberg stock.

If anyone out there can put me onto a premade "sloped" handgrip I would be grateful.
This one got quick results. It seems a company called Speedfeed builds exactly what I'm looking for. Thanks for the assist folks.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Operation Torch - 68 Years Ago This Morning

It was just less than a year after Pearl Harbor when the ships of Operation Torch gathered off the coast of French North Africa. The USS Ranger CV-4 and four Escort Carriers prepared to launch their Grumman F4F "Wildcat" fighters and Douglass SBD "Dauntless" dive bombers against Vichy French Targets.

One of the Escort Carriers, USS Chenango CVE-28 carried a load of Army Curtiss P-40 War Hawks. But all of these followed three unlikely warbirds already scouting targets over the African coast.
In the predawn hours of November 9, 1942 the Ranger's deck crew hauled three small green planes with yellow noses onto her flight deck. These were Piper L-4 liaison planes, the military version of the Piper Cub already famous even then.
This photo shows Captain Ford E. Allcorn who lead the small plane unit. In the rear seat is his radio operator, Captain Brenton A. Devall.
Some of you might ask, why cubs? The answer is the very things that make them seem unsuitable were their strenghts.
The Army needed slow moving light planes that could go down and look for hidden ground targets that their faster, high flying counterparts would never see. Cubs were perfect for the role.
This duty was not for the faint hearted. The planes had no armor. For those who have never seen one, the fuselage is covered in fabric. To make working on the plane easier the fuel tank was between the engine and instrument panel. It was not self sealing.
Since the purpose of the L-4 was not to fight, the only guns they carried were in the pilots shoulder holsters. That's not to say they didn't carry something else from time to time. But the weapons the carried by L-4 were hardly the point. As mentioned earlier, they had radios.
A P-38 or B-17 carries one hell of a wallop, but the L-4 was spotting for a Navy Taskforce or Artillery Division. One well placed rifle shot will bring it down you say? I've read the thoughts of men on both sides regarding this. Both conclude if the Liaison Plane stops transmitting, that tells whoever they were talking to something.
So what came of Captains Allcorn and Devall? It seems not the entire taskforce got word of Army Liaison Planes flying off the USS Ranger. They took antiaircraft fire from US ships on their way to the coast.
The French shore batteries faired a bit better, sadly. Allcorn was wounded and his plane set on fire as he crossed the coast. He was able to sideslip his plane to the ground and drag himself away from it before it exploded. He was taken prisoner and his wounds treated.
During his first morning to combat he flew the first plane launched in the invasion of French North Africa. He also became the first Army aviator wounded in the campaign, as well as the first shot down. Busy morning.
But the news wasn't all bad, he lived to tell the story.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sometimes You Can't Take A Gun

From time to time James at Hell-in-a-Hand-basket has talked about canes as a self defense option. I had mentioned my "Street Legle Mace" a couple of times and he said it was time to show the world what I kept talking about.

Of course, that's when the camera when down.

Now that we have a replacement camera I can start providing images to my blogs again, starting with these.
I first tore up my knee in junior high school PE class, a bad dislocation. To this day I hate anything remotely related to soccer. The knee continued to pop out of place for years afterward. If you have never experienced it, you wouldn't understand.
I had a couple of canes over the years but they weren't anything special. The Sheppard's crook style never felt right. A few years ago I stopped at a smoke shop to look at the pipes. I don't smoke but would love to find a nice 'Sherlock Holmes' pipe. They had a display of canes and this one jumped out at me.
From protective tip to brass head it is just less than 36 inches long. The round head is weighs one pound. The ball fit my hand perfectly and the lenght was excellent. This cane has been, if not a constant companion, a frenquent companion ever since.
For years I have done 'Weapon's for Writers programs'. At Science Fiction Conventions I sold swords and knives in the dealers rooms. Many of the folks who saw me with the cane assumed it packed a hidden surprise. It dose, but not what they expected.
When asked if there is a sword or dagger hidden inside I would simply hand them the cane in such a way they would take hold of it near the tip while I held the head. When I released the head, the unexpected weight would cause the head to slam into the table top. "This one dosen't need a blade." I would explaine.
For Christmas a couple of years ago my wife, Helene and son, Matt had the head engraved for me. I couldn't think of anything nicer to have done.
There are lots of ways to defend yourself with a cane. If nothing else they are useful for keeping problem folks at a distance. The brass head makes this one even more formidable when needed. With a 36 inch haft this becomes a mace. With the brass ball in my hand, the problem folks never expect it.
The beautiful thing about this is I am able to carry the cane anywhere. A couple of years ago I flew with it. This was a day I thought the security folks were going to have me strip to my shorts, but after making sure nothing was hidden inside the cane I was allowed to take it on the plane.
I don't feel that I pulled a fast one on the airport security folks, or the police for that matter. The cane is just a cane, until I need it to be something else.