Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture

Some years ago I had the privilege of talking to a B-24 pilot about his experiences with the Eight Air Force in World War Two Europe. One of his stories concerned a return trip to England after a raid on Germany.

With flack and fighters the bomber formations had been scattered far and wide. Small groups of planes were making their way home. Individual aircraft would join up with them now and then. Their guns added to the defense of the group, and the new comers received protection from the others as well. There were still pockets of flack, but before the gun crews could get the altitude and speed right they were usually out of range.

A lone B-24 approaching them wasn't unusual. It didn't respond to their radio calls, but radios went down sometimes. What was odd about this Liberator was that it didn't get into formation with the rest of the planes. The lone B-24 took up their same heading and altitude, but stayed out of machinegun range. All of a sudden the flack batteries they passed got much more accurate.

This continued until they got to the English Channel. The Gentleman told me when his collection of planes crossed the coast the lone B-24 peeled off and went back into Europe.

This picture probably explains everything.

Throughout the war the Germans had an impressive collection of allied aircraft. With the fall of France fast moving German units managed to capture just about everything in British and French inventory.I was shocked when I first saw pictures of American trainers in German Markings. Some were sold to the French.
Others were built by the French under license. Is this an AT-6 or a French built NA-64 trainer. They had both.
I swear, when we get to Mars they will find a Piper Cub there! This one was 'drafted' when the Germans overran Denmark in 1940.

I wouldn't be surprised to find a DC-3 parked somewhere on the moon either! The things are everywhere! Like today, American airliners were sold all over the world. Lufthansa had a bunch of them.
There were no Spitfires in the France prior to Dunkirk. Often damaged planes crash landed in occupied in Europe. That's where this one came from.
I have heard talk of a dogfight between an American P-51 and a captured Mustang flown by a German Pilot. I havn't been able to track down any details, but the Germans had P-51's for this kind of thing.

In one case, an aircraft was brought to the Germans by a traitor. After Pearl Harbor Martin James Monti enlisted in the Army Air Force as an aviation cadet. After flight school he was commissioned as a flight officer. After qualifying on P-39 Aircorbras and P-38 Lightings he was posted to 126 Replacement Depot in Karachi, India (now in Pakistan).

For reasons unknown, newly minted Second Lt. Monti was displeased with his lot in life and set out in search of other adventures. He boarded a C-46 and hitched a ride to Cairo and proceeded to make his way toward Italy.

At Foggia, Italy he stopped in at the 82 Fighter Group and then to the 354 Air Service Squadron at Pomigliano Air Field north of Naples. The 354th. prepared aircraft for assignment to line squadrons. There was a steady stream of pilots coming and going. Lt. Monti was all but invisible.

It isn't clear at what point in his travels Lt. Monti decided to buy his way into the Third Reich, but that was now his plan. He studied the aircraft being worked on and found an F-5 (a photo reconnaissance version of the P-38) that needed work and would need a test flight after the repairs were completed.

The morning it was ready he showed up before the real test pilot and headed for the German airfield outside Milan. On exiting the plane he told the German personal surrounding him he was there to defect.

The above photo is of the plane Lt. Monti flew to Milan.

After that Monti, now an Untersturmfuhere (an SS second lieutenant), worked in propaganda in one form or another until the end of the war. One project that would come back to haunt him was a 'microphone test' he made as "Martin Wiethaupt".

By the end of the war Monti had joined the George Washington Division of the SS Foreign Legions. This unit was made up of Americans who wanted to fight for Germany. There were two of them.

Monti was still in Italy when the war ended and surrendered to American forces. He was proudly wearing his SS uniform at the time.

Screwball Warning.

Now, for me this is where the story looses touch with reality. In 1946 Martin James Monti was sentenced to fifteen years for desertion? Not only that, he was pardoned within a year on condition he join the Army? Why did they want him in the army with his track record? They made him a sergeant!

In 1948 the FBI caught up with Sgt. Monti and arrested him for treason this time based on his recording as Martin Weinhaupt.

Perhaps there is someone out there that can explain to me why stealing a P-38 to give the Germans and joining the SS of all things is "desertion", but making tape recordings is treason. It makes no sense to me.

This time Monti was sentenced to twenty five years in prison. He was paroled in 1960 after serving twelve years.

Martin James Monti lived to see the new millennium. He passed away on September 11, 2000 of all days. As I said before, whats wrong with this picture?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sneak Theives

I had intended to wax poetic about the rain we had last night. One and five eighths inches worth, the first we have had in months. It's not enough to break the drought, but it's a start.

That idea went on the back burner when the phone bill came.

In and of its self the phone bill isn't a big deal. This time however, the dreaded third party billing scam again reared its ugly head. It took the form of a charge from ENHANCED BILLING SER on behalf of BUSINESS VALUES ONLINE. The phone company was kind enough to provide their contact number, but would have no part of dealing with the situation.

So, I called.

I began the call by asking the rep what the h#l* Enhanced Billing Ser (that's how it appears on the bill) was. He recovered quickly and explained they handled billing for an enhanced online listing service.

I should explain here that I follow a standard routine when I get sales calls, or calls offering any free service. I start by asking "Is this going to cost me money now or at any time in the future?" You would be surprised how quickly that question cools their enthusiasm. If they say yes, as they usually do, I tell them I'm not interested and want no further contact.

Sometimes they say no and that they just want to update their data base. I tell them I don't want to be in their data base. Sometimes they say it's the yellow pages and there has to be a listing. I don't think there has to be a listing, but tell them nothing has changed. I avoid answering any question in the affirmative.

Sometimes they bill you anyway. That's what happened here. It is a crooked but time tested practice to send a bill to people or companies for goods and services they didn't request and / or never received, and hope they pay without checking. You might be surprised how often it works. Not all sneak thieves take physical goods or funds from you. Sometimes they ask you to send them yourself.

When confronted the charges were immediately dropped. They assured me they would not be relisted and that I would not be contacted again. We will see.

I should point out here to keep an eye out for this sort of thing. I have had the same company put their charges back onto my phone bill (in this case a website I never wanted) two and three times. Also, If memory serves me correctly, you can only be reimbursed for ninety days. Anything more than three months old they can keep because you didn't challenge them.

I hate sneak thieves. If I can keep one person from being ripped off by these scams, it is a good day.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Galloping Ghost

I was heartbroken this evening to hear of a tragic accident at the Reno Air Races. A P-51 named Galloping Ghost crashed into the edge of the seating area. At least three are dead not counting the pilot and so far I haven't seen the same number of injured listed on any two places yet. No one is taking any bets on all the injured recovering.

At this writting no one is really sure what caused the crash. The pilot, Jimmy Leeward, was highly skilled with years of experience. To the best of my knowledge I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Leeward. I had known the Galloping Ghost for years.
There are probably more P-51s surviving today than any other World War Two combat plane. Having said that, there aren't that many Mustangs around, especially not flying. So when attending airshows and fly-ins you start recognizing the Mustangs, B-17s and P-38s like old friends. The loss of human life is tragic, but so is the loss of these historic aircraft.
A few months ago a B-17 called Liberty Bell crashed in a field durring a routine flight. No one was killed, or even seriously injured, but the plane was a total loss. The scene bore a spooky resemblance to World War Two crash sites. There are folks who will ask if the planes are so rare and valuable why risk flying them? Just about any World War Two combat Plane flying these days is valued in six figures. B-17s and P-51s are in the millions. The truth is, if you have to ask, you will never understand.

In 1973 for the first time I stood on the ramp in Harlingen, Texas and watch a P-51 Mustang sputter, then growl to life. A crowd of us watched as it taxied out to the runway. A few minutes later she started to move, faster as she came up on her main gear, and then sprang into the air at a speed and angles I found shocking based on my light plane experience. A second later I recovered my voice and was commenting that the numbers in the books didn't do this justice when an F8F Bearcat caught and pasted the Mustang like it was dragging a plow.

I knew then that the hours of research, and hundreds of pages I had read were baseless without this experience to put them into perspective.
It is a sad truth that planes like this cannot be operated without bending one from time to time. With the weight and speed of these War Birds the results are often deadly. But parking them is unacceptable. The pilots and investors are all too aware of the risk, and they agree.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I Wouldn't Mind Having This One

Anyone who has watched Pawn Stars has seen Sean Rich from Tortuga Trading Company come in and tell the guys about firearms and simular antiques that come into the shop. It's the best part of the show for me.

It will come as no surprise that Tortuga Trading Company has a website. I visit it a lot! Someday I need to see if Pawn Stars has one.

About a week ago I was looking at their firearms listing and found one I would love to own.
The folks at Tortuga describe her as a percussion Axe gun. The barrel is 28.5 inches. The weapons overall length is 45 inches. She takes a .75 Caliber ball. The butt stock ends in a very functional axe head. We have all seen museum displays and photographs of firearms with axes as part of the design intended as weapons. I have no doubt this could put a world of hurt on somebody, but its main function seems to be as a tool.This is no pampered show piece. The stock has the polish that only comes from years of handling. The beastie shows countless repairs, speaking both to the fact it saw hard use and was considered worth the effort to repair and keep in service.
Not really sure how you would hold it to chop wood, but I think the axe head would lend its self quite well to a shoulder stock. The best part is the folks at Tortuga consider it to be in working order.In every collection there is that one piece you wish you could make talk for an evening to learn its story. This is one of them.