P-40s are awesome.
P-40s with sharks-mouths painted on the nose are even awesomer!
But you know what's even MORE AWESOMER?! Finding a P-40 "Warhawk" pilot who is willing to talk about the 104 missions he flew over China!
Hold that thought.
I am a member of the "professional" social networking service called LinkedIn. One of the features of LinkedIn is a regular feed of business-related articles written or reposted by members for other members to read. One of the most popular topics of these articles is "Success" and they look something like this: 10 Things A Great Leader Always Does Before Breakfast or 6 Incredible Success Stories that Started Out As Failures or Do This One Thing to Make a Million Dollars next Week.
I like these articles. Most of the time, they give me a positive boost or a quick idea. But in reality, they are essentially all-the-same and their promises far out-reach reality. After all, if becoming Steve Jobs really took only 6 essential "things," we'd all be Steve Jobs by day-end.
Steve Jobs. No idea who took the photo but it's perfect so I'm taking the risk.
Want to know what it is?
Typically, I don't draw an airplane unless I can talk to someone who was attached via combat. With WWII vets evaporating, my pool of willing, able and documented pilots is all-but-gone. However, a persistent patron and an especially keen P-47 pilot convinced me otherwise, hence this opening sketch.
Have a good look as there are some things you might find interesting.
1. Notice the outline of the "sharks mouth"? Typically, sharks-mouthed P-40s are associated with the American Volunteer Group (A.V.G.) and their mercenary service to keep the Japanese from over-running China. But really, it was the Brits who first put the teeth on P-40s and even then, they stole the idea from the Germans.
But this one won't have a sharks-mouth. It will have a DRAGON mouth. What's the difference? Have a look!
3. Notice the elevator position. Through the P-40 E-model, the axis of movement for the elevators intersected the joint where the rudder met the tail. But on the L, M and N models, the fin and rudder were moved back.**
(Mention this fact at your next wine-tasting party for extra conversational joy!)
4. Notice that on my in-flight sketch there are what look to be tiny bombs. Actually, they're not bombs. They're rockets. This may be the only P-40 drawing of a rocket-carrying Warhawk*. In short, this bird got low, slow and personal with the Japanese.
So what does this have to do with LinkedIn and all those stories on Success?
Well, in comparison to "Success" fighters of WWII (like the P-51, Spitfire, FW-190, Yak-3 and Ki-84), the P-40 is kind of an also-ran. It wasn't terribly fast, it wasn't terribly maneuverable, it wasn't terribly awesome at anything (other than diving and absorbing damage). In fact, its main claim to fame is simply that it was available.
Ok. Fast-forward to 2009 and I'm having lunch with an Old Guy. He's a retired $$$ionaire who also happened to have flown a bit of combat in WWII. He asked me about a mutual acquaintance who was losing his business because, in this other dude's explanation, "(He) didn't have the right tools to compete." So, the poor guy sat in his office because he didn't want to risk embarrassing himself.
The Old Guy howled in laughter, slapped the table and exclaimed, "Oh yeah! Another success derailed by perfection!" He took another bite of salad, then wagged his finger at me in caution, "John, a little imperfection is better than hiding behind the wait for perfection."
He stabbed the last of his greens and muttered, half to himself, "You only learn by practice and the best practice is simply showing up. Some guys are just chicken."
And that's it. "Showing up" —perhaps the most important key to Success. It's not glamorous or even all-that-inspiring. But it's true. And, in the context of all-things-P-40, it was, by 1944, a second-string fighter that persisted in the combat arena because it was simply available. In fact, it flew its last combat mission in 1945, well after its comparative obsolescence.
I'd like introduce Cliff Long. P-40 pilot from the 51st Fighter Group, China-Burma-India theater. 104 missions, all in P-40s and 103 of those missions were before he turned twenty years old. Talk about "showing up!"—today, Cliff wouldn't be old enough to drink let alone fly a modern fighter!
And it's a Success Story alright. So show up for the next installment in about two weeks.
Cliff Long circa 1944. Courtesy Jean Barbaud
*And, I got the rockets wrong in the pencil sketch. You'll just how wrong they are when the art gets updated, too.
**Originally, I had written that the elevator was moved forward but esteemed aviation historian Carl Molesworth caught my error. Thank you, Carl!