17 January, 2013

Profile 70: UPDATE - B-52G of the 77th BS

Stop, start, stop, start...

Four and a half months later, I'm back at it; the B-52 I started last August is finally getting some attention.  Specifically, a B-52G from Andersen AFB in Guam, 1973.

Which B-52G?  Well, I've got a copy of the pilot's Individual Flight Record in front of me right now and I'm picking through eleven tail numbers... We'll sort them out later though as my mind is preoccupied two bigger issues.

Firstly, I've got to get my head around "the story."  The B-52G that gets finished here will be one that took part in the bombing of Cambodia during the Spring and early Summer of 1973.

"Cambodia?" you say, "Where the hell is that?!  And why should we care about a country that most American school kids couldn't find on a globe?"

Cambodia shares the Vietnam's western and southern border.  Click here if you want to know more. But in terms of "caring," I did a few clicks of my own to learn that about 15 million people live there now, so at least that many people care about Cambodia.

There should be more Cambodians though. Maybe two, three million more.  At least those are the numbers bantered about when the people who tally death-counts tally the souls lost to the Khmer Rouge.  And what's a Khmer Rouge?  More on that later, too.

We'll just leave Cambodia with this thought for now:  Cambodia is probably the most bombed country on earth.

Secondly, I've got to get my head around something far more trivial but much more relevant to this post; the actual COLORING of the B-52.   The B-52Gs based at Andersen AFB were painted in what is called the "SIOP" camouflage pattern.  It stands for "Strategic Integrated Operational Plan."  In a nutshell, is an an acronym for an over reaching military plan that contained everything from military strategy to what color the bombers got painted.

The apparently "easy" thing about having the Military specify specific paint codes is that getting the color 'right' becomes a simple matter.  Simply find the code, get a chip, match the color, done.  It doesn't work that way in practice, however.  Paint-batches change, atmospheric forces work differently in one geographic locale than another and the all-important photographic documentation depends on film, shutter speed, cloud covering, processing...

So, to get really accurate, authentic coloring, I've consulted the witchery of Adobe Photoshop to help me analyze the dozen or so photos from "back in the day."  See below.

The photo on left is basically the photo I got.  It's yellowed tremendously as photos from those days tend to do.  The photo on the right is an adjustment I made—an over-exposure—to try to figure out the weathering pattern.  The color bars atop represent what's SUPPOSED to be the SIOP camo colors of the B-52; the crew is standing in front of a section of airplane that's likely painted in FS 34179.

Doing aircraft markings "always" seems to be like this—a straightforward, stated, documented solution becomes, in practice, a tangle of variables, interpretations and facts that, in the end, really only exist in someone's head.

So.  Anyway.  Ready to go on a bombing mission?  It's going to be a long one...