31 January, 2020

UPDATE Profile 138: Curtiss SB2C-4 Helldiver as flown by Lt. Curtis Cameron, VB-87


A couple things to note:

A.  The color.  It'll change.  But technically it is supposed to be "Glossy Sea Blue FS 15042."

But that's a moment in time, human-factor of the 'guy' mixing the paint, sun, salt, scuffs... life is like that, eh?   Getting the color right is no different than walking into McDonalds, looking up at the fantastic photo of a Big Mac®, ordering one, opening the box and then thinking...why does this look like it was played with by first-graders?

B.  The "Turtledeck."

For the unenlightened, the SB2C Helldiver had an interesting feature for the tailgunner—part of the fuselage, right next to the tail, would fold-down (kind of like an accordion)  and lower to allow the gunner room to move his twin .30s around.

Many photos of Helldivers in flight show the rear sliding canopy open but the Turtledeck in the 'up' position.  Trust me, this was NOT a combat-friendly configuration.  Have a look at the photo below.

Photo:  U.S. Naval Archives

You wouldn't want to go into combat with the turtledeck "up."   For one, the twin .30s did not have an interrupter system.  Rear-gunners were wholly and completely able to shoot the tail off their mounts at any time, no problem.  Putting one's mind into the headspace of a rear-gunner in a WWII dive-bomber, it's easy to think, "Geez.  That poor gunner had a lot of trust in the pilot!"

Well, that poor pilot had a lot of trust in the rear gunner, too.

Now, have a look at the photo below.  The turtledeck is lowered allowing MUCH more room two swing the guns around to protect the airplane.

Photo:  U.S. Naval Archives

But practically, I got to film from the back of the Commemorative Air Force's 'diver' while filming "South Dakota Warrior," about Battle of Midway hero, John Waldron.

Here's a still from a bit of video I took...

If I were an IJN fighter pilot and knew the plight of the Helldiver's rear gunner, I'd definitely attack from the rear, slightly tail-low.  They were helpless.  ©Me.
The white lines SORTA represent the space covered up by the Turtledeck area.   It doesn't seem like a lot but practically, it is.  I figure that lowering the turtledeck gave the rear gunner another 40% more room to fire guns.

Now, have a look at the video I shot, below.

So, I've decided to draw Curtis Cameron's "Beast" with the turtledeck lowered, ready for action.  It's going to be a little more ugly—if that can be done—but truth be told, I'm looking forward to drawing all the little details like the guns, rails and "lighten-ing holes."

AND...just got word today that it looks like the public unveiling is set for Friday, April 17, 2020.   More to come!

19 January, 2020

UPDATE Profile 138: Curtiss SB2C-4 Helldiver as flown by Lt. Curtis Cameron, VB-87

Bleh. It's ugly.

But, I didn't take the gig because I thought Helldivers were beautiful airplanes.

Actually, Helldivers don't even have (many) beautiful stories.

Practically, the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver is a tale of what happens when zeal, desperation and hubris collide.  Come to think of it, the story of this airplane could make a great semester course for an MBA program.  Need + Opportunity + Practicality added up to = a big, fat pig that probably shouldn't have happened.

In the end, however, it all worked out, pretty well.  A few years ago, I talked to a Marine test-pilot who had to certify rehabbed combat-worn Helldivers for future combat duty and he said, "Well, it wasn't a (completely) terrible airplane.  I'm alive, right?!"

Claude Hone (VMF-216) Marine F4U Corsair pilot who got stuck with testing Curtiss SB2C Helldivers c.July 1945 that had been rehabbed after hard combat duty.


Still, this isn't a story about Helldivers as much as it is about the people that flew them.

Right now, I've got a treasure box of artifacts and documentation that will accompany progress of this art. Be prepared to be blown away by some of this stuff; I will use this blog as a way to show you what I get to experience while drawing these historic aircraft.  Believe me, it's humbling to know you - the reader - want to see/feel/hear what I get to experience...

Hmmm x 2.

Anyways, the artwork will be publicly unveiled on April 18 this year and I'll put the finished piece up in this blog sometime after that.

In the meantime, let's start this off by going back in time to July 23, 1945.  The date-stamp is important because it's two days(?) before Lt. Curtis Cameron flew the mission that would fate him to be awarded the Navy Cross.

But, the date is also important because, Cameron's ship — the USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) was poised and ready to draw blood on 'the Japs.'  There's more to this story...and I'll brief you later.  But for now,   please click the graphic below to take you to the complete, official ship's newsletter, dated same.

Read the whole thing - CLICK HERE.
It's the real deal, it came from the family that commissioned this drawing. I scanned it myself and felt the time-worn paper in my own hands.  It's all here - even the politically incorrect stuff.

However, I hope you read it.  Again, it's a time-capsule of sorts and interesting in that regard alone.  But maybe you're like me and, while thumbing through the pictures and words, you find that life during the Greatest Generation's winning moments weren't so different than today.

More to come. :)

04 January, 2020

Now live!

The Old Guys and Their Airplanes episode, "The Mettle Behind the Merit" is now live, along with a (pretty cool!) Educator's Kit.

The film and kit are free and viewable/downloadable on the Distinguished Flying Cross Society's website - click here.

Though I was fortunate to have spent a bit of time with Steve, I still feel like there simply wasn't enough time to really get to know him.  My 2013 post (and rendering of his Spitfire) is here.

In the meantime, I hope you find the episode and Ed. kit as cool as I do. :)