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!