31 December, 2023

Profile 171: Bell P-39Q as flown by BG Clarence "Bud" Anderson, 357th FG


Finished — the Bell P-39Q as flown by BG Clarence "Bud" Anderson.

And, a 2024 salute for all!

But before that...

*break break*

The superlatives and legend that surround this man will have to come at a later date; I've been wondering how to express gratitude for Bud's example for YEARS and I'm not much closer to getting the words right than I was nearly twenty five years ago.

But suffice it to state, Bud represents - for many, many - the palpable, personification of the word "Great."

Have another look at the "Airacobra" above.

Bud never took it into combat (it'd likely have been shot out from under him in the high-pressure, high altitude skies of WWII Europe).  Instead, Bud flew it stateside, learning the skills and acumen required to Represent against Hitler's vision.

Evidently, Bud passed his training.  If you're a History Geek, you know.  If not, this will suffice:  when the proof of the putting arrived, he became a 'triple ace' with 16.25 victories.  He also established himself as able to lead others in mortal peril.  Later, he became a test pilot, author, speaker, General... 

Bud and his P-39Q.  And his 1939 Ford.
(Buy the book).

But back to 2024.

For me, I've learned incalculably powerful lessons in leadership, excellence, humility and potential through my introduction to Bud.  

Frankly, it's changed my life in challenging, wonderful ways!  But not without some sacrifice — a few years ago, a noted business leader remarked, "You know, your (interviewing old combat vets) has rendered you unemployable.  You've seen a higher standard than most.  Can you live up to that?"

My reply, "We'll see."

On that note - a salute for 2024!

(raises coffee cup)

"To the impending greatness of 2024 - of example, of inspiration and of enough power that one day, WE get to do the same for the generations to come!"

And achieve something Great for ourselves in the process, too.

Bud, c. December, 2022 receiving his BG star.
Photo: USAF

NOTE:  Very soon, prints will be made, Bud will sign them and the Distinguished Flying Cross Society will have them available to (presumably) frame and hang on a wall. 

25 December, 2023

UPDATE - Profile 171: Bell P-39Q as flown by a great American



Thanks to our full-house of guests for letting me "go into my hole" to work on the P-39Q.  (See previous blog post for more context).

I'll be brief.

For one, the numbering on the nose is remarkably crude; one would think that the lines would have been stenciled precisely but they're really not.  So, I've been channeling my inner "1943 USAAF line crewman" and painting with appropriate imprecision. 

You can see for yourself from an actual photo of the Airacobra in question

As was the tail (serial) numbers.  They had a bit more uniformity, but that's as to be expected; the serial numbering went on as part of a manufacturing process, the nose numbers were done as assigned to units.

Notice too in the photo above how the red band looks 'black' - that's a quirk of black and white film; the band was actually red (but reproduces darkly in b/w processing).   Of course, this bit of photographic alchemy can change pending type of photo paper, lighting, processing...

Back to work before I get hauled up for Holiday Poker. 

24 December, 2023

Profile 171: Bell P-39Q as flown by a great American.


Ever wonder what it means for someone/thing to be "great"?

Around where I live, "great" has some cultural implications — "great" is great unless it's too great, then it needs to be knocked down a notch; this is the upper-midwest way of keeping people from getting too big for their britches.  Keeping ego's in check is good.  But as a regular practice, this aspect of "Minnesota Nice" can also be castrating.

Maybe 'great' means something from the past — acts and behaviors of legend; this kind of greatness has emotional truthiness to it, but as all history is comprised of people, as the wife of one highly decorated warrior warned me, "Be careful of your heroes.  They're all people and they all have people problems. Sometimes you don't want to know."

(Another topic for another day).

Maybe 'great' is a hope for someone better to come along — someone who represents the filling of present deficits and the ability to elevate the rest.  Gentle reminder (in the spirit of this Christmas Eve) — "the last perfect person was nailed to a cross."

As a history geek, I've become very careful of any use of the word, "great."  

Have a look above — it's the beginning of a Bell P-39Q "Airacobra." 

For the uninformed, the Airacobra is an airplane of mixed reputation.  Very few aviation buffs will call the P-39 a 'great' combat aircraft.  True enough, the airplane had a narrow envelope of success — down low (under 10,000ft), with lots of physical energy (i.e. speed), the P-39 could bring its terrific firepower (4 x .50 cal + 1 x 37mm) to bear and be utterly devastating to an unfortunately placed ground or aerial foe.  Outside of that precisely prescribed envelope, the P-39 was bested by more maneuverable, more powerful and more dynamically optioned enemies.

Nope.  The P-39 was not great.

But that didn't stop a WWII pilot from using it to learn his craft, excel in work, triumph in leadership, prove his character over time... and thus inspire many, many thousands to be better

That's pretty great, don't you think?

Stay tuned.*

Oh... and I'm going to ask him one more question, too.

OH!  And if you're piqued by the lack of information on why the P-39 wasn't so 'great,' please.  Click Here and read WWII Veteran, USAAF Master Sgt and fantastic writer, Merle Olmstead's review.

P-39s in training, in flight.  Photo: Stubby Gambill, courtesy "To Fly and Fight."

*(from one reader). "Geez, John You have so many stay-tuned stories, when are you going to finish them?!" In time.  And it'll be great, too)