The Hawker Hurricane is an amazing fighter plane with a very colorful history. It’s sad that so few exist in the world. At the time of its conception, it was a ground breaking plane with its retractable landing gear, speed, and armament. Like most planes, though it was merely a stepping stone along the line of the next great thing to come along. Still one of my favorites. While in England many years ago I had the chance to photograph a Hurricane on a beautiful evening shoot. This question popped up like has happened so many times in the past, do you level the subject or the background? I’ve dealt with this a lot and for me, the answer has always been the subject because that’s where the eye goes first. It just looks weird to have the subject crocked to me and if that means the horizon is at a slant, well then that just means the subject is on a hill.
Ever since I got started with Aviation photography, I was drawn to the PBY. Something about the design of the plane made it stand out compared to the others, which isn’t to say that the others were bad looking. Made by Consolidated Aircraft Company the Catalina PBY had a wide array of roles throughout WWII, including as I have just learned, a horizontal bomber during the first year of the war. It was quickly found out that the PBY-4 was a terrible horizontal daylight bombing aircraft.
The two greatest contributions the plane made was as a patrol aircraft and a search and rescue plane. Downed airmen or stranded sailors looked to the skies in both the Pacific and Atlantic for these great winged birds descending from the skies to bring the stranded back to safety. As a patrol plane, the PBY could go large distances and with a nine-man crew, there were lots of eyes scanning the horizons for ships. Unfortunately, like most things in time they become outdated and more trouble then they are worth. Due to the size and limited interest, only a handful of airworthy PBY’s are still flying today.
Early in the predawn, light swarms of Japanese Zeroes and torpedo bombers flew over Honolulu to deliver a tremendous blow to the United States. Mistaken as a group of B-17’s by radar the Japanese planes went untouched as they made their surprise attack. A flew P-40’s were able to get off the ground and engage the enemy during the raid but the damage was done and 5 battleships and thousands of men were dead and wounded. This was the opening to the greatest conflict the United States would ever be apart of.
Having talked with veterans and heard their stories, when approached about the subject of the Pearl Harbor raid, each of them had a note of sadness in their voice. Even though most were not there in person, they all heard about the raid and knew what it meant for the country. Many of them agreed that there was anger initially, after time it went away to feelings of remorse. Today we celebrate these brave men for what they did after the attack, like the Doolittle Raiders, who made a surprise raid in 16 B-25’s launched from the carrier Hornet against Tokyo. Today is a day we remember not only for those that we lost but for what it meant during the years that followed Pearl Harbor.
It was strong, lethal, rugged, and heavy, but the P-47 got the job done and it brought it’s pilots home safe. The P-47 Thunderbolt was Republic’s answer to the need for a single-engine fighter early in WWII. This massive plane weighed 10,000lbs when emptied, had armor plating, eight 50 caliber machine guns, and self-sealing fuel tanks. Like most planes when it came off of the assembly line there were issues but as more were, pilots found ways to improve upon them and they became well-liked by those that flew and maintained it. Several years ago I was very glad to be able to go down to Planes of Fame where five P-47’s attended. It was quite the show one which I can’t wait to see happen again.
There are some days in history that are harder to remember than others, mainly because those days mark something awful but nevertheless they are an important day. Seventy-five years ago the allied powers dropped the second atomic bomb on Japan. Six days later, Japan surrendered and WWII was officially over. While the ink wasn’t dry until September, and fighting occurred on islands in the Pacific far longer than September, officially it was over. The use of atomic weapons changed the face of the globe forever and while the cost was justified at the time, the idea being that more would die in an invasion than using the bomb, it is still hard to fathom that mankind was capable of such a thing. WWII saw a massive change in technology in a very short amount of time, not much different than the world we live in today. With these technological advancements comes the responsibility to use them wisely.
I probably won’t get to see this year but for the last year, I had the privilege of the B-25 Maid in the Shade come up to visit as part of the Three Forks Flyin. Big bombers are a rare sight in Montana these days but back during WWII, they were quite common as Montana had a couple of training bases.
Today marks a very important anniversary, the 76th anniversary of the D-Day landings, which were the allied invasion of Europe in 1944. This invasion gave the allies a foothold in France that allowed them to push back against German-occupied Europe. Beach heads, Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, and Utah were the designated landing spots and were heavily fortified by the Germans. Omaha Beach was the deadliest with the high cliffs and heavy fortifications. The original plan for the allies was to link up the beaches by the end of the first day but due to heavy resistance, it wasn’t until 8 days later that they were secure. Many brave men from multiple nations helped secure this victory without which the war would’ve been much different.
The C-47 or C-53 based on its use were used to drop paratroopers behind enemy lines and push the Germans out of the beach areas and nearby towns and villages. It was the largest airborne drop in history. The planes were marked with the black and white stripes so that they wouldn’t be shot by friendly ground fire.
This was one powerful plane! The F8F Bearcat was Grumman’s answer to the climb to rate ratio that at the time was deficient. After the Battle of Midway, Grumman pilots in the field were demanding aircraft with better performance. At the time, Grumman was introducing the F6F Hellcat, which was a large step up from the F4F Wildcat but still didn’t meet the demands the pilots were looking for. This was 1942, with the release of the Hellcat in 1943. Grumman used the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine for the Hellcat, which was the most powerful American made engine at that time with 2,000 horsepower. Thus it also was used for the Bearcat.
Modifications to the fuselage length, wingspan, vertical stabilizer, amount of fuselage behind the pilot’s head, canopy, landing gear, prop, and many other factors helped bring the weight down to 7,650lbs when empty. The result of all these modifications was a max speed of over 400mph and a rate of climb of 4,465 ft/min. However; due to the length of time to design, test, and produce the Bearcat, it never saw combat in WWII. The Bearcat had operational status with Fighter Squadron (VF) 19 on this day seventy-five years ago but the Cat never was able to make its mark. That being said, the Bearcat was believed to be one of Grumman’s best planes as it has been used for years as a racing plane, breaking speed records for piston-powered aircraft and even was the plane of choice for the Blue Angels at one point.
There’s nothing quite like the morning glow of sunrise on a freshly polished airplane. It’s a strange combination of the natural world and the mechanical. Even if the plane is backlit it will still pop. Of course, a small trick to help make the silhouetted side come out is to use the shadow slider in ACR.
Today is a very important day and I hope that it gets recognized this year with everything else that is going on. Today marks the 75th Anniversary of VE Day, Victory Europe when Germany surrounded in 1945 bringing to an end the ground war of WWII. WWII wasn’t officially over until Japan surrendered in August of 1945 but for many a large part of the destruction was over. Many brave soldiers lost their lives in this bloody conflict and many more civilians lost their lives needlessly.
Five years ago, a massive tribute was held over the national mall when 52 WWII planes flew over the State Capitol in honor of this tremendous day. Over seven hundred veterans and thirty thousand people showed up to view this once in a lifetime event.
When you’re a photographer you get to be a part of many great moments that most people don’t even know about. I’ve been fortunate in my young career as a photographer to have been a part of some of these moments. Of all the ones I have been a part of, none have been more impactful on me then this one. Seeing a B-29 fly is pretty amazing in todays world but seeing one fly over the National Mall is epic.