Discussion in 'General' started by dbf, Oct 22, 2010.
I think they called it Duck tape at first.
Apparently the Bell Airacobra was given to just one RAF squadron (601), who trialed it for a few months and used it operationally on just one occasion, a strike in 1941 against barges in Dunkirk.
Gentlemen, this is one of those stories that is so strange that it has to be true. It will also make a great story to tell the lads at the pub one night before things get out of hand. Y'all's pubs are open over there now, ain't they?
Saw something last night on the TV (telly) that was interesting and a new thing that I learned about WW2. Pretty neat actually. The show was called Mysteries of the Museum. Hit and miss type of programming. How do y'all spell "programming" over there, y'all put an "e" in it somewheres eh? Anyway, seems that sometime in March 1942, screen actress Lucille Ball was motoring in her motorcar somewhere in the outlying Los Angeles area (and not in town), she heard deafening music. Immediately she turned the car radio off but the music was still there. It continued for a short time until it stopped. A short time later in her car (like days or maybe a week or so later) another incident took place, but it was not music this time but a series of throbbing beeps. She determined that the sound was coming out of her mouth. Ewwwww. Later on (again, another date and not the same evening) she related the story to her friend and mentor, the famous screen actor Buster Keaton. He said to her that he had read about this phenomena before and the source of the problem is the fillings in the cavities of her teeth. Sure enough she had dental work earlier in the year just prior to these incidents. Keaton continued in relating that the metals used in her fillings acted as a receiver for radio waves. The incidents were reported to the FBI, and surprisingly they took enough interest into the matter to investigate further. After careful interviewing and analyzing of taken information by specialists, the second incident was determined to be Morse code. Lucy said that she remembered driving past a radio station with a huge tower on the premises in the first incident but did not remember anything of the like in the second incident. When the vicinity of the second incident was pointed out to the FBI on a map, subsequent monitoring discovered a clandestine communications installation. Yes, very sinister indeed. The place was pinpointed and raided, and it yes it was manned by Japanese nationals. Those sneaky yellow bastards! Their shop was quickly closed up, materials and machines carted off and the operators whisked away into the night. Executive Order 9066 (authorizing the relocation of Japanese-American citizens in the states along the Pacific coast) was issued by FDR in February of 1942 with relocation commencing a month later. Obviously these unscrupulous types of East Asian orientation were not scooped up and shipped off like their American lookalikes, which was still going on at the time Lucille Ball and her fillings fingered their operation. Dang. What luck eh? Good thing that they didn't have to file a report of their failings and Lucy's fillings to the Emperor. Looks like those Japanese fellows would have had "some 'splaining to do" (get it?).
Yes it was a very strange story. It took awhile to absorb this business, but it was on TV so it had to be true. The History Channel at that. All I could come with was "WTF did I just watch?" I looked for further information to confirm it but all I found out that I also didn't know was that Lucille Ball was a Red, and not just a redhead. She was a registered card carrying commie as far back as 1936. Yes, sad but true. I wonder if David O'Selznick knew this when she auditioned for the part of Scarlet (yes, the irony here!) O'Hara in 1939? Frankly my dear, I don't give a dang....but what a story!
I read the squadron asked for the return of the Hurricane. There again the Russians spoke well of the P39!
I wonder if they were told to trial it just so the Air Ministry could say they were equipping a squadron with it to keep the Americans sweet with an eye to loans of future different aircraft?
The Bell Airacobra order was taken up by the British Direct Purchasing Commission in September 1940 from the order of the French Air Force which on the fall of France was cancelled. It was a question of the government buying any aircraft available to cope with the serious military situation at the time.
Its engine was installed behind the pilot with the prop driven through an extended shaft which proved to be a source of mechanical unreliability. Delivered to No 601 Squadron in September 1941 after trials at Duxford it was rejected in December 1941 and the squadron converted to Spitfires in March 1942. The Airacobra initially replaced the Hurricane but its service at home was short lived but it served with the Med Allied Air Forces later in the war.
Britain & France were seduced (some might say duped) by the Bell marketing hype about the P-39 prototype. It had promised 400mph top speed (hence the P-400 designation for the export models), 36,000ft ceiling and heavy armament incl the 37mm cannon. The prototype, which first flew on 6 April 1939, fell just short of this but, and it was a big but, it was without armament and and other military fittings so was much lighter than production aircraft. The French ordered 200 in Oct 1939 (165 as complete aircraft and 35 as spare parts).
On the fall of France in June 1940, the USA agreed that Britain could take over all the French contracts. Some renegotiation took place and the French order became 170 + 30 in spares. Britain then added a further 505 to the order for a total of 675.
Only 22 were ever used by 601 squadron between August 1941 and March 1942. There were a number of teething problems (compasses going haywire when the 20mm cannon was fired for example although that is disputed by some and a dislike of the car door access to the cockpit) with them as in any other new piece of equipment but it earned the aircraft a bad reputation. The real problem however was that the Allison engine did not have sufficient performance at the 20,000+ft that the European air war was then being fought at. After only 4 operational sorties in Oct 1941, they were taken off operations.
So 601 traded for them for the Spitfire Vb which was by then rolling off the production lines in large numbers. 601then departed for Malta (aircraft and pilots on USS Wasp in April 1942) and ground crews for the Middle East via the Cape. It came together again in the Middle East later in 1942.
As for the remaining aircraft of the order, some were passed on to Russia as part of Britain's Lend Lease contribution to that country. Other were passed to the USAAF when they arrived in Britain in 1942, while still others were requisitioned by the USAAF when the Pacific war broke out and were retained in the USA.
A further 2700+ Airacobras were allocated to Britain under Lend-Lease but all were passed on to Russia.
Airacobras saw extensive service with the USAAF in the Med and the Pacific through until 1944.
Just some additional info. The one that flew in April of 1939 had the turbo per the original specs.
A statement summing up the P-39 from Profile Publication number 165.
"With its tough hide and the spirit of its defiant pilots in the face of overwhelming odds ,it bought enough time for the full might of the United States to be geared for war"
Iron Dog: Bell P-39 Aircobra
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