Part of the near-routine web trawl this morning for things Jalopy related brought forth news. Someone from the Facebook group “You Know You’re From Joplin If…” quoted one of the pages from this blog in late 2017. With the post about the Jalopy was a copy of the 1984 Joplin Globe article, about which almost no-one knew when I visited the Globe in 2006. I have therefore requested to join this group and see if anyone knows anything else.
As a secondary footnote, Bill Caldwell the Globe “Librarian” never did reply to my email of 1 year ago.
There has been a considerable hiatus while I did a spot of teaching in Fall 2017 and Spring 2018. I may have a few frantic days ahead while I evaluate some new teaching texts. I’ve also put myself in a slightly warmer seat by thinking I might get a journal article about the Jalopy written up. This last thought was given some more impetus by the public unveiling of “Memphis Belle” at the NMUSAF. A little extra structure will do no harm. More of this perhaps in another post.
Today’s trawl through things B-24 related brought to light another short-lived derivative of the B-24. So short-lived only two were ever made. It was the Consolidated / Convair Model 39 / Model 104 “Liberator Liner” – offered to the US Navy who designated it XR2Y-1. The Liberator heritage is visible in the wings and PB4Y-2 Privateer tail.
According to the aerofiles website, the first prototype flew in April 1944. the Navy signed a letter of intent for around 250 examples, but cancelled in July 1944. Perhaps the success of the C-54 / R5D led to the Navy’s lack of enthusiasm. They returned the aircraft to Convair, who then loaned it to American Airlines who used it as a freighter, naming it “City of Salinas”. According to aerofiles, its career was brief, hauling fresh fruit and produce from the West Coast to the East. The second prototype NX3939 first flew in September 1944 and was allocated BuNo 09803. Both aircraft were scrapped in 1945.
There are some interesting photographs from the San Diego Air and Space Museum archive which give some impressions of the machine. It’s said to look like a small B-29 and indeed it reminds me just a little bit of the TU-70 passenger derivative of the TU-4/B-29 of Soviet fame.
Another photograph from the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive is a little tantalizing. That’s NX30039 on the ground, but what’s that vertical stabilizer in the background? Is it the other R2Y-1 or is it a PB4Y-2? Those stabilizers are the same shape. The paint job suggests to me it’s a Privateer, since NX3939 was fairly well polished, but it’s a nice thought.
Operation Varsity, according to its Wikipedia article, was the largest airborne operation in history to be conducted on a single day and in one location. It involved more than 16,000 paratroopers and a very large number of aircraft and gliders.
Varsity was part of Operation Plunder, the Anglo-American-Canadian assault under Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery to cross the northern Rhine River and from there enter Northern Germany. Varsity was meant to help the surface river assault troops secure a foothold across the Rhine River in Western Germany by landing two airborne divisions on the eastern bank of the Rhine near the village of Hamminkeln and the town of Wesel.
The Liberators of the 44th Bomb Group were involved in the resupply effort to troops in Wesel on March 24th, and one of those Liberators was Joplin Jalopy. During this mission the only casualty to a crew member flying on the Jalopy occurred. Sgt Anibal Diaz was Left Waist gunner in 2nd Lt. Leonard G. Pyle’s crew, on their third mission. Diaz was throwing supplies through either the empty ball turret hatch or the bomb bay when his chest pack parachute became entangled with the shorud lines of the supply canisters. He was dragged from the aircraft and fell to his death. The Jalopy was flying at 200-300 feet giving him little or no time to open his parachute. One other aircraft from the 506th BS was shot down on the mission – 42-50896 bar-R “Southern Comfort III” piloted by 2nd Lt. Max E. Chandler. Two crew members survived the crash. 42-100314 G+ (1st Lt. Leonard J. Crandell and crew) of the 67th BS was also lost. All on board were killed.
Pyle’s crew on this mission was
PYLE, LEONARD G. 2nd Lt. Pilot.
SCHAKE, DONALD M. 2nd Lt. Co-pilot.
SOLOMAN, ED. M. 2nd Lt. Navigator.
GOHL, HARRY G. Sgt. Nose Gun/Togglier.
WOLFSON, MURRAY R. Sgt. Radio Operator.
WEISS, PAUL Sgt. Flight Engineer / Top Turret.
CLARK, PAUL J. Sgt. Right Waist Gunner.
DIAZ, ANIBAL C Sgt. Left Waist Gunner. (KIA)
ALLEN, DONALD B. Sgt. Tail Turret.
As the old Pink Floyd song says: “You’ve got to be crazy, got to have a real need…” (“Dogs” from the 1977 album Animals). And certainly sometimes I think that. 12 years ago I sat in the Leonard H. Axe Library at Pittsburg State University in front of a PC in the computer lab and started a blog called “Joplin’s Bomber” on the Google Blogger / Blogspot platform with my brand new GMail address. As I said elsewhere, precious little remains of that blog except a couple of samples in the Wayback Machine of the Internet Archive. I took a new job in Kansas City in the Summer of 2006 and that distance essentially took away most of my time to conduct research.
Fast forward to 2016 and a few people took another interest. Thank you, everyone. I think the dedications are listed elsewhere so I won’t repeat them.
I sincerely hope that 2018 brings forth a little more fruit. I realize I meed to make a lot of this happen myself. One of my professors in Grad School said “You’re supposed to be making original content, not acting as a conduit for other people’s.” Boy, was he right.
Anyway, as I have said elsewhere, Onward and upward.
I was in the new Joplin Public Library today while I was in town and doing some other business. They have a lovely new microfilm viewing area, so I thought I’d look through the back numbers of the Joplin News Herald for any Jalopy related news. This was a pleasant (or unpleasant) surprise. Bil Caldwell’s April 2017 article set me on the trail.
“Three men who had driven a pickup truck under one of the plane’s giant wings were arrested Sunday afternoon at the airport by Police Chief Kendrick Lloyd and Sergeant Clay Brown, who said the three men had used a hacksaw to remove three small motors and were removing other parts, loading them onto the truck.”
One man from Kansas City had hired another man from Diamond and another from Webb City (see details above, I’m not going to name names just yet) to help him remove the parts. The leader was quoted as saying he “understood the plane had been discarded “as junk” and that he was trying to salvage parts from it.”
“While it is true, Lloyd said, that scores of souvenir hunters had just about reduced the giant plane to a junk heap since it was parked on the airfield last summer, some of them removing instruments and gadgets at night, it is not to be completely dismantled and destroyed if police can prevent it.”
It’s sad to think that as early as December 1946 – just four months after the Jalopy’s arrival, young men such as these three were stripping significant pieces from the aircraft.
It’s weird to remember that I almost got a couple of people in Joplin to remember the 60th anniversary of the arrival of the Jalopy in Joplin, and here we are looking at the 71st anniversary.
Hopefully the image below won’t tread on too many copyright toes because of its appalling quality. This is scan (by me) of a printed copy of a microfilm article of the Joplin Globe for August 13th 1946, commemorating the arrival of the Jalopy in Joplin the previous Sunday. Somewhere in my collection I’ve got a better resolution copy of these images. They are the work of the celebrated Joplin photographer Murwin Mosler, who took a very large number of historic Joplin pictures over the years. A very big version of the bottom picture is now on the wall of the passenger terminal at the new Joplin Regional Airport. I’ve also got a who’s who list of the individuals shown in the top picture. I can tell you that the man standing to the left and behind the slightly portly gentleman in the center of the picture is Frank C. Wallower Jr, of the Joplin Civil Air Patrol, who piloted the Jalopy from Altus to Joplin. Wallower had been a B-24 and C-87 pilot in the CBI (China-Burma-India) theater in World War II, but had also reached the rank of Squadron Leader in the RAF before moving across to the USAAF, and so must have a very interesting personal history, which I am pursuing. The Wallower family were very much Old Joplin, and their former residence (Mission Hills, now The Mansion) forms part of the campus of Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.
During the summer break I have been re-reading the Inspector Morse novels of Colin Dexter, many of which are significantly different from the excellent television drama we all remember and mostly love. It’s been a quiet time for everyone and will get crazier in the weeks to come as we all get ready for a new semester.
A couple of weeks ago I was looking for pictures of RFC scrapping sites at Kingman and Altus. There are a plethora of Kingman pics, and not many of Altus. I think I saw one in Nick Veronico’s Military Aircraft Boneyards (MBI Publishing Company, 2000) a couple of years ago. Oh, and by the way – Nick if you ever read this, thanks for including the piece about the Jalopy (and the acknowledgement) in Hidden Warbirds II (Zenith Press, 2014) which was the outcome of a few exchanged emails we had a few years ago.
Googling idly through rafts of sadly familiar images of B-17s awaiting the smelter at Kingman, I found a few pictures of a specific group of B-24s waiting, and being scrapped there in 1947. I cannot track down the original article but I understand the photographer was Peter Stackpole of LIFE magazine, and that the pictures were taken in about 1947. Like most images on the web they come and go, so finding them tends to be a hit and miss affair, although many of them have been “pinned” on Pinterest.
The picture below is sad enough, and seems to show a great many engine-less NMF B-24s, most of which don’t wear any group or theater markings at all. Somewhere else, there is a picture of a man painting out the US ‘star and bar’ national insignia with black paint (as you can see here on the port wings). Other pictures in the portfolio show B-24s which seem to have had operational careers or at least some kind of career which resulted in the usual range of nose art.
What seized my attention most was the picture below. Those of you who have the same train-spotting genes as me will understand why it caught my breath. This is B-24J-1-FO 42-50536, which seems to have had no operational career at all, perhaps staying stateside from the day it was built, in 1944. It’s Ironic because the aircraft that (probably) preceded it on the production line at Willow Run had a varied operational career in the Eighth Air Force and almost met the same fate at Altus, OK. The picture bellow is the recorded demise of Joplin Jalopy‘s neighbor on the production line.