Welcome to Warbird Wednesday! Today we are visiting the last night fighter, the North American F-82 Twin Mustang, which was originally designed as a long-range escort fighter for the Boeing B-29 Superfortress in WWII. This aircraft was introduced in 1946, after the war had ended. With fast speeds of about 460 mph, this aircraft was dominantly used in Strategic Air Command. They were also heavily used in the Korean War; the first three aerial victories over North Korea were made by American F-82s. They were 272 models built, retiring in 1953.
Tuskegee Airman Claude Davis was a cadet in Class 44-GTE. Class 44-GTE translates into the seventh class of 1944 for twin-engine pilot training. Claude and the rest of the class were training to be B-25 Mitchell pilots and aircrew.
The first ten weeks of classes were considered “pre-flight.” This is when they learned about using the radio, basic meteorology, navigation, etc. Then came primary flight training where the cadets flew with their instructors in Stearman PT-17 biplanes or Fairchild PT-19 Cornells. Once the cadet had learned enough to show the instructor that they could safely take off, fly around a bit and then land the airplane, the instructor would allow them to fly solo.
Then they would go through basic training in the Vultee BT-13, learning how to fly a more complex airplane. In the BT-13, they would start making cross-country flights and learn some basic combat tactics.
The last step in the process was advanced training. For a twin-engine pilot, advanced training was in the Beechcraft AT-10, a twin-engine airplane made specifically for twin-engine instruction.
When they had successfully completed all of this flight training, they were introduced to the B-25 Mitchell bomber. For Claude Davis, this took place at Douglas Army Air base in Arizona. Claude loved the B-25. “That plane was great,” he recalled. “She was sweet – solid, easy to fly and very stable. We had to learn all about her – using oxygen in high altitudes, bombardment techniques, machine guns and so forth. It was great but really tough.”
All of Tuskegee’s twin-engine pilots and crews were now in the 477th Bombardment Group. The intent was to send the 477th into the Pacific War, but the war ended before they could deploy.
One great thing that all of this did was show 23-year-old Claude Davis that he could handle a B-25 with confidence. This confidence stayed with him the rest of his life, as it did with the rest of the 477th pilots.
Welcome to Warbird Wednesday! Today we are visiting another night fighter, the Bristol Beaufighter. This multi-role aircraft was introduced in 1940 as a heavy fighter, having the ability to carry a torpedo, six machine guns and four cannons! The Beaufighter saw immediate success, leading to 5,928 models built and having 59 total squadrons. This effective aircraft was retired in 1960, leaving some models in museums and others still in various bodies of water throughout the world.
Herman Lawson was from the Fresno area of California. He attended Marysville High School where he picked up the nickname “Ace” as the schools star football player.
After having a ride in a friend’s airplane, Lawson became interested in becoming a pilot. He took flying lessons and upon getting his license, he became one of the first African Americans in Northern California to earn a private pilot’s license.
He tried to join the U.S. Army Air Corps, but was initially turned down. Not taking no for an answer, he wrote letters to Congress and to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. That did the trick and he was accepted into the Army, reporting for training at Tuskegee.
He was in Class 42-I-SE at Tuskegee Army Airfield where he received his wings becoming a fighter pilot. He was then assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron.
While flying combat in P-40 Warhawks, P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs, Lawson earned the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He flew 133 missions in World War II’s European Theater including Greece, Bulgaria, Germany, Austria, France, Poland, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia. He survived two engine failures while flying P-40s, one of these resulting in him ditching in the Mediterranean. Lawson later had another P-40 that he named “Ace of Pearls” named in honor of Lawson’s wife Pearl.
Welcome to Warbird Wednesday! Today we are visiting our third night fighter, the British built Boulton Paul Defiant. With its first flight in 1937, the Defiant was best at approaching and attacking other aircrafts from underneath. Their success during the night was obvious, as they would be able to sneak up without the enemies knowledge, leading to 1,064 models being built. They eventually were replaced, as there were numerous deaths and accidents. They went on to be used in gunnery training, target towing, electronic countermeasures and sea-air rescue, being completely retired in 1945.
Welcome to Warbird Wednesday! Today we’re visiting another night fighter, the Messerschmitt Bf 110, developed in Nazi Germany during WWII. Introduced in 1937, this fighter quickly became popular because it was heavier, had quicker speeds reaching up to 295 mph and could carry a large amount of weaponry. Later in WWII, it was developed into a radar-equipped night fighter, becoming the main night-fighting aircraft of Luftwaffe. After 6,170 models were built, the Bf 110 was retired in 1945.
In his senior year of college, Jack Holsclaw enrolled in the government sponsored Civilian Pilot Training Program and earned his pilot’s license. On October 5, 1942, he enlisted in the army as a private. He entered pilot training at Tuskegee Army Airfield as a member of class 43-G-SE. After completing his training, he received his wings and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on July 28, 1943. Lieutenant Holsclaw received advanced training at Selfridge Field near Detroit, Michigan before his squadron was deployed to Italy in December 1943.
Lieutenant Holsclaw was assigned to the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332d Fighter Group, an all-black pursuit squadron. Holsclaw named his favorite P-51 “Bernice Baby,” in honor of his wife.
On July 18, 1944, in an aerial battle over Italy, Holsclaw shot down two German fighters; for this action, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross. By December 1944, Holsclaw had completed 68 combat missions, nearing the limit of 70. Then he became Assistant Operations Officer, an important administrative position that included aerial mission planning. In January 1945, Holsclaw was promoted to captain.
Captain Holsclaw returned to the United States in June 1945 to serve as Assistant Base Operations Officer at Godman Field in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Holsclaw went on to teach and conduct training duties. He was an instructor at the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs at Tuskegee Institute and then Tennessee State College, Nashville. From May 1962 to the end of 1964, he served as Chief of Training Division, Sixth Air Force Reserve Region, at Hamilton Air Force Base, California.
On January 1, 1965, Lieutenant Colonel Holsclaw retired and received the Distinguished Service Medal for his training accomplishments.