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Video: Inside “Swamp Ghost”

High above recently captured Rabaul, New Britain, and piloting a fully loaded B-17E Flying Fortress, Capt. Frederick “Fred” C. Eaton, Jr. had just spotted his target – a 10,000-ton enemy freighter. As he lined up to unleash his payload, the bomb bay doors malfunctioned. The crew worked feverishly to open the doors as he circled for a second attempt. Japanese anti-aircraft batteries zeroed in on the lone bomber’s altitude and unleashed a hellish barrage, damaging the wings. Lining up the target once more, he went in. This time, the doors opened and the bombs fell toward their target. As if on cue, Japanese fighters swooped in, guns blazing. Eaton and his crew were in a fight for their lives.

The aerial battle raged, bullets and cannon shells riddling the Flying Fortress as it ran for cover. In the skirmish, tail gunner John Hall claimed an enemy aircraft while waist gunners William Schwartz and Russell Crawford added two more claims to the tally. In the aftermath, Eaton...

The Ford Island Dispensary

This is the third in a series of posts about buildings on Ford Island, NAS Pearl Harbor. Early in the attack, the Ford Island dispensary was damaged by a high-level Japanese bomb that exploded in its central courtyard. However, it continued to operate, treating the wounded until they could be evacuated to hospitals.

Figure 1: Dispensary Courtyard Damage

Source: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland. Photo 80-G-32599. Dated December 7, 1941.

During the months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy engaged in a vast building program in Hawaii. This included the Fleet Air Base Dispensary on Ford Island designated Building 76. It was created to perform lighter medical care. The dispensary was new but fully operational by the day of the attack. Its design was unusual; it was built around an open-air courtyard with a concrete floor. This gave it a feeling of openness, although its overall design said “generic government...

Hangar 37:  Gateway to the Museum

This is the second article about the Ford Island Seaplane Base, which was the first Japanese target on Dec. 7, 1941. The first article gave an overview of the base and Ford Island. In this article, we will look at Hangar 37 and its role during the Japanese attack.

Key Points

  • Hangar 37 is the entry point for guests arriving at Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor.
  • At the time of the attack, it was home to the VJ-1 utility squadron, which had nine Grumman J2F “Ducks” and nine Sikorsky JRS-1s.
  • During the attack, VJ-1 squadron members mounted machine guns in the back seats of their J2Fs and returned fire.
  • After the base’s main radio was knocked out, Hangar 37’s radio operated as the base’s radio during the attack.
  • Five JRS-1s flew out to find the Japanese fleet. They were unarmed except for a few Marines with Springfield rifles in the passenger compartment. The five pilots and one Marine received the Silver Star for their courageous efforts.
  • The JRS-1...

Battle of the Coral Sea

May 4-8, 1942


The Battle of Midway is well known as the turning point in the Pacific war. However, if not for the Battle of the Coral Sea a month earlier, the three American carriers at Midway would have faced six Japanese carriers of the type that had devastated Pearl Harbor five months prior, instead of only four — and the Battle of Midway might have ended differently.

Coral Sea was the world’s first all-carrier battle, and the first sea battle in which neither side could see the other. Both the U.S. and the Japanese navies thought they understood how to fight using carriers. Both discovered they were wrong. At the end of this painful learning experience, the United States had lost the 41,000-ton carrier Lexington, while Japan had lost only the 11,000-ton carrier Shoho.

The battle was a strategic victory for the United States. The Japanese invasion fleet turned back, saving the region that a Japanese air base at Port Moresby would have dominated. More...

Ford Island - Part I: Overview


Ford Island was the epicenter of the attack on December 7, 1941. Its seaplane base had dozens of long-range PBY patrol bombers capable of locating the Japanese fleet after the attack. Along her coast were moored seven of the Pearl Harbor fleet’s nine battleships. Ford Island is also where the Pacific Fleet’s three carriers would have moored had they been in port that day. The attack destroyed nearly all of the patrol planes. It also disabled the Pacific Fleet’s battleship force, making it impossible for the U.S. to carry the fight to Japan to spoil the Japanese expansion in the Pacific.

Today, Ford Island is still an active military base. However, it is now possible for tourists to visit parts of this historic battlefield. Pacific Aviation Museum gives visitors access to historic Hangar 37 and Hangar 79 and is in the process of renovating the famous control tower. The museum will eventually expand to include Hangar 54. Access to the Missouri is also on Ford...

North American F-100F Super Sabre (S/N 58-1232)

Misty Forward Air Controller (FAC)

Figure 1: F-100F Misty FAC

Painting by David Tipps / DavidTipps.com

Key Points

  • Follow on to the North American F-86 Sabre, named the F-100 Super Sabre. “F-100,” popularly shortened to “Hun.”
  • First operational supersonic fighter. First aircraft to explore sustained supersonic flight (sometimes tragically).
  • George Welch of Pearl Harbor fame took prototype supersonic on first flight. Collier Trophy in 1954.
  • In first 100,000 hours, 95 major accidents with 6 fatalities. George Welch died testing the F-100A. Aircraft was improved, but quarter lost in crashes.
  • In Vietnam, flew 250,000 sorties—more than any other fixed-wing aircraft. More than number of P-51 Mustang sorties in World War II. Almost 200 were lost in combat. Operated mostly south of the DMZ.
  • Two-seat F-100Fs created as trainers. In Vietnam, were the first Wild Weasel anti-SAM aircraft and were forward aircraft controllers (FAC) above the DMZ. Our F-100F...

Huey 705’s (Unplanned) Last Day in Vietnam

Pacific Aviation Museum’s UH-1H Huey (S/N 69-15705) is one of our Vietnam War veteran aircraft. She led a charmed life until her last day there. It had not been planned to be her last day. But then in Vietnam, few things went as planned.

Built in September 1970, she was serving in Vietnam by November. The “705” spent most of her time in the 229th Aviation Assault Battalion of the famous 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). The “Air Cav” was the first Army division built around the mobility of helicopters. The division had two aviation assault battalions. Each had about sixty troop-carrying helicopters organized into three companies. Each also had a fourth company of helicopter gunships that protected the assault helicopters entering and leaving landing zones. Our helicopter spent most of her time in B Company.

Figure 1: Large Assault

Our helicopter is an H model, which was the last model of the “big Hueys” developed during the war. Compared to the earlier D model, she...

General Dynamics F-111 AARDVARK/PIG


Two-Seat Medium-Range Heavy Tactical Bomber

Royal Australian Air Force F-111Cs in Flight at Nellis Air Force Base. United States Air Force photograph 060214-F-6911G-135. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Australian_F-111s.jpg


Key Points

  • Although designated a fighter, the F-111 was a medium-range heavy tactical bomber
  • Nicknamed the Aardvark, a solitary night hunter with excellent senses that roots round in the dirt
  • First operational swing-wing aircraft, first turbofan with an afterburner, and pioneer of terrain-following flight
  • Extremely long range on internal fuel alone; usually bombed without tanker support
  • Heavy bomb load
  • Mach 1.2 speed while hugging the terrain; Mach 2.5 at high altitude
  • Highly politicized and wasteful procurement process
  • Initial disaster in Vietnam
  • Later success in Vietnam, Tripoli, and Desert Storm
  • Used by the Royal Australian Air Force until 2010
  • Our aircraft flew for many years with the Royal...

Sikorsky H-34 Choctaw/Seabat/Seahorse

Assault, Medevac, Utility, and Anti-Submarine Warfare Helicopter

Source: Ray Panko. Photo taken at Udvar-Hazy Center, 2010.

Bullet Points

  • Last of the large piston-engine military helicopters (along with the Piasecki H-21 Flying Banana).
  • Used by the U.S. Navy, Army, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force Reserves.
  • First flight March 8, 1954. Entered Navy and Army service in 1955. Entered Marines service in 1957.
  • Used by the French in the Algerian War, where combat assault evolved
  • CH-34D (The “Dog”) used heavily by the Marines in Vietnam for combat assault
  • Big and vulnerable, especially for pilots in their high cockpit
  • Comparable in performance to the UH-1 Huey but with greater capacity
  • Approximately 1,800 built by Sikorsky. Another 600 manufactured in England, France, and Italy. Production ended in 1970.
  • Our HH-34J (58-1366) began life as a Navy HSS-1 antisubmarine warfare (ASW) helicopter. After it was retired, the USAF refurbished it...

Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress Swamp Ghost


Her Real Name Is 41-2446

An early Boeing B-17E aircraft like 41-2446. Note she does not have a tail number, which indicates she has not yet been delivered to the Army Air Forces.

United States Army Air Forces aircraft 41-2446 has made an immense journey. Seventy-two years and thousands of miles back and forth across the Pacific have finally brought her to her new and final home, Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor.

She started operational life as a Boeing B-17E heavy bomber, delivered to the USAAF on December 6, 1941, just one day before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. She became one of the planes striking back at the Japanese in one of America’s first heavy-bomber combat missions of World War II.

When Army Air Forces Lt. John Haig accepted her in Seattle, she did not have a name. She rolled off Boeing’s assembly line as tail number 2257, an early edition of 512 E models delivered in defense of the nation.

Her design pedigree began in the early...

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