Mid-Atlantic Air Museum hosted the 31st annual World War II Weekend on June 3-5, 2022. Saturday’s crowd was believed to be a record, and enthusiasm was high with a large number of aircraft, WWII vehicles and reenactors.
Weather was near flawless with temperatures in the high 70s all weekend with no rain which traditionally plagues at least one day of the event. The weekend was not without challenges. Several aircraft were down for a portion or the entirety of the event due to mechanical issues. The CAF Corsair also struck a bird during Friday’s show, causing it to miss Saturday’s flight.
L-Bird is slang for the various liaison aircraft that served in nearly every major battle of the war. Liaison aircraft are light aircraft used for local observation and spotting for artillery units. The L-Birds were used from WWII through Vietnam. During Vietnam, the mission was eventually taken over by helicopters.
Trainers were represented by several examples of all levels of the WWII trainers – Basic, Primary and Advanced.
“Jersey Jerk” T-6/SNJ Texan Formation Team
Pacific Theatre Bombers
Bombers from the Pacific Theatre of Operations were represented by the SBD Dauntless, Val Diver Bomber and Kate torpedo bomber.
The Dauntless was the US Navy’s dive bomber. The airframe served from the initial days of the war to the end. Although it was slow and considered obsolete, the aircraft and its crew used it with major success. The Dauntless is credited with sinking over 300,000 tons of enemy shipping, which includes five aircraft carries. Four of those were during the Battle of Midway.
This particular Dauntless is part of the Commemorative Air Force, and is operated at CAF Airbase Georgia. The aircraft has been with the CAF for a number of years, and was restored to its present condition during a multi-year restoration from 1991 – 1999. The paint scheme is accurate to the time period around the Battle of the Marianas (“The Marianas Turkey Shoot).
Alan Armstrong owns this reproduction “Kate”, the Japanese Navy’s torpedo bomber. The aircraft is also part of the Commemorative Air Force, and is operated at CAF Airbase Georgia. The airframe was purposely built for use in the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! and has also been used in numerous other movies and television shows.
The aircraft is currently configured in the markings of the Group Leader from the Second Carrier Division of the Carrier Hiryu. The aircraft participated on the Pearl Harbor attack, with the specific target of the on the Battleship, U.S.S. California.
The Val was the Japanese equivalent to the SBD Dauntless at the outbreak of WWII. This specific aircraft is also a reproduction and was purposely built for for use in the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! The aircraft is owned by Ken Laird.
The medium bombers were represented this year by two B-25 Mitchells. The Delaware Aviation Museum brought their highly polished “Panchito” while Tom Duffy brought the natural aluminum finished “Take-Off Time” Both Mitchells are later “J” models with the bombardier nose.
Panchito is one of the aircraft selling rides during the weekend, making it one of the busiest aircraft on the ramp.
Jerry Wells Aerobatic Demo
Perhaps the act that surprised me the most was Jerry Wells’ aerobatic demonstration in the BU-133 “Jungmeister.” Although an older design, the aircraft was in immaculate condition and was incredibly nimble. I was very entertained and surprised at the aggressiveness of the demo. I look forward to the next time I am able to see Mr. Wells perform.
Heavy bombers in attendance included the Yankee Air Museum‘s B-17G Flying Fortress “Yankee Lady”, Commemorative Air Force’s B-29 Super Fortress “FiFi” and B-24 Liberator “Diamond Lil”.
“FiFi” is the B-29 Superfortress belonging to the CAF B-29/B-24 Squadron. After the war, she was originally used as a missile target on the China Lake range. Thankfully she was not damaged and rescued by the CAF around 1970. She flew for a number of years as the lone airworthy B-29. In 2006 she was grounded due to engine maintenance. Original engines were problematic and spare parts in short supply. The decision was made to retrofit custom built engines to allow FiFi to return to the skies. After four years, she flew again in 2010.
Yankee Lady is a B-17G Flying Fortress built by Vega as USAAF serial number 44-85829. She was built too late to be used during the war and was placed into storage. She was eventually transferred to the United States Coast Guard, where she served until 1958. In 1959 she was sold for scrap mental, but was saved when purchased and used as an aerial firefighter in 1966. In 1969 Like several other aircraft in attendance, she was used in the filming of the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!
In 1985, she was purchased by the Yankee Air Force (as the Yankee Air Museum was known by at the time) and was immediately placed into the hangar for restoration. She returned to the skies in 1995 and is painted represent an aircraft in the markings of a B-17G assigned to the 8th Air Force, 381st Bomb Group flying out of Ridgewell, England.
“Diamond Lil” is the B-24 Liberator belonging to the CAF B-29/B-24 Squadron. She is likely the oldest surviving B-24 as her serial number is the 25th of 18,482 B-24s built. She was originally assigned to the Royal Air Force as a trainer, but a landing accident changed her fate. She was subsequently used as a B-24 trainer, B-24 development and a cargo variant (C-87) hauling parts between B-24 factories.
Diamond Lil became a member of the CAF in 1967 and was originally painted in the in the colors of the 98th BG, of the Ploesti oil field raid. In 2006 she was repainted and renamed. Then in 2012 it was decided to return her to her original name “Diamond Lil”. She subsequently suffered from a nose gear failure that required a year’s worth of restoration work. Like the B-29, she is one of two flying examples of the B-24 currently.
The WWII fighters were well represented with five different examples flying.
Certainly one of the highlights was the appearance of the Military Air Museum‘s P-39 Airacobra. There are only a handful of these aircraft flying, so to see one is a rare treat. The aircraft is a P-39F, and was originally serving in Australia when it crashed on May 1, 1942 during a training exercise.
The aircraft was recovered in 1972 and subsequently restored. Although marked in USAAF markings, the aircraft is also marked as a P-39Q that was supplied to the Soviets.
P-63 King Cobra
The King Cobra is part of the Commemorative Air Force, and is operated at CAF Airbase Georgia. Although the P-63 looks similar to the P-39, it is actually a totally new design. It was redesigned to address some of the shortcomings of the P-39.
The airframe was sold as surplus in 1946 and flown by several civilians until 1975. After a legal battle, restoration began on the deteriorated airframe around 1980 by the CAF Missouri Wing. However, a flood damaged the hangar and numerous parts. The restoration was abandoned by the Missouri Wing and subsequently acquired by CAF Airbase Georgia in 1996. Full restoration was restarted in 1999 and the first flight was conducted in February, 2017. CAF decided to mark the aircraft in an accurate livery once completed. The aircraft now wears markings during its time with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) – the forerunner of today’s NASA.
The weekend highlight was the two Bell machines flying in formation.
” The Jacky C” is a P-40 owned by the American Airpower Museum.
“Red Nose” is the nickname of this airframe and as is the aircraft that started the Commemorative Air Force. She now flies out of CAF Airbase Georgia. She began service in 1945 with the USAAF and served until 1947. She went into storage until 1951 when she was sold to the Canadian Air Force, where she served until 1957. She was then sold to the founders of the CAF in 1957.
A restoration was initiated in 1993 and she was transferred to Airbase Georgia in 2002. Red Nose represents the aircraft of Capt. David Howe, who flew with the 334th FS, 4th FG, 8th AF.
Two Corsairs were present at the event. One from the CAF Airbase Georgia (checker pattern) and the other I believed to be owned by Tom Duffy. The checkered Corsair struck a bird on Saturday, so photo opportunities were limited.
The USAAF fighters formed up for a rare formation flight of four USAAF fighters.
One of the yearly highlights is the large battle reenactments. This year was based on the ETO.
Around the Field
There is so much to see and experience at the event. Aircraft, reenactor camps, WWII era themed entertainment.
P-61 Black Widow
The Mid-Atlantic Air Museum continues to restore their very rare P-61C Black Widow.
A special shout out goes out to the crew of “Beach City Baby”. She is a C-53 Skytrooper owned by Vintage Wings, Inc. My son and I met the crew at breakfast of our hotel, including the owner, Jason Capra. Each of these fellas were very fun, polite and gracious with their time to talk to my son.
I had the opportunity to watch them interact with other people on the show grounds. Their interactions with others were similar to ours. I can honestly say these guys are a class act all around.
The CAF West Texas Wing brought the rare SB2C Helldiver. She was unable to participate in the flying portion of the show due to some mechanical issues. We were able to get a close up look when she was moved to the static display area.