Tag Archives: Col. Alan Fisher

It took them 104 years, but the Army finally flew back home !

In February of 1917, the intrepid pioneer pilots of the First Aero Squadron (FAS), stationed at Columbus for 11 months, were ordered back east to be transported to the raging inferno in Europe that became known as WWI.

Since that time, the Army Air Corps, later to be known as the Army Air Forces, fought and won our way through another World War, this time the second global conflict.

Shortly after WWII ended, in 1947, Congress formed the United States Air Force (USAF), an entirely new and independent branch of the U.S. Military, but it did not abandon the Army Aviation Branch.

When the USAF began to grow its ranks, the now much smaller Army Aviation Branch, likewise did not sit still but also began its own regrowth.  Today, it has more pilots, almost entirely ROTARY WING, aviators, than does the USAF, although its inventory of Fixed Wing assets remains quite small.

Not since February 1917, 104 years ago, has the US Army flown into or out of their historic airfield in the small border town of Columbus, NM.

However, last month, on Tuesday, the 14th of December, that all changed, when the 501st General Support Aviation Battalion, stationed at Biggs Army Airfield (adjoining Fort Bliss, in El Paso, Texas), was led into the old Army FAS Airfield at Columbus by its commander, Lt. Colonel Jonathan Guinn.

Colonel Guinn personally flew the number 1 Boeing CH-47 Chinook twin-rotor helicopter into the Airfield, immediately followed by the 2nd Chinook.  Upon landing, the heavy helicopters discharged some 60 young Army Aviators, who then walked from the Airfield into town, to explore their history in the two museums dedicated to the 1916 Punitive Expedition, which as most of you know, became to first instance of sustained combat flying by the fledging new Army flying squadron.

Here, below, you will see that historic event from last December unfold by way of videos of their arrival – – – and of their departure – – – along with many (78) photos of the Airmen and Women who took part in the event.

Click on the below photo’s centered boxed arrow to start the PowerPoint Show of the historic event, but remember, that, except for the opening and closing short videos, the other pictures will change to the next frame at regular intervals of  8 seconds per slide. Again, the entire show has 78 separate photos and two separate videos.

We suggest you use FULL-SCREEN for viewing since the photos are otherwise quite small.

 Should you want to stop the show at any point, simply use your computer’s space bar,  To restart the presentation, then tap the space bar once again.  Remember, the two end piece videos are just under 2:00 minutes each.  The entire show, if not paused, is only 14:16 long.

 

 

 

Steve Watson Tells of Father’s Role as Liberator Pilot in WWII

L to R: Col. Norman Rice, Col. Alan Fisher and Mrs. Ulla Rice chat before lunch.

The most photographed and publicly acclaimed bomber used during WWII is without question, the B-17 Flying Fortress, but there was another less known, yet equally vital heavy bomber used during that global conflict, one which is too often disregarded, but which also played a critical part in the Allied Victory: the mighty LIBERATOR, the B-24, in its many variants.

 

At yesterday’s luncheon of the Daedalians at the El Paso Club in downtown El Paso, thanks to arrangements by Col. Alan Fisher, the flight’s members (all are FASF members!) learned of that LIberator’s exploits, and of Steve Watson’s (below right) father, Frank S. Watson, who was one of those select Army Air Force pilots chosen to fly that Liberator in the European Theater.

Steve Watson starts his presentation about the 467th Bomb Group and his father’s role.

Steve’s dad was one of the lucky aviators who came home safe and sound at the war’s end.  Frank flew the B-24 for the 467th Bombardment Group.  A short 7:00 video of film made about the 467th was shown to the Daedalians along with many personal photos of Steve’s father’s career from his earliest years through the war and then, back at home, when the hostilities ceased. Below you can watch a short 9:00 minute long film made of the 467th’s own “Witchcraft” Liberator


Remember, to see any photograph full size, simply click on it.

And for better viewing, don’t hesitate to open the videos to full-size, too.

L to R above: Larry Spradlin, Virg Hemphill and Jerry Dixon.

Prior to WWII, the main Ford corporation manufacturing factory at Willow Run, was a Ford owned farming operation, where young men learned to use Ford tractors to produce various crops on the 80 some acre area outside Detroit, Michigan.

Just prior to entering the war, the Army contracted with Ford to mass produce the B-24 heavy bombers on an unbelievable scale, finishing one every hour. This unbelievable production lasted throughout the conflict’s duration.  The mass production genius of the Ford Motor Car Company was surely one of the country’s major assets, one that clearly helped the Allies achieve their final victory.

When it was built, it became the largest such airplane manufacturing facility in the world.  Two basic operations took place inside its walls: 1) Manufacturing the airplane’s parts, and; 2) assembling the final product.  In addition to making the airplane, which was designed by the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation of San Diego, CA., Ford also manufactured the large radial air-cooled engines that powered the ship.

Unlike its famous automobiles and trucks, which contained some 15,000 to 16,000 parts, each Liberator contained more than 1,225,000 parts!  As each craft was completed, it was then ground and flight tested right at Willow Run’s huge airfield, an airport facility with enough concrete in its runways and taxiways to make a highway over 125 miles long.  Each of the 4 Ford produced air-cooled and super-charged engines produced 1200 HP.  The normal crew consisted of ten men.  The ship carried 4 tons of bombs, and over five thousand rounds of machine gun ammunition to arm its defenses. At high altitude, the Liberator could cruise over 300 MPH and had a range of over 3,000 miles.

Below is a 7 min. wartime film made of the extraordinary mass-production the made the Liberators.

Unlike its sister heavy bomber, the Flying Fortress, the Liberator had a modern tricycle landing gear, which made it substantially easier to land and handle on the ground.  Another interesting fact about the Willow Run plant was that there were always over 100 bombers being assembled under the huge roof.  Under that vast roof, there were also some 42,000 assembly workers busily putting these then modern aircraft together.

Adjacent to the Willow Run plant, a large school was set up, and before the war’s end, over 50,000 students had been graduated with all the highly technical skills needed in the Willow Run Plant.  There was a teaching staff of more than 100 instructors to get that task successfully completed.

Additionally, a large warehouse was also built nearby, to store the vast array of components that went into each bomber, from sheet metal, bolts, rivets and stringers, to complex aircraft instruments and radio gear. Each airplane had more than 4,000 rivets holding on its lightweight aluminum outer skin.  By the war’s end, Willow Run had produced over 8,685 Liberators! 

Additionally, another 9,815 more B-24s were built elsewhere, for a grand total of 18,500 Liberators produced across the country for use during the war.

L to R above: Larry Spradlin, Cols. Bob Pitt and Flight Captain, Mario Campos, and Virg Hemphill.

L to R above: Cols Mario Campos and Alan Fisher, watch as Presenter, Steve Watson, spreads out his wide assortment of WWII souvenirs touting the 467th Emblem and other related logos.

L to R. Col. Norman Rice and his wife, Ulla, and guest, Dick Heath.

Colonel Mario Campos, Flight Captain, calls the meeting to order.

Colonel Campos introduces the Speaker, Steve Watson, for the day.

Steve Watson starts his presentation about the 467th Bomb Group and his father’s story as a B-24 Pilot in WWII.

Watch as Tom Taylor, a surviving B-24 pilot from WWII, gets back into the only still flying Liberator, to once again take control of the famous bomber off the South Carolina coast.

 

 

MEMBERS PHOTOGRAPHED AT VARIOUS HOLIDAY EVENTS

The following photos were taken at the annual Christmas Luncheon for Daedalian Flight 24 at the El Paso Club,  All members of the Flight are active members of the FASF.  The guest of honor and presenter at the event was Army Aviator, General Laura Yeager (no relation to the famous American Test Pilot, Chuck Yeager!), who briefed the members on her mission at Fort Bliss as Commander of the JOINT TASK FORCE NORTH.  All of the below photos are in high-resolution and can be more fully appreciated by simply clicking on them.

FASF members, Col. Bob Pitt (L) chats with (at center) Aviation Hall of Famer, Bob Dockendorf, at Daedallian holiday event.  AT the podium, at right, in the background is Flight Captain Roger Nichols.

Daedalians and guests prepare for General Yeager’s presentation . . . Her staff is at left: Aide de Camp, Capt. Sperry, and USAF Sergeant Oliver.  The General’s Command is a Joint Command, composed of all the military services.

L to R: Julie and Col. Bob Pitt, Roger Nichols and Bob Dockendorf

L to R at wall: Alma Villezcas, Virg and Jenine Hemphill, Lt. Pfluger, David Ginn, Alan and Melissa Fisher, and forefront, Julie Pitt, District Court Judge Angie Juarez Barilland her husband, Patrick Barill

L to R: Loading up their buffet lunch, Bob Dockendorf, Judy Campos, Alan and Melissa Fisher

Brig. General Laura L Yeager opens her presentation

       General Yeager explains how her Command coordinates with many other Federal Agencies in its mission.

                                                          Col. Bob Pitt and General Yeager

L to R: Outgoing Flight Captain, Roger Nichols, Gen. Yeager, Sgt. Oliver, Capt. Sperry and Col. Pitt

L to R: Gen. Yeager chatting with Cadet Ammber Valverde, the youngest FASF member and UTEP student.

                                              Col. Alan Fisher speaking with Cadet Ammber Valverde

L to R: Ammber Valverde, Gen. Yeager, and Alma Villezcas, FASF Treasurer

The following photos and the video are of the Civil Air Patrol Squadron 24 Christmas party in Las Cruces, NM.

L to R: Michelle Phillips, William Benziger Juanita and Robert Macklin, Alan Fisher, and Walter Dutton, at whose home the event was held.

In front row kneeling or sitting are, L to R:  Alan and Melissa Fisher, Ric Lambart, Walter and Barbara Dutton,  and in the rear: Alma Villezcas, Travis McKenzie, Jim and Luann McConnell, Damien and Carol Blaschka, Robert and Juanita Macklin, William Benziger, Michelle Phillips, and Michael LeGendre. 

AF & USN Demonstration Teams Fly Together at Pensacola

And the Blue Angels “Swap Paint.”

Thanks to “Fighter Sweep” we have this following news story about the two U.S. military aviation demonstration teams’ exhibition over NAS Pensacola, Florida, home of the Navy’s principal Flight Training Station. See the below 1:11 long video.  You may ask, “what’s it mean to swap paint?”  The video explains.

And why were the Thunderbirds joining up with the Blue Angels?  It was the 71st Birthday for the Blue Angels, and the USAF Team crashed their party.  They hadn’t done this since 2002. But it was a friendly exchange of not just greetings and airborne teamwork, but also of ideas and mutually similar experiences in the crowd thrilling exhibition business.  For the “younger” Thunderbirds, it was their 70th birthday.  This video is 1:53 long.

Air Force and Navy Flight Demonstration Teams join for group portrait at Pensacola, FL in celebration of the Blue Angels’ 71st Birthday.

Earlier, here below, is a USAF KC-135 Tanker refueling the Navy’s Blue Angels exhibition team in mid-flight.  This clip is 1:01 long,  and shows some beautiful footage of the refueling action as it takes place.  One of our more active FASF members, Col. Alan Fisher, accumulated many hours flying this same tanker during his USAF career.