Tuesday, August 16, 2016

the "Swoose" the only survivor of the 19th BG of Clark Air Base, Philippines. The only known surviving combat plane that served in the war from start (Dec 8th 1941 mission) to finish. The only surviving "Shark Tail" B 17. Pieced together from parts planes though the war. Now its been 70 years of storage and moving, and moving and storage. No one has displayed it, or restored it... or displayed it before dismantling it for storage.

Delivered to Hickam Air Base Hawaii, in May 1941, and moved to Clark Air Base PI in Oct 1941

Dec 8th 1941, the Japanese bombed Clark Air Base in the PI, and Ole Betsy was damaged but repaired with a tail from another damaged B 17

On Jan. 11, 1942, three Japanese fighters caused heavy damage to Ole Betsy during a running 35-minute engagement off the coast of Borneo.

Maintenance personnel in Australia replaced the damaged tail with one from another B-17D, replaced the engines, and converted the aircraft into an armed transport. The new pilot, Capt. Weldon Smith, gave it a new nickname after a then-popular song about a half-swan, half-goose called the “Swoose.”

Then, as a reward for valor, she was assigned to transport missions for high Army officers.

Capt. Frank Kurtz, a personal pilot for Lt. Gen. Geroge Brett, (CO Air Force of the Far East) and the most decorated Army Air Corps pilot in World War II took over the Swoose and flew the general all over the South Pacific. One passenger was the future United States president – Lt. Cmdr. Lyndon B. Johnson who was crash landed in the Australia bush, and the 34 flags painted on her nose attest to her far-ranging flights to as many countries…

Once back stateside, the Swoose was used as Gen. Brett’s personal aircraft and for War Bond events.

After flying the big plane home, Kurtz went to the European theater where he headed "the Swoose Group" and personally flew more than 60 missions over Italy and Germany.

Talk about cobbled together. It's got the salvaged tail section off of 40-3091, incorrect inner wing panels, and upgraded B-17E plumbing.

It was sent to Kingman, and rescued due to it's famous pilot (war hero and former Olympic athlete) and it's own history, as the city of LA was eager to make it a WW2 memorial. They bought it for $350, and then...  stored it and forgot what they owed the warbirds and the military.

Boeing B-17D at Mines Field (LAX) on May 20, 1946 


LA gave up and sent it to the National Air Museum, then it was sent to Payole AFB Texas where the Air Force kept her up, then Andrews AFB, where it kept the Enola Gay company in the Smithsonian airplane parking area. The Smithsonian doesn't have the funds to do a thing with it, and they turn it over to the National Museum of the USAF, (NMUSAF) who, you guessed it, doesn't have the money.

Kurtz came from Ohio, his family moved to Missouri, parents divorced, and he left home at age 12 (abusive step dad) and sold newspapers.
By his teens he had grown so accomplished that he impressed Olympic champion swimmer Johnny Weissmuller who encouraged Kurtz to head to Los Angeles to train with famous diving coach Clyde Swendsen.
At 14 he hitchhiked to Los Angeles. He developed as an athlete at Hollywood High School and USC.
To qualify for the 32 Olympics, he had signed onto a tramp steamer in order to get to Hawaii for qualifications, placed 2nd, and stowed away on another steamer to get back to LA. The crew and passengers kept him out of sight, and out of trouble, slipping him off the ship before making the pier.
When Los Angeles hosted the Olympics in 1932, Kurtz competed in high platform diving. He won a bronze medal.
His new passion had become flying, which he'd taken up at 16 after befriending Frank Bireley, an orange-soda magnate and flying enthusiast who was a friend of Amelia Earhart's.
Bireley taught Frank how to fly, mostly in a 120-horsepower biplane named Yankee Boy. By the time Frank graduated from Hollywood High, in 1931, he held a slew of junior world flying records, including fastest land speed (152 mph)
In 1935 he set a record of swiftest flight from Mexico City to New York City.
In his 20s, he was busy setting speed records, vying with such aviation legends as Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart.
At age 24 Kurtz also competed in the 1936 Olympics and became friends with Louis Zamperini (http://justacarguy.blogspot.com/2014/07/unbroken-movie-of-life-story-of-louis.html) while aboard the ship to the Berlin Olympics, from New York. Athletes were in steerage, coaches in cabins.
( The team drank prodigiously, stole Nazi flags as pranks, and won five of the six medals.)
He survived the bombing of Clark Air Base by digging himself a foxhole.
He met 10 year old Rupert Murdoch, and 20 year old Norman Lear, radio operator and gunner.
Years later he served on the Olympic Committee and helped bring the 1984 games back to Los Angeles.



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