Now, you may be surprised that I'd want to do this. I'm neither a pilot nor an engineer, so a lot of the specs were lost on me. But I can appreciate a beautiful piece of machinery, even if it's an instrument of destruction. Er, liberation. Whatever. Regardless, I'm interested in the behind-the-scenes view of military history, and how people behave and interact in significant times... such as when at war.
Each plane or artifact had a story and illustrated an interesting strategy or development in aircraft history, but a few of the machines stood out:
Soviet "Kukuruznik" Biplane:
The Russians made 40,000 of these babies between 1928 and 1953. That's enough to make them the most populous biplane in aviation's history. Yet few examples survive. Allen, of course, has one.
|Soviet Polikarpov Po-2 Biplane|
The most interesting thing about these planes was their association with an unusual and soon notorious Soviet entity, the "588 Night Bomber Regiment," who flew these planes exclusively. Members were also known as the "Night Witches." The unit was made up entirely of female pilots, mechanics, and ground crews. Can you imagine? These daring women were among the most decorated soldiers in the war.
Our museum guide added that the Soviets didn't have any uniforms designed for women, so they issued them the standard fare including undergarments. Somewhere along the way the women discovered that a discarded silk parachute could be cut up and sewn into excellent undies, so they made their own. Nice...
German "Flying Bombs"
|German Fieseler Fi 103 V-1 flying missile|
Even so, the Allies discovered they flew in such predictable arcs that all a skilled pilot had to do to send them hurtling downward long short of their target was to fly up next to one, slip a wingtip under its fin, and flip it over. The thing would spin to the ground. "Dangerous?!" I queried. "No, there was nothing to it," claimed our guide. Huh.
|German Fieseler Fi 103R: missile + pilot|
Except - well, he'd be landing in enemy territory, wouldn't he? Even if every pilot survived, they'd become POWs and couldn't fly any more missions. And what army could afford to lose a pilot on every mission? The new missiles were never used in combat.
See more of my dad's pictures here, or visit The Flying Heritage Collection.