"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
 
The Lucky Bag 
Early in May, we received a nice email from James Ronka, a reader from California. He was hoping  to put together a Navy pilot impression for an upcoming June airshow and was faced with both time and budget challenges. We'll let him explain in his own words:

"I'm a WWII reenactor (and retired USN officer). I'm usually reenacting WWII U.S.  Army (1st ID, 82AB, 10th Mtn Div, FSSF, tanker), so this is my first foray into Navy stuff. The airshow I'm trying to get things together for is the Golden West Fly-in at Marysville Airport  http://www.goldenwestflyin.org/  They'll be commemorating the anniversary of the Doolittle raid as well as recognizing the role of Beale AFB (Camp Beale) and Marysville airport during WWII. "

"I found your website after about five hours of internet searching for good sources (Google results). Your information on the website, has been invaluable in researching the proper flight gear for an SBD Dauntless pilot flying off ENTERPRISE conducting surface recce in support of the Doolittle Raid, 18 April 1942. I'm specifically crafting a first-person impression of LT(jg) Wiseman of VB-6 who first spotted a Japanese picket ship early morning of the Doolittle raid, which apparently directly led to the decision to launch the B-25s earlier than planned (which subsequently resulted in fuel issues for the bombers). "
 
This week, Jim gave us a final report on his endevor and sent along some photos for us to share with you. Thanks Jim!

"I just wanted to thank you again for the great advice and pictures you provided to support my efforts in putting together an impression of a USN WWII carrier pilot.  I managed to collect/reproduce just about everything, although the repro parachute harness was just a bit too expensive to get this time around.  The airshow went well and I received favorable reviews for the outfit.  I ended up making a navigation plotting board out of wood and an early-50s board that looked very much the same (main difference is the flight computer is post-war).  I painted the frame to mimic the 'chipped paint' look.  I also built a 'close-enough' TH-37 wiring harness....it passes the 5-foot test, but up close it's a little rough.  I used black balloon fragments to mimic the rubber covering on certain pieces, but had to use electrical tape to connect the pigtail section.  I used a cut-down 9-volt battery casing to simulate the connection jack.  Had fun putting it together!  I nearly bid on a real one the other week, but it was a little steep for me."
 
"Unfortunately, there were no Navy WWII combat aircraft at the airshow, but I met an F/A-18 demo pilot who really enjoyed the get-up...I convinced him to take a picture with me in the classic 'there I was' shooting-the-hand pose."

"I'm considering modifying the impression slightly for the Auburn, CA airshow coming up on July 7th, as they might have an F4U Corsair there in VF-17 Jolly Roger markings.  I may personify LCDR Tom Blackburn, VF-17's Skipper during the Solomon Islands campaign ('43-'44). "

We would like to congratulate Jim on his successful efforts at the recent show and his display of both ingenuity and craftmanship in constructing his impression. Best of luck in July, we expect another full report!
Jim has been keeping busy and gave us the following report recently:

"I thought you might enjoy a quick update on my USN WWII carrier aviator living history activities.  I've attended several airshows since my last email and a highlight was this month's Mustangs and More airshow at the Nut Tree airport in Vacaville, California.  There was an FM-2 Wildcat (VC-13 markings) that flew in for the show and I attended in circa-1943 Wildcat pilot gear.  I was allowed to climb on the aircraft and sit in the cockpit...a rare opportunity!  I've included a photo."

"I've collected a few more things to add to the impression, including a repro QAS from Vintage Parachutes and a couple of pieces of personal survival gear (flashlight and sea dye marker).  I've also purchased a repro TH-37 wiring harness."

Thanks for keeping us posted Jim. The awesome photo of Jim and the FM-2, below, is by Ron Pearson (ronephoto/facebook)

Bottom:  An FM-2 of VC-13 takes of from the U.S.S. Core (CVE-13). It wears Atlantic Scheme II camouflage, consisting of dark gull gray over white.