777 Sqd American Volunteers Hurricane
Hawker Hurricane IIC, 777 Sqd American Volunteers, Vaenga, Socialist Union, March 1944
Personal mount of James "Python" Pynchon
777 Sqd was a bit of an embarrassment to the United States government. The activities of these American airmen and ground crew who volunteered to fight alongside the Reds was little publicised in the West, but received a great deal of attention within the Socialist Union. A rebellious lot, the men and women and 777 Squadron did little to endear themselves to their own government. They refused to fly American built planes. They adopting parody makings that combined the red star with U.S. national markings. They also chose to fly at Vaenga near Murmansk whenever convoys were expected so that they could interact with the incoming Western sailors.
Formed in late 1941, 777 Sqd initially flew Yak-1s and switched to the Hurricane II in 1942. The Yak-9 was used from April 1944, the unit converting to the Yak-3 in the winter of 1944-45.
After the Western Allies came to peace terms with Germany's post-Nazi regime in August, 1944, there were demands from the White House for the volunteers to honour America's truce and leave the Socialist Union, but few did (and most of those who did were State Department and Pentagon plants). When the European war finally ended in August, 1946, 777 Sqd was based in Poland. Rather than being disbanded, the unit became a permanent fixture for American Red volunteers and remains to this day, having seen action in Europe (1950-52), North Africa (several deployments between 1954 and 1981) and Korea (2002-2003).
The 777 designation was chosen, in part as a parody of USAAF squadron numbers, but also for the fact the unit was formed with 7 pilots and 7 ground crew on the 7th October, 1941.
Grumman P-74D Bobcat
Grumman P-74D Bobcat
Escuadrón 102, Mexican Air Force
Ellmore Field, Mindoro, The Philippines, 21 June, 1945
Personal aircraft of Captain Antonio Andrade
When the British Purchasing Commission was seeking additional manufacturers to build the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk for the RAF, both Grumman and North American made alternative proposals. While North American designed the NA-73, which went on to become the P-51 Mustang, Grumman suggested licensed manufacture of the Supermarine Spitfire, alligning itself with the Packard company to produce the Rolls Royce Merlin engine. Both offers were accepted. When the Lend Lease program was initiated in 1941, the USAAF cancelled the twin engined Grumman XP-50 and, in a bureaucratic slight of hand, ordered the Spitfire as the P-50. Grumman wen on to produce 13,568 Spitfires, some as P-50s to British specifications and others as P-73s to USAAF standards. To Grumman personell, both types were known as Spitcats.
When the P-73 was ordered, Grumman proposed an advanced development with laminar flow wings and a packard built Griffon engine. This was accepted and two prototypes were ordered as the XP-74. Running well ahead of Supermarine's similar Spiteful design, the first XP-74 was flown in July 1942 and the first P-74A Bobcats saw action in Europe in January 1944. 7,591 Bobcats were produced before production was cancelled on VJ Day, August 1945, with 2,573 being sent on Lend Lease terms to the Socialist Union, 100 to the Free French, 100 to Mexico and 45 to Venezeula during the war. Both the P-74A and C were mass produced day fighter-bombers, while the P-74B (with APS-4 ASH radar) and P-74D (with APS-6 radar) were night fighters. Both the C and D models were refinements of the A and B respectively, with more powerful engines, a small fin fillet, more internal and external fuel (including a Hellcat-style central dop tank) and four 20mm cannon replacing the original six .50 MGs. Although only 258 B and D night fighters were built, they met an urgent USAAF interim requirement for more night fighters when the P-61 program was running into dificultines. Just two XP-74Es with a P-51 style ventral cooling system, taller fin, larger fin fillet plus contra-rotating props were built.
Mexican P-74Ds against the Japanese
Escuadrón 102 of the Mexican Air Force began operations from Ellmore Field on the Phillipino nisland of Mindoro in mid February, 1945. Flying P-74D night fighters, they initially flew in direct support of US operations in the Phillipines, but from April undertook other operations. When A Royal Navy task force was suffering from sustained air attacks off the coast of Formosa, Escuadrón 102 was ordered to provide long range nocturnal air defence. The mission subsequently evolved into an operation against Japanese conventional and kamikaze sorties from Formosa against the American invasion of Okinawa. From April through to late June, the pilots of Escuadrón 102 accounted for over 50 Japanese aircraft. The unit's top scorer was Captain Antonio Andrade, who claimed 12 Japanese planes, including 3 Bettys on the night of 21/22 June.
In mid-July, Escuadrón 102 moved to Okinawa, where they flew a mix of air defence and escort missions. It was on one of the latter that Captain Andrade scored his last kill, claiming a Yokosuka P1Y2-S Frances night fighter over Honshu on 4 August.
Me-163U - U-boat mount version of Me-163C
This is the best image of the Komet that I have, so...