Where I was Last Weekend…

B-17 In Flight – at the Great American Airshow.

The first big airshow in two years, at Randolph AFB. Part of the air show included a sort-of-recreation of the attack on Pearl Harbor, with accompanying pyrotechnics. My camera was giving me fits, so I managed to capture some interesting shots with my cellphone. There may have been half a million people coming to the airbase for the show, which included static display aircraft and ground support vehicles from the Army, and the Budweiser Clydesdales and their wagon of beer too. What would the military do without beer! There must have been at least that many people watching the air show from verges, parking lots, open spaces and yards around the edges, too. (More here, from the Express News – their photographer had a much better camera than mine…)
Additional note – <Looks like FaceBook has disappeared that post – I put the pictures on my own website, instead.)

12 thoughts on “Where I was Last Weekend…”

  1. Sorry, there’s a wall at the link. Love me some airshow, but have missed the last few around here. (One of my ambitions is to make another trip to Old Rhinebeck someday.)

    Many years ago one of the aircraft on display here was a B-25. Not sure what model, but that was what my father flew and as I stuck my head through the hatch I wondered how the hell he fit in. I’m 6’1″ and he was several inches taller (but not as bulky).

    One of my friends paid $400 for a flight in a B-17 a few years ago. I’m not sure I’d do that–the older I get the less I like air travel.

  2. It’s always amazing to put yourself into actual WWII aircraft, ships, and other equipment. The stuff often seems like it was built for kids, from our perspective.

    Of course, there’s a lot of modern stuff that’s the same–Go try to lever yourself, fully-kitted, in and out of an uparmor HMMVW as an average-sized adult male. I’m not sure what design criteria they used, but whatever it was, it wasn’t reality-based for about the upper half of the body size range, these days.

    We had someone donate a bunch of authentic WWI/WWII uniforms to a ceremonial effort. We had the devil’s own time trying to find guys small enough to fit, and I’m not talking waist size alone, either–Height, shoulders, musculature, all of it. The uniform sets were all “average size range” from those days, and it just wasn’t easy to find anyone suitable. What wound up happening with the uniforms was that they eventually went out and borrowed a bunch of reproductions from re-enactors, and that was all they could do.

  3. A good few years ago, Kirk, I toured a static display B-17 at Hill AFB, and I was astounded at how small and cramped it was. The bomb bay was about the size of a small pickup truck bed, and that narrow catwalk through it … (shivers in horror…) It did answer a question for me, about how many of the shots in the 1990 movie Memphis Belle duplicated so many shots of the crew in flight from the 1944 Wyler documentary … it was because those were the only decent camera angles that could be made inside the AC.
    IIRC one of my anthropology courses (or maybe it was a history class IDR) it was mentioned that Japanese schools in the post-war years had to get bigger desks and chairs for school students, because the better nutrition after the war allowed the children to better fulfill their potential for height. It has probably been the same for the US, to a less-noticeable extent; better nutrition, especially more protein allowed more people to get to their full height potential – not stunted by deprivation. Not fatter (which has been the case for too many) but just bigger all the way around.

  4. I don’t think that ergonomics was used much for aircraft design back then, the humans were supposed to accommodate the machinery. Fighter pilots had a hard upper limit on height. The Russians specially selected tank crewmen for small stature, especially loaders. My dad flew in B-17’s though mostly as camera ships and he wasn’t small, about 6′-3″, he must have been a lot more flexible than I remember him. I think the ball turret gunners were required to be not much over 5′.

  5. The Memphis Belle was still on a concrete stand at the National Guard Armory here when I was a kid (b. 1953). By that time it wasn’t open to visitors–after there was nothing left to steal. I was involved on the margins in the local effort to keep it here and care for it properly, but it is better off at Wright-Pat. Saw it there in ’18 and it looked great. (I knew Miss Polk in her old age too, and met Col. Morgan once briefly.)

    My mother’s brother was a radioman/gunner on a B-24, and he was probably not much smaller than me in his prime.

    Ergonomics per se wasn’t a priority, but to this day Western tanks are roomier and more comfortable than Sov or Russian designs–hence their short tankers.

    I was somewhat surprised by the small size of the Olympia in Philly, but was very surprised at how small the BB Alabama felt. The carriers I’ve visited (docked) feel big.

    I’ve read too about the Japanese, who are on average almost as tall as European or American men now–the result of better nutrition. I can’t remember the source, but some historian noted that in militarist Japan the officers were often much smaller than the men, since they deprived themselves of soft indulgences like food.

    Ok, why are Dutch people the tallest in the world, on average?

  6. Another place you see size imbalances is at the DMZ in Korea. The North Korean guards there are selected for size, and even they’re not all that big. Next to a South Korean or American, they look like the 12 year-old cousins in someone’s borrowed uniform. It’s almost funny, when some guy whose head comes up to your chest is there posturing in front of you…

    Then, there’s this from 2017:


    I don’t imagine much has improved. The South Korean intel guy I used to work around had a line about the best way to defeat the North Koreans was to put out food and just take them into custody when they inevitably stopped to eat it… He described things they knew that were going on up north as mind-bogglingly horrific. Whole country under famine conditions, even the regime protection forces, and all because of politics. The South Koreans aren’t really all that sympathetic, TBH–They’re like “So… You haven’t had a revolution,yet? What’s wrong with you guys?”

  7. I have seen a B-17 in flight, real low, as it was visiting Colorado and a recently retired state senator who had been a B-17 pilot was given a ride and they went right over us right after take off. But as far as warbirds, my personal history was with a Grumman TBM Avenger.

    I used to play a bit with talk radio at a nearby urban station, under a pseudonym. In the politically incorrect days of 1995, there was a WW-II victory celebration and we had one hell of an airshow nearby. I know that today we are supposed to apologize for winning. Without prompting, I voluntarily pushed it on the air several times. On one of the calls, one of the sponsors from the then still politically incorrect Confederate Air Force [now the PC-named Commemorative Air Force. The real story about how the CAF got its real name has nothing to do with the Civil War or racism, but more about government bureaucracy in the late 1940’s] asked me to contact them at the TBM at the airshow. I was there when the gates opened, went to the TBM, and introduced myself. They said in thanks for the publicity I would get to ride the Avenger to open the show. I got to ride in the gun turret, while a TV cameraman rode in the cockpit behind the pilot. We buzzed the town to let them know the airshow had started.

    In passing, the then-wife of a fellow Peace Officer I sometimes partnered with had insisted on them going to church instead of the airshow. He heard [and felt] the 1900 hp radial engine as we went over. He said some very un-churchlike things to himself then, and again loudly later when he found out I was aboard. It was a very good day.

    Subotai Bahadur

  8. Speaking of loud, when I was collecting personal papers (including all those so very non-regulation diaries and journals) from WWII vets during the 50-year events I met a gentleman who had flown a B-25 like my father (only he was in the Pacific, and my father in the Med).

    He told me the B-25 pilot joke:

    Q. What do you say to a B-25 pilot to get his attention?

    A. [blank stare]

    Too bad for SB’s pal. My wife’s grandfather always wanted to revisit France, which he had seen on the run in 1918 as a gun-server in the 30th I.D. AEF. Her grandmother was too cheap and narrow-minded–they could have afforded it easily in the 1970s.

    Love the CAF. Long may they fly.

  9. When I was still the Scoutmaster of T464, we sued to take the boys to spend the night in the USS Silversides submarine in Michigan. Until they put bigger bunks in it we had to sleep on the bunks in the torpedo rooms. The original bunks seemed to be designed for a man less that 5’5″. It was impossible for a 5’10” man to get comfortable for very long.

  10. Ok, why are Dutch people the tallest in the world, on average?

    To keep their heads above water. The short ones drowned.

  11. In Fall of 1985, I drove south from Beaumont to Harlingen to meet up with some friends who had flown Gen. Av. from Philly to attend the CAF show. While wandering around, a fellow approached us and asked if we wanted a ride on a B-17 in exchange for some gas money.
    We quickly ponied up the $50 per person charge and climbed aboard.

    For about 20 minutes we were flown in a lazy loop around the show grounds, sitting in the belly. What I remember most vividly was the nausea from motion sickness- the plane was flying quite slowly and slipping side to side the entire flight. Still, a way cool experience.

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