USS Midway: retrieval of land-based South Vietnamese warplanes 1975

The fall of Saigon in 1975, and along with it the fall of South Vietnam and final end of the Vietnam War, is most remembered in the United States for the dramatic helicopter evacuation of the American embassy.

Less known is the final chapter to the “Frequent Wind” story: how the aircraft carrier USS Midway, built to fight the Imperial Japanese Navy during WWII, ended up retrieving the remnants of the defunct VNAF (South Vietnamese air force) during the summer of 1975.

completed1945

(USS Midway (CV-41) at the end of WWII, prior to commissioning.)

frequentwind

(USS Midway with US Air Force helicopters staged prior to the start of “Frequent Wind” in 1975.)

7

(A most unusual scene as the flight deck of USS Midway is filled with land-based warplanes of the defunct South Vietnamese air force.)

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fate of the last Skytrain built

Through remarkable circumstances, the last C-47 Skytrain built during WWII ended up in the Congo where it lingered on into the 21st Century.

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(C-47 Skytrain. The stripes are an identification marking used during the 1944 “Overlord” D-Day landings.)

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(The last C-47 Skytrain built during WWII, in Goma, D.R. Congo during December 2014. This had been Mobutu’s DC-3.) (photo by Abel Kavanagh)

As a background to the astonishing story and unfortunate fate of this one Skytrain, it is perhaps worthwhile to look at the very long and varied history of the C-47 / DC-3 in the country. The plane is somewhat unique in aviation in that it became almost symbolic of a new nation’s struggles.

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WWII aircraft in Lebanon

Sadly the military history of Lebanon will, at least for the near future, be dominated by the horrible 1970s – 1980s civil war. The country did have military history prior to that, including WWII-era warplanes in its early air force.

harvardiia

(Lebanese air force Harvard, the RAF’s name for WWII lend-leased T-6 Texan trainers.)

b5

(Lebanese air force SM.79 bomber. The country was the last in the world to fly this WWII Italian warplane.)

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WWII equipment in Soviet nuclear tests: part 1

(part 1 of a 2-part series)

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Soviet Union conducted regular nuclear weapons tests. One of these was unique in that it was not just a test detonation of a weapon, but a full-scale military exercise which involved a blend of WWII-vintage systems and their Cold War-era replacements.

bull

(One of the two Tu-4 “Bull” strategic bombers involved in the 1954 exercise. There was a primary and alternate Tu-4 staged, of which only one dropped a bomb. The “Bull” was an unlicensed copy of the WWII American B-29 Superfortress.)

pak

(An ex-Wehrmacht PaK 40 anti-tank gun smashed and radioactive following the 1954 Soviet atomic test.)

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(A WWII Il-10 “Beast” burns after the exercise atomic detonation.)

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the last Liberators

Alongside the B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 Liberator was one of the main American bomber types of WWII pending arrival of the B-29 to the Pacific theatre. Despite the huge number built, they disappeared with amazing quickness from the postwar American military, serving on only in China and India.

1952

(The EZB-24 test plane which was the very last Liberator in the US Air Force.)

india

(Indian B-24 Liberator bomber.)

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(Taiwanese B-24 Liberator bomber.)

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AAC.1 Toucan: France’s post-WWII Ju-52

France restarted domestic production of the Junkers Ju-52 transport after WWII. Although intended as a quick, cheap stop-gap solution, the AAC.1 Toucan fought in three post-WWII conflicts and quietly served as long after WWII as the famous original Junkers did before and during WWII.

1940trauining

(Junkers Ju-52s of the Luftwaffe training Fallschirmjäger during WWII.)

indochine1(A French air force AAC.1 Toucan – the post-WWII French copy of the Ju-52 – flies over a burning Vietnamese jungle during the Indochina War.)

AAC1algeria1

(A French air force AAC.1 Toucan in Africa during the 1950s Algerian War.)

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WWII weapons in Shanghai: VJ Day to 1949

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Shanghai was famous as China’s international city, a busy trade port with notorious underworld . During the latter part of the 20th century, the city languished through Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, before once again becoming a world-class city leading in finance, technology, and culture at the turn of the millennium.

There was a very brief time after WWII, only four years, when the city was under the Kuomintang (KMT), or nationalist Chinese government. What makes this period interesting militarily, was the unusual combinations of WWII weaponry fielded there, and a now largely-forgotten American military presence in China.

1948antiUSprotest

(Officers of the Shanghai Police Department monitor a political protest in 1948. Equipment includes a stahlhelm M35 helmet and Arisaka Type 38 rifle.)

Ki21in1945

(An abandoned Mitsubishi Ki-21 “Sally” bomber sits opposite American C-46 Commando, C-54 Skymaster, and C-47 Skytrain transports at a former Japanese airbase near Shanghai after WWII.)

t26andm5stuart1949

(Soviet-made T-26 and American-made M3/M5 Stuart tanks of the nationalist army together in Shanghai during 1949. An irony of this last battle is that the nationalists were partially equipped with Soviet gear and the communists were partially equipped with American gear.)

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B-29 to “Bull”

I debated writing on this topic as the story of the Tu-4 “Bull”; the reverse-engineered B-29 Superfortress; is fairly well known. Numerous authors have covered it, and there was a TV documentary on it some years ago. None the less, the topic is apparently still of high interest, so perhaps the information below will be presented in a different way or otherwise still be of value.

b-29-superfortress

(A Boeing B-29 Superfortress during WWII.)

mosinnagant

(A Soviet soldier with WWII-era Mosin-Nagant marches in Red Square in the late 1940s as a Tu-4 “Bull” flies overhead.)

bombloading

(A RDS-4 atomic bomb is wheeled to a Tu-4 “Bull”.)

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Philippines pt.2: WWII weapons used 1946-2018

(part 2 of a 2-part series)

After achieving independence from the United States ten months after the end of WWII, the military of the Philippines was infused with a variety of WWII American weapons, some of which are still in use in 2018.

2018training

(Recruits train with a mix of M16s and M1 Garands in 2018.)

isis2017seized

(Philippines army soldiers display weapons captured from Abu Sayyaf in 2017 including a pair of M1 Garands, one of which has been spray-painted glossy black.)

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Philippines pt. 1: “Mickey Mouse Money” after WWII

(part 1 of a 2-part series)

Every nation that participated in WWII had effects on it’s economy after the war ended. For the Philippines, an unfortunate combination of circumstances meant that these effects lasted longer than probably anywhere else, and most curiously the money itself (the physical printed cash) was an issue decades later.

rizalFeb1945reb1946

(American soldiers behind a M4 Sherman advance down the right field foul line of Rizal Stadium in February 1945. The ballpark had been converted into a HQ by Japanese forces. For the Philippines, the occupation was ending but the post-WWII monetary woes were just beginning.)

japwancapnotes

(A stack of old Japanese Invasion Money stamped by the failed JAPWANCAP scheme of the 1950s.)

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