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 Post subject: Question on the P40's
PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 8:42 pm 
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I'm reading Doomed at the Start by William H Bartsch. And in the book the author reports that the pilots in the Philippines (around late 1941, but before the start of the pacific war) really did not like nor were they impressed with the P40B or P40E. One pilot claimed that he was terrified about taking off with a fully loaded P40E. One pilot claimed they barely got the plane off Nichols Field and had real trouble handling it in the air. My understanding was the P40's were good planes, or were they only a step above a piece of junk?

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 8:53 pm 
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Flying accidents were at least as dangerous to the average WWII airman as the enemy. I saw some stat, somewhere that the most common cause of loss in WWII was "swinging off runway on takeoff".

Was there any specific criticism? Poorly suited to the runways they had to use? Poor mechanical condition? Poor batches of ammunition?

The P-40 was by most accounts I have seen, a popular aircraft by the standards of the time - until it had to climb above 15,000ft. And it was the flying characteristics, handling, harmonisation of the controls etc that one it the most praise.

Having said that, operating a heavy, slightly underpowered in line fighter on under prepared tropical runways in and amongst monsoon weather would be one of the most difficult things to do in WWII. The spitfire was probably worse in those sorts of conditions.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 5:39 am 
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The airfields on the PI were a bit on the simple side, no blast pens and no tarmack runways but the real problem were the pilots, not the brand new planes. Most of the ones send to the PI were graduates of various classes from 1941, meaning they were fresh out of flying school. The last batch, who were rerouted to AUS after PH had under 20 hrs on a P-40.

edit: The Es were heavier than Bs but the technical support the ground crews could offer, was limited. Few had experience with the new P-40 and all sorts of spares were short in supply.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 7:40 am 
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Was there any specific criticism? Poorly suited to the runways they had to use? Poor mechanical condition? Poor batches of ammunition?


No specific complaint. But the pilots doing the complaining were from the class of 39A. So they have been around awhile.

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The airfields on the PI were a bit on the simple side


There is a picture of Clark AB in the book and I was surprised at how primitive it was, being the prime Air Base for the PI. Can only imagine what the secondary fields were like.

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The P-40 was by most accounts I have seen, a popular aircraft by the standards of the time


That is my understanding also, so the above complaints came out of the blue.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 8:44 am 
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mac1812 wrote:
I'm reading Doomed at the Start by William H Bartsch. And in the book the author reports that the pilots in the Philippines (around late 1941, but before the start of the pacific war) really did not like nor were they impressed with the P40B or P40E. One pilot claimed that he was terrified about taking off with a fully loaded P40E. One pilot claimed they barely got the plane off Nichols Field and had real trouble handling it in the air. My understanding was the P40's were good planes, or were they only a step above a piece of junk?


Well, you have our scoring system for an independent, unbiased analysis :D . The P-40B = 86.9, the P-40E = 103.8 and the A6M-2 106.1.

A lot of this kind of information is very context-dependent. Much will be determined by what the pilots flew before the P-40s. If all they had flown were trainers and lightly-loaded biplanes, then the highly-loaded, highly-powered fighters would come as a nasty shock. There was a big difference between the P-40B and the P-40E and a lot of pilots thought that the step from the B to E was seriously retrograde. Of course, they didn't have armor and six .50s on the B. This is why personal accounts and unofficial histories have to be taken with several pounds of salt. They're excellent for telling us what happened in a tactical sense and for conveying the feelings and spirit of the times but as actual factual accounts they leave everything to be desired. Another factor to bear in mind is that the Philippines was very hot and that wasn't good for aircraft performance. Finally, the aircraft as delivered to the Philippines were in a poor state of repair. Apparently a lot of the aircraft had no firing mechanism for the wing guns leaving the P-40B with two .50s and the P-40E with nothing.

Having said that, 'Doomed from the Start' is an excellent book. It made me ask what would have happened if they'd had just a few more aircraft and MacArthur had been competent. It was that train of thought that eventually led to A Mighty Endeavor.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 9:01 am 
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"But the pilots
doing the complaining were from the
class of 39A."

Ok, I take back that they were green. Assuming they joined fighter squadrons, they must have had some experience on the P-35 and -36.
The state of the airfields is not surprising in light of US defence policy of the PI. From the moment the US took the PI it was considered indefensible from a Japanese attack and thus not reinforced. That only changed in the summer of 1941, when the PI was suddenly seen as the ideal place to base heavy bombers. Naturally decades of neglect could not be undone in a few months. While Mac had over 100 P-40, bases were both short in numbers and in a peacetime condition.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 1:43 pm 
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The Admiral wrote:
It made me ask what would have happened if they'd had just a few more aircraft and MacArthur had been competent.


IIRC, someone tracked down the Pearl Harbor Troofer narrative and found that it came from a group of folks with more than casual connections to MacArthur.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 3:24 pm 
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It made me ask what would have happened if they'd had just a few more aircraft and MacArthur had been competent.


And a few more months.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 6:44 pm 
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Having said that, 'Doomed from the Start' is an excellent book


The next book in the series is Every Day a Nightmare: American Pursuit Pilots in the Defense of Java, 1941-1942, same author. I found this book to be very informative and covering a neglected part of the war.

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