Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Never Forget, But What About Those Already Forgotten?

Christmas is approaching and the catalogs are piling up.  Whatever it is you dream of, someone somewhere offers it.  But how much of it do you really need?  Deep down we all know the answer to that, don’t we?  Yet I must admit, whenever the Historic Aviation catalog comes along, I always browse every page.
The Historic Aviation Catalog is easily the best aviation enthusiast wish book.  Yeah, most of the stuff can be bought elsewhere if you have time to look, and most of the items sold equate to shelf clutter or pilot apparel.  But it is only within its pages where most of the really cool clutter and apparel can be found in one easy to order from location.  Well, except for Lee Bottom Caps.
Another thing I really like about Historic Aviation is that it regularly offers forgotten history to those who peruse its wares.  Most magazines don’t do as well as H.A. when it comes to finding and promoting history that never achieved mainstream glory.  Make no mistake though, H.A. is selling memorabilia.  But, in doing so in its own way, I suspect this catalog has spurred recipients to research more unique history than half of our aviation publications combined.  Let me offer you an example.
The latest Historic Aviation catalog delivered a surprise.  Holding down the top left position on page 29 is an SB2C Helldiver.  I’ve always loved that airplane.  Of course, the most likely reason for this passion is also the most likely reason I love Hellcats, Dauntless dive bombers, and just about every other WWII Navy aircraft; my dad served on a carrier in that war.  And yet, the Helldiver isn’t the real surprise.  What makes this one so special is that it is painted in the colors of the Randolph,CV-15.  That’s the carrier upon which my dad served and where all his earliest aviation stories were born.
Never heard of the Randolph?  Don’t feel bad.  Although it had some incredible history, like so many other things, it was inexplicably lost in the shadows of two or three of its peers.   And, until recently there was very little discussion of the ship; then Paul Allen painted his Hellcat to represent one of the famous fighters that was based on it.
Before long, a book about these fighters was taking on new life.  Having been in print for ages, in 2014 it found a second wind and secured a spot on the Amazon Editor’s top 100 Favorite Books list.  Titled Crommelin’s Thunderbirds, it is a “chronicle of their operations off the USS Randolph in the last stages of the Pacific war”.  And since the Randolph was the first carrier ever to go straight from its shakedown cruise into battle and then for it to be in Japan when the war ended, my father was there for it all.
So, as you can imagine, finding a model of a Randolph Helldiver, a more obscure aircraft type, well that was truly a surprise to me.  Somewhere, someone must have read up on the carrier and decided it was time it received more attention.  The folks at Historic Aviation looked at their product the way they do everything else, saw the unique history, thought it would sell to their customer base, and placed it firmly on 1/15th of a page.  It’s a small space but it represents some amazing history.  The next time you’re browsing the web, give it a look.  
Thank you Historic Aviation.  On this Veteran's Day, you’ve likely spurred several people to search out the history of a ship they never knew existed.  This Essex Class Carrier, like so many other ships, was full of people whose stories, for one reason or another, were never told.  That’s a shame; some great men called her home.

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