Memories of model WWII airplane

As I had written before, Dad had purchased a complicated stick model airplane kit for me when I was 6 years old. It was early 1942. World War II had just started for the U.S.

The kit, for modelers age 14 and older, was of a little-known early World War II aircraft known as a Vultee Vengeance torpedo bomber. It was way above my abilities to put it together, and I was eager to have someone build it for me.

Dad asked about to see who might be able to do that task. Finally, Mom’s cleaning lady knew of a 14-year-old kid (Paul) who lived on Laird Avenue who was quite the expert at building stick models. He agreed to build it — for a fee, and I became a frequent visitor of his.

Every week after Sunday school I would walk exactly 2 1/2 miles from Emmanuel Lutheran Church at Buckeye and Cherry on the west side of Warren to my home next to the water tower on Genesee Avenue. Conveniently, my modeler friend’s Laird Avenue home was right on the way.

Progress was extremely slow but steady. After over a year and a half, the model was finished — and quite skillfully done. It was mid-1943. The plane had a three-foot wingspan with the wings covered with fragile orange tissue paper and the fuselage a complementary yellow. I had no idea how much Paul had been paid.

Dad carefully strung it up from the ceiling light in my bedroom, and there it would stay. It never moved. It just hung there. I couldn’t play with it.

I listened to Hop Harrigan and Captain Midnight serials on the radio. Their stories told of airplane battles in the sky and how American fighting planes would encounter severe battle damage and would limp back to their bases with wings and fuselages full of holes.

I had an archery set with metal-tipped arrows that just beckoned to me. Voicing the sounds of machine guns and ack-ack (anti-aircraft artillery fire), I stabbed the tissue paper covering of that model airplane with those arrows. There. That’s how I imagined a little battle damage would look.

Over the days and weeks that followed, I continued to perforate that model airplane, accompanied by my appropriate sound effects.

One day, Mom discovered the battle damage my Vultee Vengeance had sustained. Boy, was she angry!

After a thorough chewing out, my punishment was to weed the flower beds (there were many) for several weeks.

I had Dad take the plane down from the ceiling light. I unsuccessfully tried to patch the holes with flour-based papier-mache.

I soon lost interest and stored the plane in the garage, where the mice feasted on it. I placed that wreck of a model airplane in the trash burner. Maybe that’s how the flaming remains would have looked if it had gotten a direct hit from enemy fire.

Later in life, I was taking U.S. Army anti-aircraft artillery training and was practice-firing at an RCAT, or Radio-Controlled Air Target. Through some miracle, I hit it! It came fluttering down out there on the firing range. All the other trainees were shouting and whistling.

That RCAT had some mild damage which was quickly repaired. Everybody was pretty happy about my feat, and nobody told me that I would have to weed the flower beds!

COMMENTS