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 Carousel 1 Model 6121 - Curtiss P-36A Hawk, USAAC 15th PG, 46th PS, "Black 86", Philip Rasmussen, Wheeler Field, Pearl Harbor, HI, December 7th 1941

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Kyushu J7W


Posts : 192
Join date : 2017-02-18
Location : East Coast USA

PostSubject: Carousel 1 Model 6121 - Curtiss P-36A Hawk, USAAC 15th PG, 46th PS, "Black 86", Philip Rasmussen, Wheeler Field, Pearl Harbor, HI, December 7th 1941   Fri Mar 10 2017, 18:29

Curtis P-36A Hawk  

Producer  Carousel 1    
Scale 1/48
Model number 6121
Curtis P-36A Hawk  
USAAC 15th PG, 46th PS,  "Black 86", Philip Rasmussen, Wheeler Field, Pearl Harbor, HI, December 7th 1941

General characteristics
Crew: 1
Length: 28 ft 6 in  
Wingspan: 37 ft 4 in
Height: 8 ft 5 in  
Wing area: 235.94 ft²
Empty weight: 4,567 lb
Loaded weight: 5,650 lb  
Max. takeoff weight: 6,010 lb  
Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-17 Twin Wasp air-cooled radial piston engine, 1,050 hp


Maximum speed: 313 mph   at 8,500 ft,  
Cruise speed: 270 mph  
Range: 625 mi   at 270 mph, 860 mi   at 200 mph
Service ceiling: 32,700 ft  
Rate of climb: 3,400 ft/min  
Wing loading: 23.9 lb/ft²  
Power/mass: 0.186 hp/lb  


1 × 0.30 in   M1919 Browning machine gun
1 × 0.50 in   M2 Browning machine gun
later production variants had two .50 MGs synchronized with the propeller mounted in the engine cowl and two or four .30 MGs mounted in the wings just outside the propeller arc
some were also later fitted with a single hard point under each wing that could carry a bomb of up to 100 lb  ) or a light bomb rack for three 50 lb  five 20 lb   or 30 lb  bombs

The only combat by U.S.-operated P-36s took place during the Pearl Harbor attack. Five of the 39 P-36A Hawks at Pearl Harbor, delivered previously by the USS Enterprise, were able to take off during the attack and were credited with shooting down at least two,  possibly more Japanese aircraft including Zeros and Kates for the loss of one P-36 in air combat. These were among the first U.S. aerial victories of World War II.  Phil Rasmussen and a few of his squadron mates  got into the air at Wheeler Field and fought against overwhelming odds.

The first production P-36As were delivered to the 20th Pursuit Group at Barksdale Field in Louisiana in April 1938. The aircraft's service history was marred by numerous teething problems with the engine exhaust, skin buckling over landing gear, and weak points in the airframe, severely restricting the performance envelope. By the time these issues were resolved, the P-36 was considered obsolete and was relegated to training units and overseas detachments at Albrook Field in the Canal Zone, Elmendorf Field in Alaska, and Wheeler Field in Hawaii.

The P-36s had been delivered to Hawaii in February 1941 by being loaded on the carrier the USS Enterprise in California, then in a first for the USAAC, flown off the carrier's deck by the P-36's U.S. Army Air Corps pilots when the Enterprise neared the coast of Hawaii. This saved considerable time over the traditional shipping method of having the fighters first disassembled, crated and then loaded by crane in the hold of a freighter, then unloaded and reassembled in Hawaii.

The Curtiss P-36 Hawk, also known as the Curtiss Hawk Model 75, was an American-designed and built fighter aircraft of the 1930s and 40s. A contemporary of both the Hawker Hurricane and Messerschmitt Bf 109, it was one of the first of a new generation of combat aircraft—a sleek monoplane design making extensive use of metal in its construction and powered by a powerful radial engine.

The Curtiss Model 75 was a private venture by the company, designed by former Northrop Aircraft Company engineer Don R. Berlin. The first prototype, constructed in 1934, featured all-metal construction with fabric-covered control surfaces, a Wright XR-1670-5 radial engine developing 900 hp, and typical United States Army Air Corps armament of one .30 in and one .50 in machine gun firing through the propeller arc. Also typical of the time was the total absence of cockpit armor or self-sealing fuel tanks. The distinctive landing gear, which rotated 90° to fold the main wheels flat into the thin trailing portion of the wing, resting atop the lower ends of the main gear struts when retracted, was actually a Boeing-patented design for which Curtiss had to pay royalties.

The prototype first flew on 6 May 1935, reaching 281 mph at 10,000 ft during early test flights. On 27 May 1935, the prototype was flown to Wright Field, Ohio, to compete in the USAAC fly-off for a new single-seat fighter, but the contest was delayed because the Seversky entry crashed on its way there.

Curtiss took advantage of the delay to replace the unreliable engine with a Wright XR-1820-39 Cyclone producing 950 hp and to rework the fuselage, adding the distinctive scalloped rear windows to improve visibility. The new prototype was designated Model 75B with the R-1670 version retroactively designated Model 75D. The fly-off finally took place in April 1936. Unfortunately, the new engine failed to deliver its rated power and the aircraft only reached 285 mph .

Although the competing Seversky P-35 also underperformed and was more expensive, it was still declared the winner and awarded a contract for 77 aircraft. However, on 16 June 1936, Curtiss received an order from USAAC for three prototypes designated Y1P-36. The USAAC was concerned about political turmoil in Europe, and about Seversky's ability to deliver P-35s in a timely matter, and therefore wanted a backup fighter.

The Y1P-36 (Model 75E) was powered by a 900 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-13 Twin Wasp engine, and the scalloped rear canopy was further enlarged. The new aircraft performed so well that it won the 1937 USAAC competition with an order for 210 P-36A fighters.

The aircraft's extremely low wing loading of just 23.9 lb/ft² gave it outstanding turning performance, and its high power-to-weight ratio of 0.186 hp/lb gave superb climbing performance for the time. The lack of an engine supercharger was a serious handicap at high altitudes.

Compared to the later Allison-engined P-40, the P-36 shared the P-40's traits of excellent high-speed handling, roll rate that improved at high speed, and relatively light controls at high speed. However, it was underpowered, affecting its acceleration and top speed, and it did not accelerate in a dive as well as the P-40.

Perhaps best known as the predecessor of the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, the P-36 saw little combat with the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. It was nevertheless the fighter used most extensively and successfully by the French Armee de l'air during the Battle of France and by the Finnish Airforce against the Soviet Union.

Both air arms had multiple aces. While making up only 12.6% of the French Air Force single-seater fighter force, the H75 accounted for almost a third of the air-to-air kills during the 1940 Battle of France.

Of the 11 French aces of the early part of the war, seven flew H75s.  The P-36 was also ordered by the governments of the Netherlands and Norway, but did not arrive in time to see action before both were occupied by Nazi Germany.  Most Dutch Hawks were assigned to the "1st Fighter Squadron - Flying Group IV") of the ML-KNIL, although some flew with 1-VlG V. These aircraft saw action over Malacca, Sumatra and Java, successfully bombing the railroad and intercepting bombers and participated in the extensive dogfights over Soerabaja.  The type was also manufactured under license in China, for the Republic of China Air Force, as well as in British India, for the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF).

Axis and co-belligerent air forces also made significant use of captured P-36s. Following the fall of France and Norway in 1940, several dozen P-36s were seized by Germany and transferred to Finland; these aircraft saw extensive action with the Ilmavoimat (Air Force) against the Soviet Air Forces. In Finnish service, the Hawk was well liked, affectionately called Sussu ("Sweetheart").

The Finnish Air Force enjoyed success with the type, credited with 190⅓ kills by 58 pilots, between 16 July 1941 and 27 July 1944, for the loss of 15 of their own. Finnish ace Kyösti Karhila scored 12 of his 32 victories in the Hawk, while the top Hawk ace K. Tervo scored 14 victories.  The P-36 was also used by Vichy French air forces in several minor conflicts; in one of these, the Franco-Thai War of 1940–41, P-36s were used by both sides.

From mid-1940, some P-36s en route for France and the Netherlands were diverted to Allied air forces in other parts of the world. The Iranian air force had the Hawk 75/P-36 as did the airforces of Thailand.  

French orders were taken up by British Commonwealth air forces, and saw combat with both the South African Air Force (SAAF) against Italian forces in East Africa, and with the RAF over Burma. Within the Commonwealth, the type was usually referred to as the Curtiss Mohawk.

With around 215 (P-36) plus 900 export Hawk 75 variants built by Curtiss itself at a cost of $23,000 each, the P-36 was a major commercial success for the company. It also became the basis not only of the P-40, but two other, unsuccessful prototypes: the YP-37 and the XP-42.

2nd Lt. Philip M. Rasmussen, Silver Star with one oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross, Airman's Medal with three oak leaf clusters

Philip M. Rasmussen (May 11, 1918 – April 30, 2005) was an Army Air Corps second lieutenant assigned to the 46th Pursuit Squadron at Wheeler Field on the island of Oahu during the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. He was one of the few American pilots to get into the air that day.  He flew many later combat missions, including a bombing mission over Japan. He stayed in the military after the war and eventually retired from the United States Air Force as a lieutenant colonel in 1965. He died in 2005 of complications from cancer and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

December 7 1941

The senior Army staff feared sabotage by Japanese sympathizers on Oahu more than a surprise air attack. For ease of guarding, all aircraft were parked wingtip-to-wingtip on the flight line, rather than in earthen revetments built to protect them from a mass attack. Antiaircraft ammunition was stored far from the aircraft in a central location.

Rasmussen awoke from his slumber at 8am to shouts and explosions as twenty-five Aichi D3A1 “Val” dive-bombers dived onto their targets at wheeler field on the island of Oahu, their 250 kilogram bombs striking the maintenance hangers and P-40 and P36 fighters parked closely together on the flight line and strafing the barracks and tents causing many casualties before leaving the battered airfield. As Rasmussen ran from the officers mess strapping on his .45 Colt, he cut quite the figure, clad only in his purple silk pajamas, he raced across the open ground to rescue what aircraft remained.

Fortunately on Dec. 6th, his leader 1st Lt Sanders moved his planes to the eastern side of Wheeler Field.  This action inadvertently saved most of the 46th Pursuit Squadron's P-36's from the initial attack on Wheeler Field as smoke from other burning planes, hid his unit long enough to get airborne.  

He found an unscathed P-36A Hawk and taxied it to a revetment where he had it loaded with fuel & ammunition. During a lull in the bombing, he took off with three other pilots. They received orders by radio to fly to Kaneohe Bay on the north-east side of the island.

He was joined by 1st Lieutenant Lewis Sanders with 2nd Lieutenants John Thacker and Gordon Sterling. Sterling, still wearing his civilian clothes from the evening before was in such a rush to get into the air he'd jumped into Lt Norris's aircraft when Norris ran to find a parachute, he had just passed his flight tests & didn't have a chute.   He stripped off his wristwatch, handing it to the crew chief with the words, “Give this to my mother. I’m not coming back.” The first plane off the ground was flown by Sterling’s roommate 2nd Lt. Philip M. Rasmussen.  

The pilots took off under fire. We climbed to 9,000 feet and spotted Val dive bombers,” Rasmussen remembered later. “We dived to attack them.” Led by 1st Lt. Lewis M. Sanders and Rasmussen among the four pilots, the P-36s engaged the Japanese aircraft. The American pilots subsequently engaged 11 Japanese aircraft.  Sanders got on the tail of one and shot it down.

Moments later, 2nd Lt. Gordon H. Sterling, Jr., downed a Japanese aircraft but then was shot down over Kaneohe Bay.  Just before witnessing Sterling’s death, Rasmussen charged his guns only to have them start firing on their own. While the pajama-clad pilot struggled to stop his guns from firing, a Japanese aircraft passed directly in front of him and exploded. Shaking off two Zeros on his tail, Rasmussen got his guns under control, raked another Japanese aircraft with gunfire, then felt himself taking hits from a Japanese fighter. “There was a lot of noise,” he said. “He shot my canopy off.” Rasmussen lost control of the P-36 badly damaged P-36 and fell into an uncontrolled plunge into the clouds over the mountainous terrain. After passing through the clouds at about 5,000 feet he regained control of the aircraft and returned to Wheeler Field, where he landed with no brakes, rudder, tailwheel & hydraulic lines severed.

He did not know it yet, but two cannon shells had buried themselves in a radio behind his pilot’s seat. The bulky radio had saved his life.  Accounts of the number of bullet holes in the plane vary, but most give a figure of about 500.  Despite having a jammed .30 caliber gun and only limited capability with his .50 caliber gun, Lt. Rasmussen had managed to shoot down a Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Several other Japanese pilots attacked, including one who apparently tried to ram him. The Japanese pilot, Iyozo Fujita, returned to the aircraft carrier, Sōryū, and survived the war.

For his actions, Rasmussen received the Silver Star. He survived the war, shooting down a second Japanese aircraft in 1943. He retired from the Air Force in 1965.

“The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Second Lieutenant (Air Corps) Philip M. Rasmussen, United States Army Air Forces, for gallantry in action as a Pilot of the 46th Pursuit Squadron, 15th Pursuit Group, at Wheeler Field and over the Island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, and waters adjacent thereto, on 7 December 1941. When surprised by a heavy air attack by Japanese forces on Wheeler Field and vicinity, Second Lieutenant Rasmussen took off for the purpose of attacking the invading forces, without first obtaining information as to the number or type of Japanese in the attacking force, and proceeded to patrol in the vicinity of Bellows Field, where he encountered six enemy aircraft. Though outnumbered with only three other aircraft in the flight he immediately attacked the enemy formation and shot one down in flames. He returned his plane safely to Wheeler Field although it had been damaged by enemy machine gun and cannon fire during the encounter. Lieutenant Rasmussen's presence of mind, coolness under fire against overwhelming odds in his first battle, expert maneuvering of his plane, and determined action contributed to a large extent toward driving off this sudden enemy air attack.”

In New Guinea with P-400 Airacobra-Ia of 7th Fighter Command (Rasmussen on wing; others unidentified)

USAAF fighter pilots with at least one kill during Pearl Harbor attack posing before a remaining  P-36 Hawk fighter: Lt Lewis Sanders, 2LT Phillip Rasmussen, 2LT Kenneth Taylor, 2LT George Welch, 2LT Harry Brown in front of Lt Browns P-36 used that day.

Lost at Wheeler that day.  

46th Pursuit Squadron

Donald D. Plant, Pvt

Gordon H. Sterling, Jr., 2d Lt. assistant flight engineer for the squadron was credited with one Japanese plane shot down. He had only just passed his final flight tests, lagging his fellow squadron mates a bit.  He had even written of his skills vs his fellow pilots to his family. His target fixation and inexperience got him shot down but his courage is unquestioned.  He was awarded the DFC.  His fiancée was Army 2nd Lt. Ada "Peggy" Olsson, a nurse stationed near by at Schofield Barracks hospital. She served from 1940 to 1945 leaving the service as a Captain, she never married and died in 1999.

The airforce eventually sent back all his belongings, watch , radio and his brand new 1941 Buick, complete with bullet damage in the windscreen.   The family, and in particular his brother kept it all these years, taking it to shows and WWII events.   It has been passed down in the family.  He has a marker in Arlington but he still lies with his aircraft somewhere in Kāneʻohe Bay

47th Pursuit Squadron

John l. Dains, 2d Lt   Shot down by "friendly fire"  2nd Lt. John Dains served with the 47th Pursuit Squadron based at Haleiwa Fighter Strip, an unknown to the Japanese Wheeler satellite  on the north shore of Oahu. During the Japanese attack, he used both a P-36 and P-40 in sorties against them.  He and his buddy. Lt. Harry Brown, had just qualified their aerial-gunnery qualifications at the Haleiwa auxiliary airfield, in the new P-40E.  He is now credited with shooting down the first Japanese aircraft of the war.  He had flown three mission on that day. Radar operators at the station at Kaaawa watched a P-40 shoot down a Japanese Zero during the height of the battle.  He was in a P-40 for his first 2 missions.

The operators were positive the American aircraft was a P-40, and they identified it both from its distinctive silhouette and the sound of its engine. None of the pilots that survived that morning’s action remembered flying in the Kaawa area. He was awarded the Silver Star as were all the pilots from Wheeler who got into the air that day.  Had he been credited with the Kaaawa victory, like Sterling he might have been awarded the DFC, but he was killed before he could report.

The only pilot whose action that day was unaccounted for was Lt John Dains, who flew two missions that morning in a P-40. Both times he was separated from the other American fighters and fought by himself.   After landing the second time, he switched to a P-36 and joined up with George Welch for a third mission. Neither pilot spotted anything because by that time the Japanese had cleared the area, so they decided to return to Wheeler Field. On the return flight, he was shot down  by "friendly", American AA fire, crashing at Schofield Barracks while flying a P-36A (#41-1207) . His Silver Star makes no mention of his being killed by friendly fire. It stated killed in action. Probably a wish to spare the family added sorrow and the military embarrassment at the time.

72nd Pursuit Squadron
Edward J. Burns, 1st Sgt
Malachy J. Cashen, Cpl
Dean W. Cebert, Pvt
William C. Creech, PFC
James Everett, SSgt
Paul B. Free, SSgt
Joseph E. Good, SSgt
James E. Guthrie, SSgt
Robert L. Hull, Pvt
George G. Leslie, Pvt
John A. Price, SSgt

73rd Pursuit Squadron
James M. Barksdale, SSgt

78th Pursuit Squadron
Vincent M. Horan, Cpl
Morris E. Stacey, Sgt

Army Air Corps losses among those who managed to get as far as the cockpit below.  The Navy also lost aircraft and crews in combat and to friendly fire.   However once  in the air the Army and Navy pilots gave a good account of themselves.  In addition to the air to air losses quite a few Japanese aircraft were damaged beyond the ability to be repaired once they regained their carriers.


Found this western union notice below.    With all the confusion and people expecting an invasion of the islands its surprising any family was notified so quickly in the chaos of the attack and aftermath, but in fact the Army Air corps had the notices to families with in 24 hours in several cases.   Also an ill conceived idea by a Brooklyn Candy company in 1942 to create what amounted to base ball trading cards of the KIA's to go with their candy.  Only  8 have been found.  It seems to have disappeared pretty quickly.    

The Japanese would concede the loss of twenty-nine aircraft from all causes that morning. The combined Hawaiian Air Forces claimed ten of those losses with four more probable and two Japanese aircraft damaged. If LT. John Dains’ kill is added to the list, the score comes out to eleven Japanese aircraft destroyed in air-to-air combat with a loss of four American planes, which were flown by LT's Whiteman (KIA) & Lt Bishop (WIA) who were shot down just off the runway as they took off at Bellows Field, Lt. Sterling (KIA),  and Lt. Dains (KIA).  

Lt Sterling was the only pilot lost in joined actual combat with the enemy; the Japanese downed Whiteman and Bishop during takeoff runs, and friendly fire shot down Dains…. More important under the circumstances that morning, however, was how the personnel of the Hawaiian Air Force in fact responded. From the lowest ranking ground personnel to the fighter pilot, everyone did the best they could with what they had. The men of the Hawaiian Air Force might have been caught by surprise, but they most certainly did not give up. The P-36 was flown by 4 of the scoring pilots that day. Lieutenants  Rasmussen, Sanders, Sterling and Brown.

The opening exhibit of the World War II exhibit in the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton, Ohio features a mannequin of a pajama-clad pilot climbing into a P-36 Hawk. The exhibit details Lt. Rasmussen's exploits that day and is informally titled "The Pajama Pilot

Data from the Flying Mule, multiple web pages & Wikepedia

A few books on the P-36 .

  I have yet to find a comprehensive book on the air actions over the islands that day.  Can any members recommend any?  There are a lot of one off stories.  I found a web article about a Kate on the ocean floor near one of the planned pick up points north of Oahu.  This helps to confirm one of the claims made on that day.   A Wildcat pilot, his plane shot up while taxiing got out unharmed, took off in a TBD and followed the retiring Japanese for 150 miles before turning back.   Others  went out solo as well.   More civilian aircraft shot down and strafed than you might think as well as unfortunates like Dains, killed by our own nervous gunners.

If you score a victory but lose your wingman, you lost the battle.
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Carousel 1 Model 6121 - Curtiss P-36A Hawk, USAAC 15th PG, 46th PS, "Black 86", Philip Rasmussen, Wheeler Field, Pearl Harbor, HI, December 7th 1941
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