Last year, we presented TORA TORA TORA, the re-enactment of the attack on Pearl Harbor. This year, we present "Prowlers of the Pacific" a re-enactment that exhibits the aerial warfare witnessed at the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway, two events that changed the course of the war in the Pacific. Prowlers includes the World's ONLY flying Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, a RARE SBD Dauntless dive-bomber, the famous gull-winged FG-1D Corsair fighter and a Japanese Kate (replica) torpedo bomber that represent the best of the Pacific War.
World War II for the United States of America started on that infamous Sunday, December 7th 1941 (what TORA re-enacted). We were a nation asleep and not prepared for a war defending our freedom or that of the entire world. While fighting continued on in Europe, the United States also took to the Pacific. The Pacific Theatre was over 62 million square miles of ocean, with only a few thousand square miles of islands...just small dots in a massive blue sea. We had to take the fight to the enemy and the aircraft carrier became the chess piece used to move across the Pacific Theatre. The mighty aircraft carrier had already proven itself in less than a year of war and became our spearhead as we island hopped across the Pacific, pushing the enemy back towards their homeland. The sleeping giant had been awakened and the Arsenal of Democracy started to produce new fighters and bombers, like the ones seen in the act.
Like TORA TORA TORA, the "Prowlers of the Pacific" act is dedicated to The Greatest Generation who volunteered to defend our freedom in those dark days. To those that sacrificed their lives thousands of miles from home and those that fueled the arsenal of democracy and kept the home fires burning! The "Prowlers of the Pacific" is a joint effort between the Dixie Wing and the West Texas Wing of the Commemorative Air Force. The museum, the largest flying museum of World War II aircraft with units across the United States, are dedicated to preserving the memory of those that fought and sacrificed to ensure our freedom!
"Prowlers" will come complete with Hollywood style pyrotechnical explosions provided by the Commemorative Air Force TORA Bomb Squad (the same team that provided our pyro for the 2016 event) led by Michigander Gordon Webb. Don't miss your chance to see another terrific re-enactment complete with some of the rarest aircraft still flying today. The show will be performed on June 30th & July 1st. Mark your calendars and make sure you are here to see it!
ABOUT THE AIRCRAFT:
- Curtiss SB2C Helldiver: world's ONLY flying example
The SB2C Helldiver was the final purpose-built dive-bomber to enter the Navy inventory. The Helldiver was a troubled beast, and often bore the brunt of derisive jokes from its crews. When called upon, however, the aircraft and its committed crews were certainly capable of making an impact on history. Known for its night strike on the Japanese fleet during the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the successful mission was followed by many aircraft running out of fuel and having to ditch at sea. Almost three quarters of the crew were successfully rescued. The SB2C was a workhorse in the Pacific Fleet. It is known for its distinguished look, long fuselage, long cockpit and large wings. This SB2C Helldiver is the only flying Helldiver left in the world today!
- Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless Dive Bomber: Extremely RARE flying example
The Northrop Corporation first developed the SBD before World War II. It was first flown in July 1935, but considered obsolete by December 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Douglas Aircraft purchased the SBD contract and the SBD-1 was first delivered in late 1940. Over 5,000 aircraft were built and production of the carrier-based scout, dive and torpedo bomber ceased in July 1944.
The Dauntless helped turn the tide of World War II at the Battle of Midway on June 4th, 1942. The Dauntless sunk four major aircraft carriers of the Japanese Navy, ceasing Japanese expansion of the Pacific. The aircraft was also the ONLY U.S. Combat aircraft to serve from the beginning of World War II to the end and also the first U.S. Aircraft to shoot down a Japanese Zero fighter. It is considered the most destructive air weapon of the U.S. Navy, having sunk over 300,000 tons of enemy ships, a greater tonnage of Japanese shipping than any other Allied aircraft during the war. It earned the nickname "Slow, But Deadly!" After the war, the US Marine Corps continued to use the SBD, and in the 1950s, the French Air Force used SBDs in its war in Indo-China.
Some SBD's remain on display, but this is one of only a few still flying today. The AIR ZOO, just down I-94 about 20 minutes in Kalamazoo, Michigan, has an SBD Dauntless on display that spent 10 years in restoration after spending 50 years on the bottom of Lake Michigan. They are also currently restoring another SBD that sat on the bottom of Lake Michigan for over 60 years (along with an FM2 Wildcat). It is worth checking out after the Field of Flight is over with!
- Goodyear FG-1D Corsair
The Corsair, originally developed by Chance-Vought, and produced by Goodyear and Brewster under license, has become one of the most popular Fighter aircraft of the Second World War. However, its original debut as a Carrier-borne fighter was less than spectacular. The airplane had been intended to replace older naval fighter variants, but its difficult carrier landing characteristics caused the Navy to pass many of the airplanes off to the Marine Corps' land based air support units. The Marines gladly accepted the Corsair and groups like the "Black Sheep" squadron and the "Jolly Rogers" tore up the skies. The carrier landing quirks were eventually worked out, allowing the Corsairs to return to the Fleet's aircraft carriers - just in time to participate in some of the most grueling engagements in the war...The Palaus, Iwo Jima & Okinawa. It was here that the airplane earned a reputation as a "Mudfighter"...getting down and dirty to support troops on the ground. It's impressive performance characteristics also earned it a reputation as a Kamikaze hunter in those dark days. The gull winged fighter, today, is one of the most recognizable World War II Warbirds.
- Nakajima B5N "KATE" Torpedo Bomber (Replica)
The Nakijima B5N (Allied Reporting Name "Kate") was the standard carrier torpedo bomber of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) for much of World War II. Although the B5N was substantially faster and more capable than its Allied counterparts, it was nearing obsolescence by 1941. Nevertheless, the B5N operated throughout the whole war, due to the delayed development of its successor, the B6N. The B5N achieved particular successes at the battles of Pearl Harbor, Coral Sea, Midway and Santa Cruz Islands. The aircraft that will be taking part in the show is actually a replica, and shares a history much like those seen in last years TORA TORA TORA act here in Battle Creek. The aircraft was built in 1969 for the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! by combining the air-frame of a North American SNJ-4 with the tail section of a Vultee BT-13. With its 600 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R1340-AN engine, its performance is actually equivalent to that of an original Kate. In addition to its role in Tora! Tora! Tora!, this Kate has appeared in the movies "The Battle of Midway", "The Flying Misfits", "War & Remembrance" and the TV Series "Black Sheep Squadron". A terrific act headlined by many great and RARE aircraft. Don't miss it June 30 - July 1.