Sunday, July 20, 2014

Peashooter P-26 Night Fighter Protecting Pearl Harbor, Post-Attack, December 1941

re historical trivia you can model. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese showed the great good sense of not wasting bombs or bullets on the half-squadron of P-26 Peashooters serving as "hacks" and based on the hard-stand at Wheeler Field, so they all survived the attack unscathed.

However, here's the rest of the story. What was shortly to become the 5th Air Force decided that these planes, while not good for much of anything else, would make do as night fighters to protect Pearl from long-range aerial snoopers - presumably flying boats, or cruiser-launched float planes (in fact, Japan did send several massive "Emily" flying boats from Kwajalein to overfly Pearl, refueling them at French Frigate Shoals from a sub). The Powers-That-Be felt the P-26's speed - a bit over 225 mph (going downhill with a tail wind) and the mixed armament of one .50 and one .30 would be sufficient to handle those nocturnal enemies.

So the surviving P-26s were painted black and actually became part of the island fortress's front line defense for a few months, until sufficient "real" fighters arrived to take their place. They were painted all black, but with the existing markings in place.

This is an early P-26 in an overall dark paint-job - the P-26 night fighter would have looked something like this, but with US Air Corps ID markings as shown in the other illustration
And no, they didn't shoot down any enemies - none over-flew Pearl before they finally received their well-earned retirement. Of course, a handful in the PI actually flew combat missions and one of them downed a Zero, proving that nothing in this world is impossible.
A rare photo of P-26s at Wheeler Field, Oahu, 1940-41, pre-attack
Late pre-war markings, OD and neutral gray, with chrome yellow wings and tail

I've found a number of published references, but no photos - the photos here show  pre-attack P-26s and an early prototype which "comes out black" in the photo. The actual birds had standard US Air Corps markings, but with black paint replacing OD and Neutral Gray. Don't know if the paint was gloss or flat, but since the idea of gloss black for night camouflage came later, I assume it was whatever gloss or flat black aircraft paint they had available.

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