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Posted Monday, March 23, 2020 by Alejandro Mena    

Allan Blue: Master and Mentor

A week ago Sunday (March 15th) I was reading and chiming in on a thread posted by Steven Puhl on the Second Air Division Heritage League FB Group.  He had a photo of some of his research books and one of them was by noted author, the late Allan Blue.  The book was titled simply, "The B-24 Liberator".  I posted that; several years prior, I had a phone conversation with Allan and he mentioned rather pointedly, 'you DO have my book, don't you?' I sheepishly admitted that I did not have the book in my library. For a moment, it felt like I was back in high school and my teacher was asking me why I didn't have my report ready. It felt just like that!

Irishman's Shanty B24 liberator S/N 44-40166 Animation render by Justin Hall

A few months later that same year-2011, my animator Justin Hall, put together a pretty darn good 3D model of my Dad's plane, "The Irishman's Shanty" from the 492nd Bomb Group. He sent me an image of the render and I happily forwarded the image to all my historians and researchers-Allan Blue amongst them.  Within a few days I received replies along the lines of 'wow', 'fantastic', 'awesome' and so forth. Allan also liked the imageā€¦and then proceeded to tell me everything that was wrong with it!  This email reply was dated May 14, 2011.

 Alex,

 I would suggest one major (and a few minor) changes to the digital Shanty.

 First, the nose turret depicted is an Emerson whereas it should be a Motor Products. The two were quite different. Here is a view of the correct turret from a similar angle: (and then he posted an image of the proper turret mounted in a B24).   Allan continues:

This photo also shows the airspeed indicator (pitot tube) which is the small projection just forward and above the nose wheel. I think this is what your artist has depicted as a black L-shaped object further back on the lower fuselage. I suggest this be deleted.

 The forked (RCM) antenna shown between the astrodome and the windshield and again on top of the rear fuselage were not on Shanty while it was with the 492nd and both should be deleted. Replace the latter with a single mast.

 The photo above also shows the blown Plexiglas bubble that replaced the small navigator's window - a modification that was performed on all 8th AF B-24s before, or shortly after, they were used operationally. Shanty had these on both sides of the fuselage.

Shanty had open waist windows with a wind deflector just forward of the window opening.

Here is a view of the top of the cockpit greenhouse showing the correct divisions:

Via Allan Blue

I don't mean to be picky about this - it is an excellent rendering and it will be great to see Shanty flying again! -Allan.

Ha! And that was my encounter with the Master, Allan Blue. Allan was long considered the greatest living expert on the B24 liberator bomber and all its variants.  He was sought out for his knowledge by producers of documentary films, book researchers, aviation museums and other WWII enthusiasts.  I expected this critique and did not take offense. CREW 713, for me and my producers, has always been considered a way to teach about the bomber Air War of WWII, specifically about the B24 bombers and the men who flew them. We greatly doubt that anyone but purists like Allan would even note the discrepancies that he noted above. (note: we did make several changes to the model based on Allan's observations). This animation still below incorporates some of Allan's suggestions. The image depicts CREW 713's disastrous 7th mission, the first Politz Raid-May 29, 1944. O'Sullivan and his boys were flying Ernie's Beavers that day. S/N 44-40173. The plane was so badly damaged, it did not fly again until June 28, 1944. A month in the shop getting repaired!

Ernie's Beavers has a bad day at Politz -May 29, 1944 animation still by Justin Hall (2018)

Allan also wrote the first book on the forgotten 492nd Bomb Group, "The Fortunes of War".  His brother had been a member of the 491st Bomb Group and had been killed on one of their missions. After the War, he came to North Pickenham to research the last months of his brother's life and this research led him to the discovery of the sad and forgotten history of the doomed 492nd.   A life long passion was kindled with the result of his publishing "The Fortunes of War" in 1967. A revised edition was released in 1987.

The Fortunes of War by Allan G. Blue (1967-Aero Publishers, Inc)

OK, so back to the story about the FB post. After seeing several other folks chime in, specifically Kurt Knutsen, I jumped off the thread, and on a hunch, made a call to Half Price Books. Guess what? They had the book! I asked them to hold it for me and IMMEDIATELY jumped in my car and drove to Half Price Books. With the new Covid-19 era we are now all living in, I put on my disposable gloves and bravely entered the book store. Added bonus: Half Price Books was hosting a 50% off sale, so the book was tagged at $20 and I paid only $10 + tax. Double Score!  After I got home, I was able to examine my purchase. The book was in excellent condition. Being a former bookseller and current book collector, I noted that the dust cover had no tears whatsoever, had no fading either, the colors were still vibrant. The binding was in perfect condition, there were no notes written anywhere in the book and the pages were bright and not yellowed at all. My best guess is this book was in some private library, away from the sun and rarely if ever opened. If I was to put it up for sale on Ebay, I would start at $200. That's how good of a condition this book is in.  The only thing missing was Allan's signature.  (and don't even ask-the book is definitely NOT for sale).

Me and my prized catch, Allan G. Blue's book, The B-24 Liberator

I then jumped back into the thread and posted a photo of myself with my newest prized possession. Both Kurt and Steven were astonished and amazed at my good fortune.  We all agreed that Allan must have been reading our thread from afar and asked the Universe to intervene. The Universe complied and I say, "Thank you Allan, I FINALLY have your book!"  I have begun to read his bible on the B24. I'm sure it will be worthwhile and with this self-quarantine in effect, I will have plenty of time to do so.

Laura and Allan Blue. 2006 Reunion (?) Photo via Lori Williford

All for now. Everyone be careful. Take care of yourself and your loved ones. I'm doing the self-quarantine here in Dallas and I highly recommend you do the same, wherever you may live. Flatten the curve. Peace to you.

Alejandro Mena
3 Comments on
Allan Blue: Master and Mentor
  1. On Monday, March 23, 2020
    Lori Williford wrote...

    So glad you managed to find a copy of that book. I only ever knew about "Fortunes of War". And thanks for crediting me for that picture of Allan and his lovely wife taken at the DC reunion all those years ago. Stay safe there in Dallas. We're sticking close to home in FL during these difficult times as well.

    • On Monday, March 23, 2020
      Alex Mena wrote...

      Hi Lori, Good to hear from you! Work continues on the film, it's been a real slog. I had no idea it would take me this long! But we keep inching closer and hopefully we'll have something to show real soon. Was I correct in the year of the Reunion? Great photo of Allan and Laura. Be safe in Florida! We'll all get through this if we use proper precautions.

  2. On Monday, March 23, 2020
    Kurt L.Knutsen wrote...

    Alex , thanks for the shout out ,not necessary but thanks. Glad the universe ( and maybe Al ) picked me and Steve to participate. I never met Al in person but we exchanged a few emails and he was always helpful and generous. As we say we are 492nd 491st cousins and owe Allan a huge debt and you honor his memory

    • On Monday, March 23, 2020
      Alex Mena wrote...

      Kurt,
      We definitely owe Al a huge debt. Ironically, had his brother not been killed, the rediscovery of the history of the group may have been pushed back even further. Though I have no doubt that other authors would have stepped up and filled the void. Allan was truly a giant in the B24 world and is sorely missed. Was good to give him some small props from my relatively small point of view.
      Take care, self isolate and flatten that curve!

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