Name the Mystery Aircraft

This is a flying replica of the original, and a faithful replica. It is on display at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, 2021.

Because I have no faith in you nailing it,  the answer is at the bottom of this blog. Answer fairly, did you get it without looking at the bottom?


Oddball Wisdom

“Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?”



USS O’Bannon (DD 450)

On the evening of 4 April 1943, the Destroyer Squadron TWENTY-ONE (DesRon 21), a fleet of destroyers which included the O’Bannon, had shelled Japanese bases in the New Georgia area. Early the following morning, they were returning to base at Nouméa, New Caledonia, when the O’Bannon’s radars picked up a large Japanese submarine.

It was cruising along on the surface, seemingly oblivious to the oncoming American ship. Commander Edwin R. Wilkinson ordered the O’Bannon to speed up and ram the sub, but as they got closer to it, caution won out. What if it was a minelayer? If it was, then ramming it would be suicide as the resulting explosion would destroy the destroyer.

But the ship had already built up momentum. So they turned the rudder so hard that the O’Bannon groaned while a large wave surged ahead to bash at the sides of the cruising sub. The maneuver worked. Instead of hitting the Ro-34, they banked sharply and found themselves sailing parallel to it.

Still no response from the Japanese. Looking over their railing, the Americans found out why. On the sub’s deck were sailors dressed in dark shorts and blue hats. And all of them were asleep.

The Allies’ fascination with the sleeping Asians couldn’t last, of course. First one, then another, and finally, the rest woke up. Pandemonium broke out as the Japanese stared up at the gawking enemy looming over them.

The American sailors wanted to open fire, but they had no guns among them. The Japanese also wanted to shoot, but they, too, were unarmed. According to Ernest A. Herr (who was aboard the O’Bannon that day), silence descended as the two sides ogled each other wondering what to do next. Military protocol didn’t cover such situations, apparently.

That, too, couldn’t last. The Ro-34 was armed with a 3” deck gun, and once the initial shock had passed, the captain realized that it might be a good time to use it. Although the O’Bannon also had deck guns, it was too close to the sub and perched too high to do any good.

The Japanese ran toward their deck gun. The Americans ran to their storage bins. No guns or grenades.

Only potatoes. Desperate, they reached in and threw as many as they could at the Japanese below, hoping to keep them away from their deck gun, but knowing it was a useless gesture. They were wrong.

The Japanese panicked. The brave among them picked the potatoes up and threw them overboard. Others threw them back at the Americans who threw them back at the Japanese.

It took the Americans a while to realize why the Japanese were so panicked – they probably thought that the potatoes were hand grenades. To this day, Herr isn’t sure why the Japanese were so afraid of the potatoes, but he’s grateful they were because they never made it to their deck gun.

The O’Bannon, meanwhile, used the potato war to distance itself from the sub. It got far enough away to use its deck guns, taking out the Ro-34’s conning tower. The sub dived, so the destroyer surged forward again, passing overhead and dropping depth charges that destroyed the Japanese vessel.

When the Association of Potato Growers of Maine heard about the incident, they sent the O’Bannon a plaque to commemorate the event. It reads: “A tribute to the officers and men of the USS O’Bannon for their ingenuity in using our now proud potato to “sink” a Japanese submarine in the spring of 1943. Presented by the Potato Growers of the State of Maine June 14, 1943″

She went on to serve in the Korean War and when she was decommissioned in 1970, the plaque was still aboard.


Name this Production Car (as opposed to a custom-made car or a one-off) This vehicle has a unique claim to fame. What is it?


Atlantis?  (h/t BW Bandy)


Wagons West!

Early Western Migration Trails.

Migration was made much easier with the coming of the Iron Horse.

Note the Republic of Texas, pushing north, toward Canada…


From the Forbes List – 2020


Answer to Mystery Aircraft


The North American P-64 was the designation assigned by the United States Army Air Corps to the North American Aviation NA-68 fighter, an upgraded variant of the NA-50 developed during the late 1930s. Seven NA-50s were purchased by the Peruvian Air Force and named it Torito.


  1. Nah, I was thinking it looked sort of like a Seversky P-35 or P-43, but not quite right. I should have known though, as I read about those things in a book on Latin American warplanes a few years ago.

    The car is a V-8 Tatra… 812, maybe?

    The claim to fame is probably that it killed so many Nazi officers in wrecks that they were forbidden to drive them.

    A good car actually, but the rear weight bias, independent rear suspension, and high top speed could overwhelm their stability. I’ve always wanted one, but they are like a zillion bucks.


  2. With the mystery aircraft I came close (no cheating!) but Mr.Hall beat me to both solutions: my respects and my sincere congratulations, Sir!
    The mystery car is a Tatra, indeed. The depicted model is a Tatra 87.
    After the occupation of Czechoslowakia it was widely used as an upper-end staff car by the Wehrmacht. Most Germans were not used to handling such a highpowered, rear-engined fast car and so caused many fatal accidents. Therefore the Tatra was called ‘tschechische Geheimwaffe = Czech secret weapon’ because it killed more Germans than the Czechoslovak resistance and so the Wehrmacht eventually forbade its officers from driving the Tatra.

    Thank you very much for the mysteries: they provide very entertaining calisthenics for the brain!

    • I thought that the aircraft would be tough. The P-35 naturally came to my mind, and that’s why I included the solution. I’m glad that you enjoy the brain teasers.

      The Tatra is one of those cars that may have been over-engineered for the drivers of the day.

  3. I found myself baffled by the aircraft only getting that it was pre WWII due to the early roundel.
    Family history can be tied to the western expansion. My great-great grandfather, a Civil War vet, took his family from Illinois to the LA area in the ’70s. I understand they rode the iron horse. After his death my great grandfather moved things here to the heartland.
    Another family member was a prominent early Mormon who pushed a handcart to Zion back in the ’50s. Later he was involved in the shooting of another man who was getting a little frisky with wife #1(he had four). Brigham Young himself declared him justified and that was the end of matters.

    • There were a few Latter-Day Saint handcart companies who pushed their worldly goods all the way across the plains, and over the Rocky Mountains. Say what you will, they were motivated. Some ended up stranded in the snow. I’m sure that they were all hungry most of the time.

      I may be wrong, but if I recall history, the Gila Trail was also a Mormon trail, established by LDS people who joined the US Army (volunteers) and who marched that route during the War with Mexico. There is a monument to that trek in Old Town San Diego, CA.

      • Done a little business with some guys in SLC who can trace their family history back to them what pushed those handcarts, and farther back even. Stern stuff, indeed.

        If ever going down I-80, do stop in at Fort Bridger and lookit Jim Bridger’s (rebuilt) trading post and walk the grounds of the old fort. Long way out there at two or three miles an hour.

    • I’m sure that there were a few tense moments.

      Submarine pressure hulls (then as now) are vulnerable to naval gunfire. One round into the hull or the conning tower, while not critical on the surface, was/is fatal at depth.

      • That’s how the first Japanese sub was sunk right off of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7th, 1941.

        One 5″ shell and down she went, and it took almost 40 years to prove it.

  4. Chevy Van, mid-80’s, or did you mean the one in front?

    Potatoes huh…working with what you got. Might need to make a potato launcher if some goofball from town comes up looking for trouble.

    Register Cliff near Guernsey, Wy is interesting, deep ruts, names scratched into the rock face gives one pause when imagining their journey while standing in a spot they passed so much the rut trail is permanent…no snowflakes back then. We have one of the last remaining Pony Express Stage Stations up by us, of Jack Slade fame. Stagecoach travel was not for the feint of heart…rough and dusty and bandits.

    • I have a spud gun. They can be a lot of fun and you can get some surprising range out of them. Better than just throwing them.

      No snowflakes on the trail west. The shirkers and layabouts would be weeded out early on. Usually, the Indians begged cattle or raided cattle and horses. Many of the pioneers used spans of oxen as draft animals and they were slow (but strong) and didn’t lend themselves to capture and a quick escape. They were on a clock. If weren’t fast enough to make it over the passes you’d end up stuck in the snow (like the Donner Party).

      Movies show people riding in wagons/prarie schooners, but they most often walked next to the wagons, which carried food, and everything that they owned in the world. They walked the whole way. The blisters would come and go early in the trek.

      • When we head north towards Jackson, run through 150 miles of open country, I never fail to look out at that expanse and picture people walking with their loaded wagons and think when they came over a rise after a full day of trudging and saw then next month’s journey in front of them…the fortitude to do what most people today have no clue. Rockets to our outer atmosphere for three minutes by a few, while a definite “journey”, ain’t the same…that’s tech developed by teams of STEM folks…and lots of disposable cash.

        • We were taught some about the pioneers and their wagons in grade school, but until we settled here, and saw the wide open plains, they were just stories in a book.

          To come across all that, on foot, took courage and motivation, both of which I’m sure were severely tested on the journey.

          • Exactly.

            When you see Register Cliff it hits you how either insane these people were or motivated, or both. This was arduous, but they did it…or died trying.

            Some of my family on my mother’s side came over from Scotland and Germany in the mid to late 1800’s, my mother used to say – looking at the pictures – “Handsome woman”, and she didn’t mean that in the Victorian sense. Tough looking ladies.

      • I’ve read they had a tarp under the wagon so the walkers could toss burnables into it for the evening meal.. I’m talking buffalo patties.
        When I drive I-80 west from SLC to Reno I think of those people making that walk at the speed of an oxen.

        • Absolutely, they cooked on buffalo (bison) chips primarily. What wood that was there in many places, was used by the first people through. Tough trip.

          • Cow patties and buffalo patties burn surprisingly well, as long as you get the dry ones.

            Interesting thing about the dry ones? As they dry, the top dries faster than the bottom so the edges curl up. And… under Texas Breezy conditions (50mph winds or more) the wind can get under them and make them fly. Seen it with my own eyes. It’s the durndest thing. Funnier is when a flying chip hits someone you don’t like.

  5. For the most part, the Mormon trail ran on the other side of the river from the Oregon Trail (and some other trail I can’t remember the name of). There is a point east of Kearney, NE where the three trails met, and there was a camp there, when I was a kid, that was originally named Trails Junction because of that.
    My great grandfather had a blacksmith shop along the Ft. Kearney Trace, which spun off the Oregon trail near Ft. Kearney and trended in a west-southwest direction. When the wagon traffic slowed way down he closed it down and bought a farm, which is where I grew up.

    • Great history – living history really. Thanks for sharing.

      When I was a young boy living with my grandparents, they bought an old pioneer home and I lived there with them. I found an old wampum belt (blue beads, with red crabs in beads) in the second story. I still have it, and it’s one of my treasured possessions. The house was constructed of adobe and there was plaster on the walls (inside and out). The walls were about two feet thick and insulated the place very effectively. Warm in the winter, cool in summer. Except for upstairs, where I lived and when it was -20 outside, it was -20 in my room. I slept in an old USMC mummy sleeping bag and put my clothes at the foot so they’d be warm in the morning. If I left them out, they’d be frozen stiff.

  6. great story about the potato, lol….atlantis, few people know that the coastline was much further out than it is now. divers have found evidence of whole villages and beachcombers find washed up pottery and such up and down the east coast. all of it became flooded as the little ice age melted. likely evidence of habitation thousands of years older than thought.

    • I often wonder if Viking/Norse settlements were not more extensive than reported. The legend of the Stone Men (men wearing armor) abounds on the East Coast as well. We don’t know who they were or what happened to them, but based on legend, they pre-date Columbus/1492.

  7. My maternal great-grandfather’s parents emigrated from Scotland in 1848, eventually winding up in Detroit. Their oldest son, Charles, was born there in 1851. At age 24, Charles was advised by a doctor to seek a warmer, drier climate. The young man made his way to Austin, Texas in the spring of 1876 where he worked for a time in a dry goods store. Later he purchased a band of 900 sheep, and over the next year or so, made his way out to west Texas, eventually buying land and settling near Sanderson. In the pictures at the link, young Mary Downie was my grandmother.

    • Thanks for that!

      My paternal (several greats back) grandfather was a stonemason and bridge-builder who left Yorkshire. He’d been an apprentice was working for his tools, as apparently was often the case. He claimed that the master mason on a bridge (still there) project cheated him and kept his tools. He took ship, immigrated west, like so many others, looking for a new life. He came in a wagon train well before the railroads were built.

      • When one explores their ancestral history, who we are today with our proclivities, start to make sense.

        • He built stone buildings and stone homes in the New World, and I’m told, at least one bridge, in the midwest. Many of my family here in the US were stone masons and the sons of stone masons. Some still follow that trade. Hard men.

  8. Just finished ‘Tin Can Titans’ the story of the O’Bannon and her sister ships in DesRon 21. Good read. She lived a charmed life…from the early days around Guadalcanal to being chosen to lead the fleet into Tokyo harbor. I believe she totaled only 2 casualties through the war.

    • I haven’t read that one, but will look it up. Thanks for the reference.

      At least we’re getting rain now, Bob. (bobbookworm lives in the same general of Arizona that I do)

  9. For those interested in the old wagon routes, a visit to to Guernsey, WY won’t disappoint. One chalk hilltop has a deep trench worn down by passing wagons. There are other artifacts in town.

    A side show worth visiting is the Wyoming National Guard camp with some displays you wouldn’t expect.

  10. “Kelly’s Heroes” is such a great movie. The minefield scene still makes me tear up when I see it.

    And probably Donald Southerland’s best role ever.

    So many great actors in that movie.

    Damn, now I have to find it and watch it again. Poor me.

  11. I had the ID of the aircraft on the tip of my tongue. I knew it but I just couldn’t firm up my thoughts. When I read the description in the comments, I sang out, ‘Of course!’ You guys are the best.

    As president of the club, my dad accepted the whale boat from USS O’Bannon to be owned and operated by the dive club at Kaneohe MCAS, Oahu. Twenty-six feet of oak on oak frames and with a one lung Buda engine. The club had so few members in those days that the boat basically became our family launch.

    It was at one of the monthly meetings that the guest speaker was an officer from USS O’Bannon. We heard many tales of her days in action.

    I thought the Santa Fe trail was extended to the west to pass through the El Cajon Pass to enter into what is now southern California. In them heady days while Alta California was still a Spanish possession, many a rustler and desperado used the trail through the Pass to take them to southern Utah or all the way to Albuquerque. Hmm, if not the Santa Fe, I wonder what is the name of that trail. Certainly there is a trail from CA to Albuquerque, with a side trail to Mesa, AZ.

    • The Mormon Trail led to San Bernardino through Cajon Pass. The Gila trail followed what is roughly Interstate 8 to San Diego. The old mail road ran from Camp Caddy (Barstow) along a series of old forts to the Colorado River. It’s now called The Mojave Road and I’ve crossed it with my children in my 4×4 many times. There is water about every 10-15 miles and the army put outposts at every watering hole as stage stops. The Mojave Road was used by Indians crossing the Mojave Desert for possibly thousands of years – traveling from water to water. It’s not a difficult road and that’s why the Indians used it – later the army. At one point, the army protected the road with a camel corps.

  12. The aircraft I didn’t know. Small vertical stabilizer, which I couldn’t place, but the fairings on the main gear made me think Grumman or Vultee.

    The car I knew. It’s a Tatra 87, made in Czechoslovakia. I was infamous for supposedly being Verboten for Nazi officers to drive, as they were fast, but had some handling quirks leading to them rolling over in sharp turns at high speed.

    Good article here on the Hagerty website:

    The Old West migration maps are fascinating. I was amazed when I found out that one of the roads here, Overland Trail, was once part of the Overland Trail. We took a trip up to Virginia Dale to see one of the only remaining Overland Trail Stage Station, but I didn’t look into it enough to find the marker, so we stood around the closed Post Office and took pictures. It’s a beautiful area, and the pix I took can’t capture the expansiveness of it.,_Colorado

    • I don’t think that I’d want to piss off either Jack Slade or his former buddy Jules.

      Great history of the West.

      The Hashknife Cattle Company was big in this area and notorious. It still exists, fewer shootings. The Hashknife Pony Express route ran near the White Wolf Mine along the old army road built by General Crook during the Geronimo Campaign.

      • “I don’t think that I’d want to piss off either Jack Slade or his former buddy Jules.

        “buddy Jules”…hehe, good one.

        Or, tick off Virginia Slade for that matter…had ol’ Jack pickled for the trip to Missouri from Virginia City, MT. Tough cookie.

        Jack was a very good manager, got things done, but when he went to LaPorte for a little whistle wetting he got nasty.

        • I’ve read that when he was sober, he was an OK person.

          Unfortunately, that wasn’t often enough.

          Our first Christmas here one of the in-laws gave me a stck of books on the area. The history of Pouder Canyon was very interesting, and I found a reprint of the Ansel Watrous book on the history of Larimer County. It’s hard reading as the reprint is printed on a full page, but it only fills about 2/3rds of the page, and has very tiny type, but it’s fascinating history.

  13. Yeah, missed on the airplane AND the car (although I did get Tatra, just wrong model). The maps are interesting, especially the fact that they don’t show how closely they followed the various rivers. And the expansion map is later, as ALL of the early trails started in St. Louis. Ironically, the Mormon trail used the north side of the Platte River to ‘protect’ them from persecution…

    • The Mormon Trail on the north side of the Platte was planted with crops for settlers who would follow. Pay it forward.

  14. In 1887 Charles Ora Card led the last documented organized immigration in America by settlers using wagons and oxen.
    Card has been arrested and sentenced to prison for engaging in plural marriage. He had four wives one of whom was a daughter of the deceased Brigham Young.
    Card jumped from the train on the way to prison and eased back into SLC where he sought advice from the president of the LDS church, John Taylor. Taylor has served a mission in Canada and thought the Canadian government might be easier to deal with regarding the polygamy issue (they weren’t).
    Card first scouted British Columbia and decided it was not suited for his needs.
    He then checked out Southern Alberta and decided it would work.
    He led twelve other families ( twenty to thirty people depending on who you read) with wagons and teams to a place known as Whiskey Gap afew miles north of the Montana border.
    Nearby, he established the town of Cardston and started the process to build the first temple outside of the United States.
    You might have heard of his great grandson, Orson Scott Card. One of his books is on the Recommended Reading List for officers…at least it was when we intended to win our wars. “Ender’s Game”. You might have heard of it.

    I knew an old farm-girl who was born in what is now the ghost town of Whiskey Gap.
    She related an incident that occurred when she was a child attending church.
    It seems the Stake President’s milk cow had wandered off and he asked the Bishop who was conducting at the meeting that morning to announce that he was looking for his milk cow.
    The Stake President’s family had a genetic anomaly that resulted in the family loosing their hearing earlier than others. To compensate for poor hearing the Stake President used a tin ear trumpet..
    The meeting began and the Bishop started the announcements and noted that there was a new member of the Ward and she was a piano teacher.
    The Bishop went on to recommend that it would benefit the children of the Ward to take lessons from the new sister.
    At which point the Stake President stood, with his ear trumpet jambed into his ear, and in a loud voice said, “Yes, and if you’ve seen her she has one bum teat and all the hair rubbed offa her belly”!
    Elaine Wight gets the credit for that story.
    Her husband, Ed, had some stories about their time in Iran when it was under the Shah that brought tears to your eyes due to the poverty.

    • It’s an interesting story. Some of Orson Scott Card’s work appeals to me, and some like his latest novel, “Lost Boys” doesn’t appeal much. However, as a writer, I can attest that you can’t please everyone. At best you can hope that your work appeals to someone.

      The earthy stories of settlers always strike me as interesting. RHT (fellow blogger) e-mailed me a story from West Texas at the turn of the century. It reminded me of the stories that my grandfather shared of his youth. The West was different then – and far different from when I was a youngster than it is now. Gone forever.

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