I've been interested in aviation subjects in a general way since early in my childhood. I have a dark memory of my flipping through a picture magazine in 1942 while lying on the floor of a sunken-floor living room in my parents' home in Stillwater, Oklahoma, when I was about six years old. I remember turning a page to find a two-page layout of pictures showing warplanes. These were planes of the first year of America's World War Two, something I knew very little about at the time. But the airplanes fascinated me, and I instinctively knew that these contraptions were things that would interest me deeply in future.
Like many a boy growing up during World War Two and the Korean War, I built airplane models made of balsawood, wire, string, paper, and rubber. A few so-called solid models crept in, as well. These were of soft woods: balsa or pine. My parents, in recognition of my interest, added a few pre-built models. I had one of the black hard-rubber recognition models, a Dornier Do 215 I think, and a solid aluminum B-29 on a pedestal.
Although I was interested in aviation, there was little I could do about it as I grew older. My interest was pushed into the background by the activities and pressures of growing up in "Small-town U.S.A." in the 1940s and 1950s. By the time I graduated from High school in 1955, I had acquired a small collection of magazines and books on aviation subjects. But more distractions came very quickly as I joined the U.S. Army and went off to a career in military service that stretched over the next 22 years, as it turned out. I retired from air force active duty in 1977 as a Master Sergeant, a technical writer in the field of communications-electronics.
I got serious about airplanes again in 1964 and began buying some Japanese-language reference books from a seller known as World War One Aero Bookshop. These fascinated me and started me on the road to learning more about Japanese planes of WWII. About this time, I saw an ad in a model magazine which announced that a publication on Japanese aircraft camouflage paint would be sold to members of the International Plastic Modelers' Society. I joined to get the publication and made the acquaintance of Jim Sage, the director of the organization, who introduced me to Charles Graham, the editor of the IPMS Journal, and to Al Makiel, a Japanese aircraft enthusiast. I was member #424 and remained a member for nearly 20 years.
My association with Chuck Graham and Al Makiel and with the IPMS started it all for me. The rest is history, as they say. My name appeared on a few articles in IPMS publications. I became good at deciphering the written Japanese language, not expertly, you understand, but good enough to translate some tables and photo captions, specifications lists, things like that. In 1979 I compiled an article for the IPMS Journal about the American B-32 bomber of WWII. I did some drawings and collected some photos for the article. Due to a lack of technical information, my drawings were not that accurate, but they caught the eyes of several people. One in particular was Steven Harding. He wanted to do a book on the B-32, and we decided to collaborate on a research and writing project to produce a book which would tell the story of the plane. After two years of work and waiting, we got the book published in 1984, and it has been selling since then. It is in its fourth printing.
I didn't lose interest in Japanese aviation while doing the book on the B-32, and on several trips to the air force archives at Maxwell AFB from 1978 to 1989 I managed to search for and find many intelligence documents on Japanese aviation and airplanes. These formerly classified documents had been hidden away for many years after WWII ended, until the freedom-of-information legislation in the early 1970s loosened them up. Procedures for reviewing them, declassify them, and making them available to the general public were well established by the time I burst on the scene at the "Simpson Center" at Maxwell AFB.
The many intelligence documents I found proved that our armed forces had learned much about Japanese aviation during the war, but this material was not released to the public during or after the war. I was fascinated by the documents that reported on crashed and captured planes, giving technical details and serial numbers. Some of the documents traced the Allied efforts to understand the serial numbering systems. These interested me very much, for in them I saw a means of debunking some long-held opinions and "facts." I studied and collected these documents for years, during which time I concluded that Japan's simple serial numbering systems permitted the development of procedures for estimating dates of completion of individual aircraft. I worked out some procedures and published them in some desktop publications under the name AIR'TELL Publications and Research Service, a one-man enterprise I had set up for tax purposes when I went into the B-32 book-writing business with Steve Harding.
Since the 1980s, I've made at least a small name for myself with the B-32 book, my AIR'TELL Publications, and some published acknowledgements and by-lines for research work or writing I've done for other authors and researchers. I've been working out of my home-office in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, near Keesler Air Force Base, the center of Air Force communications-electronics training. My wife and I live here quietly on the Gulf Coast, in an area we like to call "Las Vegas South," because of the dozen or so gambling casinos. Our two children, Karin and Mike, are not too far away.
I am pleased to be asked to serve as a member of the j-aircraft staff.