The Air Force Museum, Chiang Mai

The Bigfella

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I had an interesting morning, looking at some military aviation history at the Air Force base in Chiang Mai. This isn't a rock up and look deal, but it was nice to be invited to join a select group of gentlemen today.

Here's William McGarry's P-40 Warhawk, recovered from near the Myanmar border







McGarry died in 1990, at the age of 74. His story is interesting. From an obituary:

Nicknamed "Happy-Go-Lucky" for his ebullient personality, McGarry learned to fly in the U.S. Army Air Forces at Selfridge Field, Mich. In 1941, several months before the United States entered the war, McGarry volunteered to fly with Gen. Claire Chennault's American Volunteer Group, the Flying Tigers, aiding Burma and China against the Japanese.

Already recognized for his artistic talents as a student at Loyola University, McGarry was credited with designing the "Adam and Eve" serpent-wrapped apple insignia on the P-40 fighter planes of Chennault's 1st Pursuit Squadron.


On March 24, 1942, flying over Thailand, McGarry's Tomahawk was hit by Japanese machine-gun fire and he bailed out, parachuting into a clearing. It was late October before his family in Los Angeles learned that he was alive and imprisoned by the Japanese in Bangkok. His family said the Chinese government had continued to pay his salary and had deposited $6,000 for the 12 Japanese planes McGarry shot down before his capture.

McGarry was held for nearly three years, his brother said, before escaping with the help of the Thai (then Siamese) government and the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency.


He was smuggled out of Bangkok in a coffin by Thais who claimed that he had died in captivity, said a friend from flight-training days, Hector Gonzalez. The escape was the subject of a major article in Collier's magazine.


McGarry rapidly completed Loyola Law School after the war and practiced law with U.S. military services and then privately in Los Angeles. He retired and moved to Desert Hot Springs in 1980.

McGarry



 

The Bigfella

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There's an A-37 Dragonfly there. This was the souped up version of the T-37 Tweet... an American twin engined jet trainer. They doubled the juice, equipped it with significant firepower and turned it into a ground attack aircraft. I was lucky enough to get my hands on the stick of one briefly, about 10 years ago. What a hoot. The pilot handed it over to me and let me barrel-roll it. Loved it. My daughter went up after my flight and loved it too. Loops, etc - I recall seeing 4.4G, as did my daughter.



This one has put almost 600,000 rounds through the minigun - and according to the counter, it's still loaded.



There's a nice Nakajima Kate replica




 

Lone Rider

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A bit more on McGarry and why/how he was shot down over Thailand (Source: URL="http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2007/11/03/travel/travel_30054660.php"]http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2007/11/03/travel/travel_30054660.php[/URL]

The bombing of Chiang Mai Airport - The place: Chiang Mai Airport. The time: early morning on March 24, 1942, and out on the apron, the glossy paint on a squadron of Japanese warplanes reflects the first signs of sunrise.

But this peaceful dawn was about to be shattered by the several small dots - steadily growing in size - in the ice-blue sky. Bearing Chinese insignia, their noses decorated with snarling shark's teeth, a small group of American Tomahawk fighters were on a mission. The Flying Tigers were coming. The airport had become the Southeast Asian headquarters of the Japanese Air Force during World War II, and the job in hand for these volunteer flying aces was to destroy enemy planes before they had time to leave the ground.

Aided by the element of surprise and piloting skills, the mission was accomplished, but as the aircraft turned and climbed out of their final strafing run, one of them was hit by ground fire. And as the stricken airman, William McGarry, floated down to his destiny by parachute, his P-40 Tomahawk spun out of control, a trail of black smoke belching from its tail, before crashing into a nearby forest. One wonders if McGarry, in his interrogation, told the Japanese of his eight air-to-air victories in just four sorties, and the way he took out Chiang Mai railway station with just one bomb. It's thought that he spent the rest of the war in a Thai jail, but some say he got out with the help of the Free Thai resistance forces. His aircraft was recovered 49 years later, and the wreckage - including the engine, propeller and various parts of the air-frame - is currently displayed at the Chiang Mai Aircraft Museum (also known as the Tango Squadron Museum).
 

The Bigfella

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In addition to the Rockwell OV-10 at the gate, there's another one, or was it two, inside



There's an old T-33 keeping an eye on Doi Suthep



As are a few T-28's

 

The Bigfella

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The T-33



Nice view of Doi Suthep from there too



Hmmm.... a mate of mine in Oz has a 5 litre V-twin from a RR Merlin.



A friend of mine who died a few years back (used to live near Pattaya) flew these a few decades back. The Bird Dog



Another one of the P-40



Hmmm. Needs a scrub



It'll never fly

 

Lone Rider

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The Air Force Museum also known as the Museum of the Tango Squadron.

Actually there are two museums - one located at the Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok and the other here in Chiangmai at the Chiangmai International Airport. A few members of the Thai Lao Cambodia Brotherhood (TLCB) organized a visit to the museum complimented by a few other people interested in the history of military planes and anything related to that topic.

Basically, everyone is welcome at the museum, and there's no admission charge (they do appreciate a donation and there is a donation box inside the museum). Its whereabouts are like a well-kept secret although, if you fly into Chiangmai Airport, it is hard to miss the C-47 parked outside the museum. The entrance is on a perimeter road at Chiang Mai Airport, used by Tango Squadron of Wing 41 of the Royal Thai Air Force.



A special pass is needed to enter the perimeter road and, if obtained, there are still no signs to say where the museum is. So, it is best to make special arrangements (we did and we were picked up at the main gate of Wing 41 of the Royal Thai Air Force at Chiangmai Airport so we had no problems with special entry passes). Generally there are guided tours on the first Thursday afternoon of every month (not sure if that is still the case) but your best bet is to contact Squadron Leader Weerachat Palee at (081) 028 4663. The Museum, known locally as the "Tango Squadron" can be seen during weekday business hours at Wing 41 Road, off Suthep Road. If all this info does not help, go to the Information Desk at the Chiangmai Airport and ask them to help you contacting the people of the Museum.



Once inside, you know it was worth the effort as the rather dilapidated Douglas C-47 that last flew in 1999 is not the only plane there but the three hangars next to it are packed with vintage aircraft, some dating back well before World War II. While a few of the craft have been badly neglected, most are being kept in good condition, and several are still airworthy. Visitors are invited to squash themselves into tiny cockpits, wiggle the controls and realise that these fighter planes were never built for comfort.


The "Big Fellah" trying to wriggle himself into the cockpit of the replica Japanese Nakajima B5N "Kate"


The two gentlemen who showed us around during our visit

OK, just a few pictures of some of the planes inside as well as a few from outside sources:




Japanese Nakajima B5N "Kate" in pristine condition. This impressive machine, in perfect working order, is in fact a replica made from a North American T6G for the classic war film "Tora! Tora! Tora!" It was hoped that the Kate might feature again in the shooting of "Pearl Harbour", but this time the moviemakers employed computer technology instead. With a top speed of 212 miles per hour, a range of 870 miles, a pair of 100-pound bombs, 30-calibre machine guns and four rockets, the T6G became a popular fighter and training aircraft. Thailand purchased 120 of them between 1948 and 1951, and one of them is now on show at the museum.




One of the few T-28 planes at the museum




One of the many O1-Bird Dogs in the museum - the last picture of a collection of O1-Bird Dogs at Kaeng Koi is copyrighted by Steve Dark



A Tiger Moth


A North-American T6

At Tango_Squadron you can download a .PDF file with a list of all the planes at the Tango Squadron Museum both in Chiangmai and at Don Muang in Bangkok and at Collections - Tango Squadron Museum you can find many more pictures of planes of the Tango Squadron Museum
 

The Bigfella

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Not Chiang Mai, obviously, but there's a few other interesting military planes around Thailand.

I stopped to get this shot at the entrance to Air Wing 7, down south, and the guard at the gate got all excited.... "parking over here"



Prachuap Khiri Khan is home to Wing 5. When I was there in 2012, you just had to sign in at the entrance and you could ride in... and across the runway... to access the beach and the climb up to a fabulous vantage point over the whole area.



This was the site of the Japanese invasion on Dec 8, '41... with over 250 killed, mostly Japanese

Signing in. The guy second from this end made the mistake of looking at my bike and got a long session of pushups for doing so



The climb up Khao Lom Muak is "interesting"

Apparently these are endangered







There's some vertical climbs, with the ropes. The ladders, not so good



The Air Force was flying when I was there... here's a Fairchild Peacemaker coming in to land



The runways



.... and the open air museum









 

monsterman

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Jan 13, 2011
Thanks Big fella,, i have been in the Don Muang museum some interesting stuff,

people dont realise how succesful the thai airforce was in 1940-41 , wiped out the VICHY Cambodian /French airforce .

I will try and get into the CMX museum next ride up there

jerry
 

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