Year of the Cat: Monogram F9F-5 Panther “the Bluetail Fly”
USS Princeton’s deployment on the line at the beginning of her final Korean deployment in April-May 1953 saw nine pilots shot down, with seven of the nine killed or missing. Among the dead was Lt(jg) Richard “Stretch” Clinite of VF-153, who was part of one of the more interesting stories to come out of the war at this time, that of “the Bluetail Fly.”
Panther parts in this final period of the war were increasingly difficult to obtain, which combined with the losses and the high number of aircraft damaged by the increasingly-effective enemy anti-aircraft defenses meant that carrier maintenance personnel had to become creative when it came to keeping aircraft in commission. Clinite was assigned one of the F9F-5s in the experimental unpainted aluminum finish. On 5 May, the airplane was hit in the tail section by flak that resulted in heavy damage. At first, it seemed the Panther would be grounded until extensive repairs could be performed back in Japan. However, Ensign W.A. Wilds returned from a mission in a blue-painted airplane that sustained heavy flak damage to the forward fuselage. In an all-night session on the hangar deck, the maintenance crews took the tail from Wild’s blue Panther and mated it to Clinite’s silver airplane. The result was named “The Bluetail Fly,” and Clinite flew it on several missions until it was so badly damaged by flak on 12 May that it was permanently grounded for major repair.
On 13 May, Clinite flew another Panther that took a major flak hit during the mission that forced him to eject over the sea. Clinite drowned when the wind prevented collapse of his parachute and the rescue helicopter was unable to pull him to safety due to the billowing chute.
VF-153 would later become VA-153 and fly A-4 Skyhawks in the Vietnam War, where the squadron took the name “Bluetail Flies” in memory of this event.
Thanks to a modeler now doing his work at the Big Workbench in the Sky for the kit obtained cheap at the LHS estate sale, and to Eagle Strike for doing the decals (also obtained at the LHS estate sale).
Yes, I am the ghoul who buys those kits you never got around to. 🙂
10 additional images. Click to enlarge.