Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Oddball Collection of Cajun Warplane Photos


As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, I discovered a photo in the National Archives and Records Administration showing a U.S. World War II transport plane (a C-47, to be precise) with the nickname Cajun Coonass painted on its fuselage.  I also found motion picture footage of the same plane.  (See my previous article on the Cajun Coonass.)

The Cajun Coonass C-47 transport plane,
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 1943.
(National Archives and Records Administration)

Not only did this discovery lead, in my opinion, to the debunking of the alleged etymology of the word "coonass" (a controversial term meaning "Cajun"); it also led to my interest in collecting images of Cajun-themed warplanes.

For example, I purchased at auction an original B&W print and negative of a B-29 bomber named the Cajun Queen.

The Cajun Queen B-29 bomber,
possibly in Asia or the Pacific, ca. 1945.
(Author's collection)

Here is the same plane from a different angle:

(Author's collection)


Other images of this plane are known to exist and some of them show a B-29 of the same name but with different nose art.  Here is an example:

The Cajun Queen B-29 bomber,
different nose art, ca. 1945.
(Courtesy Randy Colby)

Could this be the same plane, but repainted?  Or a replacement plane bearing the same name?  In any event, each of the images shows a plane belonging to the 678th Bombardment Squadron, 444th Bombardment Group — the emblem of the 678th being a cobra spitting a bomb, both superimposed against a spade inside a circle.

I recently met a US Air Force pilot who told me he knew of a B-52 bomber named the Ragin' Cajun.  After returning to his airbase he sent me a photo of the plane in question.  I show it here, but blot out the pilot's face for privacy's sake.  (By coincidence, the phrase "Ragin' Cajun" was used as a nickname as early as 1950 by U.S. Marine Corps Reserve fighter squadron VMF-143.  See my previous article on this subject.)  Note that the neanderthalic (and stereotypical) Cajun is whacking an alligator over the head while a crawfish bites him on the toe — alligators and crawfish being symbols of Cajun ethnicity.

The Ragin' Cajun B-52 bomber, no date.
(Source: Anonymous)

Likewise, a search of the Internet turned up the image of another Cajun-themed B-52 bomber: the Cajun Fear.  Like the Ragin' Cajun, the Cajun Fear shows a rampant alligator, in this case seemingly bursting through the plane's fuselage.  (Note the image of the state of Louisiana at lower right corner.)

The Cajun Fear B-52 bomber, 2011.  (Courtesy Bruce Smith)

To bring up the "C word" again:  "Coonass Militia" used to be the nickname of the Louisiana Air National Guard's 159th Tactical Fighter Group.

F-4C Phantom jet with "Coonass Militia" emblem, 1983.
(Click to enlarge; courtesy Gerrit Kok)

According to the Times-Picayune, the group changed its name in 1992 (no doubt because of complaints about the word "coonass," which some consider an ethnic slur against Cajuns).  (Source: Ron Thibodeaux, "'Coonass' Carries Baggage Some Prefer to Leave Behind," Times-Picayune, 17 July 2001, accessed 1 June 2012.)  It now goes by the nickname "Louisiana Bayou Militia," whose current emblem incorporates French fleurs-de-lis and traditional Mardi Gras colors, symbols associated with the state of Louisiana.

"Bayou Militia" emblem on jet fighter's vertical stabilizer, 2011.
(Photograph by author)

Here is one more Cajun-related, if not Cajun-themed, warplane:  A full-scale replica of the P-40 Flying Tiger flown by Cajun fighter pilot Wiltz P. Segura.

Replica of Cajun pilot Wiltz P. Segura's P-40 Flying Tiger warplane,
USS Kidd Veterans Memorial, Baton Rouge, La., 2012.
(Photograph by author)

Hailing from my adopted town of New Iberia, Segura joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942 as an aviation cadet and received his commission the next year as a second lieutenant.  As his U.S. Air Force biographical sketch notes:

During his World War II tour of duty in China . . . Segura flew 102 combat missions, destroyed one Japanese bomber and five fighter aircraft, and was credited with damaging three more. He was shot down twice by ground fire but each time parachuted to safety and successfully evaded enemy capture behind the lines. . . . In October 1965 he was assigned to England Air Force Base, La., as vice commander of the 3d Tactical Fighter Wing, and retained that position when the wing was transferred in November 1965 to Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam. During an extended absence of the wing commander, he assumed command. . . . Segura flew more than 125 combat missions in the F-100, and F-5 aircraft, and was the first pilot to check out in the F-5 in the combat theater.  (Source: Wiltz P. Segura biographical sketch, U.S. Air Force web site, accessed 31 May 2012)

By the time of Segura's retirement he had attained the rank of brigadier general.


Close up of Wiltz P. Segura's P-40 fuselage.
(Photograph by author)

If you have photographs of other Cajun-themed warplanes — I'm sure there must be a very finite number of such aircraft — please let me know.  I'd like to add them to my collection.

Incidentally, a few years ago I designed a faux Cajun-themed-World War II-nose-art T-shirt.  Actually, I mixed bits and pieces of pre-existing art from around the Internet with my own art to create this T-shirt.  Here is the design. . . .



Of course, "Jolie Blonde" (French for "Pretty Blonde") is a famous Cajun song, considered by many to be the "Cajun national anthem."  If there was never a warplane by this name, there should have been!

4 comments:

  1. I received the below comment from Dave Honecker, whose father flew on the two Cajun Queen B-29s. I post his message with permission:

    Dr. Bernard,

    I saw some pictures of the Cajun Queen B-29 on your web site. My father, Lt. Warren Honecker, served on that plane as navigator. It was in the 444th Bomb Group, 678th Squadron. They flew missions against the Japanese out of Dudkundi, India and Tinian. I believe it was 23 [missions] altogether. The name Cajun Queen comes from the pilot's wife. Maj "Shag" (Harold) Shelden was from Wyoming, I believe, but his wife was from LA [Louisiana]. According to the little diary of Dad's I have, the two planes come down to this: The first plane with the classic art work of the woman was damaged badly on landing on Tinian. They flew to India by way of Brazil and west Africa -- using British bases. They flew to Tinian by way of China and apparently damaged a landing gear when landing in China on the rock (hand-built) runways the Chinese made. They were assigned a new plane and it was named the Cajun Queen, too, but the artwork was done by a group of CBs [also spelled "seabees"] on Tiniana who sort of adopted them after they had to crash land the first plane -- hence the different art work. Dad didn't keep in touch with any of the crew after the war.

    A Louisiana story for you. They took a little detour enroute from training base in Nebraska to Florida before heading to South America. The pilot got Dad to plot a course for Lafayette, where some of his in-laws were. They buzzed the town at about 300 feet according to Dad. That's 300 feet in a B-29 -- by far the biggest thing in the sky in 1945. I am not sure if my Mom and Maj. Shelden's wife Dottie were there or not. I know my mother and she went there after leaving their husbands in Nebraska.

    I just thought I could clarify some things -- there are pictures of the crew and plane on another web site or there were [see http://www.444thbg.org/678thsquadron.htm ]. I have been lucky enough to have lots of Dad's records.

    Dave Honecker

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  2. I also received this e-mail several months ago from Jim Butterworth, whose father also served on the Cajun Queen; I post his e-mail with permission:

    My dad was definitely on this one [the early version of the Cajun Queen, with the woman painted on the fuselage]. We have a photo of him (and the crew) in front of the plane at the same time as your photos (all show 7 bombing missions on the side of the plane). Unfortunately, my dad is not around to ask about the two planes or name origin. This B-29 was built in 1942 and was serial number 42-63557. It was later renamed the "Missouri Belle" and crashed on May 3, 1945. After repair it was transferred out of the 678th Bombardment Squadron, 444th Bombardment Group, 58th Bomb Wing into the 19W19G and was renamed "Sure Thing."

    In spring 1945 a brand new B-29 (serial # 44-69982) was delivered to the 678th, and it was [also] named "the Cajun Queen." This is the other picture you have. I have a photo of the plane and crew and one of the officers definitely looks like my dad. I'm doing research into whether he (and others from CJ #1) were on this plane. Interestingly, this plane became the first B-29 to land on Japan, in Aug 1945 just after the surrender, when it ran out of gas running POW relief. In 1953 it crashed off Newfoundland destroying it and killing the crew. . . .

    The commander/pilot of both planes named The Cajun Queen was Major Harold J. Shelden, Jr. His wife, Dorothy, was from Lafayette, LA, and together they later lived in Baton Rouge. Hence, she's The Cajun Queen! I imagine the reason the first plane was later named the Missouri Belle is because they met and married in Missouri. When the new B-29 arrived in 1945 (after he crash-landed the first one) he named it The Cajun Queen, too. Make sense?

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  3. The state of Louisiana on the B-52 in the 2011 picture is because the aircraft is part of the 2nd Bomb Wing, based at Barksdale AFB in Shreveport. Only Minot AFB in ND and Barksdale AFB still have B-52's.

    In the first picture, the pilot is still wearing a Strategic Air Command patch, so the picture would be before 1991. The National Museum of the USAF lists the aircraft as being a B-52G, later assigned to the 2nd BW at Barksdale AFB. The aircraft has been scrapped but the nose art is preserved at the USAF Museum.
    http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet_print.asp?fsID=21325&page=1

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