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)

And a color print:

(Courtesy Jason Shelden,
whose father flew on the Cajun Queen.)

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!

Addendum of 28 May 2020:

Below is an additional image of the Cajun Queen B-29 bomber. It was sent to me by Val Adams, whose father served on the aircraft.

Courtesy Val Adams.

Addendum of 23 June 2021:

Here is yet another World War II warplane with the word "Cajun" in its nickname -- namely, the Little Cajun, which appears to be a B-26 Marauder.

Author's collection.

Friday, May 11, 2012

My Cajun Book for Children Soon Available in French Translation

I'm pleased to announce that my 2008 book, Cajuns and Their Acadian Ancestors: A Young Reader's History, will be available in May 2013 in a French translation by Faustine Hillard.

J’ai le plaisir d’annoncer que mon livre intitulé Les Cadiens et leurs ancêtres acadiens: l'histoire racontée aux jeunes sera disponible en mai 2013 en version française, traduite par Faustine Hillard.

Cover of the English version and the French translation.
Couverture du livre en anglais et la traduction en français.

Published by the University Press of Mississippi and funded in part through a translation grant from the
Quebec Ministère des Relations Internationales, the book, retitled Les Cadiens et leurs ancêtres acadiens: l'histoire racontée aux jeunes, is aimed at middle-school and high-school readers — though it is useful as an adult primer — particularly students in French Immersion and other French education courses.

Publié par la Presse Universitaire du Mississippi et financé en partie par une subvention du Ministère des Relations Internationales du Québec, le livre, intitulé Les Cadiens et leurs ancêtres acadiens: l'histoire racontée aux jeunes, cible le jeune lecteur collégien ou lycéen, surtout celui des classes d’immersion en français ou ceux qui apprennent le français langue seconde.  Il s'avère toutefois une introduction enrichissante au lecteur adulte voulant s’initier à la question. 

Inside the French version. (click to enlarge)
L'intérieur de la version en français. (Cliquez pour agrandir.)

Of the English version, the Times-Picayune noted:

Au sujet de la version en anglais, le quotidien de la Nouvelle Orléans, The Times-Picayune, remarqua:

Bernard takes just 85 pages to provide a concise history of one of the unique peoples that make Louisiana special. It is a brief but delightfully engaging account of who the Cajuns are and how they got that way, a narrative as informative as it is easy to navigate. . . . [The book] fills an important gap on the Louisiana history bookshelf, and its value can be appreciated by the not-so-young as well. 
Bernard nous raconte l'histoire abrégée d’un des peuples qui contribue à l'extraordinaire mosaïque démographique de la Louisiane en un récit de moins de 85 pages.  Ce bref mais charmant compte rendu entraîne le lecteur à découvrir le peuple cadien et suivre son évolution dans un récit qui informe tout en restant facile à naviguer. . . . [Ce livre] comble une lacune importante en ce qui est de l'histoire de la Louisiane.  C'est un livre qui s'apprécie à tout âge. 
In 2008 the Louisiana Center for the Book, located in the state library, selected the English version of Cajuns and Their Acadian Ancestors to represent Louisiana at the National Book Festival's Pavilion of the States in Washington, D.C.

En 2008, Les Cadiens et leurs ancêtres acadiens: l'histoire racontée aux jeunes (version langue anglaise) fut sélectionné par le Centre du Livre en Louisiane, qui se trouve à la bibliothèque de l’état, pour représenter la Louisiane au Pavillon des Etats du Festival National du Livre à Washington, D.C.

Inside the French version. (click to enlarge)
L'intérieur de la version en français. (Cliquez pour agrandir.)

If you wish to be notified of the French translation's release, please e-mail me at: [Click on the "..." to reveal the full e-mail address]

Pour être averti de la date de sortie de la  traduction en français, veuillez m’envoyer un message électronique à l'adresse suivante:  [Click on the "..." to reveal the full e-mail address]