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B29 Recovery Crew Malcolm Russell of Tulsa OK. ex Confederate Air Force.

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B29 Recovery Crew Malcolm Russell of Tulsa OK. ex Confederate Air Force.

Old 25th Nov 2019, 21:42
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B29 Recovery Crew Malcolm Russell of Tulsa OK. ex Confederate Air Force.

Looking to renew acquaintance with one Malcolm Russell, ex US Army (?) Vietnam era UH1 mechanic who was unknowingly inspirational in setting me on my career as a pilot.
In 1977 we worked together at the Confederate Air Force's base at Harlingen, TX.

Prior to that he was one of the crew that recovered their B29 Fifi from China Lake.

Anyone got any leads?

Or suggestons were else I should ask?

(The CAF haven't)
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Old 8th Dec 2019, 22:36
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I believe you have some incorrect information. In 1971 Mr Jack Kern of Tuscon, Arizona was contracted to do certain portions of the restoration under the supervision of Duane Egli and J.A. McCafferty. The recovery of Boeing B-29 Serial # 44-62070 took a period of nine weeks and the aircraft was eventually ferried to Harlingen by Randy Sohn, Lefty Gardner, Rodger Baker, Darrell Skurich and J.A. McCafferty. I was Colonel in the CAF at that time flying mostly the B-25 and was a friend of both Egli and McCafferty. I volunteered to help strip other B-29s for spare parts, after getting the OK from Lloyd Nolen, and spent a couple of weeks doing just that with my girlfriend. I don't ever remember the name of your chap and I checked the Ghost Squadron Pictorial History Book printed in 1975 that lists all of the members participating in that recovery project. I am mentioned but not your friend. Sorry I can't help but good luck in your search.
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Old 10th Dec 2019, 15:07
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Thanks for the info. I recently recorded a documentary series on aircraft restorations (PBS I think) that featured episodes on Diamond Lil and Texas Raider - and the third was was on Fifi. In that there was a brief (stills) shot in black and white of the recovery crew, and there in the back - to my astonishment - was Russ.
I did some research into Russ a few years back and drew a blank except for a mention of a lawsuit by a P51 owner against a Malcolm Russell which probably was him. Does that ring any bells?
Do you remember Jim Cooney who was the line-chief when I was there in '77? He'd remember if he was still around?
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Old 11th Dec 2019, 05:18
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Nope! I don't recall we ever had anyone designated as a line chief. We flew the
shows and afterwords parked in the same spot upon arrival. Our mechanics guided us in after a flight and serviced the aircraft. We never trusted the line crews from the FBO or any CAF volunteers to touch the aircraft. Don't remember the guy you mentioned but that doesn't necessarily mean he wasn't there; just that he didn't hang around with the airshow performers. I checked the 1975 list of Colonels for you and there was no Malcolm Russell nor a James Cooney. The list shows a Author L. Russell, Don Russell, James D. Russell and Thomas E. Russell. Maybe your acquaintances joined later?

Last edited by eggplantwalking; 11th Dec 2019 at 15:29. Reason: Additional information
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Old 12th Dec 2019, 16:54
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I don't recall whether Jim Cooney was designated line chief or not but as I recall he seemed to be charge of day to day operations on the ramp and hangars.

The screengrab below is from the PBS "Plane Resurrection" series and shows Fifi and some crew on the ramp at Harlingen.

I am 98% certain that the guy on the left with hat and glasses is Malcolm. I'm a bit puzzled about the pic because the others don't look to me like the flight crew pictured elsewhere. Who were they? Could they be part of Jack Kern's crew and Malcolm was one of them?
If so, any leads in that direction?

Malcolm certainly wasn't a Colonel when I met him in spring '77, just a contracted engineer living in the BOQ but did mention he hoped to become one before long. Perhaps he features in the list a year or two later?


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Old 13th Dec 2019, 20:34
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I found your James Cooper and he was a sponsor of the P-40 but not listed as a Colonel. This was not uncommon at the time and many sponsors were women.
The photo of the crew from Right to Left is: Randy Sohn, M.L. "Lefty" Gardner, Rodger Baker, Darrell Skurich, Jack Kern ( not positive but pretty sure) and J.A. McCafferty. This picture was taken in Harlingen and the nose of the A/C in the background is an A-26 "Onmark Conversion" which I delivered with Duane Egli.

Last edited by eggplantwalking; 13th Dec 2019 at 20:37. Reason: Should be from Right to Left
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Old 14th Dec 2019, 02:54
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Thanks so much. I have to say I'm staggered that isn't Russ but then I can't 'see' the Lefty I knew in the photo, he looks so different even if it was 6 years before I knew him.
I have one guaranteed photo of my buddy somewhere in a box in the roof. I'll post it when I can find it.
Meantime, thanks for your help and keep an eye on here every now and again for that pic.
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