About us

B & H at Space Needle  (04-21-12)


Since email is so impersonal, here's a bit about me, just so you'll have more information than you probably wanted to know.  I know this is going to be a bit of over-kill, but got a bit carried away and am still excited about finding any other folks involved in or interested in the SOC Seagull.  Here goes and sorry for the length.  You may wish to just skip this part of the note.

I have a life-long interest in our nation's Navy and Naval Aviation.

I am the son of a retired career Navy officer (he retired in 1964 and passed away in 1990) and have worked for the government since 1963 (as a civilian for the Navy at NAS Seattle) and as a career professional from1967 with the Internal Revenue Service, until my retirement in 1996.  I was born in East Saint Louis, Illinois, during World War II while my Dad was busy in the South Pacific, attempting to save world's democracies from the evils of the axis forces.  I grew up (or as close to that description as my development can be called) as a "Navy brat" and traveled across all of our country with my parents, Bob & Jane and my younger brother Ed.  As a Navy family, this entailed regular relocations every couple of years, but we grew and benefited from the travel.  To be honest, there are those who claim I'm a walking case of "arrested development."  Some of my most favored memories are of traveling, seeing our country and meeting and enjoying new friendships wherever our travels took us.  "Home" to us included Saipan, Bremerton, San Diego, Quonset Point, Boston, Adak, Norfolk and Seattle.  There are also those who say that the life of a military dependent is tough -- neither my wife Helen or I agree.  We profited from our childhood experiences and feel our families are even stronger because our the periodic moves.  I feel fortunate to have lived in the Seattle area for over 66 years and we love almost everything about the beautiful Pacific Northwest. 

This page begins simply a sharing of information about the U.S. Navy's catapult operations off its cruisers and battleships and the beautiful Curtiss SOC Seagull.  One of the many aspects of this aircraft that interest me, is that they were stationed aboard and flew from the ship which my uncle served aboard.  I have researching this subject for almost 30 years and would like to share some of it with others.  One further caveat, this is my first attempt to set up a web page and it has been a real learning experience for me.  You'll notice there are none of the fancy "bells &  whistles" you see on many of the fine pages out there on the internet.  I am trying to utilize the old "KISS" principle and hope I can improve on it from here.  I use a Macintosh and am happy to have gotten this far.

My interest in the history, traditions and operations of the Naval Aviation probably stem from my childhood as a Navy dependent .  Some of my earliest memories while living around air stations, including NAS Adak, Norfolk, North Island, Quonset Point & Seattle (where I worked for fours years as a college student).  I have photographed naval aircraft and built scale models for approximately the past 40+ years.  I am a dedicated photographer of naval aircraft, model builder and historian of naval aviation.  I have also had several articles and numerous photos of Navy aircraft published during this period; most of these photographs are presented for the use and research by scale modelers.  My interest includes all elements of carrier aviation and including my photography of Navy aircraft over the past 40+ years.  I am also one of those known as "Navy brats" and wouldn't take anything for the many life's experiences I gained as a dependent and from my varied opportunities around the Navy and military in general.  I have had several family member serve in the Navy including my brother who is a disabled veteran of the "brown water Navy" in Vietnam and an uncle who served and will always be aboard the USS Vincennes (CA-44) lost to enemy action at the Battle at Savo Island, 9 August 1942.

Recently I wrote a brief illustrated historical article on the development and use of powder driven catapults and their use aboard surface vessels through WW II, including the SOC Seagull aircraft (the Navy's last operational biwing aircraft).

I got interested in the SOC when the Hasegawa kit first came out in the early '70's and wrote to a friend in the Bay area, Bill Larkins.  Bill's rich background in photographing the SOC in the Bay area in the 30's led me on to further research and look for information.  Bill's photographs are beautiful.  During one of our discussions (most of which occurred while I was actively involved in the production and work on the AAHS Journal (1971-73, while I was living in Southern California), Bill urged me to use whatever resources and access I had as a government employee to track down and all available government sources for information and photographs of the Seagull.

This quest led me into several offshoots of the Seagull including my research into the catapult (primarily the P-6), SOC pilots and the national archives records related to this aircraft.  In fact I even turned up some information, using one of my contacts at the CIA (of all places).  A friend, George Pfromm, painted a beautiful rendering of a Seagull on floats in WW II colors for me and an another drew a beautiful set of scale drawings for the P-6 catapult (based in part on original drawings I got from a federal records center which have now been destroyed).  Two added documents I have (by copies of originals) are (a) excepts from the erection and maintenance manual for the SOC (originals are still in the National Archive files in D.C.) and (b) Pilots Handbook - Model SOC-3 (Curtiss-Wright corporation).  I was also fortunate to have many opportunities to inspect and copy a number of the Navy's original still photo collection, dating from about 1911 through the mid '60s (while on details and trips to Washington, D.C.).  During many of the trips I actually photographed the original print shots and have a nice collection of both negatives and slides of the Seagull and its catapult use/operations.  There has been very little in print, though the IPMS-USA material has included two interesting articles over the years.  I was also intrigued by the early Profile publication on the Seagull, largely based on the narrative and experiences of a former naval aviator, Fred Dickey.  I also found that an old modeling friend of mine, George Lee, actually worked on these aircraft at the Alameda rework facility before and during the war years.  I suspect the quest will go on for the rest of my life.

The following catapult article is one I originally wrote for our 1992 IPMS-USA Convention in Seattle.  Since I was the guru for both the convention and our program publication, I put this in knowing everyone would want to know this information.  To no one's surprise, it has brought me almost no feedback of any type and most probably thought I was crazy.

I have also been a member of the Naval Institute, Naval Aviation Museum Foundation and the Tailhook Association for over twenty years.  My life long ambition is and has been for some years, to study and write about the operations of a typical air wing, from its early organization, preparations for and actual deployment aboard a modern carrier.  I think I mentioned that I had made tiger cruises aboard several carriers and gotten to sea for trips aboard the USS Coral Sea, Midway, Enterprise, Nimitz, Vinson, Kitty Hawk and Constellation.  Aside from other aspects of interest in most things Navy, I have collected a number of NATOPS manuals on naval aircraft and equipment, collect survival equipment and have fully restored an ejection seat from an A-7E.

I have worked for the last twenty nine years professionally and as a manager for the Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service.  I a worked in several divisions (including the much dreaded ATF) and have served for the last 26 years as a manager.  At the very least this career afforded me a unique opportunity to observe and study human behavior and the bureaucracy in depth.  My hobbies include aviation, competitive shooting (service rifles), camping, hiking, housework, volkswalks, reading (mostly history, aviation and some modern techno-mystery), flying (pilot w/ about 1000 hours) computers, Scouting (now in my 62nd registered year of activity), photography, model building and fly fishing.

As a result of both my life as a Navy "Brat" and as a civilian government employee I have lived and traveled a great deal.  The list of locations sounds awesome and to a great extent, I believe I enjoy the life and interests I have largely because of the diversity afforded me during my childhood and life of travel.  The list includes: Williamsburg, VA, East St. Louis, IL, Chicago, IL, Saipan, Bremerton, WA, San Diego, CA, Quonset Point, RI, Wakefield, MA (Boston Naval Shipyard), Adak, Alaska, Norfolk, VA (NAB Little Creek), Bothell, WA (NAS Sandpoint), Atlanta (Roswell), GA, Santa Barbara & Ventura, CA, Seattle, WA, and Mercer Island.

The additional material is related to other aspects of plastic scale modeling as well.  Like many other dedicated plastic modelers, I have, to my wife's consternation, built up a "collection" of approximately 2000 unbuilt kits.  My modeling desk and closet has about 35 kits which I claim are under "active construction" and I might be involved with at any time.  For years I said, "a guy needs a kit for the day he is home sick or the weather is rotten outside and you know what trouble idle hands can be....." I also use to say that my hobbies were a lot cheaper than if I'd gotten into drinking, or heaven forbid, drugs! Looking back over my collection and the related expenses, I suspect even drugs would have been less costly.....

By the way, I am using a Mac and my primary software is the Microsoft Word program for about 95% of my computer work.  Do you either or both use a Mac and do you need software or conversion assistance? I am attempting to breech a new height today by compressing the attached article and sending it as an attachment.  I'd like to know if you get it and in what condition?

I have probably missed something of importance, but fear I may destroy a new friendship by droning-on any more.  I'll wait to hear from you folks and see what I can do to partake in our mutual interests.

Thanks for listening (or reading).

© Bob & Helen LaBouy 2014