Visto el interes que existe por la info sobre aviones militares en uso en Iberoamerica, aqui va un articulo sacado de la revista "Small Air Forces Observer" nr. 39 (julio 1986).
THE VULTEE "VALIANT" IN LATIN AMERICA
For thousands of US and allied aviation cadets who knew no system other than the sequence of primary, basic, and advanced training, the Vultee BT-13/15/SNV "Valiant" series is recollected with warm memories for its unique peculiarities as an integral part of the path to full pilot status. But somehow, the trusty "Vibrator" invariably came in thirdbest behind the forgiving and modest PT's and the robust and warlike AT's. Implied mediocrity and challenges to its veracity dogged not only the Vultee series but the entire BT genre throughout most of its 17-year (1930-1947) lifespan as an integral part of the US Army Air Corps/Force training formulae.
US philosophy was not a world standard and other major powers, both before and during WWII, openly questioned the need for a basic training plane. However, this reservation did not extend to the concept of a Basic-Combat aircraft which the European powers, especially, found most practical.
During 1938-39, recognizing that world-wide rearmament and the drift towards war would sharply increase the potential export markets for light combat aircraft and basic trainers, s well as that for basic trainers for domestic military use, Vultee developed the Model 51 "Valiant". The "Valiant", billed as a basiccombat or advanced-training aircraft, was powered by a 550 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340S1H1-G "Wasp" and carried two forward-firing 0.30 cal guns (with provisions for 375 rounds each) and one rear gun of the same caliber with 500 rounds. So far as can be determined, only one Model 51 was built, and its ultimate fate is uncertain.
Concurrently, Vultee fielded an essentially similar but unarmed and lower-powered version as the Model B54D "Valiant". An initial batch was ordered by the USAAC as the BT-13 with a contract being let using Fiscal Year 1940 funds. This was one of the largest contracts let by the USAAC, and it was, by far, the largest order for basic trainers to that time.
The BT-13 differed from the prototype in having fixed gear, with curious streamlined fairings (falling short of wheel "pants") and a 450 hp R-985-25 engine. Gross weight, lowest of the series, (and probably partially accountable for its somewhat greater popularity) was just 4406 lbs, compared with 4490 Ibs for the BT-13A and 4624 lbs for the BT-13B.
Vultee had not ignored the export potential `or the handsome, if somewhat typical "Valiant", although it was quickly apparent that foreign governments, in the main, could not afford a training aircraft of limited utility, no matter how modern or efficacious. However, numerous demonstration tours were conducted, and one resulted in a firm order from - of all places - Peru, with which we arrive at the opening chapter of our story.
The Cuerpo de Aeronautica del Peru (CAP) in 1940 was probably the best mainland South American candidate for a modern monoplane training aircraft. By the end of the 1930's, the CAP's Escuela de Aviacion Militar at Las Palmas was operating an incredible array of
French, Italian, German, British, and us trainers of mainly biplane or parasol configuration, some of which were more than 15 years old and of antiquated construction.
Available evidence strongly suggests that the CAP may have bought the single Model 51 multi-purpose "Valiant" mentioned in the introduction. As late as 1944, intelligence reports invariably cited one Vultee "Valiant" in addition to varying quantities of BT-13's and BT-13A's.
The CAP purchased 12 Mode! 54's which were virtually identical to USAAC BT-13A's, but retained some features of the earlier BT-13, with the highly probable exception that some form of armament provision was included. This is supported by the fact that an Air Order of Battle, dated 6 February 1942, included these 12 aircraft as "caza" (fighter) aircraft. This strongly suggests that Vultee probably assigned a different model designation to these aircraft.
At any rate, the 12 Model 54's were delivered in December 1941, ironically, prior to Peruvian eligibility for Lend-Lease procurement. They were finished in one of the most striking schemes to be worn by any Latin American military aircraft (Fig. 1).
As part of an overall reorganization and modernization of the CAP, the "Valiants" were assigned to a squadron-sized unit, the 28th Escuadron Entrenamiento at Las Palmas, where they formed the 3rd Seccion Entrenamiento. They received appropriate fuselage codes, 28+3-1 to 28+3-12, in the then-current CAP style (which had been heavily influenced by, of all things, a US Marine Corps and Navy Aviation Mission), and were the pride of the CAP.
With the coming of the war and Lend-Lease, Peru elected to include in its Lend-Lease accounts a request for additional "Valiants". Under Program PU-479, twelve BT-13A's were delivered by air from the San Antonio Air Depot in two batches of six each. The aircraft were valued at $329,351.40 and included two spare engines shipped separately.
These aircraft were also assigned to the 28th Escuadron and were eventually painted and coded in the 28+3-13 et seq. series.
Attrition was normal, and by the end of June 1943, four were unserviceable due to accidents and/or spares unavailability. The highly coveted "Valiants" were also distributed to various elements of the CAP throughout the Republic, with one serving with the Comando de Vuela at Chiclayo, one with the 11th Escuadron de Caza (which was equipped with 11 P-36G's), one with the 24th Escuadron de Transporte of the 2nd Region Aerea at San Ramon, three with the 29th Escuadron de Combate, 2nd Region Aerea at Limatambo (including the single "Valiant"), 12 with the Escuela de Aviacion at Las Palmas, one assigned to the 35th Escuadron de Observacion, 3rd Region Aerea at Vitor, and one undergoing repair at the CAP depot. It may be that these aircraft were briefly coded in the series of their units of assignment. The three aircraft unaccounted for were probably unserviceable or attrited.
With the end of the war, and the resulting availability of large numbers of surplus aircraft (and before various aid programs became operative), the CAP sought to acquire replacement aircraft for its losses, as well as augment its strength, cheaply. Three BT-13A's were bought from a batch of 15 held by the Caribbean Air Command in April 1946. By this time, the CAP had become the FAP and had implemented a new serialing system using blocks of three-digit numbers. These three aircraft became FAP 351, 352, and 353.Most of the surviving FAP "Valiants" were eventually reserialed into this 300-block.
With the advent of the American Republics Projects (ARP), the action program of the Rio Pact, the influx of badly needed American aircraft into Latin American armed forces was standardized, with requirements established and tabulated for each participating nation. Peru's BT-13 strength benefited greatly, having dipped to 17 in July 1945 but rising to 33 (including the indefatigable "Valiant") by January 1949. Earlier, by October 1946, distribution of the then airworthy BT-13's had also changed, with one assigned to the 41st Escuadron de Transporte at Lima, and nine with the 28th Escuadron de Entrenamiento at Las Palmas. The remaining nine aircraft were used as "hacks", but were nominally assigned to the 28th Escuadron.
With normal attrition and crashes, FAP BT-13 strength tapered somewhat over the next 12 years, falling to 28 total by 1954 and 1956, when a number were released for civil use. 8y June 1958, 12 remained on hand, although utilization was very slight and this was, apparently, the final year of active duty for the FAP B-13s.
As an active Allied nation with vast natural resources and geographically strategic value to the United States, Brazil drew the lion's share of Lend-Lease aircraft diverted to Latin America. Brazil's Army Air Force (later the Forca Aerea Brasileira or FAB) was the first Lend-Lease recipient of "Valiants", and it was by far the largest user, receiving not fewer than 120 BT-15's. The BT-15 was nothing more than a BT-13A with very minor equipment changes and a 450 hp R-975-11 engine. To all but the most practiced eye, it was virtually indistinguishable from other variants. A total of 1693 BT-15's were built.)
As with most FAB aircraft during the war years, the Brazilian "Valiants" were assigned serials, by type, in a strict numeric sequence as they were entered into the inventory, commencing 1, 2, 3, etc. A number of these aircraft were, during the war, painted in a
, unique scheme consisting of olive drab fuselage and wings, white fin, rudder stripes in the normal national colors of green and yellow, and national star insignia in four wing positions. Serials (e.g. "08", ^10^) were carried both on the nose cowling in approximately 8-10 in. numerals of black and on the fin.
For the most part, the FAB used its "Valiants", in more-or-less their intended role, although some unarmed coastal patrols and base hack duties were performed, as well.
A brief summary of the delivery schedule reveals a slow start but eventual mass buildup of the type in the FAB inventory:
Delivery Number Delivery Number
March 1942 10 June 1943 8
May 1942 16 July 1943 34
February 1943 15 August 1943 8
March 1943 5 July 1944 2
April 1943 3 February 1945 3
May 1943 9 March 1945 7
Included in these deliveries were two "used" aircraft delivered in July 1944 (the only 1944 deliveries) for use by the FAB Mechanics Training School as instructional airframes. While these figures do reflect the ebb and flow of both the demand for trainers in the US and the political necessities, they may not be taken at face value. 8y August 1944, for instance, seven of the 108-odd aircraft programed (and charged) against the Brazilian Lend-Lease account had not shown up, and almost certainly joined the ranks of those which crashed along the way on their delivery flight. All Brazilian "Valiants", delivered by flight. Another six were unserviceable for various reasons. These shortfalls were made up by June 1946.
In 1945, the FAB instituted a new four-digit serial number system (which remains in use to this day) and all FAB "Valiants", including those attrited, were assigned a number retroactively. Serials 1000-1119 and up were used.
Post-war acquisitions under the ARP (American Republics Project) injected some relatively low-time (some almost factory fresh) BT-15's, allowing the FAB to retire some of its older machines of the type. Many were passed to civil aero clubs and even a few to the VARIG airline pilot training facility. Between 1946 and 1949, on-strength totals dropped from 107 to 93, and the FAB designation for the type changed to T-15. By April 1950, the total on hand was 92 including one assigned to a curious unit stationed at Cumbica, Sao Paulo state, called the "Composite Squadron", which included three P-47's and three T-6's also on it s strength. Some measure of the attrition and surplusing which the strength figured of the period 1946-1950 do not reveal may be found in the fact that not fewer than 37 (and probably more) BT-15's were received under ARP from surplus sources, and the highest post-war FAB BT-15 serial known is FAB 1164.
After 1950, FAB "Valiant" strength fell off rapidly, the majority of its training duties being assumed by large numbers of more capable T-6's. By 1954 only 40 remained, a figure that had not changed by June 1958, the last year that the type was shown on FAB strength.
Our illustration (Fig. 2) depicts FAB 1072, now preserved in immaculate condition at the FAB Museum, a rather mundane but typical color scheme for FAB "Valiants". Upon availability of further details of the more colorful example mentioned earlier, an additional drawing will be presented for SAFO readers. Finally, at least one (and probably more) FAB BT-15's carried some sort of unit insignia (FAB 1164 has been so photographed) but details of the coloring and significance of this insignia have yet not been uncovered.
It may come as a surprise to some readers to learn that Cuba was, chronologically, the second Latin American nation to receive "Valiants" under Lend-Lease. This resulted from two determinants: Cuba's proximity to the continental us (hence easier delivery arrangements) and the key position of the island of Cuba in the Eastern Caribbean Sea Frontier defense effort against Axis submarines.
The Fuerza Aerea Ejercito de Cuba (FAEC), though a comparatively small force, was relatively well-rounded and efficient at the beginning of WWII, and consequently its Lend-Lease allocations were very generous (for its size) but proportionate to its ability to contribute to the execution of the war.
Its previous experiences with mediumpowered, all-metal, monoplane basic/combat trainers had been with a number of commercially acquired Curtiss-Wright A19R's, which were highly popular and heavily utilized by the FAEC in a wide range of roles.
So the addition of nine BT-13A's to the inventory in three increments of three each (September 1942, October 1942, and February 1943) was very welcome, in that it freed the A19R's and AT-6F's for other, more operational uses. Some surviving Stearman A73L's and other primary trainers - plus the "Valiants" - provided the entire FAEC training syllabus, with the move to more advanced aircraft, such as the AT-6F's and A19R's, etc. considered operational service.
FAEC serials for its nine "Valiants" were FAEC-66 through 74. Out illustration of FAEC70 (Fig. 3) shows it as it appeared in the early post-war years. The aircraft is unique in that it sported a prop-spinner of indeterminate origins.
One "Valiant" was lost in a training accident on 12 November 1943 near La Violeta Sugar Central, and one other was written-off by
July 1945. FAEC BT-13 strength stabilized as seven through 1950, last know year of usage, and the peak year was 1948 when not less that 830 training flights were undertaken, covering a calculated 264,187 air miles. Most surviving FAEC "Valiants" are believed to have been surplused onto the post-war Cuban civil register where a number appear.
The Fuerza Aerea Colombiana (FAC) was the next recipient of "Valiant" trainers, receiving the first six of 18 BT-15's in October-December 1942. As with Cuba, this country received priority shipments based on its political and geographic value - it this case, proximity to the Panama Canal.
The FAC was a well-established air arm by the early 1940's, with a good standard of .raining and a fairly competent, but somewhat heterogeneous collection of dedicated aircraft.
The FAC's "Valiants", programmed under Lend-Lease Projects CM17 and CM93 respectively for 1942 and 1943 delivery, were initially stationed at the Base Aerea "Ernesto Samper" at Cali and grouped, as they arrived, into what eventually became known as the Escuadron de Entrenamiento Basico. In October 1943, 6 were temporarily assigned to Base Aerea "German Olano" for tactical training (alongside six ATSC's) mainly for practice in formation flying with armed AT-6's.
FAC BT-15's carried a rather confusing series of serials, all of which were assigned, at varying times, according to what started as convenience and later converted to an ongoing numeric system reserved for trainers of all types. The first two, FAC-27 and 28 (ex-USAAF 42-1027 and 42-1828) were obviously influenced by their former us serials.However, unexpectedly, and against all odds, the next two to arrive were the former USAAF 42-2027 and 42-2028, which, to avoid confusion with the first pair, were presented as FAC-027 and 028. Then 42-1868 and 42-1869 arrived and became FAC-68 and 69.
Recognizing the beginnings of a problem if things continued this way, the FAC abandoned these "convenience" serials and adopted its own serialling system for the "Valiants" (and other US Lend-Lease aircraft) in blocks of its own design. The remaining 12 BT-15's received three-digit serials in the 140 range and beyond; known examples being FAC-141 (written off 7 October 1943) and FAC-147.
Attrition was somewhat more rapid than in some sister republics, mainly due to rather high utilization. 8y 1946, only 14 of the original 18 remained. These same 14 soldiered on until the decision was taken in 1951 to replace them entirely with the much more versatile AT-6. of which large numbers were available. Most airworthy examples were sold to Colombian citizens and several appeared on the early post-war Colombian civil register, though few survived for long.
Our illustration (Fig. 4) shows FAC-68 (ex 42-1868) as it appeared at Cali between 1944-49.It is thought that the serial may also have appeared on the upper right and lower left wing panels, and on the wing leading edge, both sides, midway between the undercarriage and fuselage.
One of the most ironic aspects of Bolivian use of the Vultee trainer is the fact that the service did not want the aircraft which were more or less foisted onto the Fuerza Aerea Nacional when their requests for other, more warlike aircraft, were rejected (the requests included P-40's, additional Curtiss SNC-1's, and other aircraft capable of mounting some sort of armament). To make a long story short, the Bolivians were told, in effect, that the USAAF Mission knew what was best for them, and this early conflict colored FAB attitudes towards the "Valiant" for some years to come.
The Bolivians simply could not understand why an otherwise modern, comparatively highpowered aircraft was not provisioned to carry guns or bombs, a condition that had previously applied to virtually every aircraft procured by the service including trainers. This attitude was strengthened by a history of a series of missions from Europe, which had heavily influenced FAB attitudes and philosophy. However, the Allies needed both Bolivian tin and political solidarity in an areas where German and, to a lesser extent, Italian influence were considered a potential threat. Thus, although its demands for P-40's and additional SNC-1's could not be honored, more than enough BT-13's were available and considered virtually ideal for Bolivia's needs.
An initial batch of five BT-13A's were received in November 1942, followed by seven more in February 1943, all delivered by air out of 8rownsville, Texas. These were all destined for Santa Cruz, where FAB training activities were centered, although for political reasons retained in a neat lineup at La Paz airfield for several months following they were (El Alto) delivery.
Transition to the "Valiants" was somewhat hesitant and not without incident. The initial cadre instructed in the use of the aircraft
were, in the main, officers whose only other experience with "modern" aircraft had been with Curtiss-Wright 19R's which were acquired shortly before the war. One pilot, CPT Raul Valle, while concentrating on mastering the Valiant's strange controls and braking system, ran into a FAB Curtiss Sea Hawk at La Paz on 3 April 1943 and practically demolished the veteran fighter.
Once the aircraft were moved to Santa Cruz and the efforts of the US Mission started being felt on the somewhat desultory training effort being put forth by the FAB, a grudging appreciation for the reliability and usefulness of the "Vibradores" emerged. This resulted in the Bolivian Government submitting an augmented Lend-Lease request for an additional 25 "Valiants", in this case BT-13A's which were flight-delivered in two large groups of 14 and 11 each in April and May 1942.
These aircraft, together with the SO survivors of the 1943-43 batches, were organized into what might be described as two Operational Training Units and a Basic Training Unit. These were Escuadron de Entrenamiento No. 1 at El Alto (La Paz) with seven BT-13's and Escuadron de Entrenamiento No. 2 at Cochabamba and Escuadron de Escuela "Boqueron^ at Santa Cruz with the balance of the airworthy machines.
Post war, nine BT-13A's were acquired in May 1946 for distribution to various Aero Clubs, but it is believed that at least a few of these found their way in and out of the FAB during the extreme internal turbulence experienced in the country in the late 1940's and early 1950's.
Largely because of this civil strife and the resulting purge and disdain for the professional armed forces, FAB attrition of all types during the early 1950's was extremely high, many aircraft literally rotting away, totally ignored, in the open. Affairs had reached the point where, by June 1954, only four BT-13`s remained airworthy, one being assigned to the Basic and Advanced Flying School at Cochabamba, one other with the Air Academy and Primary Flight School at Santa Cruz, and two other flying miscellaneous duties as hacks. A fifth airworthy example was added, by building one complete aircraft up out of the hulks of several others, by December of that year.
Fnally, by June 1958, only one BT-13 remained, somehow kept in airworthy condition at Cochabamba. Its final fate is unknown.
FAB serials for its "Valiants" apparently were not assigned for a considerable length of time, but they eventually received serials starting with FAB-100 and moving up to FAB-137 at least.
Our illustration (Fig. 5) of FAB-103, which for some obscure reason received permission to overfly Brazilian territory, is as it appears in February 1951.
The Latin American Lend-Lease program required considerable diplomatic finesse on the part of its US managers as virtually all recipients demanded more than they needed, or could use, and, of course, at the "earliest possible" time.
But hemispheric solidarity was viewed as essential, and it was found that even token deliveries, especially of aircraft, had a very positive influence on events.This system, with one neighbor watching the other, and feeling injured or shorted because of perceived inequalities, led to some very peculiar developments.
The early release, to the Fuerza Aerea de la Guardia Nacional de Nicaragua, of one BT-13A in December 1942 is a case in point. The aircraft, 41-22803, had originally been selected for delivery to Chile, and had in fact reached Brownsville. Texas, when the State Department intervened and saw to it that at least this token delivery was made to the Somoza-dominated nation. This aircraft, ironically, happened to receive the FAN serial GN-13 and survived until 25 December 1943, when it suffered disabling damage.
Three more "Valiants", this time BT-13A's, were delivered in June 1944, One of these received serial GN-17 and the other two were also in the 'teens but have not yet been confirmed.
With the approach of the end of the war, large numbers of "Valiants" became surplus, and the FAN purchased two such aircraft, ex-Sixth Air Force aircraft, in the Canal Zone in June 1945 (as well as spares for its Lend-Lease acquired examples).
Another "Valiant" was added in September 1947, under unique circumstances. This aircraft was bought from a US citizen in Honduras (one Charles Colfelt) and the aircraft may have been registered there. Because of the tense situation then existing between Honduras and Nicaragua, the aircraft could not be flown out of Honduras ... officially. However, the aircraft took off 12 September 1947 for a "local' flight, became "lost" and "forced landed" in Nicaragua, where the FAN/GN promptly "bought" the "hulk".
Two more BT-13's (and five AT-6`s) were acquired from a Miami broker in December 1947, but only after having been immersed in export license problems and related difficulties. One of these "Valiants" was flown to Nicaragua by none other than the legendary Clevenger himself.
Two more BT-13's (the final two, for a total of 11) were acquired in 1949, by which time four of the earlier "Valiants" had been lost in
a series of training accidents (one 25 December 1947, one 17 November 1948, one IS June 1949, and one 6 July 1949). These post Lend-Lease "Valiants" were serialed in the range GN-29 to 36, with 29, 30, 32, and 36 positively identified.
Following 1949, FAN "Valiant" strength and utilization dropped rapidly, three remaining by June 1954 and two by December 1956 the last known report by the type.
Illustrated is one of the initial Lend-Lease BT-13's, GN-17, which survived as late as 1951, as it appeared that year at Las Merceded airport near the Capitol.
In keeping with the US policy noted previously of making at least token Lend-Lease deliveries to each of the mainland South American nations as early as the supply-anddemand situation would allow, Paraguay followed next in order after Nicaragua, receiving its first five of 10 BT-13A's in December 1942. The second half of the allotment arrived in January 1943, these aircraft being shipped from Downey, California and Brooklyn, New York, one of the few consignments not air-delivered. (The first five and been air-delivered.)
These "Valiants" were delivered under Lend-Lease Project PG-24, While the first five were heavily utilized consistent. with availability of rare aviation gasoline in Paraguay, the second batch, which required assembly following the long, complicated freight delivery upriver, were only erected at a snails pace. One still remained crated as late as August 1944.
The FAP "Valiants" were all concentrated at Campo Grande field, near Asuncion, the capitol. By April 1944, the nine airworthy aircraft were no longer being flown at all.
FAP "Valiants" initially retained abbreviated USAAF serials on the fin, although these may have been replaced by local FAP serials for a short period after the war. IL is also possible that eight of the aircraft (those surviving by September 1945) may have worn quasi-civil registrations in the ZP-G... range after they were seconded to the government-owned, FAP-operated LATN airline where they were employed principally as mail carriers.
FAP use of its BT-13's was desultory, at best, and they never really found a place in the air arm that seems to have peaked during the Chaco War of the 1930's.
By 1947, six remained, and by August 1959, only two, although the number had dipped to only one airworthy example in December 1956. Alleged use of its two airworthy BT-13's in 1947 during the armed insurrection against the government, with crude armament installation (see Fig. 7) remains unsubstantiated to this writer's satisfaction.The AT-6's is a more likely candidates, although a bomb rank of some sorts was known to have been fitted under the centerline of one "Valiant". During this abortive revolution, during which the FAP split into two factions, armed trainers were used against the other side's population centers and ,-.or "strategic" bombing. Since the FAP only had three AT-6's at this juncture, and few airworthy aircraft of any type, use of the BT13's cannot be discounted, but factual details would be welcome.
Another Paraguayan service, the Aviacion Naval Paraguaya, acquired at least one (and possibly two) "Valiants. The one known aircraft, which arrived in Paraguay in 1959, was an ex-Argentine Navy BT-13 of unknown subtype originally operated by the Argentine Navy Mission to the Armada Paraguaya. It quickly fell into disrepair and was seldom flown. The serial, 100, is believed to be an invention applied only after the aircraft was no longer airworthy. It reportedly was kept, in pristine condition, as more or less an instructional airframe. Readers should be aware that our drawing (Fig. 8) is provisional being based on a verbal report and not or actual photos or personal observation by the author. It is included only because of its unique character and coloring.
Finally, a number of sources have cited Paraguay as having operated SNV-1's, the US Navy version of the Vultee Mode! V74. (All 1350 Model V74's were, in fact, Army BT-13`=_ transferred to the Navy and given BuA numbers.) There is no evidence to support the use of SNV
by Paraguay or any other Latin American nation, with the possible exception of the Dominican Republic (which see). The cited reports were probably generated by a US Navy Attaché's report regarding the Paraguayan Navy "Valiant".
One of the largest - and most enthusiastic - users of the "Valiants" in Latin America was the Fuerza Aerea de Chile, which, due to supply and political problems, did not receive the first of its 61 Lend-Lease BT-13°s until April 1943 under Projects CL-394, 394A1, and 394A2. These projects included 16 spare engines and one aircraft (42-42886) which crashed on its delivery flight in the mountains of Costa Rica on 26 July 1943 and was not recovered.
Chile welcomed the "Valiant" for a number of reasons, not the least of which was its utter disappointment with and scandal involving a number of European (particularly Italian) training and two-seat attack/reconnaissance aircraft purchased at considerable expense just before the war. Secondly, the FAC had, by 1943, decided to "americanize" its training syllabus, and was happy to receive - finally - enough good quality, reliable, dedicated aircraft with which to carry out its well founded plans.The FAC was possibly the most professional air force in Latin America at the beginning of WWII, but it was handicapped by equipment choices that were motivated, in large part, by ideological decisions.
From the time of its entry into the inventory until at least 1959, the "Valiant" was seemingly everywhere in Chile.It was second of three links in a classic USAAF-style training program (PT-19/BT-13/AT-6) that trained several complete generations of FAC pilots, and also found itself in the news by being, in a number of cases, the "first" aircraft to alight at new airfields throughout this geographically unique nation. It carried out training and survey duties for LAN, the national airline, which was operated as a virtual branch of the FAC up through the late war years, and it also served to "fill-out" the rosters of a number of operational first-line FAC units.
With the end of the war, the FAC almost immediately surplused 30 of its oldest "Valiants", passing them to Government encouraged municipal flying clubs. These aircraft consisting mainly of the 24 BT-13A's received between April and July 1943 - the balance of the Lend-Lease deliveries being BT13B's received between April 1944 and November 1944. Some of these latter "Vibrators" survived to outlive there service brethren.
FAC "Valiant" serials were in the range FAC130 to 191, and were, so far as can be ascertained, never marked other than shown in out illustration (Fig. 9). The only variations noted were in the size of the national insignia on the wing (some being quite large, early on) and in the dimensions of the white star on the blue rudder. Sole concession to "special" markings were found in the aircraft assigned to "operational" units which, occasionally, carried the distinctive insignia of the assigned unit. The following guide will aid the serious researcher in pinpointing such possibilities. ln all cases, the units consisted of mixtures of various aircraft types, some quite unlikely' These listings are for 3 December 1946, January" or April- 1949, as indicated:
HQS, FAC (El Bosque) - 5
Grupo 1 (Iquique) - 6
Grupo 2 (Quintero) - 10 (7) (6 by this date was classified as a fighter-bomber unit with 14 T-6's as well) Grupo 3, III Brigada Aerea (Temuco) - 5 (4)
Grupo 4 (La Colina) - 4 (plus 7 AT-6, 9 A-24B) (2 plus 8 AT-11 and 2 AT-6 and by this date a bomber unit!) Grupo 5 (Puerto Montt) 5
Grupo 6 (Punta Arenas) - 5
Grupo 10 - 8 (plus 11 AT-6, 6 C-47, i C-45)
Grupo de Transporte No 1 - 5 (plus 11 AT-6, 5 C-47, B AT-11)
Escuela de Aviacion
"Capitan Avalos" - 15
Judging from the number of aircraft known to be on hand at the above dates, it is apparent that either additional quantities of BT-13's were acquired (probably through AmericanRepublics-Project channels) or some aircraft were recalled from aeroclub use.
The FAC finally retired its last seven airworthy "Valiants" in 1959 when they had, through cannibalization for parts, reached the ends of their useful lives.One, marked FAC164, is now on display, in fair condition, at Santiago.
Guatemala's air force, the Fuerza Aerea Guatemalteca, shares with Mexico the distinction of being the only ether Latin American country (excepting Venezuela) to operate both 8T-13 and BT-15 versions of the "Valiant".
Like its sister Central American Republics, Guatemala received a nucleus assortment of service types with which to mount a modest modernization and training program commensurate with their needs and capabilities. In the case of the FAG, five BT-15's were delivered, two in April and three in May 1943 under Lend-Lease Project GT-26. These aircraft received FAG serials 35-39, and our drawing (Fig. 10) shows FAG-39 in a post war scheme. Earlier they had carried essentially similar markings, but on a natural metal finish.
One aircraft was lost on a training flight while piloted by LT Enrique Secaira on 11 April 1944. Further attrition brought total effectiveness down to three by May 1946 and two by January 1949.
Since the FAG's T-6's were used as both advanced trainers and operational types, the "Valiants" were responsible for most of the "advanced" training duties.In order to mount any sort of training program at all, it was recognized that additional "Valiants" would be needed. Accordingly, at least three BT-13A's were acquired through civilian dealers in 1949 and 1950. At least one of these had been on the Guatemalan civil register as TG-BAJ prior to donning FAG warpaint. These, combined with surviving BT-15's, soldiered on until at least June 1954 when only three remained of all types.
In June 1943, close on the heels of the Guatemalan delivery of BT-15's, the Fuerza Aerea Mexicana received flight of 10 BT-15's from Kelly Field. Mexico and Guatemala (together with Venezuela) share the distinction of being the only Latin American nations to use both BT-13's and BT-15's, but Mexico went one better by receiving all three basic versions of the "Valiant" - BT-13A's, BT-13B's, and BT-15's - and all under Lend-Lease.
The BT-15's, which were delivered factoryfresh in serial number order (42-41801 to 41810) were serials by the FAM through the simple expedient of using the last three digits of the USAAF serials, i.e. 801-810 prefixed by a three-letter acronym indicating the function and manufacturer of the aircraft. In the case of the BT-13's and -15's, this prefix was "BEV" (for Basico Entrenamiento Vultee).For all
intents and purposes the FAM freely intermixed variants of the "Valiant", finding little to distinguish them.
By October 1943, the FAM had also received its first 10 BT-13A's. By June 1944, 18 of the "BEV's" were concentrated at the Escuela de Aviacion Militar at Guadalajara, while one other was stationed for liaison purposes at the FAM's Mexico City base (one other had been w/o on 2 July 1943).
An additional batch of 18 BT-13A's was flown down in late October 1944. These were followed in January 1945 by not fewer than 20 BT-13B's. Because of the multitude of USAAF serial blocks from which they were drawn, these "Valiants", were eventually assigned FAM serials BEV-401 through 448, although evidence indicates that some early machines carried various presentations of their former USAAF serials for some time.
Following WWII, the FAM, with a limited budget and fluctuating manpower needs, found that utilizing their "Valiants" presented ever increasing maintenance problems; attrition and hard use slowly and inexorably took their toll. By June 1954, only six remained airworthy at the EAM at Guadalajara, and these were flying less than 10 hours per day cumulatively. One of these aircraft is illustrated as Fig. 11. Fiscal hard times for the FAM bred necessity in the shops and by June 1957 five airworthy examples were still on hand, although this was the last reported year of use.
A camouflaged BT-13A (N67208), bearing Mexican national insignia, was seen at Van Nuys, California, in 1972, replete with an R-1340 engine. Despite appearances, this aircraft (41-11297) was not an FAM "Valiant", merely the result of a private US owner with a sense of humor. However, it was close, 41-11296 was an FAM BT-13A.
Tiny E1 Salvador was another Central American state to receive gratuitous shipments of Lend-Lease trainers, and the Fuerza Aerea Salvadoreña duly took delivery of three BT-13A's in July 1943, one of which received the FAS serial "42". Our illustration (Fig. 12) is of one of this initial batch.
By April 1944 two of these were unserviceable - mainly because of very poor training standards and discipline exhibited by some of the FAS cadets.
With the end of the war and initiation of ARP (American Republics Project) allocations, the US mission to the FAS requested urgent offset of three additional BT-13A's, as FAS training was effectively at a standstill. These were, in fact, delivered in September 1947 under ARP q71018. Serials for these aircraft are unknown, but they were in the range between FAS-43 and 56.
By 1949, new equipment for the FAS was essential, and LTC George Hollinsworth, Chief of the USAF Mission, assisted the FAS in contracting for six additional BT-13A's which had been surplused from the USAF and renovated by Consolidated-Vultee. Colonel Hollinsworth reasoned that. the surplus BT-13's were nearly the perfect choice for the FAS, based on cost, availability, and service experienced with the type. The six aircraft, serials 57 through 62, were flight-delivered between 4-7 July 1949, accompanied by the FAS's sole C-47, FAS-101.
Attrition continued to take its toll, and by June 1954, after losing two "Valiants" in fatal accidents in 1950 - and a temporary grounding of the type until a thorough check by USAF Mission personnel - only five remained airworthy, and they were described as in "poor" condition. Only one remained airworthy by June 1958, although the hulks of the remaining intact examples were moved by the FAS to the field of San Miguel, where they could still be found in 1969 as decoys during the "Soccer War" with Honduras. The carcass of one BT-13 could still be seen in the FAS cantonment at Illopango - recently as 1977.
The Corps d'Aviation 'Haiti, a corps of the Garde d'Haiti, was created as a result of WWII, and was thus the youngest, and smallest, air arm to receive "Valiants" under Lend-Lease.
The Haitian Air Corps was, not surprisingly, largely a training organization and the mix of equipment provided under Lend-Lease reflected this. However, in spite of its youth, the men of the CAH managed to mount some basic coastal patrols as well as mail- and passenger-carrying operations before the end of the war.
Together with Douglas 0-38E's, AT-6's, and Taylorcraft L-2K's, the CAH received three BT-13A's, all flight-delivered in mid-August 1943. These aircraft retained the last three digits of their USAAF serial as their CAH serial, e.g. 819, 788, and 769.
Haitian use of the "Valiants" is a classic case of how even a relatively minor maintenance problem, by US or Western standards, can be completely disabling in a setting were spares support and knowledge of supply procedures are unknown. In May 1944, "Valiant" 788 went unserviceable due to a broken tail wheel assembly. The aircraft remained unserviceable as late as May 1946!
CAH utilization of its "Valiants" was modest, and peaked during the first year following delivery when CAH-788 accumulated 46.45 hours of flight, while CAH-789 flew only 22.53 hours and CAH-619 only 33.53 hours.
By May 1946, only one BT-13 was airworthy, but US mission support returned one other to airworthy status, and these two remained on strength until the second half of 1954 when they were finally grounded as unsafe to fly. Our illustration (Fig. 13) shows aircraft 819 shortly after delivery.
Ecuador, had it not been for its claim on the Galapagos Islands, probably would not have benefited from US Lend-Lease deliveries as richly as it actually did. Shipments, although fairly late compared to neighboring states, were generous relative to the size of the service and its ability to effectively use the aircraft.
The Fuerza Aerea Ecuatoriana received a total of 12 "Valiants", all BT-13B's, under Project ED-32 in April and May 1944. These aircraft received FAE serials 50 to 61.
FAE maintenance capabilities were very limited, and at this juncture, fell below even those of other Latin American services, some of which operated on what amounted to a "throwaway" standard.
All 12 remained on strength by November 1946, but utilization was sporadic and there was not much enthusiasm for the "Valiant." amongst FAE cadre or students. Our drawing (Fig. 14) depicts FAE-51 as it appeared in November 1946 at Quiot.
Chronologically, the Fuerza Aerea Venezolana or, as it was called in 1944, Servicio Militar Venezolana, was the next Latin American nation to acquire "Valiants" through Lend-Lease. Ten BT-13B's arrived by air during July 1944 under Project VZ-147.
Serials of the Lend-Lease delivered "Valiants" are unclear, although it was FAV practice at the time to serial aircraft of the same type in a strict numeric sequence commencing 1, 2, 3, etc. Later, it is known that the aircraft carried codes CT-1 through at least CT-20 (changed later to ET-1 through ET20). Our illustration (Fig. 15) shows ET-4 as it appeared when moved into the FAV Museum at Maracay.
Following the war, the Venezuelan Government bought from the Foreign Economic Administration (FEA) in the Canal Zone two batches, totaling 15 aircraft described as BT-13A's. These aircraft, in fact, were a mixture of BT-13A's and BT-15's, and caused some confusion when integrated into the FAV and the National Civil Aviation School. The latter organization received at least two aircraft and possibly as many as five.
The FAV utilized its "Valiants" in the classic basic training mode, as step two in the PT-19/BT-13/AT-6 triad, assigning them to what was called the Escuadron Entrenamiento, although by December 1946, two were also being used as "hacks" by operational units. Losses to training accidents were comparatively rare, known incidents occurring on 22 July 1946 and around 7 July 1949. By April 1950, 19 were still with the FAV, of which 16 were still with the Escuadron Entrenamiento and three with a tactical (reconnaissance) unit.
The FAV decided to surplus its "Valiants" starting in May 1956 when at least three of the aircraft acquired from the FEA passed to the civil register. The last known airworthy example, an aircraft (42-90648) originally delivered 28 July 1944, was surplused in October 1959 becoming YV-T-LTN on the civil register.
One source cites an FAV BT-13 with the "modern" serial FAV-6006, but this is considered extremely unlikely, as the modern, random, four-digit serial system did not come into use until the mid-1960's. This serial may have actually belonged to an AT-6.
Of all Lend-Lease "Valiant" deliveries researched by your author, the three aircraft delivered to the Cuerpo de Aviacion Dominicana pose the most unanswered questions. The only thing that is certain is that three aircraft were received, one, for some obscure reason, reportedly in September 1943 and the other two in late August 1944 under Lend-Lease Project DR-94. A compete screen of all USAF Form 1 cards for "Valiants" does not reveal any aircraft offset for the Dominican Republic! The issue is further clouded by an Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) report which recounted a mid-air collision between "two Dominican Air Corps 'SNV-1's'" on 28 November 1944 in which one of the aircraft was destroyed and the other severely damaged. Thus, your author has considered the possibility that the three aircraft delivered were offset Navy "Valiants" accessions (the FAD had received a Piper AE-1 in this manner) but records of the Lend-Lease Administration make no mention of any SNV-1's going to any Latin American nation!
At any rate, FAD "Valiant" strength stood at two aircraft (one of them unserviceable) by March 1946, but was increased to six the same year when one was delivered under ARP (American Republics project) and three more were purchased surplus. Up until the time Trujillo commenced his massive buildup in 1949-50 as a response to the threat by the mercurial "Caribbean Legion", the AMD was a very modest force with limited objectives, and was not on a par with the air corps of neighboring Haiti.
In 1948, 1949, and early 1950, however, the AMD was expanded to become one of the largest and potentially most potent air forces not only in the Caribbean, but in the whole of Latin America. This buildup included a massive infusion of trainer types, including at least 21 BT- 13A's and B's, to produce native Dominican pilots to replace mercenaries who manned the tactical types in the meantime.
'This training program, while intensive and carried forth with enthusiasm, was not without cost. One "Valiant" was lost in 1948, tour in 1949, one in 1950. two in 1951, five in 1952, five in 1953, and 11 in 1954. Many of these were returned to service after repairs, only eight aircraft being complete write-offs.
FAD serials assigned, commencing with the buildup of the late 1940's, were FAD-1201 to 1220, and possibly slightly higher. Our illustration (Fig. 16) shows FAD-1200 as :t appeared on 18 October 1952 when it suffered considerable damage at the hands of 2LT Juan Bautista Tejara Lopez. It was subsequently returned to service.
By June 1954, the AMD/FAD still counted 16 BT-13's on strength. Although paraded in impressive lineups for inspectors and visiting dignitaries, they were not all airworthy. The "Valiants" remained nominally on the FAD inventory into the early 1960's, but the aircraft were "counters" only and they very seldom flew during their final ten years before being scrapped.
This completes the list of Latin American countries that received "Valiants" under Lend-Lease. Other countries that operated "Valiants" were Honduras, Argentina, and Panama.
Contrary to many previously published reports, Honduras did not receive BT-13's under Lend-Lease. The was because, at the outbreak of the war, the FAH was relatively well off in terms of equipment.
By 1945, when the FAH was in need of reequipment, surplus BT-13's were not only cheap and plentiful (their chief qualifications from the FAH's viewpoint) but they were also rather fairly efficacious as a type as well. Thus, in late 1945, nine FEA-surplus BT-13A's were purchased - a 10th bring added in February 1948 from a civilian owner. These aircraft received FAH serials 51-60.
Known losses occurred in March 1947 ;c^. 56) and March 1948. By June 1954, the total on hand had dropped to four airworthy aircraft: this number remained unchanged through June 1957. However, only one remained by June 1958 (the other two having been put out to pasture and occasionally scavenged for parts) and this final aircraft, FAH-60 (our drawing subject, Fig. 17) was finally retired on 12 June 1960 with a reported 4300 hours on the airframe. Following its retirement, FAH-60 was painted yellow overall with Honduran blue cheatlines
and detailing, and it was put on display at Tegucigalpa.
The color scheme carried by FAH-60 is not typical. The majority of FAH "Valiants" carried the standard insignia plus service numbers (in approximately 12-inch numerals on the fin) on a natural metal finish.
Argentina did not benefit from the Lend-Lease Program (nor from its successor, the ARP), primarily because of its pro-Axis, totalitarian stance. As a result, aerohistorians can only ponder what "might have been" had the political climate been different in Argentina during the 1940's.
For political and budgetary reasons, the Argentine Naval Aviation Command (Comando de Aviacion Naval Argentina) did not benefit, as did the Argentine Air Force, from indigenous production of the FMA I.Ae. DL-22 training aircraft. By 1946, the CAN was in desperate need of reequipment. Especially needed were modern trainers, since most of those in service were 1935-vintage biplanes or worn former service types.
Identities of the Navy's "Valiants" have so far not been traced, so it is conceivable that the 30 aircraft acquired from September 1946 onward may have included all versions of the type (e.g. BT-13, BT-13A, BT-13B, SNV-1, SNV-2, and even BT-15) as only one is known (the former 42-90302).
Three had been lost by January 1949, and 17 still remained by mid-1950. One, of course, was passed to the Paraguayan Navy in 1959. This Argentine form of "military assistance" presaged the end of the Argentine "Valiants", and 17 were offered for sale by December 1960. Fate of the remainder is unknown, although it is believed they were scrapped.
CAN codes for its "Valiants" appear to have run 1-E-100 through 1-E-129, but the four-digit Navy serials assigned to the aircraft (similar to USN "Bureau of Aeronautics numbers) are completely unknown.
Our illustration (Fig. 18) is of 1-E-122. Details of the insignia carried on the forward fuselage of this aircraft (believed to be that of the Escuela de Aviacion Naval) is solicited from the readers.
The final Latin American nation to acquire "Valiants" was Panama, which, following the war, saw the opportunity to crate an aviation element of its Guardia Nacional cheaply. Three BT-13A's were bought from a batch of surplus 6th Air Force aircraft located at Albrook Field in the nearby Canal Zone. These were ferried to Paitilla Field on the outskirts of Panama City by US pilots paid to do so on weekend.
At this time, the GN initiative to have an air arm was several steps ahead of its actual capabilities, as the GN had only two licensed pilot officers, and these had flown nothing more powerful than a PT-23.
A hapless GN pilot, perhaps by drawing the short straw, was selected to initiate GN service with "Valiants" by conducting a local familiarization flight. He took off south, over the shallow Bay of Panama, and promptly crashed. This aircraft's identity is uncertain, but was probably in the RX-50's or RX-60's of the post-war Panamanian civil register.
According to local pilots, the other two "Valiants", one of which was definitely RX-59 (Fig. 19), were never flown subsequently, They sat, moldering, near the GN station house at Paitiila for several years before being sold for parts and scrap together with several of the other aircraft which had been acquired for the GIN. Panamanian service had to wait another 20 years until the creation for the the FAP for its next chance at flight
Of the total or 9225 BT-13A's, BT-13B's, BT15, and transferred SNV-1's and SNV-2's built, not less than 491 saw military service in Latin America. Of these, 357 were factory fresh "new" aircraft and 134 were "used" and represented a wide variety of conditions.
Additionally, at least 12 (and probably 13) commercially acquired "Valiants" went to Latin America for military service. This brings the total number of "Valiants" used in Latin American military service to just over 500. It. is also calculated that a similar number of surplus "Valiants" went South to civil use following the war, some being operated by airline training programs, some in actual airline and taxi outfits as transports, some as dusters, and many as aero club trainers, not to
mention those that went to private owners - especially in Mexico.
The "Valiant" will never be recalled as a "great" warbird, and possibly may not even warrant that superlative, but for many Latin American users it was the right plane at the right. time. They certainly left their mark.
The author would like to express his heartfelt gratitude to a long-suffering friend, boyd Waechter, who volunteered to render the superb drawings accompanying this text, often based only on the crudest of drawings and information by yours truly, combined with a motley collection of clippings, faded photos, and verbal reports. His enthusiasm for the project kept me interested.
(Editor's note: Dan and Boyd are now working on the story of the Cessna T-41 in Latin America. When this article is completed it will be published in the SAFO, so any readers who can help, please write to either Dan or Boyd at the addresses given below.)
Daniel Hagedorn (SAFCH M394), 912 Davie Lee, Copperas Cove, TX 76522