Benjamin 'Ben' Knowles Jr.


Photos © Ruud Leeuw Collection

During the 1970s (my schooldays), I became interested in military aircraft. I lived on cycling-distance of Soesterberg AB and often went there (often in schooltime..)
When this interest developed into an intiative to spend a vacation cycling in the UK, from one air base to another, I gathered sufficient stock to start trading with a few correspondents.

One of these correspondents was Ben Knowles Jr., from Tucson, Arizona.
He was a Master Sergeant in the USAF and traded in such a volume, which I frankly had difficulty in meeting. So we only traded a batch when I had gathered sufficient material to send him, which meant we exchanged letters infrequently and possibly only twice a year. In his letters he was brief and to the point, only referring to what was enclosed.
Early 2009 I learned Ben Knowles had passed away in 2008.
Since I found few photos by his name on the internet, I started digging among the remnants o fmy early start in aviation photography. Among a few hundred b&w negatives I found a selection which had been sent to me by Ben some 30+ years ago. As a tribute, I would like to showcase some of them.

 

 

C-121 Constellation
Lockheed C-121C Constellation, 54-179 (191 TEWS, Olmstead AFB,PA), at Tucson-MASDC April 1974

 

Lockheed C-121 Constellation
Lockheed EC-121Q Constellation, 53-0542 (5542 AEW&CW McClellan,CA), at Tucson-MASDC March 1974

 

Lockheed C-121 Constellation
Lockheed C-121G 54-4049, 54-4049 191 MAS (Olmstead AFB,PA), at Tucson-MASDC March 1974

 

Lockheed C-121 Constellation
Lockheed EC-121M 145940/215-PR (VQ-1, NAS Agana, Guam), at Tucson-MASDC Nov. 1974
 
Douglas C-47 Skytrain
Douglas C-47A 39074 (Golden Knights Army Parachute Team), at Tucson-MASDC April 1975

 

Douglas C-47
Douglas C-47A 39107 (Anniston Army Depot, Alabama), Tucson-MASDC Dec.1974
A remarkable nose that is, off standard I would say...

 

Douglas C-47
Douglas C-47A 49281 (US Army Aeromedical Research Lab), Tucson-MASDC March 1975

 

Douglas C-47
Douglas C-47A 36-8836 (Red River Army Depot), Tucson-MASDC April 1975

 

C-47 FA Honduras
Douglas C-47D FAH-312 Fuerza Aerea Honduras, Tucson-MASDC Oct. 1974

It would seem these C-47s were taken out of storage and prepared for delivery to Honduras

Amado Aguiluz Ferrari (Sociedad de Historia Aeronáutica de Honduras) wrote me:
"I've noticed three Honduran air force (FAH) C-47 photos from your collection, taken by Ben Knowles in 1974 at Davis-Monthan, AFB.
Photos are of 309 (43-48717), 311 and 312, being prepared for the ferry flight to Honduras, all of which which arrived in Honduras on 17Oct1974.
Another C-47, number 310, was among those received that same day.
Other C-47s acquired at Davis-Monthan were, 313 (43-163739), 314 (43-16165) and 315 (43-48917), on 27Oct1974."

Q: "Could you help me with the construction, or USAF serial, numbers of 310, 311, and 312?"
A: Air Britain's standard reference books on the DC-3 ('DC-1 DC-2 DC-3 75 Years' Vol.3) lists for Honduras the following DC-3 / C-47 (and is thus incomplete)-
303 cn25746 (this one has interesting follow up below -Webmaster)
304 cn12962
305 cn19426
306 cn13642
307 cn26765
308 cn34300
315 cn26178(?)
319 cn26541
(See also advise on FAH 309 below)

Information welcomed; EMAIL (please include url of this webpage)

Meanwhile Colin Smith provided the following on above subject:
"Unfortunately this is all a bit of a mess unless someone has the facts to hand. I'm not at all clear whether Honduras received 6,7 or even 8 aircraft in this transaction as there is a good deal of conflicting
information down on paper....
In 1974 the USAF disposed of a number of C-47s to Central America with several recently retired from active use at Eglin.
Indeed one of the disposals going to Honduras shows a strike from Eglin and not Davis Monthan (so much for precise records). The recipients appear to have been Paraguay (six, a US official total and all identified), El
Salvador and Honduras.

'315' has been assumed to have been 43-48917 (eg JMG). 43-48917 was a MAP delivery 26Jun69 and there are several statistical reasons why it is unlikely to have gone to Honduras at that time but fundamentally the quoted serial is way out of sequence for what was being allocated at the time (307
was given to 43-49504 17Jun68 & 308 was given to 45-1032 circa 18Aug70 and everything prior to then had been neat and tidy).
The likely recipient of 43-48917 was elsewhere in South America (maybe Ecuador).
The reason for the confusion appears - at least to my mind - to have resulted from a misread or
typo of 43-48717 that was struck off USAF charge at DM 16Oct74 and which looks awfully like Amado's 315 that was delivered 27Oct74 !
Of course this then questions the linkage of 309 to 43-48717 as we are only talking about one aircraft in 1974. It also conceivable that 43-48917 is genuine and was an acquisition post-1974 and appropriately serialled 315 and that Amado - or others - have somehow linked this 315 serial with the wrong USAF aircraft.

'303' is another oddity.
This is said to be 43-48485 which was also SOC at DM 16Oct74. If correct, the serial would have back-filled a long-lost earlier aircraft.
To the best of my knowledge the first linkage comes from a sighting at San Pedro Sula in Apr82 but is now regarded as fact. Note that there is no reference to a 303 in Amado's note.

Amado lists 7 aircraft in this transaction - 309 to 315 - assuming no confusion involving crew ferries! The dates quoted for 4 unidentified (Honduras serials) in JMG are actually the USAF strike dates, so are
unreliable for Honduran delivery data.
What we appear to have, in USAF strike date sequence, are:

43-16165 SOC Eglin 24Jun74 later as 314 - delivered as 314 27Oct74 (Amado)
43-16373 SOC DM 16Oct74 as 313 - delivered as 313 27Oct74 (Amado)
43-48485 SOC DM 16Oct74 as '303' (or another serial)
43-48717 SOC DM 16Oct74 as 309 (JMG serial and Amado dly 17Oct74) or
'43-48917' 315 delivered 27Oct74 (Amado)
44-476395 SOC DM 23Oct74 (JMG)
45-1009 SOC DM 23Oct74 (JMG)
(JMG refers to writer/compiler, J M Gradidge, of Air-Britain's DC-3 book -Webmaster)

If there were 7 aircraft (309 to 315), there would appear to have been 309, 310, 311 & 312 delivered 17Oct74 and 313, 314 & 315 delivered 27Oct74.
References to '303' would therefore be wrong (or needing good explanation), 315 cannot be 43-48917 and we are therefore missing one USAF serial...
One candidate is 45-1137, also SOC at Eglin 24Jun74.

All things considered, very muddled (particularly the saga of 43-48917).
It would be helpful to know Amado's sources for his data, the dates being very important but I suspect he may have to go cap in hand to the Air Force and ask to check the files as this may be beyond mere enthusiasts!
Colin Smith (on AB-IX, july 2012)

Bas Stubert on this:
This thread reminded me that I had checked the c/n and USAAF serial number of a Dakota at Toncontin in 1999, so I dug out my logbook for that period. It turns out that this was serial number 303 mentioned, logged on the 02Sep99. A plate in the cockpit revealed that 303 was a C-47D with c/n 14301 and ex 43-48485.
14301 was one of those c/n's that were issued twice by Douglas (though not twice on a Dakota it seems), according to JMG the second c/n issued to 43-48485 was 25746. I found no evidence of this second c/n in the Dakota itself.
It seems that my sighting confirms the one from 1982 and we now know that it is a fact that 303 carried a c/n plate in the cockpit that mentioned 14301 and 43-48485. It certainly did so in 1999.
Bas Stubert (on AB-IX, july 2012)

 

 

C-47 FA Honduras
Douglas C-47D FAH-309 Fuerza Aerea Honduras, Tucson-MASDC Oct. 1974

Paul Chandler offered the following identity: "c/n 14533/25978, which was delivered in October 1974."

 

C-47 FA Honduras
Douglas C-47D FAH-311 Fuerza Aerea Honduras, Tucson-MASDC Oct. 1974
 
C-133
C-133 54-0137 (436 MAW McGuire AFB,NJ), Tucson-MASDC Aug.1974

 

HU-16 Albatross
HU-16E Albatross, 7246 (USCG San Francisco), San Francisco Oct.1974

 

Grumman S-2 Tracker
Grumman TS-2A 136539/124-3A (VT-31 NAS Corpus Christi,TX), Tucson-MASDC Dec. 1974

 

Grumman S-2 Tracker
Grumman S-2G Tracker 152812/011-NH (VS-33, NAS North Island,CA), Tucson-MASDC June 1974

 

Lockheed SP-2 Neptune
Lockheed SP-2H Neptune 145907/PL-9 (VP-67, NAS New Orleans,LA), Tucson-MASDC March 1975

 

Convair T-29
Convair VT-29B 51-5147, at Tucson-MASDC Dec. 1974

 

Lockheed C-130
HC-130H 1452 USCG,
San Francisco Oct.'74
Lockheed C-130
HC-130H 1454 USCG,
San Francisco Oct.'74
 
A-4 Skyhawk
Douglas A-4L Skyhawk
148306/AF-412 (VA-204, NAS Memphis,TN)
Davis-Monthan AFB,AZ Nov. 1974
A-37 Dragonfly
Cessna A-37A Dragonfly
67-514/ID (71 SOS, Grissom AFB,IN)
Tuscon-MASDC Aug. 1974

A-7 Corsair
Chance Vought A-7D Corsair II
71-300 (188 TFS / 150 TFGp, Kirtland AFB,NM)
Kirtland AFB, June 1974
A-7 Corsair
Chance Vought A-7D Corsair II
71-360/EL (23 TFW, England AFB,LA)
DMAFB, Feb. 1974

 

 

F-4 Phanton
McDonnell Douglas F-4N Phantom II
151469/NL-204
NAS Miramar, Oct. 1974
F-4 Phantom
McDonnell-Douglas F-4J Phantom II
158356/NE
NAS Miramar, Oct.'75

F-4 Phantom at NAS Miramar
McDonnell-Douglas F-4J Phantom II, 158370/NE-211 - VF-21, FAIR Miramar,CA. At NAS Miramar Oct.'74

 

F-8 Crusader
Chance Vought DF-8L Crusader, 145498
Navy Missile Center-NAMC, at Pt.Mugu CA Nov.'74
F-8 Crusader
Chance Vought F-8H Crusader, 147906/AF-210
VF-202, NASA Dallas,TX. DMAFB Feb.'75

F-8 Crusader
Chance Vought F-8H Crusader 148687/AF-200
(VF-202, NAS Dallas), DMAFB Feb., 75
F-8 Crusader
Chance Vought F-8J Crusader 150297/NP-201
VF-24, FAIR Miramar,CA), DMAFB March '74

F-100 Super Sabre
North American F-100F Super Sabre 56-3730
120 TFS, 140 TFGp, Buckley ANGB,CO
Davis-Monthan AFB,AZ May 1974
F-100 Super Sabre
North American F-100F Super Sabre 56-3909
(Aeronautical Systems Div., Wright-Patterson AFB)
Tucson-MASDC May 1974

F-102 Delta Dagger
Convair F-102A Delta Dagger
56-1229 (102 FIS, Suffolk County,NY ANG)
Tucson-MASDC, Nov. 1974
F-102 Delta Dagger
Convair F-102A Delta Dagger
56-1248 (178 FIS, Madison,,WI)
Tuscon-MASDC, Nov.74


Lockheed T-33
Lockheed T-33B 137940/7V
(NAS Glenview, IL) MASDC, Nov.'74
T-38 Talon
Northrop T-38A Talon 61-0807
465 TFTS Holloman AFB, DMAFB Oct.'74
 
Boeing T-43
Boeing T-43A 72-287 Naval Training Wing. At Mather AFB,CA - November 1974

Boeing T-43
Boeing T-43A 72-288
Naval Training Wing
Mather AFB,CA Nov. 1974
Boeing T-43
Boeing T-43A 73-1150
Naval Training Wing
Mather AFB,CA Nov. 1974
 
T-28 trainer
North American T-28B Trojan 140015/3G-743 (VT-27, NAS Corpus Christi,TX), at Tucson-MASDC Oct.'74

 

Michael Jones wrote:
"Thank you for this tribute.
I served with Ben Knowles nearly 40 years ago. He just recently came to mind and I decided to see if I could look him up.
What do you know of Ben's retirement and passing?
Again, thank you very much for this tribute. It is a great reflection of Msgt. Ben Knowles as I knew him."

I replied:
"Don't really know much about him; he was one of my earliest correspondents with whom I exchanged slides and/or photo negative of military airplanes.
That was over 30 years ago. After a few years when my interest in aviation declined to an extend I did not travel much for aviation photography any more, he decided to cancel the exchange as he did not like to exchange small (e.g. 15 quantities).
To me he came across as a bit gruff, very much involved in aviation photography and his collection. I tried to learn more about him while we wrote a few notes in the accompanying letters with the batch of photo material, but he volunteered very little.
He was retired I think, when we swapped material, as I seem to recall him signing his letters with ‘MSgt (ret.)’. But it could be that he retired during the time we wrote each other, in the 1970s mainly."

 

 

 

Ben Knowles was in an excellent position to photograph aircraft which had arrived for storage at the Military Aircraft Storage & Disposition Center (MASDC, later renamed AMARC). However, some of the aircraft on the ramp of Davis-Monthan AFB may have been operational visitors and as such I have referred to them in the information as 'DMAFB' instead of 'MASDC', relying blindly on the info I have with the negatives.

The negatives were scanned, using an Epson V500 flatbed photoscanner. Adobe software was used to enhance the results.

Davis-Monthan AFB on Wikipedia


In Sep.2014 I received the following kind email:
"Enjoyed reading about my father on the internet!
He would've never used the internet or even a computer at home. Funny to see his name there.
He loved his hobby/obsession.
We had two freezers in our kitchen: one for food and the other for film. Kodak loved him!
Stacks of slides in every room of the house, with a magnifying glass next to them.
On our vacations if there was an airplane within a 100 miles of the highway we were on, we made a detour...
Again thanks for your blog."
Ben Knowles III


For more correspondents and noteworthy authors, see my Dossier Index

 

 

 


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