The Notable Aircraft of George E. Laven, Jr.

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Airman 1st Class
Aug 2, 2017

  • I am not really certain where to post this, as it is more of a collection than anything else, and all of the models have been seen before. It is however my desire than all the information gathered and posted about these aircraft should be in one place that all modelers who wish to duplicate any of these models, may find the necessary info and some pictures or mentioned references, and in some cases, original artwork that can be downloaded.

    I sort of stumbled across George Laven while researching builds of various colorful aircraft. I soon realized that this one guy was responsible for an awful lot of them, and wondered, "who WAS this guy"? There's not a lot out there, but I'll give a brief bit of what I've found.

    First, "Stars and Bars -- A Tribute To The American Fighter Ace 1920 - 1973", by Frank Olynyk, ISBN I-898697-17-5, copyright Grub Street London, 1995 states " George Laven joined the Army Reserves and served as a Flying Cadet beginning Dec 30, 1940....was commissioned a 2nd Lt. and rated a pilot Aug 15, 1941 at Luke Field, AZ... was promoted to 1st Lt. June17, 1942 and sent to the Aleutians, Alaska, assigned to the 55th FG, 54th FS.... (and more). Where he is first found in a P-38E, named "Itsy-Bitsy":


    Build Thread Here

    This aircraft has at least two known pictures, one on the flight line in Alaska, and one at the San Antonio, Tx airfield, where he flew the aircraft from Alaska for repairs, and a brief holiday. Interestingly, "Stars and Bars" (above) states that he had earlier flown this same aircraft on what they quote as the longest over-water attack mission to that date, 8 hrs 45 mins, or 600 miles from Umnak to Kiska, where he claimed his first kill, sharing a Kawanishi 97 flying boat, which was on the water -- later dis-allowed.

    Then he appears again, still in the Aleutians, flying his second P-38E, also named "Itsy-Bitsy":


    Build Thread Here

    While the blue color seems highly suspect, much discussion and analysis of Life Magazine photos of this aircraft (including color-correcting the photos) failed to yield any explanation. So, it is painted, as it appears.

    Next, Laven was promoted from Captain (Oct 8, 1942) to Major (July 19, 1944), and sent to HQ 49th FG in the Phillipines on March 3, 1945, where he flew a Lockheed P-38L-5-LO, "Itsy-Bitsy II". It should be noted that the girl he married had this for a nick name, while his familial nickname was "Butz". Anyway, his P-38L, names "Itsy-Bitsy II":


    Build Thread Here

    In this aircraft, he shot down the last kill of his unit, an Emily, on April 26, 1945, which would be his last. Nominally his 5th kill, but since the first would later be dis-allowed, turned out to be his fourth kill.

    Laven was promoted to Lt Col on Sept 7, 1945, and when next we see him, he is in Maine, flying a Republic F-84B, named "Itsy-Bitsy III":


    Build Thread Here

    He is next seen flying two or three F-84E aircraft, and on Aug 1, 1951, he was promoted to full Colonel. The most colorful of his three F-84E's is shown here:


    Finished Pics Here

    Next we find Laven in maybe the most colorful USAF aircraft ever, a North American F-100C:


    Build Thread Here

    This model is a heavily modified Trumpeter F-100C kit, and it was a boat-load of work!

    Later, he also had a Lockheed F-104C painted to order here:


    Finished Pics Here

    It should be noted that the Brass was very unhappy about this paint job, and was eventually ordered "de-tuned", so Laven can be seen in F-104's with at least three sets of markings. It should also be noted that his aircraft at the time were kept "squeaky clean" and highly polished, as he was known to attend an airshow or two...

    Next Laven was chosen to receive for the Air Force it's first Phantom, dubbed the "F-110A", which was in fact a standard Navy-type F-4B, which the Air Force flew around on public relations tours, until their own real version, the F-4C could be delivered.

    Here is the F-110A:


    Build Thread Here

    And we come to (chronologically) the last major aircraft type tied to Laven. As commander of Clark Field in the Philippines, he flew a flight to Vietnam, where at the last minute, and not planned to include him originally, he was placed in charge of the the first F-100 mission into Laos, to bomb a North Vietnamese ground-to-air missile defense site, which mission turned into such a snafu -- NOT LAVEN's FAULT -- that in the time honored military way, Laven got the blame and was axed from his job!

    Anyway, only one known photo of the takeoff on that last mission of his is currently known to exist, and this is my interpretation of the F-100D flown by Laven that day:


    Build Thread Here

    Again, another Trumpeter kit, with many mods!

    Anyway, Laven stayed on with the Air Force, finally retiring in June 1969. He was later hired by McDonnel Aircraft, and McDonnel-Dougles, as their representative to the Israeli Air Force. He died Feb 16, 1995 in San Antonio, TX.

    Oh, and one last thing -- he was known for fast cars (wrecked his DeLorean at high speed) and strange cars:


    Well, I am not claiming that George E. Laven Jr was the best airman, or the best pilot, or anything like that. But I am claiming that he may be the most flamboyant American flyer; not a Chuck Yeager, but my hero nevertheless, and we should all be thankful for his 30 years of service defending freedom -- as well as all the others sort of like him, fighting the unsung fight.

    Ed Ellickson
George was, um, colorful. Got to know him somewhat, and he was always ready to talk. He'd been an F-15 tech rep in Israel and carried a rumpled snapshot with him showing the Eagle minus most of the port (?) wing sitting in the chocks.
Thanks folks,

Wish I could talk to him today -- so many questions that I would ask...

Thanks for the great summary on my uncle George Laven - he and my father were brothers. (Hi, Jenny.) As a kid I heard great stories from him - he especially loved the P-38 and told how one could quickly feather one engine and turn on a dime with the powerful yaw on one engine. One of his nicknames was Choo Choo Laven because he bombed a couple dozen locomotives in the Philippines in WWII with his P-38. He also sunk a Japanese two-man recon sub in San Francisco Bay in WWII, an Air Force secret for years since they feared a panic if people knew a Japanese sub was in the Bay. While stationed in the Aleutians he flew back to San Antonio in his P-38 for service and because his family was there. Big event that the homeboy was flying into town. He made a low pass over the runway and did a roll and his mom (my Grandmother) fainted thinking he was crashing. There's a pic of him and my dad and grandmother after that occurrence. And he was one of many man-in-a-rocket with his F-104. He loved the Phantom also. While he loved its speed, he also spoke of how great it was in slow flight given that it was designed for carrier landings. At 72 the Israelis let him take a joyride in the F-15 and he was engaged by a Mig that flew into Israeli airspace. My uncle shot him down. A family secret for years - I still remember the letter he wrote to my dad about it. And his cars! In '62 he arrived at my home in Illinois for a visit in his brand new Jag XKE. Later he came in an Avanti and he rolled a DeLorean at 100+mph and walked out unscathed. We all miss him.

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