Victor E. Larsen

Sergeant Victor E. Larsen, son of Mr. And Mrs. Martin H. Larsen, 516 Second Street, has arrived in England, according to word received by his parents here.  

He entered service on August 10, 1942 in the 31st Technical School at Jefferson Barracks, MO and graduated from the National School of Aeronautics at Kansas City, MO as an Air Corps Machinist.  He received further training at New Orleans, LA and Myrtle Beach, SC.

Installs Cameras on P-38s for Reconnaissance Shots
A NINTH AIR FORCE SERVICE COMMAND UNIT, FRANCE— Movie audiences may thrill to a pilot's eye view of combat, and Allied  photographic reconnaissance have taken another stride forward, thanks to the novel installation of a motion picture camera in a P-38 Lightning of the Ninth Air Force in France.

Three men of a service squadron at an advanced base of the Ninth Air Force Service Command made the ingenious installation. They are Master Sergeant Cecil A. Little, Pensacola, Florida, who conceived the  idea; Technical Sergeant Melvin E. Riley, Oklahoma City, OK; and Staff Sergeant Victor E. Larsen, Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The camera hangs beneath the wing of a Lightning in the same manner that a bomb is shackled to the plane.

The installation came as a result of a visit to the air base by First Lieutenant Jim Bray, New York, NY of the Ninth Air Fierce Photography Section, who wanted to take pictures of P-38s in action. He lamented the lack of good combat shots, pointing out that regular gun-cameras had little versatility with only one lens. They stop operating the moment the pilot releases the gun button. As a result, a host of potentially good shots are never made.

Lieutenant Bray told Sergeant Little that he'd  like to mount a camera on the  plane and have the pilot operate  separately and keep it running any length of time. 

Sergeant Little, a member of a squadron which has already won a commendation for its outstanding technical performance, went to work. With the aid of a squadron engineering officer, First Lieutenant George Baxter, Ridgewood, Long Island, NY, the Sergeant and Lieutenant Bray took a salvaged air scoop, put a frame in it upon which to mount their camera, disconnected the solenoid in the bomb shackle, and mounted it like a bomb. They tried re-installing the obsolete cannon to start and stop the camera motor.

The Sergeant and Lieutenant worked in mud which was seven inches deep on the concrete taxi-way. Despite falling rain, they continued their construction job.

Sergeant Little turned to the Lieutenant. 

"I'll go talk over the wiring with Larsen." 

"Larsen" is Technical Sergeant E. Larsen of Eau Claire, WI, whom the squadron regards as one of the best electricians in the Army. They  claim he was "raised on diagrams and schematics instead of regular baby food." After he and Sergeant Little had discussed the wiring for a few minutes, the latter went in search of his two mechanic helpers, Sergeants Riley and Larson. 

The three of them began checking parts, found they were able to use salvaged material with the exception of wire, rivets, and bolts. 

First, they removed the super-charger air scoop from a wrecked plane. The scoop is a tear-drop housing with an open front. An intake pipe, about five inches in diameter, bends from the front opening in the scoop back through another opening in the top of the scoop. The housing fits flush against the engine nacelle under the wing; the intake pipe runs through a hole in the nacelle to the supercharger.  Since the housing was so neatly streamlined, it was perfect for enclosing the camera and camera mount once the pipe was removed.

The mount is a flat piece of steel, cut from captured German equipment. It is about three inches by six inches. Clamps and bolts fasten the Bell and Howell camera in place. Vibration dampeners are fitted at all contact points.

The problem of mounting the housing to the bomb shackle was solved by cutting out an elliptical-shaped piece of German steel, bolting it over the top of the scoop, and welding two ''horseshoe" bolts from a dismantled bomb to the top surface.

To provide easy access to the camera in order to adjust the lens, change film, and clean the Plexiglas covering over the front of the scoop, a door was cut into the side of the housing. The purpose of the Plexiglas over the front opening is to protect the lens of the camera from being pitted by flying dirt and grit. 

The fear that vibration would ruin the pictures, that the door or glass front might blow off, or that violent evasive action might loose the whole structure, held the four men—Lieutenant Bray, Sergeants Little, Riley, and Larsen—as they watched the pilot take off on the first trial. They really "sweated out" his return.

When the plane landed, they dashed off. Everything was intact and all their fears were dispelled when a few feet of the film was developed in the group laboratory. It was perfect—showing the railhead targets, tracers blasting into German rolling stock, ugly flak bursts and ricochets. The sensation of being right in the pilot's seat was accentuated by the ship's nose appearing in one corner of the film and a :motor with whirling prop appearing in the other corner. The shots were amazingly clear.

"Nobody can even touch the stuff we can get with this camera!" Lieutenant Bray claims.

The audience can see cannon and machine gun tracers blazing a fiery path as the plan dives at over 400 miles an hour, bombs splashing debris and smoke into the air, and the ground rushing up as if the earth were on a giant elevator. The sergeants all agree that the pictures are sensational.

Says Sergeant Larsen, "The people back home ought to get a bang out of these pictures - I sure did!"

Sergeant Larsen is the son of Mr. and Mrs. M. H. Larsen, 516 Second Street, Eau Claire. Entering the Army in July 1942, he is now a Crew Chief in his squadron.