Traveling a lot has many bad points and a ‘few’ good points…

Two high points of the last trip were getting to meet Navy One, and getting a decent lunch out of the deal 🙂 We talked about the Navy, our respective career patterns, and the ‘joys’ of blogging… Truly a nice guy, and worth the read- And yes, he’s as nuts as he appears to be on his blog…LOL

The other high point was actually caused by the power outage in SOCAL Thursday night.  I was privileged to be able to spend an hour or so with some veterans of the 6th Bomb Group (or 6th Bombardment Group) depending on who you were talking to.  One of many links can be found HERE.  These ol’ boys and their wives were in San Diego for a reunion and being ‘typical’ aviators, knew there would be free booze… 🙂

As I posted, the Hilton did an outstanding job of putting on a free spread for us, and I had plopped down in the lounge with a retired Marine Gunny when four of these gents wandered in, took one look at the food (I do remember hearing the ‘rabbit food’ comment) and making a beeline for the bar.  We were at the far back table, and these guys wandered over and asked if they could sit, so we got up to move, but they waved us back down.  

We both commented on their ‘crew’ hats, and started chatting with them.  When they found out we were both veterans, the ‘sea’ stories…er, wait a minute, what does the Army call sea stori… oh never mind…

They talked about flying off Saipan and Tinian, and how touchy the birds were.  I mentioned I had met Dutch Vankirk when I picked up a book on the 509th and Col. Tibbets at the ‘military’ opening of Udvar Hazy at Dulles.  I mentioned I was amazed by the 750 miles plus from Saipan to Iwo basically in ground effect due to the overweight airplanes and the Gunny mentioned that his dad had fought on Iwo.  After that they really opened up to us, and told even more stories. 

Two that stand out- The first is that last year the had some old WWII airplanes available for ‘viewing’ and one of their number was going to get a flight in a T-6 Texan.  It seems there was some hate and discontent (at least with these four) over the guy that got the short straw (e.g. he cheated somehow)…  About this time the ‘guilty’ party (all 5’5″ and maybe 120 lbs) showed up at the table!  We made room and the story continued; the ‘instructor’ pilot was 81 years old, and “Jack” was 88!!!  So the guy telling the story says something to the effect of, “We watched the takeoff, and they start climbing out, and then the start playing. We figured he was giving Jack a show, and about 10 minutes later they come in and land, and it’s a PERFECT greaser!!!  So we walk over, and they are laughing and the ‘instructor’ is asking Jack how to make landings like that!”  

At this point Jack, with an urchin like grin (if an 89 year old can look like an urchin) says, “Hell, it’s like a bicycle, it just took me a coupla minutes to remember things, and I had over 500 hours in the back seat of those damn things as an instructor, and I always COULD land it better from the back seat.”

One of the others pipes up, but you hadn’t flow in 28 years, and Jack comes back with a comment about how ‘certain’ things are easy to remember, and they all busted out laughing…

The second-  To a man, they are totally disgusted with the current ‘revisionist’ history being put out there about WWII and their actions, as most of these guys also did tours in ETO, before coming to B-29s and WESTPAC.  They all said what they did was right, and they were there to WIN a war, minimize US losses and they had all seen/heard about the Japanese atrocities, and knew what they were doing was a critical piece to that effort.  They talked about their own losses, and how those have been minimized, and again how touchy the B-29 was to fly, especially in hot/heavy conditions, at low altitudes and occasionally high altitude bombing missions… And these guys by a large didn’t have a lot of hours either in the air or in the birds.  Jack said he might have had 1000 hours total, and half of that was as an instructor and he had maybe 120 hours in 29s when he was designated as the A/C.  The consensus was the night mining missions were the ‘worst’, since the crew had to be on their toes the whole time, and the best missions were the POW camp drops (which I’d never even heard of), where they dropped CARE packages on the Japanese POW camps holding prisoners. I truly wish I had brought a tape recorder with me, and had thought to get their names, as those gentlemen and their compatriots are truly the Greatest Generation…  Gentlemen, I can only offer my deepest thanks and appreciation for what you did!!!


Upsides… — 15 Comments

  1. What an awesome evening. I wasn’t an aviator, but love sitting on the edge of the circle & hearing the stories.

    Had the privilege of visiting with two Arizona survivors at Pearl, last year, and all I could say (in between trying not to cry) was “thank you.”

  2. I am jealous, I wish I was there! FYI, Army “Sea” stories are called lies!!
    I am always amazed how time flies by when these occasional get togethers happen!

  3. The POW missions were mentioned by Pappy Boyington in his book Baa Baa Black Sheep, he was a prisoner in one of those camps. He said that after a couple of people were killed by the falling packages, he took refuge in a bomb shelter whenever the parcels were being dropped.

  4. Marine stories are “sea stories”. Army stories start out with “This is no bull s**t”. Have friends and family that served in all 5 of our armed services. Interesting fact concerning my 5 uncles. All were farm, ranch and oil field workers and were exempt from WWII. The youngest uncle served in Korea. All the sons of the older uncles served in the AF, Army, Navy, Marines and the Coast Guard. The youngest uncle who served in Korea had two girls that did not serve.

  5. Ol’Fo, I owe you lunch next time!

    Funny story, I once had a Sailor who I was in charge of tell me (after I was no longer in charge): who would have ever guessed you had a sense of humor! Heh heh. . .

  6. Rev- It was…

    Danny- THAT is what I was looking for 🙂

    Bob- I’d honestly never heard of it, they told me they were ‘trying’ to use little parachutes to cushion the impact, guess that didn’t work real well.

    Anon- I’ll be THOSE get-togethers are interesting 🙂

    N1- I can believe that…LOL

  7. When I was younger I worked for an Iwo Jima Veteran. 3 Purple hearts, Silver Star and battlefield promotion to 2nd Lt.

    When Flag of our Fathers came out, I took my son to see it with this veteran and 3 other Iwo survivors. I sat in the row right behind them.

    They never fidgeted or moved, just stared at the screen. When it was over one of the men leaned over and in a choked whisper said ” I can smell the sulpher. Can you?” All 3 others just nodded.

    When they stood, there was a line of men waiting behind them. Every man in that theater shook their hands on the way out. More than one Semper Fi was softly spoken.

    My son was about 10 at the time. I told him to fix this night in his memory, because I doubt you will ever meet another person your age who has experienced this.


  8. My Father-in-law flew 29’s at the end of the war and just after…
    Survived a crash during landing at Carswell AFB. I’m still amazed at the engines on those airplanes…
    How in the world did mechanics tune them? Supercharged, water injected, ALL THOSE CYLINDERS?!!!

    And to think some of those guys started flying those airplanes with as little time as they had?
    It’s amazing the losses weren’t greater than they were.

    I can quickly be brought to tears thinking about guys like BZ’s Dad, knowing those guys literally stared death in the face every time they took off on a mission.

    Thanks Navy for writing this. And thanks too for letting those guys know there are still a bunch of us in absolute awe of their courage.

  9. Roger- Great story, thanks for sharing that.

    Andy/Murph- I just wish I could remember ALL the ones they told.

    GB- Thanks… I few some on Connies when I first came in, same engine… A phase check took over 30 days to complete because of those 3350s! And the ADRs were DAMN good!

  10. We called the war stories. The difference between a war story and a fairy tale is that a fairy tale starts “once upon a time” and the war story starts “no shit, guys, there I was”.

  11. Dang, I’m frikkin jealous! I love gettin to chat with vets, no matter what era! That seals it, I’ve GOT to find a way to get to one of the Cavalla reunions down in Galveston…vets from all three subs of the name usually show up. I don’t care much for formal dinners and stuff, but a chance to talk to guys who’ve been-there-done-that….awesome!

    Had a similar experience to Roger’s when a couple of friends and I went and saw “We Were Soldiers”. One of the ladies was a medic in the Army Reserves (think she still is, too, not sure though, since I’ve moved and we’ve lost touch). After the movie was over, neither one of us moved for awhile…there were a dozen or so others (as well as my friend) in the theater who just sat there and stared, lost in thought, or shook. Even the kids left in silence, no laughing or joking or screaming or cell phones or anything. I still get choked up when I watch that one.

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