I enlisted in the Army Air Corps on December 8, 1941, and began my aviation cadet training in 1942. I retired a Full Colonel in the Air Force in 1970. I have so many stories I could tell, but here is one of the funniest.
I was stationed at Inchon Harbor in the Philippines flying P-51 Mustangs. One thing that always seemed to hold true is the Headquarters was great at dreaming up missions. This one was a real winner. The plan was to use two ship flights, one at 1,500 feet and one plane at 100 feet. Flying at 1500 feet is not too bright a place to fly. It’s a great altitude to get shot down right good. The high plane was supposed to spot targets for the man at 100 feet. I started in the 1,500 spot and then switched to 100 feet. My wingman, Scott Alexander, lost me and left to rendezvous. I was too low and now had no spotter.
I suddenly came over a Japanese runway. There was tons of flak over my cockpit. I came in at about 200 feet, but I dropped to 5 feet off the ground and stayed there. The Japanese had buildings on both sides with anti-aircraft guns that wouldn’t come down that low to avoid cross-fire. I flew down the whole damn runway with tracers flying over my head as thick as bees.
There was a hangar at the end of the runway with a “Frank,” which is the Japanese version of a P-47. I fired on it the whole time. I was flying through a tunnel of bullets. At the end of the runway, I skipped over the hangar, out of the flak, and returned to the rendezvous point. That was the first time I laughed during a combat mission. I laughed myself silly. I was so scared I was hysterical and then so relieved. I was so damned lucky.
When I caught up with the guy who was supposed to be my spotter, let’s just say I talked to him for a bit before we got back on the ground. I really liked flying, though. Flying a fighter is special to me. It was you and your plane.
What you did, you lived with. . .