Monday, April 30, 2018

A-Museing Tail

As all are aware, no doubt, Sarge seems to have had a bit of a problem keeping his Muse from going AWOL recently.  No doubt, again, this is a common problem to anyone who writes more than, say, once a week, on Monday, 1200GMT.  

That having been said, Sarge is very eloquent in his postings where the theme is "I ain't got nuttin'".

So....There I was *, this very morning, doing my morning business, pondering what to write to educate, entertain, bore our readers with.  Not coming up with anything on my own, I muttered a prayer to St Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers and therefore of Writers Block and picked up a book from my fully stocked reading library next to my throne.  It happened to be "There I was..." 25 years by Bob Stevens.  A reader had commented on that on one of the Chant's posts several months ago and I had ordered it.

As a boy, I had always gone straight to the back page of Air Force Magazine and read that cartoon before thumbing through the rest of the articles in the magazine. Recently, I've been re-thumbing through it somewhat regularly as nature calls. 

Provided I remember to bring my glasses with me.

In any case, this morning I happened across one of the cartoons that referenced a "supposedly" true story about a guy in WWII named Bruce Carr.
Click to enlarge.
Source

Ah-HAH, an idea! 

Finishing up my business, shaving, showering and, such as is possible with me, cleaning up in preparation for my conversations with the Guy Upstairs, still left me with a few minutes to spare.  So, I Binged the name (Yes, I'm trying to stay away from the Google as much as possible).

What I read was quite definitely a story.  So, here goes.

Col Carr had learned to fly in 1939 when his father had bought a Piper Cub for $25. The plane had landed in a tree which apparently upset the pilot who then sold it.  Upon entering Pilot training at the ripe old age of 18, he soloed on his first flight.  His IP had intended to give him the usual dollar ride, and Col Carr when given the controls had done aerobatics all the way too and from the area, so upon landing, the IP climbed out and allowed him to solo.

Training in the AT-6 (OT, but this weekend was Formation School, AT-6s left and right and doing aerobatics over the house. Bastiges....), was similarly short, after 4 or 5 hours he and a couple other students were told they were going to P-40s and shipped off to Georgia.  His first flight in the P-40 involved his IP kneeling on the wing pointing to controls and explaining their purpose.  After that, he was cleared off to learn to fly.

That was not the way things usually were, but the exigencies of war being what they were....

He arrives in England and immediately transitions to the P-51. His transition training consisted of a pep talk.
"This is a P-51. Go fly it. Soon, we'll have to form a unit, so fly!”"
My first flight in an Eagle was solo also.  Suffice it to say there was considerably more instruction involved before I got airborne than he received.  I could identify with his statement  about the transition


"I FLEW a P-40, but in the P-51, I was PART OF the airplane.. and it was part of me. There was a world of difference."
 Having never been above 10K in the P-40, his first flight involves a controlled climb to 30K, as he pondered that capability he decided to name his aircraft "Angel's Playground".  As he's making that decision, the formation is bounced by German Fighters.  
Source

Since the unit hasn't been fully formed yet (giving the flight lead the benefit of the doubt here), the lead jettisons tanks and turns for home.  Col Carr however, is peeved that he's been shot at, so engages one of the Germans.  As with all prolonged engagements, energy is lost and altitude is traded for lost energy.  Pretty soon, Col Carr is lower than treetops but behind the German.  The German pulls up to clear some trees, so Col Carr squeezes the trigger and fires until the barrels burn out.  A tracer from his guns hits the wing of the German, who decides to bail out.  Unfortunately, he's too low.

Col Carr, who was chastised by his flight lead for being "too aggressive" during that engagement refers to his victory not as a "...kill, but a suicide."

Reading this far in his story, I've decided for some reason, I like this guy.

He ends the war with a total of 14 victories, but that's not what makes him the subject of Bob Steven's cartoon.  On a mission over Czechoslovakia he is strafing an airfield when he's hit by AAA (Hiss!).  Losing coolant, he steps over the side.  He manages to evade capture for several days, but is unable to find nourishment.  (The sources refer to him having a dead chicken but no way to cook it without risking capture.)

Running out of energy, he decides to make for the Luftwaffe airport and surrender there. Arriving after sunset, he, wisely IMHO, decides to wait until morning.  As he's watching the airport that night, he sees a FW-190 being maintained by Germany's finest maintainers. (No Sarge, not you, they didn't have radars on FW-190s).

As the maintainer's finish working and button up the fighter.  Col Carr crawls into the fighter to have a place to hide and stay warm. As he's hiding in the fighter, he's doing what any pilot does in a cockpit, figure out where things are and how they work. 

 Which leads him to a plan.

He decides if he can start the thing, he'll take off and head for home.  

Dawn arrives and he starts pulling on the lever he thinks is the starter, but nothing happens.  He's pulling on it and pulling on it and starting to think this isn't going to work when he gets a flash of brilliance. (I'd rather be lucky than good.) He pushes on the control and an inertial starter starts to whine.  When fully wound, he pulls the lever again and the engine starts.  

Looking around to see if anybody is running towards the airplane, he's astonished that an airplane starting at a base isn't an unusual occurrence.  However, he also concludes that an airplane taxiing towards a runway might attract attention, so he cobs the power and takes off between two hangars.  

Airborne, he plays with various switches to get the gear and flaps up.  Which he successfully accomplishes.  Maintaining a VERY low altitude (he says 6", I think that might be a SLIGHT exaggeration), he makes it back to his base where he attracts the attention of friendly AAA (there's no such thing as "Friendly" AAA.  Hiss!).  Climbing to altitude he hits the gear switch but nothing comes down.  Several more tries, still nothing, and the friendly AAA is getting even "friendlier", so he decides to belly land it.
Source

Which he successfully does.  MPs, being MPs, try lift him bodily from the fighter and arrest him, but the seat belt retains him.  Finally, his Group Commander recognizes him, calls the MPs off and asks him "where the hell have you been?" 

Later, as he's showing the squadron the FW-190, he's shown a lever in another section of the cockpit which when activated, lowers the gear.  One for up, another for down.  Interesting example of German ingenuity.

Or not.

So Bob Steven's cartoon is mostly correct. However, he evaded capture, not escaped, he also borrowed an FW-190, not an ME-109 as the cartoon indicates, but the final frames are exactly correct.  That having been said, LtCol Stevens told an excellent tale that reflected the general facts and which I enjoyed researching.

Col Carr finishes WWII, remains in the Air Force, flies combat in Korea in the F-86, then flies combat in Vietnam in the F-100 for a total of 509 combat missions.  

That's a lot, folks.

Col Carr passed away in 1998 at the age of 74.

Rest in Peace, Warrior!

Sarge, you just never know where you'll be when a posting idea strikes.

* SJC

Sources
http://www.rb-29.net/HTML/50FtrPltStory/FtrPltStory/50.06.00.htm
https://forums.ubi.com/showthread.php/282029-Bruce-Carr-Great-True-Story-Forums
http://wethearmed.com/military-and-law-enforcement/unbelievable-captain-bruce-carr-mustang-ace/
http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/1995/February%201995/0295valor.aspx

https://army.togetherweserved.com/army/servlet/tws.webapp.WebApp?cmd=ShadowBoxProfile&type=Person&ID=289769
http://www.combatsim.com/htm/nov99/p51-hard3.htm

34 comments:

  1. (Chuckle).... here's the new plane.... FLY IT! Things appears to be more loose in war than peace. Noticed the same thing in the stories my dad told when he was stateside vs Iceland. Col Carr certainly kept his head and had a wee bit o luck too. Nice posting Juvat!

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    1. Even in MY flying days, there was a big difference in policies ("feel" really) between my two tours in PACAF and the two in TAC. The rules were the same, the enforcement seemed different. I'm sure that's even more the case when your flying for "realsies".
      Thanks

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  2. Love Bob Stevens' work, I have two of his books lying around somewhere. Time to send the archivist back into the vault.

    Great story Juvat.

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    1. Thanks. Probably going to send him some more money. One never knows when the Muse will go on strike.

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  3. I have my copy floating around here somewhere. Loaned it to a LADY in the 90's. Her dad flew the Dollar Nineteen in the 50's. He really enjoyed the book. My son read the covers off it. I knew where you were going the second I saw the picture! Good stuff!

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    1. Took me a minute to figure out Dollar Nineteen (but I did).

      Thanks

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  4. My stepdad (Korean war Naval Aviator) told a similar tale concerning progression into hotter aircraft. He left Pensacola after carrier quals in SNJs (T-6 Texan to you AF guys) and went to Cabiniss Field, Corpus Christi. There he entered Advanced Training in Grumman F8F Bearcats. Single seat with a guy standing on the wing pointing to various knobs and such.

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    1. It was a different time, accidents were expected and were not necessarily the end of the commander's career (the crew however....). Nowadays, it's almost always the end for the commander. Hence, they are more risk averse. In writing, that sounds great. Leadership-wise, in a combat organization, hesitation while evaluating risk is frequently disastrous.

      That having been said, I think I'd have liked to have tried it, just for the self-satisfaction of succeeding.

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  5. Thank you for making known to me this outstanding American. I, too, always went to the back of the Air Force Magazine to see Bob Stevens' cartoons.

    BTW: The dollar nineteen is what we/I jumped from at Fort Benning jump school in 1967 ( all the 130s being to the far west of us ).

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. My pleasure, Paul. I can see why it was used. It belied the adage of "jumping out of a perfectly good airplane" ;-)

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    2. Paul,FYI some people don't know the "dollar nineteen" was also utilized as a pretty effective gunship (callsign "shadow") in Vietnam besides the 130 and the C-47..

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    3. VX:

      Yes, I was/am aware of that.

      juvat:

      The reason that I always say: 'Aircraft capable of flight' rather than that other ( incorrect ) phrase. As an AF crew chief, I can tell you that there is no such thing as " a perfectly good airplane ". Even the aircraft used as Air Force One have ( I am sure ) minor deficiencies. Airworthy for certain, but not perfect. Certainly as perfect as humanly possible, but not perfect. If anyone wishes to disagree with me on this, fine; but I will want to see the current log books before conceding being wrong.

      Paul

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    4. By the way, as I recall, those C-119s were from the Washington D.C. Air National Guard.

      PLQ

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    5. PLQ, point is well made, although in my eyes, the Eagle was a perfect airplane. That view could have been rose colored though.

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    6. C-119s then, F-16s now with the DC guard. (insert snarky lawn dart comment here)

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    7. juvat:

      Perfection as is beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

      Paul L. Quandt

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    8. Kinda like my wife. (insert "awwwwww" here)

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    9. Well played, Juvat. Well played.

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    10. Thank you, thank you very much. Order the veal and tip your waiter, I'll be back on Monday.

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    11. So long as the deficiencies are irrelevant to the task at hand, it's close enough to perfect for me. Like juvat, my wife may have deficiencies, but they're irrelevant to our marriage, so ... she's perfect to me. No, my wife will never see this. I'm not sucking up. :)

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    12. Well said. (even if she does see it.)

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  6. Can't believe they have not turned that into a movie.

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    1. That would have been a good one, although the time for making it is probably long ago. John Wayne in the lead role, perhaps? Although he probably would have eaten the chicken raw.

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  7. Yep, kick the tires, light the fires... And he DID just that! (well, maybe didn't kick the tires) And 500 missions in THREE wars! Dayum!!!

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    1. I think he probably skipped the tires part, but fires...yes.

      My thoughts exactly.

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  8. Geez, those FOKKERS! Making things hard to do.

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    1. And they weren't flying Messerschmitts either! Old joke, I know.

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  9. Great story, thanks for sharing. That That man probably had to be pried out of the cockpit at the end of his career.

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    1. As a matter of fact, he owned a P-51 later in life, named Angel's Playground of course, and did the airshow circuit. I also suspect he didn't spend any time at the Northern Virginia Penitentiary for Wayward Fighter Pilots (located in a 5 sided building on the Potomac) either.

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  10. You got the HSSSS right, but forgot the BOOM!

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    1. Inexperience talking there, D4. Fortunately....

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  11. You said he ended WWII with 14 kills - yet the picture shows 16 swastikas on the side (a couple are only partially shown). I guess a couple ended up not being confirmed for his official tally ...

    The cartoons remind me a bit of Bill Mauldin's work (yeah, I know they are kinda far apart in subject matter, but I was still reminded) - you scribes concentrate on the airmen, pilots and aviators most of the time, but since my dad was in tanks in France & Germany, my youthful reading tended to include ground forces. Willie and Joe were beloved by the grunts. Maybe a topic for a post or two? A little OT for this forum, but the man had the right attitude! This was from his NY Times obit:
    "During the war, he excoriated self-important generals, grassy green ''90-day wonders,'' insensitive drill sergeants, palate-dulled mess sergeants, glamour-dripping Air Force [sic] pilots in leather jackets, and cafe owners in liberated countries who rewarded the thirsty G.I.'s who had freed them by charging them double for brandy. He was nothing short of beloved by his fellow enlisted men."
    For the record, I know that the "glamour-dripping" pilots back then weren't, and that they weren't Air Force, at least not until 18 September 1947... but that was the nature of the inter-service rivalry then (and now)...

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  12. This source explains it I think. The Air Force had one set of criteria for Air to Air kills and a different one for aircraft destroyed on the ground. Evidently, gun camera film had to show the aircraft being worked on or moving or something in order to prove it wasn't a dummy. So I think that's the additional swastika's on his Mustang. He clearly had done some strafing. He might also, given his referral to his first victory as a suicide instead of a kill, only talked about the Air to Air victories.
    As to Bill Mauldin, I too enjoyed his cartoons, and while I didn't know many "glamour-dripping" pilots in Leather Jackets, the ones who did fell into my own category of military types for excoriation, most of whom were described in his obit.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)