Thursday, July 5, 2018

The People who live around You...



In my many travels around our Sun, I have never really achieved greatness, more approaching goodness, or acceptableness.  Meh, I’ve used the cards I was dealt, maybe not so well, but it is what it is.  But, for some strange reason, in all my averageness I have somehow been surrounded by greatness, in one form or another, from family to those I’ve bumped into.  This is one story of one of the greats.

So, in June, 1973, my father retired from the Air Force.  After a long and interesting career dealing with such weird things as Range Tracking Ships (where, one time in Miami he left a Cuban restaurant right before it rapidly disassembled due to conflicts with another Cuban restaurant (this was in the late 50's/early 60's so there might have been something else besides who had the best flan) and measuring radioactivity at Bikini Atoll, he selected Patrick Air Force Base (Formerly, way formerly, the Banana River Naval Air Station) south of Cape Canaveral (everyone knows where the Cape is, or should, even Bubbleheads, at least of the ballistic missile variety (Canaveral Port has a large turning pool for SSBNs so they can go practice BMing in their BN) in Florida as his last ‘post’ to be retired from.  So to Patrick our family went, and then to a rental condo in Indian Harbor Beach overlooking the Banana River just north of Mather’s Bridge (a swing bridge connecting the southern tip of Merritt Island (which separates the Banana River from the Indian River (which neither are really rivers, more estuaries, but hey, what’s in a name, right?) while the parents looked for permanent housing for our family.

A suitable house was finally found, in Satellite Beach, two blocks south of De Soto Avenue, just a tad south of Patrick AFB (especially if you count South Housing, which was a part of the base that wasn’t part of the base, but a separate section separated by unincorporated area south of the actual base-base (the part with the airfield, seaplane ramp (very useful later on for trailerable boats) and all the admin stuff and the Base Commander’s house (very important that the base commander be actually on the base, you’d think.) (The military spent a metric carp-ton of money renovating South Housing, and then some committee in Congress sold off South Housing and the new owners just plowed all those nice 60’s era houses down (that were recently refurbished and renovated) and are now replacing them with McMansions.  But the same time the military renovated South Housing they also renovated North Housing (which is actually on the base and also has the Base Commander’s house) and went to densepack condos so they were able to move all the base personnel actually on the base-base.  Weird.  But that seems to be my life.  Weird.)

And that is where, in Satellite Beach (try getting a 4th grader to properly spell ‘Satellite’, it was a pain, ‘Indian Harbor’ though two words was much easier to spell) the Bean Family Robinson, so to speak, ended up, in late November/early December 1973, in a 4 bed, 2 bath house not too far from the beach, and surrounded by all sorts of weird people, you know, civilians.  Real civilian-civilians, people who never worked as a military contractor (like those civilians at Kwajalein) or had any connection with the military at all other than living near a military base.  Lots of people involved in NASA (one of the reason for the house being available was NASA downsizing in early 70’s as the Apollo program ground to a halt.  A friggin national tragedy that.  On the verge of 70% reusable capsule tech, safety program far exceeding shuttle system, and one step from nuclear engines and we go with the flying garbage scow.  Comment tragique (as Sarge would say.))  How weird, about the civilians thingy (it would help if I stayed on point, right? (Yes, Beans, right.))  Beans had not, for the previous 5 years at least (hey, Beans at one time was a kid!,) lived around actual civilian civilians, so he was a stranger in a strange land, at the tender age of 10 years old.

But, well, there were lots of retirees in the area.  I am sure you military types are familiar with that situation.  Bases, with their base hospitals, their base exchanges (think K-Mart store for the military families)(also known as a post exchange for Army types and whatever Navy types call theirs) and the base commissary (grocery store) and the package stores (booze selling locations, separated by officers and enlisted, if I remember) attract retirees who still have base privileges, so they can use those base privileges at such places like hospitals (where you wait and wait and wait) and the BX (where old retiree males can buy the most cheap and butt-ugly clothing, or used to back in the 70s and early 80s, I think they got better stuff now, maybe, don’t know, haven’t been there since I lost base privileges) and commissary food and most especially the booze from the package store(s).

And one of those retirees was living behind our new house, Mr. Leverette.  We could have called him “Col.” (and we tried to call him that, growing up as AF officer brats, it’s kind of instilled into one to use ranks no matter what) but he wanted to be called “Mr.” so that’s what we did.  Mr. Leverette and his wife, Frances.

A lovely couple they were, kindly people, kind of those quiet grandparents that you used to find everywhere in neighborhoods.  And Mr. Leverette had… stuff.  All types of stuff.  He had a huge collection of 0 Gauge (that would be the big trains with 3 rails instead of 2) Lionel trains from the 30’s to the 60’s, and he would pull out a car or locomotive and talk about them, but their house was full of a life’s collection of knick-knacks, so unfortunately we never got to see any of the trains running (sad face, very sad face.)

And he tinkered.  With all sorts of stuff.  Ever hear of a 30-speed bike?  Mr. Leverette made one, from a 3 speed cable-controlled hub with a 5 speed sprocket set on the rear wheel, and a 2 sprocket set at the pedals (5 speed rear sprocket and 2 speed front sprocket set from a 10 speed donor bike.)  You would start out in 1st gear (hub) and run up through the 1st 10 gears using the conventional 10-speed setup, then quickly downshift, switch to 2nd gear (hub) and run up again, do the same with 3rd gear (hub)…  That darned bike flew.  He let me use it a couple times to exercise one of my block neighbor’s Afghan hounds (I could pull away from those dogs on the straight-away, but downshifting to corner would slow me up enough they’d catch up.  I would tire before they would.  Neat dogs.

And there was a neat picture on his wall.  A painting of him, in USAAF flying gear, crush hat and all, looking all serious and regal.  For Mr. Leverette was that neat thing that every boy-kid in the 70’s wished they knew.  Mr. Leverette was a double-ace, and not only that, he aced+2 in his first combat (that would be 7 kills at one time)  Aaaaannd… He flew… The Lightning, the beautiful, gorgeous, downright heavenly Lockheed P-38 Lighting!  Man, how friggin cool, someone who actually flew against Krauts, a cold-handed double ace, and a P-38 Lightning pilot!

oh, look, a man and his plane, nice planesource: https://www.tigernet.com/forum/thread/Clemsons-Military-History-441660

One day I showed him my ham-fisted attempts at gluing a P-38 model together, I think it was a Revell P-38 kit, and he spent the afternoon going over every part of the actual plane with me (and fixing some of my mistakes.)  In 1976, he still knew the ins-and-outs of the Lightning like he was still flying one.  And when he saw that I had a Stuka kit, well, he told me about the day he shot down 7 Ju-87s.  He acted like it was an ordinary day at the office, or maybe changing a tire.
mine did not end up looking like this, more like one attacked by a glue monster
(and it wasn't the model Col. Leverette flew)



but in my mind’s eye, at night, with the lights off, it looked like this
(P-38F, the model of Lightning Col. Leverette flew)

this is Glacier Girl, rescued from the ice, photo, well, just because!
same P-38F as the one posing for the camera on the ramp
(can you really have too much photo of Lightning?  I think not!)

This led to many interesting afternoons listening to him talk about flying in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, flying from Tunisia, North Africa and over the ocean and over Italy.  But he never talked about his kills after that one day.

He did talk about skimming the Med with his plane for fun.  About how the heat from the desert just wrecked the takeoff and landing ability of the plane.  How, when you’re high up, the afternoon sunlight is just spectacular as it lights the ocean and the land with color.  How the cool weather in Italy was a refreshing change from the desert, until it turned miserably wet AND cold as only Italy can (Korea has some of the same problems, but apparently Korea has them in spades (as the old saying goes.)) He also talked about a P-38 pilot who got shot down over the Alps and walked out, and how bad the USAAF flying boots were for walking in cold weather.  Supposedly it wasn’t him.  I always wondered.  Could never pin him down (damned pilots, shifty slickery cusses, all.)

But… I knew he was a hero, but remained clueless as to what he actually did for years and years and years.  And then I got curious and wandered down the search engines looking for the man behind the two engines (so to speak.)

From Col. Leverette’s page from Arlington National Cemetery:   http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/wlleverette.htm

Courtesy of Air Force Magazine

William Leverette, a Double Ace, Dies

Retired Colonel William L. Leverette, celebrated World War II ace, died April 7, 2003, in Beaverton, Oregon. He was 89.

Leverette was one of only two Americans in World War II to score seven victories in a single encounter with the enemy.

He was born in Palatka, Florida, on September 5, 1913, and received a degree in mechanical engineering from Clemson University and a masters in aeronautical engineering from Princeton. He entered the Army Air Corps in 1939 and earned his pilot wings in 1940.

As commander of the 37th Fighter Squadron, Leverette on October 9, 1943, led seven P-38s on a mission to protect Royal Navy warships in the Mediterranean. When he sighted a formation of 30 German Ju-87 Stuka dive bombers, Leverette sent three of his fighters to fly top cover while he and the other three closed on the Stukas. Each of the German aircraft had a gunner manning a flexible machine gun plus two wing-mounted guns.

Leverette, who had spent two years teaching fighter tactics and had more than 1,000 hours flying fighters, took out seven of the Stukas himself. His unit shot down another nine, plus a Ju-88, and most of the rest either headed for home or ended up in the sea.

For his leadership and individual performance in this action, Leverette received the Distinguished Service Cross.

He continued to down enemy aircraft in other actions, finally totaling 11 victory credits to become one of the top 20 aces in the Mediterranean theater.

During his military career, Leverette flew 45 different aircraft, from the BT-2 biplane to the F-104. He retired from the Air Force in 1965.



By John L. Frisbee, Contributing Editor
Seven Come Eleven


In the March "Valor," Bill Shomo was credited with being the only American to score seven victories in one mission. A sharp-eyed reader has named another who matched that feat.

On September 3, 1943, as the Allied invasion of Italy got underway, the Italians threw in the towel. Even so, there were to be many months of fighting before German troops were driven out of the peninsula in a bloody campaign that absorbed virtually all Allied military power in the Mediterranean.

While granting that Italy had first priority in the Med, Winston Churchill also had his eye on another prize--the Greek Dodecanese Islands lying off the southwest coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sea. They were garrisoned largely by Italian troops who, Churchill judged, would cooperate if the islands could be seized before the Germans took over. Capturing the islands, he thought, might bring neutral Turkey into the Alliance and open the Dardanelles and Bosporus as a short supply route to beleaguered Russia. But Allied forces in the eastern Med had been stripped to support the Italian campaign and to prepare for the Normandy invasion. About all that was left was a Royal Navy squadron of a dozen ships and a few RAF aircraft.

Churchill's plea for a minor diversion from Italy fell on nearly deaf American ears. Finally, General Eisenhower agreed to send some long-range P-38 fighters and a few cannon-carrying B-25s to help out. The 14th Fighter Group was moved from its base in Tunisia to Gambut 2, an RAF strip of sand near Tobruk, a few miles west of the Egyptian border. From that desert paradise they were to escort Royal Navy ships and to attack German convoys headed for the Greek islands.

The group's 37th Squadron was commanded by Major William L. Leverette, who had arrived in North Africa late in August. Leverette was not your average replacement. He had spent two years teaching fighter tactics in the States, had more than 1,000 hours in fighters, and was no stranger to the gunnery range.

On Oct. 9, Leverette led seven P-38s on a mission to protect Royal Navy warships near the island of Rhodes. As they reached the ships, a formation of some 30 Ju-87 Stuka dive bombers was sighted approaching from the west. Leverette dispatched one flight of three P-38s to fly top cover while his flight closed with the Stukas.

The Stuka was not a particularly nimble aircraft, but it wasn't to be approached casually, either, especially when encountered in wholesale lots. In addition to wing-mounted guns, it carried a rear gunner manning a flexible machine gun. And with so few hunters (Leverette's wingman was a new, nervous, slightly trigger-happy lad) attacking so many targets, conserving ammunition was the key: "Get in close and make every round count." What happened in the next few minutes is best described by Leverette himself in this debriefing account:

"We peeled off into the middle of them, and I got two almost before they knew we were there. The gunner in the first started to fire, but stopped as soon as I let go. We came back behind them and I got on the tail of another. His gunner stopped firing as soon as I opened up, and the pilot bailed out. My fourth was a 30-degree deflection shot from 200 yards. Then I gave a lone plane a burst of cannon and machine-gun fire from a 20-degree deflection. That finished him.

"I came in directly behind the sixth. His gunner opened up before I did, but I got him with my first shots. The plane nosed down a little, and I gave him a burst in the belly. I was closing fast and had started to go under him when he nosed almost straight down, his propeller shot off. I tried to dive under him, but didn't quite make it. My left prop cut two feet into his fuselage as he went down. My last hit was the best. I was closing on him from the right when he turned into me. I rolled into a steep bank to the left and got him while firing from an almost-inverted position."

While all this was going on, the leader of Leverette's second element downed five Stukas, and his wingman got three. After disposing of a Ju-88 that was escorting the dive bombers, the top-cover flight came down to drop another Stuka. A few got through to make their bomb runs; the rest either jettisoned, headed for home, or ended up in the sea.

For his combat leadership and individual performance, Leverette was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, this nation's second highest award for valor. But his combat career didn't stop there. The group soon returned to the Italian campaign where again, Leverette downed two Me- 109s and two, Me-110s for a total of 11 victories, ending his war as one of the top 20 aces in the Mediterranean theater.

 oh, and here he is, painting his 8
th kill
check out his list of decorations... Russian Order of Alexander Nevsky? whoa...
 (this was before it became a civil service award)

In looking for more information on ‘Mr.’ Leverette, I found this site, by a Luftwaffe officer who was the nephew of one of the pilots on the other side of the Lightnings that day.  It breaks down each individual kill with graphics and all sorts of ‘neat’ stuff, from Maj. Leverette’s after action report.  Have fun, you’ll be doing that hand-thingy thing pilots always do in the movies.  (The link also includes .jpgs of his actual AAR.  Coooool.)



Only later, way later, like during research for this article, did I pay attention to the fact that he was the commander of the 37th Fighter Squadron (Twin Engine) of the 14th Fighter Group, from 29 September, 1943 to 27 April 1944.  Not just a hot-shot pilot, but the commander.

This is from a museum in Britain, how totally American (the patch, that is)!http://www.americanairmuseum.com/media/24516


From the historical write-up of the above patch:

The(37th Fighter) squadron converted to Lightnings in 1942. In February 1943 it was detached from its parent group and deployed to North Africa, where it was assigned to the 14th Fighter Group the following month. The 14th group had temporarily withdrawn from combat, with some of its men and planes being reassigned to the 1st and 82d Fighter Groups.

The squadron began combat operations in May, after being re-equipped with the P-38F and some P-38Gs. Already prior to the Axis defeat in Tunisia, the Northwest African Air Forces had begun preparations for the invasion of Sicily. The 37th flew dive-bombing missions during the Allied assault on Pantelleria. It helped prepare for and support the invasions of Sicily and Italy.

The unit became part of Fifteenth Air Force in November 1943, and moved to Triolo Airfield, Italy. It engaged primarily in escort work flying missions to cover bombers engaged in long-range operations against strategic objectives in Italy, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Rumania, and Bulgaria. On 2 April 1944, the squadron earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for beating off attacks by enemy fighters while escorting bombers attacking ball-bearing and aircraft production facilities at Steyr, Austria, enabling the bombers to strike their targets.

Can’t get much clankier downstairs than that.  But he was such a mild-mannered old guy…

Now?  Now I regret not getting more time with him, getting him to tell me more stories.  I moved away in 1985.  Mrs. Leverette died in 1988 and he moved away to Oregon, to pass away in 2003.

A great man.  Quiet.  Smart.  Strong.  Devoted Father, Devoted Leader.  Especially a devoted teacher of other men and annoying neighborhood children.

Colonel William Lawrence Leverette, Ret.
11 Aerial Victories (7 Ju-87, 2 Bf-109, 2 Bf-110)
5-Sept-1913 to  4-Aug-2003
USAAF, USAF
He currently rests next to his wife in Section 66, Site 4242-A at Arlington National Cemetery.  
Maybe there is a reason for me to get to DC one of these days.

26 comments:

  1. What were the odds Beans, on you meeting up with Col Leverette? And you being able to pas on your shared past with him with us? Notice the Colonel was a bit older than the average pilot back then, perhaps a bit more maturity made for a CO. Interdasting tale Beans, good show!

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    1. Weird, huh? That someone so great would just be the mild-mannered back-door neighbor. And nobody made a big deal about his achievements. It's always been a secret shame of mine, that more people didn't know about him. So... well... this.

      I can almost imagine him, when he got back to base, using each kill as "Now this is another way to kill a Stuka." He really was like that. And I miss him. And I was young and stupid and blew the opportunity.

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  2. Nice tale, Beans. I see a lot of his qualities you enumerate at the end in my dad, also a WWII vet (tank company commander in eastern France and Germany).

    Been meaning to ask you - any relation to Lewis Wetzel, a famous Indian fighter of the "western" frontier, which at that time was in eastern PA (around Perry County) and other places in the Virginias? He's certainly a character worth a post ... if you want to go that far back in time

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    1. Oh, the OHIO Wetzels… No, unfortunately. They're the ones with, well, Louis "Deathwind" Wetzel, Wetzel's Pretzels, and all the other Wetzelian things, like money.

      My Great Grandfather, Gustav Wetzel, left Germany about the 1890's and went to New Orleans, instead. Married a Cajun gal, who proceeded to pop out 7 kids and then both Gustav and his wife managed to die from Cholera during a particularly bad outbreak of the stuff. All kids got put into orphanages (think Dickensian types here) and eventually the oldest daughter got old enough and got out, got a job, got enough cash to get the 2nd oldest out, who went to work and they pooled their money to get the third out, and so forth, and so on. Within a 2 year span oldest daughter got all 6 out of hock, and they moved away from New Orleans.

      By the time I was aware of things, like maybe 5-7yoa, only Grandfather Wetzel was still alive. And grumpy. And hard to talk to. He died while the family was at Kwajalein.

      See what I mean about being around great people? Survived a Cholera epidemic, survived a poor house/orphanage, survived all of that, and I had no idea what was right there in front of me. Sometimes my lack of awareness scares me.

      Oh, well. They (the Ohio Wetzels - who are composed of most of the US Wetzels) are the ones with all the fame and glory (and money.) Us Louisiana Wetzels (Me, 2 brothers, all our wives, their kids and my mother) just have oil and gas wells, which the friggin petrochemical companies won't pump from so we get like $40 a year off of them. Come on, people!

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  3. Reminds me of a professor at college. He let slip a story once about parachuting behind the Japanese lines in CBI theater. I found out later they were called JED's, some pretty gritty guys in the OSS. He was mild as toast, and a bit eccentric. I wished I'd gotten to know him better.

    Great story.

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    1. Yeah, I have known many great men, been around so many of them it's like I've been inoculated against greatness. To me, like the expensive antiques I grew up around and used, all these great men are just normal people.

      Only after, like once I got to my 30's (sometimes I can be a bit thick upstairs) did I realize just how 'famous' the environment I grew up in was (well, maybe in comparison to the mental midgets I was now surrounded by.)

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    2. Very much reminds me of my wife's Uncle Bill. A big, jovial sort (unless his dinner was late) whom I enjoyed visiting but I never learned until shortly before he passed away that he had been with Merrill's Marauders in Burma, earning two Silver Stars along the way. Talk about regrets at not being able to hear his experiences.

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    3. If he would have told you. That's the thing. Col. Leverette only talked about his kills that once, the rest of the time was funny stories about planes not having enough lift in the heat to get off the runway and things like that.

      One of my friends was a Marine Recon in Vietnam. He never talked about actual combat-combat, but about weird stuff he saw. Man, I miss talking to him (He was one of those big, rough, biker-teddy bear guys who just excrete a sense of safety about them.)

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    4. Absolutely correct - if he would have told me. My father-in-law (Uncle Bill's kid brother) was with the Army troops at Chosin. Other than always keeping his home interior on the warm side he's never really said much about the terrible conditions of that battle. I've known him almost 40 years and we are very close. He'll be 88 in September and only in the past few months of declining health has he mentioned bits and pieces of his experience, particularly how the rifles froze up. I always tease him that's why he's entitled to keep his house as warm as he wants.

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  4. Great Story, Beans! Well told.

    As I've progressed through the Medal of Honor Recipients, it's become apparent that the majority of them were just regular folks doing their duty to the best of their ability.

    And not giving up.

    BTW, the Distinguished Service Cross is the Army's equivalent of the Air Force Cross. I've noted elsewhere that the common understanding of an Air Force Cross is that the Recipient would have gotten the Medal of Honor if they'd had a better writer and/or been in a more visible theater. I think the latter might be the case with your Colonel.

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    1. Yes. Regular Folks, but not. Kinda like how I imagined the Apostles were. (Not saying that MOH recipients are at the same level as the 13 Apostles, but there is an inner greatness amongst really great people, if you catch my drift.)

      I thought, reading his after-action report (from that link by the Luftwaffe officer's analysis of the combat) that he should have gotten the MOH, but, after knowing him, I can also see him talking his superiors out of nominating him. Unassuming, Col. Leverette was. Very unassuming. One of those guys. I'm sure you had met those pilots, the unboastful ones. That was him. Maybe the theater, but... 7 in one mission. Wow. Still boggles the mind, especially reading that he ran out of ammo on his last kill. And, after reading his report, there's no hype in it. "I was laying bricks in a zig-zag pattern, when I decided to shift to a double herringbone, instead." Like that. One would have to read between the lines to pick up any swagger or panache.

      That Russian Order, before it became a civil servant award, was one step from Hero of..., so it was their version of the DSC.

      Still... He should have gotten the MOH.

      And he's not the only 'great' I was around as a kid. More stories forthcoming. He was, well, someone that needed remembering.

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  5. You never know who you're going to meet in life.

    We're of an age Beans where WWII vets were around, still working, and still contributing to America.

    It's good that you remembered the Colonel, it's good that you told us his story. Now we can all remember him, and those like him, who stood up and were counted when the chips were down.

    Great post!

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    1. Thanks.

      We're of an age where Viet Nam vets are finally getting good acknowledgement for their service. And Korean War vets are, too (and they are quickly disappearing.) I am glad that the current generation is acknowledging the service and accomplishments of so many of the recent veterans. And accepting them back into our society.

      Thanks for the thanks. I've been wanting to write about him, to publicize him, for years. Thanks for the forum to do so.

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  6. Great piece of history, and well told

    And the actual battle here is known as battle (for the island of) Leros
    As for the Ju 87, one of them has been refloated and awaiting restoration

    http://www.ww2wrecks.com/portfolio/ww2-german-stuka-ju-87-aircraft-s7gm-shot-down-in-dogfight-on-9-october-1943-recovered-west-of-rhodes/

    P


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    1. There was so much information from the research that I had to cut, for space. And I totally missed the fact that they recovered one of the planes. Duh. I was at that site.

      I have a feeling that the Brits remember it more that us Yanks, as it was an engagement where they lost a ship and many men. And, as Juvat (I keep on wanting to call him Sir Juvat) mentioned above, the Mediterranean Theater was less known than the main European Theater, even though the MTO guys played just as hard and did just as much as the ETO guys who got all the press.

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  7. "I have known many great men, been around so many of them it's like I've been inoculated against greatness ...., all these great men are just normal people"
    That's the beauty of things - many great people are just normal. Some of them have become famous, and retained their normalcy. Chuck Yeager comes to mind, among many others. Others are well known in some circles but not generally famous, and also remain normal. They end up being insurance agents, teachers, chiropractors, veterinarians, truck drivers, salespeople... well you get the drift... all go back to normal lives after their service to their country, although some resume 'normal' lives while still serving in less attributable capacity. There are many of all those still roaming about, and we are much better off because of them.

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    1. I grew up surrounded by high rank and giants in their field that when I went out to the world, I really didn't know how to deal with, well, quite frankly, lesser people. I treated them like I was taught, and expected the same treatment I received. Somewhat bitterly disappointed.

      I wonder if this is how other officer's kids feel?

      I grew up mentally 'looking up' at people. Now? I feel like I am mentally 'looking down' at everyone. And I yearn for that connection.

      It's one of the things that attracted me to this blog. I read a few day's entries, and the comments, and was hooked. Bright, shiny people, oh boy. And then I went back and read it from the start, watched the videos, followed the links, read the comments, and more and more I found that the missing race of giants of my youth were... here. And I got to comment, and people yammered back at and with me as if I was an equal, and I felt at home again. Then some weird conspiracy by some people (looking at you, Sirs Juvat, Tuna and OldAFS) sucked me into being a contributor and, well, here I am, and you giants out there are looking at me like I'm looking at you and it feels... good.

      And you are right, all those giants out there are hidden amongst all the people. Just doing what they've always done. We are truly much better off because of them.

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    2. I, for one, am very happy that you feel at home here, Beans. You belong here.

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    3. Thanks for that. It's always nice to have a home. And to have buddies like all y'all here.

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  8. Sounds like a very good reason to get thee off to Arlington to visit his grave, let him know he and his wife have not been forgotten. Now you have shared his story, more of us will remember him as well. And, may be a little more patient with the neighborhood kid...no telling what they might remember that you passed on to them.

    Thank you for sharing your memories of a great man.

    Also for pointing out that great men frequently "hide in plain sight". That way we may well look harder at folks a certain age, who answer "yep" to the question of "are you a veteran?". One day I spent much longer than I should have doing an admission...the gentleman had been a pilot of Air Force 1!! He had some great pictures on his walls.

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    1. I would have to not carry anything wi-fi capable if I ever visit Arlington, as the need to 'snoop' would just be an itch I would have to scratch, and then somewhere, 15 years down the line, they'd find my mummified body wrapped around my connectivity device...

      I try to cut the kids in the neighborhood some slack, until they cross the line, and then I do the growling old man thing, they respond accordingly, and then I'm back to acting normal. I really feel kids these days (as an overall group) just need some discipline and order. Oh, well, it is what it is.

      Cool... AF1... That's just neat. I did the same thing one day at the library, asked a vet where he got his dog, he bristled and then mellowed a lot when I was asking legit questions like where the dog was from, what issues he's had and such. Allowed me to ask about his service and thank him without getting his back up.

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  9. Andrew:

    Thank you for making known to me this fine American. It is a fine tale, well told.

    As to the thing about how officer's kids feel; as a USAAF/USAF officer's kid, I was only around the run of the mill type of heroes ( you know, the ones who went to war in WWII, Korea, came back, stayed in the service and did their jobs ). None of particular note, but the people who have made our country great. But I listened to their stories when I could and learned how to be a man ( such as I am ) from my dad and them.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. It is a fine tale. Thanks.

      Those are the same types of heroes that I grew up around, too. It's a much higher benchmark than, say, the 'normal' someone with a Masters in Business Administration. What can you learn from them except how to destroy a business while golfing and lining your own pocket?

      Like the priests of my youth. All really cool, old time, Father O'Malley style priests. Then the new, younger, more... liberal crop whose worse horror was not having enough to drink in college before they went to seminary hit and it was vastly off-putting. Which sucks, as I liked the old time religion. (The newer, politics-as-religion? Nope. I'll find more God in the lint in my naval.)

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  10. We had a Change of Command at Stead AFB in '63 so everyone had to wear all of thier salad.
    As we marched, eyes right, by the base commander he was wearing his MOH.
    No one knew until then. A very quiet man.

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    1. Whoa. I've heard of other living MOH recipients doing that, flying under the weather.

      Clint Eastwood's character in "Heartbreak Ridge," Gunny Highway was a recipient and never wore his ribbon until a dining in.

      Then you have the people who haven't received one who said they have... Grrrr… Firing squad time. Or public flogging. Grrr..

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  11. Another Ace from Beans! Thanks for sharing the story. Sounds like he and his plane were one well-tuned fighting machine.

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