Saturday, September 29, 2007

Thrift Store Find-- A Piece of Aviation History

Found in a thrift store today for less than a dollar, here is a piece of aviation history--one of the Champion Spark Plugs from the record-setting modified P-51 Mustang that broke the world record for speed for a piston-powered aircraft in 1979 flown by Steve Hinton.

One of the fun things about visiting thrift stores is you just never know what you're going to find.
Take today, for example. At one place, I found three Rolling Stones albums, including a first-pressing of Beggar's Banquet, plus The Who's 'Tommy' double-LP and Volume Two of 'The Best of Cream--LIVE".

But that's not likely to interest many aviation readers.

However, I also found this unique item--an original Champion Spark Plug from the specialized P-51 Mustang, actually called an RB-51, that was flown by legendary film stunt pilot and air racer Steve Hinton in 1979 to set the World's Record for piston-driven aircraft. Steve flew the modifed Mustang at 499.046 miles per hour in 1979 at Tonopah, Nevada.

This little plaque has one of the original spark plugs from the plane, called 'Red Baron', and a metal plaque that tells about the exploit.

I paid fifty cents for it.

A photo of Hinton and the modified Mustang setting the world speed record for piston aircraft in 1979.

A neat computer-simulated shot of the RB-51 setting the record.

More Info on Robert 'Rosie' Rosenthal

100th Bomb Group pilot Robert 'Rosie' Rosenthal flew over fifty missions over Europe in World War Two. Earlier this year, Rosenthal flew his final mission. Rosie was a great man in the Air Corps and a great asset to humanity in general.

I knew Rosie only slightly. When I tried to get his story in an interview, he demured, telling me he'd had way more than his share of publicity and directing me to another fine Jewish aviator, navigator Jerome Jacobson. I think Rosie got tired of and embarrassed by the attention he garnered, but the bottom line is that his story is so compelling that it is well worth repeating here.

I heard today from Mr. Mel Wacks, the director of the Jewish-American Hall of Fame. Mel wrote me to let me know that there is a new DVD about the life of Rosie Rosenthal. It is available from the Jewish-American Hall of Fame at the f0llowing address, for the nominal fee of fifteen dollars: Jewish-American hall of Fame, 5189 Jeffdale Ave., Woodland Hills, CA 91364.

I plan to order a copy this week, and I highly recommend it to all readers. A few of my friends saw it at the 100th BG reunion last month, and said it was outstanding.

What follows is a little background on Robert Rosenthal.

Robert "Rosie" Rosenthal (1917-2007)

The day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, Robert "Rosie" Rosenthal enlisted in the U.S. Army. In August 1943, he joined the 418th Squadron of the "Bloody" 100th Bombardment Group, stationed in England. Thirteen B-17s took off for a bombing mission over Munster … but only one returned - aptly named "Rosie's Riveters" - full of holes and flying on two engines. But in spite of the intercom being out, the oxygen system shot-up and a large ragged hole in the skin of the right wing, they had successfully dropped their bombs over the target.

In March, 1944 Rosie's Riveters completed its 25th mission, which completed their military service. But Rosie reenlisted, saying "I had to do what I could for as long as I was able." This was in spite of the fact that 15 missions was the average life of a bomber crew. Later, Rosenthal was made head of the 350th Squadron after the CO was shot down. Intelligence Officer Marvin Bowman found Rosenthal "one of the great figures of the Air Force; a shy, modest, and patriotic gentleman of truly amazing courage and achievement."

When Rosenthal's plane went down over Germany in September, he broke his arm and nose - but luckily was rescued by the Free French, to whom he had dropped supplies only a few weeks before. As soon as his arm had healed, Rosie returned to his original (418th) Squadron, and was chosen to lead a mission to Berlin on February 3, 1945. Even after a direct flak hit put an engine on fire, his blazing Fortress still managed to drop its bombs on the targeted Erkner factory before Rosenthal gave the signal to "Abandon ship." The rest of the crew parachuted and after B-17 had descended to about 1,000 feet, Rosenthal was the last to leave with the ground dangerously close … just before the ship exploded. Fortunately, he was found by Russians, who embraced him and took him to a hospital. This was his 52nd mission; there was to be just one more. Rosie flew his last mission after VE-Day … to free prisoners from concentration camps.
Rosenthal was one of the most decorated pilots in the Eighth Air Force. He received 16 decorations, including the Distinguished Service Cross for "extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against the enemy," the Silver Star (with cluster) for "gallantry in action," the Distinguished Flying Cross (with cluster) for "heroism or extraordinary achievement during aerial flight," the Air Medal (with seven clusters), the Purple Heart (with cluster), plus the British Distinguished Flying Cross and the French Croix de Guerre.
Shortly after V-E Day, Rosenthal was back in Germany as an assistant to the United States Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials where, among other things, he interrogated Nazi leader Hermann Goering.

Robert 'Rosie' Rosenthal is shown (above right) with aviation artist Gil Cohen with the oil original of Cohen's painting showing Rosie and his crew before a 1943 mission. Shown are (left to right): Waist Gunner S/Sgt. Loren Darling, Pilot 1st Lt. Robert Rosenthal, Radio Operator T/Sgt. Michael Boccuzzi, and Waist Gunner S/Sgt. James Mack.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

September 20 Named National POW/MIA Recognition Day--May We Never Forget

National POW/MIA Recognition Day, 2007

A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

America has been blessed by the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who have answered the call to defend our country and protect liberty around the world. On National POW/MIA Recognition Day, we honor a special group of patriots: those who have been prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action. We remain forever in their debt, and we renew our commitment to them and to their families never to rest until we have accounted for every missing service member.

To commemorate this day, the National League of Families POW/MIA flag is flown over the White House, the Capitol, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the World War II Memorial, and other locations across our country. This flag is an enduring symbol that reflects our solemn commitment to our courageous service members who have been imprisoned while serving in conflicts around the world and to those who remain missing. America will always remember these heroes, and we underscore our pledge to achieve the fullest possible accounting for every missing member of our Armed Forces.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Friday, September 21, 2007, as National POW/MIA Recognition Day. I call upon the people of the United States to join me in honoring and remembering all former American prisoners of war and those missing in action who valiantly served our great country. I also call upon Federal, State, and local government officials and private organizations to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-second.


I echo President Bush in saluting my friends, living and passed away, who were POWs in World War Two: Don Lewis, Delbert Lambson, Frank Murphy, Herb Alf, Lyle Shafer, Mozart Kaufman, John Carson, Lee Kessler, Fr. Joe Sellers, Ken Blythe, Ed Herzig, and Aaron Kupstow. I apologize if I have inadvertantly left anyone off the list.

I also salute men who were deprived of their freedom in Switzerland and Sweden, including: Dan Culler, Sam Mastrogiacomo, Norris King, Bob Long, Cyril Braund, and Charles Cassidy.

We Will Never Forget.....That's a Promise.

Top Ten Bombers

And the winner is.....? (According to the Military Channel's 'Top Ten Bombers' show)

The Military Channel had a show on last night in which it attempted to analyze and rank the top ten bombers. It was a great show and it is an interesting and thought-provoking list. The planes were ranked on such things as service life, armament, fear factor, defensive armament, range, innovation, etc.

I have no argument with the ranking of the Boeing B-52 as the top bomber of all time. After all, it has been in continuous service for over fifty years. However, I was a little surprised that the venerable Boeing B-17 was ranked tenth on the list. The top four were: B-52, B-2, B-29 and Mosquito--all great planes. The B-17 was ranked low because of its short service life (only really used in WWII, while the B-29 was used in Korea as well) and relatively small bomb load.

The list and arguments are to be found at the Military Channel's website and at this webpage: It's a fascinating and highly debatable list.

10. B-17

9. Handley-Page 0/100

8. Junkers JU-88

7. Tupelov Tu-95 'Bear'

6. Boeing B-47 Stratojet (what a beautiful plane that was!)

5. Avro Lancaster

4. De Havilland Mosquito

3. Boeing B-29

2. Boeing B-2

1. Boeing B-52
Comments? Arguments? Where's the B-24?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Letters to Iraq

This year I 'adopted' a soldier who is in the field in Iraq and who had applied to a program that connects troops with people who will write to them. This soldier is a lance corporal in the Marine Corps and is stationed in the Iraqi desert. He is due to come home in January or February.

Today, I gave all my classes ten minutes to compose a letter to our Marine, if they wanted to. It was strictly optional, as I wanted the letters to come from the heart. Sadly, only 30 of my 150 kids actually took the time to write a letter, but the letters they wrote are excellent. I teach high school freshmen, fourteen and fifteen year olds very much involved in themselves, and not always the most empathetic people. Some of the best letters come from some of the quietest, the less studious, the less gifted academically, the poorest. I had to share some excerpts with readers.

"How did you feel when they told you you had to go fight in the war and you told your mom and your dad that you have to go and did they feel sad? I was wondering how hot it gets up there and if there is a lot of people getting shot and hurt and if there is women that are fighting."

"I am very thankful for brave people like you that fight for my freedom and every other citizen's. Thank you very much and I will never forget about all the soldiers fighting in Iraq for us."

"I know I can't fathom the sacrifices you have made for me and our country, but it's worth the thanks. I wish you the best of luck as you work in the field and that you come home soon. You guys are the real heroes."

"Writing U to tell U that I appriciate what U R doing for our country and the people you love. Keep doin what U do."

"Believe and fight for what is right,

hold your head up high,

smile proud and care for those,

don't let your hopes fall from the sky."

"I just want you to know I really admire what you are doing for our country. I could never be brave enough to do anything like that! Please be careful!"

"I'm sure there are days you don't want to do what you're doing, but you do it anyways, so thanks. "

"Thanks for fighting in the Iraq war. I know it's not fair that you had to go more than one times and so does the president for once. We all might not like Bush cause I don't, but he might bring back the draft so he can bring some of you home...So thanks for fighting for us."

"Thank you for fighting for our country. Kick their AS!E?"

"Thank for keeping us safe from terisees and I want to go to the marines to serve our country."

"I think that it is really cool that you are brave enough to go all the way across the world and fight for us. I don't think I would last one day if I went over there. I would like to thank you and all the other troops for protecting our country, and at the same time trying to help the people of Iraq have better lives and more freedom."

"You are proof that there is more good than bad in the world, and I thank you for your courage."

"Is being in Iraq scarey? I really appreciate you being down there. I'm sure you get that a lot but I really do. You must be very brave because I would be too chicken. You're like a super hero. Well, thank you!"

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Piccadilly Commandos

Every World War Two airman I've talked to over the years has mentioned the Piccadilly Commandos, and the excitement of a trip to London, which usually involved at least a side-trip to Piccadilly Circus to see the sights.

Piccadilly was a hub of activity in wartime London. One of the activities was prostitution. 390th Bomb Group ball turret gunner Clifford Puckett remembers that the news vendors would call out: "Papers! Papers!" and then in a subdued voice "Condoms! Condoms!" Another friend remembers the surprise of having his privates accosted in the pitch-black of night in blacked-out London by a Commando. Prices ranged from five pounds to twenty-five pounds, depending on duration of service. Most of the men I know never partook, and few of the flying personnel needed to. The 'flyboy' uniform (and the available cash it indicated) was more than enough to attract pretty girls in wartime London.

Many admit to being scared to death after being approached by the commandos. Many young American airmen were from small town America, and had only the faintest notion of city life, seedy or otherwise. For this reason, many of the girls in Piccadilly were comically brazen, and many a young airman ran for his life to protect his virginity.

Some aircraft, such as this B-24, were even named after the girls of Piccadilly Circus. This plane was called "Piccadilly Commando". Another common name was 'Piccadilly Lily'.

'Piccadilly Lily' was a main character in the 'Twelve O'Clock High' TV series in the 1950's.

This 'Piccadilly Lily' is still flying.
Here she is in 2000, with an additional 'L' in 'Lily'.

Piccadilly Circus Today.

This is not to say I haven't heard a few stories that curled my hair. These were red-blooded young men, living one day at a time, drinking liberally, and uncertain of what the next mission would bring. Many were certain that they were living on borrowed time. They'd already watched friends die and figured it was just a matter of time till it was their turn. It is a tribute that so many, despite the odds of survival, stuck to their values and also how many ended up marrying British girls and bringing them back to the States after the war.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Teaching and Writing

I love teaching, and love my students. Over the years, I've had thousands of students both here and in Wyoming. I'm even starting to teach the kids of students I had when I first started. After 22+ years in the classroom and nearly that many as a coach, I'm feeling a strong pull towards becoming a full-time writer. Considering that maybe one of every five hundred writers makes a living at it (speaking of books here, not other media), it is a lofty goal. But I'm determined and I'm going to keep working at it till it happens.

In the meantime, I apologize for the scarcity of good posts.

Also in the meantime, Edvard Munch's painting says it all:

Monday, September 17, 2007

An Early Hero Who Lived Up to the Name--Ron McDole

Ron McDole, right, in his glory days as one of the great defensive linemen on the AFL champion Buffalo Bills.

Many years ago, like most young kids, my heroes were athletes. My family moved from South Dakota to Washington, D.C. in 1968, when I was nine years old. Thus began a lifelong love of the Washington Redskins NFL football team. In all the years I lived in DC, from 1968, when I was in fourth grade, until 1977, when I graduated from Herndon High School, I never missed a game, whether on the radio or on our tiny black and white television. The Redskins were so popular in the DC area that their games were sold out years in advance. I held no hopes for actually seeing a game in person.

One year, in the early seventies, a new family moved into our neighborhood. They were a large Catholic family with five (or was it six?) kids, some of which were nearly as old as me. They were ordinary in every way but one---the dad was Ron McDole, and he was a professional football player. By the time he was traded to the Washington Redskins, McDole had already played a stellar career as a defensive end with the Buffalo Bills and the Houston Oilers.

This was back in the days before football players made millions and lived in gated communities. Ours was a very middle-class community of townhouses. However, it was close to the Redskins' practice facility near Dulles Airport, and many players elected to live near Redskin Park, as it was called.

The McDoles had one car, a huge station wagon. Mr. McDole (the only thing I ever called him either to his face or to others) went off to work and came home just like any other dad, only on Mondays, he lay on the sofa most of the day with ice packs all over him. By this time, Ron McDole had been playing football since 1962, and was in his thirties, which to me seemed ancient.
An early McDole trading card, from the sixties.

I was scared half to death of Mr. McDole. He was a huge man, at least six foot five or six and well over three hundred pounds, and he had thick mutton chop sideburns and hands that were as big as oven mitts. Whenever I was over at the McDole's house, I peeked at him but never really spoke to him. How could I? He was a famous football player. Fortunately, Mrs. McDole, who was barely over five feet tall, was a neighborhood mom and set every kid who came in the door right at ease. I don't recall Mr. McDole ever saying much. But he was very good-natured, always had a big smile, and took his turn driving us to soccer practice.

Ron McDole's player promo photo from the Redskins, circa 1975.

In 1972, the Washington Redskins made it to Super Bowl VII. Though they lost, Mr. McDole took the time to bring me back a program from the game. I still have it.

A few years later, I asked Mr. McDole, through his son Taz, if he would get a notebook signed by all the Redskins for me. I didn't have the nerve to ask him myself. A week or so later, Taz brought it to me. McDole had gone to every player on the team and had them sign for me.

McDole had played his early career for the Buffalo Bills, and the family still had a home in upstate New York. One Easter, they invited me to come up for a visit. I spent a week in Eden, New York, and it remains the only time I ever rode on a snowmachine.

My last year in high school, the McDoles invited me to a Washington Redskins preseason game. This remains the only professional football game I've ever been to. Even better, after the game was over, we went to a tribute at a fancy hotel in honor of Sonny Jurgenson, who had retired and whose number had been retired that evening. I had to keep pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.

Ron McDole retired a few years after I went off to college. He lives in rural Virginia and I believe went into the construction business, which he did in the off-season when he was a player.

Here was a man who lived up to the term 'hero' that came with being a professional athlete. He did small kindnesses for a kid he hardly knew. Not once, but many times. He never asked for anything in return. What a great lesson for a young kid, to know a man like that.

Thanks, Mr. McDole. I hope one day to call you Ron.

This photo of Ron McDole at an autograph signing shows his good nature and kindness.

Ron McDole's Biography

Roland Owen "Ron" McDole in 1939 in Ohio. He was nicknamed "the Dancing Bear" because he was nimble-footed despite his size. The defensive end from the University of Nebraska and went to the Buffalo Bils of the old AFL after spending the 1962 season with the AFL's Houston Oilers. McDole went on to anchor the left side of the Bills' great defensive line for the next eight seasons.

McDole was an AFL All-Star in 1965 and 1967. The Bills won two AFL championships while he was on what is possibly their best defensive line of all time. McDole and his defensive team-mates held the opposition without a rushing touchdown in 17 straight games over 1964-1965. McDole was the defensive team captain during those years, and years later, he was selected to the All-Time AFL second team.

From 1971 through 1978, McDole was a key defensive player for the NFL Washington Redskins under head coach George Allen.

Ron McDole has the most interceptions by a lineman, with 12. He is also ranked #44 on the all-time list of games played in the NFL.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Aviation Writer Walter Boyne does it again--Supersonic Thunder

The second book in the jet-age trilogy, Supersonic Thunder, is a great read.

I have been a big fan of writer Walter Boyne for many years. He is one of the few aviation writers to succeed as both a fiction and nonfiction writer, and I've read almost everything he's ever written over the course of the last thirty years. Boyne knows whereof he speaks---he was a jet fighter pilot in the fifties and also the director of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I got acquainted with Walt a few years ago, when I sent him a copy of my book Untold Valor, and Walt was good enough to read it, blurb it, and recommend it to the company that eventually published it, Potomac Books. My admiration for Walt's writing precedes the fact that he helped me out as a fellow writer, so this is, I hope, an unbiased review of Walt's latest book, Supersonic Thunder.

If you enjoy great aviation historical fiction, I can think of no one who does it better than Walter Boyne. In his latest, Supersonic Thunder, Boyne continues following the saga of the fictional Shannon family as they witness the continuing development of the jet age in America. Also followed are developments in England, France and Russia. Special projects covered in this, the second in the trilogy, include the race to build an SST, the competition between Douglas (soon to be McDonnell Douglas) and Boeing for the passenger jet market, the beginnings of the space program (including Sputnik and Gemini), the U-2 spy plane program, the SR-71 Blackbird, the development of the first super-carrier--the Boeing 747--and much more.

If you have never read a Walter Boyne book, you have missed out on perhaps the best aviation historical fiction in the world. Boyne's series on World War One and Two, the Eagles Trilogy, is simply magnificent. He also did a book on the Wright Brothers, 'Dawn over Kitty Hawk', and a fictionalized history of the Air Force, Wild Blue. Boyne has also written literally dozens of works of nonfiction. Perhaps his most acclaimed is 'Beyond the Wild Blue', a history of the United States Air Force.

I'm a big fan of Boyne's work, and have been for several decades. If you've never picked up one of his books, I urge you to do so.

Walt has a personal website at Check it out!
The final book in the trilogy, Hypersonic Thunder, will be out in the fall of 2008. I eagerly await its publication.

Pioneer Lady Pilot Passes away at 85

Women's aviation pioneer Caro Bayley Bosca died at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Community Hospital of pancreatic cancer. Here is a story her surviving brother said he tells everyone about her.

By the early 1950s, Robert Bayley had seen his sister fly, of course.

Both had learned before World War II, and while he had served as a flying instructor with the Army Air Force during the war, she had ferried military planes around the country with the Women Airforce Service Pilots.

After the war, when Bayley came home to Springfield, Caro took up with other "WASPs," living in a Miami, Fla., apartment they called the Wasp's Nest.

Soon, she was into aerobatic flying, and when her touring troupe flew into Richmond, Ind., for a show Bayley decided to go see her perform.

"Richmond didn't have much of an airport then, it was really a field," said Bayley, who is 89.
At the show, "they strung a rope ... maybe up about 20 or 30 feet" in the air at a spot near the runway - a spot where wheat or hay was growing.

Roaring in her stunt plane, "she came down in front of the crowd upside down, went under that rope, and dangled her hand out as if she was grabbing at the grass," Bayley said.

On a return pass near the crowd, "she was waving grass in her hand," he said.

"She had that crowd convinced" she'd plucked it from the ground. Bayley said.

"Actually she'd gone out and put it in the plane before the act," he added. But that didn't lessen her brother's respect for her daring even by a width of a blade of grass.

"I always tell people I can fly upside down fine," said the retired attorney, "as long as I have a good 5,000 feet under me.

"Caro had less than 5 feet when she did that," he said. "It scared the hell out of me."
Added Bayley, "I think she was terrific."

Group Pays for World War Two Vets to Go See the New WWII Memorial

The following article was online from the Hartford, CT Courant Newspaper, written by Jim Farrell on September 15, 2007. The photo is by John Woike.

'American Warrior' Group Pays The Bills To Honor Dwindling Group Of Heroes

RUSSELL INZINGA gives Hayden Griswold a trim as the two World War II veterans swap stories Thursday morning at Inzinga's Manchester barber shop. Inzinga, 85, served in the Merchant Marine and Griswold, 85, in the Army.

As a member of the Merchant Marine, Russell Inzinga made 18 trips across the Atlantic aboard the E.B. Alexander, which delivered troops to fight in World War II.Now 85, Inzinga is proud of his service and excited about yet another trip - this one today, when he will be among 100 World War II veterans flying at no charge to Washington, D.C., for a day of touring and reminiscing."It feels good to be recognized," said Inzinga, who has spent 57 years as a Manchester barber and still works 30 hours per week. "I still have my health, fortunately, but there are not a lot of us veterans left."

Dubbed Connecticut Honor Flight, the trip is sponsored by American Warrior, a charitable group founded recently by Christopher Coutu, 31, who spent three years in the Air Force and is now a member of the state Air National Guard."I'm excited for them, and for their generation," said Coutu, who works as a financial planner in Niantic.After arriving at Reagan National Airport at about 10 a.m., veterans will visit the World War II Memorial, which opened in 2004 in to honor the 16 million Americans who served and the more than 400,000 who died in that war. Scheduled stops after lunch include the Vietnam and Korean war memorials. After flying back to Bradley, the veterans will be bused to Norwich for a celebration in Franklin Square that is to include patriotic music.
"I'm really excited," said Melvin Stevens, 83, of Bloomfield, who fought with the U.S. Army at the Battle of the Bulge and received two Purple Hearts."I came within a heartbeat of being wiped out three or four times," said Stevens, who noted that he has never been to Washington and feels blessed to have survived the war.Traveling with the veterans will be 50 volunteer guardians, who are paying $300 for the day and are responsible for helping with comfort and safety issues.Stevens said he would be accompanied by his son, Paul, who recently retired from the Air National Guard.
Edmond Grandahl, 88, who served with the Army Air Corps, said he has been to Washington on business but never to sightsee. Grandahl worked in the manufacturing industry for years but is now retired, and is keeping busy by pursuing a master's degree in history at Central Connecticut State University."It's a real treat to get to go down there so we can appreciate all of the sacrifices, especially of those we've lost," said Grandahl of West Hartford.According to Coutu, there are about 72,000 World War II veterans in the state, but more than 7,000 die each year. Coutu said he decided to create American Warrior in part because his grandfather's brother, Edward Coutu, was moved into a convalescent home."I said, `This is not the way it should be,'" said Coutu, adding that he has a close relationship with Edward Coutu, 89, who will be on today's trip.
For Inzinga, the trip is especially meaningful because mariners of the Merchant Marine were not officially recognized as veterans until the late 1980s."For all those years, we weren't getting any benefits at all," he said.Inzinga said his first Atlantic crossing was memorable because, after dropping off 12,000 U.S. troops in Scotland, the ship picked up 7,000 Canadians and sailed in a convoy toward Sicily. While in the Mediterranean Sea, the convoy was attacked by German planes. Inzinga said that while his ship was unscathed, another in the convoy was damaged and had to be beached.Part of the intrigue about Saturday, Inzinga said, is the possibility of meeting another crew member from the E.B. Alexander, or perhaps someone who traveled on the ship."I'm looking forward to seeing someone that maybe I saw before," Inzinga said, adding: "The day will be over before you know it, but I'll remember it for a long time."Another trip to Washington for veterans is being planned for the spring.

For more information, visit

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Last Game of the Season

There's something bittersweet about the last baseball game of the season. On Monday night, I went to the Single-A Minor League Idaho Falls Chukars' playoff game, which they lost and were thus eliminated by the Orem Owlz. The air had the crisp, pre-frost tang of early fall, and the season's end served as a reminder that time passes, and that we must make each day count.

100th Bomb Group Holds Reunion in Nashville

A great-looking group of guys---veterans of the 100th Bomb Group, pose for a group photo at their annual reunion in Nashville, Tennesse last week.

The 100th Bomb Group (H) held its annual reunion last week in Nashville, Tennessee. Joe O'Leary, son of a 100th BG airman, took many excellent photos of the reunion, and I asked permission to share them on this blog. Joe generously agreed. Here is the link for this slideshow. Enjoy!

My friend Les Poitras also attended, flying to the reunion with a crewmate of his late grandfather. Les had a wonderful time.
My friend Les Poitras with Fortunato Carello, 350th Squadron Navigator, at the reunion.

After returning, Les got an email from the old commanding officer of the 390th and later the 100th, Thomas Jeffrey, who did not attend the reunion but was obviously with the vets and their families in spirit. Gen. Jeffrey writes:
Gen. Thomas Jeffrey, commander of the 100th Bomb Group, 1944.

"Greetings! Best wishes to the 100th Bomb Group reunion attendees! Wish I could be here to swap tall tales!

We are still hanging in here. We're ALL hanging in here; we're all still here, some just floating a little higher than before. As the old song says ".You take her up and spin her, and with an awful tear, your ship folds up, your wings fall off, but you will never care, for in two minutes max another pair you'll find. and dance with Pete and the angels sweet, and you will never mind." Well, never mind this old age stuff. We'll get through it, we always have. We're tough, made of strong fiber and all of my colleagues of yesteryear proved it - showed what they were made of. We're all steadily turning over the great 100th Bomb Group Foundation to younger members with new ideas, a fresh outlook, and a desire to be a part of it. And that is as it should be. The proud tradition carries on. And we are pleased.

Thank you for carrying on, thank you for cataloging the history, and keeping the memories alive.

I raise my glass to you all!

Maj. General Thomas S. Jeffrey Jr.
Commanding Officer
100th Bomb Group (H)"
Gen. Jeffrey with Glenn Miller before Miller's last concert of his life, at Thorpe Abbots, England. Miller perished shortly after playing this concert for the 100th Bomb Group.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Remembering September 11, 2001

In memory of the nearly 3,000 innocent civilians who died six years ago in New York City, Washington, D.C. and rural Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Typical Americans doing an honest day's work--fathers and husbands, wives and mothers, sons and daughters. Their crime--being Americans.

The incredible evil of that day--and the heroism of the people who confronted it--will never fade from memory. I spent the day watching the Trade Centers fall on live television with my classes of 14-and 15-year-olds. While many sporting events were cancelled that day, the high school soccer team I coached had a double-header that night, and we played it. It still amazes me anybody could focus on the games after the terrible slaughter we'd all witnessed.

The Falling Man, icon of the attack on the World Trade Centers, fell to his death at 9:41 on September 11. The man, 43-year-old Jonathan Briley, worked in the Windows of the World Restaurant at the top of the Trade Center.

Jonathan Briley

He was only one of thousands. Here below are the rest....

Never forget. And God bless them all.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Idaho State University Football

Are you ready for some FOOTBALL?

Today my son Matt and I went to the home opener for Idaho State University's football team. Idaho State has about 12,000 students, including Matt, who is a sophomore this year. Idaho State is located in Pocatello, Idaho, about 50 miles from Ammon, just the other side of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.

Idaho State played a smaller school from Oregon and won easily. The school, Southern Oregon, is in the town where my parents live, Ashland, Oregon. Small world.

Idaho State is one of the few college football teams to have an indoor stadium. It's called Holt Arena.

I forgot my camera, but here are some shots from a game last year.

I am more of a baseball and soccer fan, but enjoy the occasional football game.

Below, the exterior of the Holt Arena. Pictured are Matt Morris and his buddy Pedro 'Pepo' Mena. Both are currently sophomores at Idaho State.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Spitfire Tribute to a 60-Year Love That Refused to Die

This story was in the Scotsman newspaper, online edition, today. It was sent to me by my friend Richard in Scotland, who lives near the site of the crash.


A SPITFIRE aircraft that fought in the Battle of Britain will fly low over East Lothian this Saturday in honour of a Czech airman killed in the war and the woman who loved him.
Juliette Liska, now 85, will be standing by the graveside of her fiancé, Vaclav Jicha, in St Martin's RC Cemetery, Haddington, in memory of the airman who was killed in a wartime crash over the Lammermuir Hills.

Juliette Liska, 85, at the grave of her fiancé, who was killed in 1945 Picture: Ian Rutherford

Ms Liska survived a German labour camp and went on to marry another man, but she never forgot the love of her life, whom she met at a flying club in Prague before the war.

"He was a very serious man, but I understood him very well because we were both pilots," said Ms Liska, who was captured by the Germans in 1943 then became a translator for the American forces after the war ended.

Mr Jicha fled Czechoslovakia in 1939 to escape the Nazis and ended up flying missions for the Allies. After the occupation of France, he worked in Britain as a test pilot and was awarded both the DFC and the AFC.

In the closing months of the war, the Czech pilot was posted to RAF Kinross and it was from there that he took his last flight, on 9 April, 1945. Mr Jicha was one of three people on board a flight that crashed into the Lammermuir Hills in deep snow.

He survived the impact, but froze to death trying to make his way back through the snow and was found six days later by a shepherd on the hills.

Meanwhile, Ms Liska did not know if her fiancé was alive or dead. On returning to Czechoslovakia after the war, she finally learned the truth about what had happened.
Following the wishes of her family, Ms Liska married, but she never forgot her wartime sweetheart and has made several visits to his grave. This year, poor health following a fall almost prevented her from making the trip, but she was determined to come to visit the grave.
Inspired by her determination, Bill Nicholson of the Spitfire Club and Jack Tully Jackson, a local historian, arranged for the flypast at 2:30pm tomorrow.

The spitfire, which is in Scotland for the Battle of Britain fundraising ball at Leuchars, was at the Battle of Britain and its body is pockmarked with shrapnel holes.

Bill Nicholson said: "I contacted the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and told them the story of Vaclav Jicha and Juliette Liska and they agreed to arrange the flypast."

Standing in the East Lothian cemetery where her fiancé lies alongside other airmen, Ms Liska wondered if it might be the last time she will make the trip. "This is a lovely place, a peaceful place," she says, admiring the freshly planted flowers around her fiancé's grave.

"I think I will ask to have my ashes sprinkled here alongside Vaclav. But I don't think I am ready to join him yet."

She said she was looking forward to watching the planes flying above the cemetery on Saturday and will do as she always does when she visits the grave: "I will speak to him in Czech."

Thursday, September 6, 2007

No-Politics Zone

I'm from Idaho, and Idaho has been in the news lately due to the indiscretions of our conservative Republican Senator, Lary Craig, who apparently acted inappropriately in a public restroom at the Minneapolis Airport.

The vast majority of blogs on the internet are political in nature. This one never, ever will be. Do I care that Larry Craig is a hypocrite? Not really. He's a politician, for Pete's sake. 'Honest politician' has, unfortunately, become an oxymoron.

This website is devoted to World War Two airmen, and to American veterans in general. I will stick up for Veterans' Rights on every issue. Our veterans deserve the best medical care, housing, and education available to any American.

Sadly, this is not the case in our country.

Our political system is very sick, and if it doesn't get fixed, we as a nation are in serious trouble.

As long as special interests control the political process, the rest of us are merely pawns.

Why is it that none of the children of our leaders is serving in Iraq or Afghanistan? Why is it that the White House is planning a wedding while the parents of Iraq vets are planning funerals?

Is it for the same reason that our leaders themselves never served in Vietnam?

My heart is with my four friends--Aaron, Mike, Sam and Joe who have served a combined 12(twelve) tours in Iraq. My four friends have an average age of well over thirty. They have 13 children altogether. They are good men, working men, who grew up without special privileges. All four will be going back to Iraq by the end of the year---again. Their wives get to raise their children alone while they wait--and pray--that their husbands return alive and un-maimed.

It is up to the poor man to die in the rich man's wars. If the rich man had to fight the war himself, it would be long over.

I salute the men who honor our country with their service, despite the incompetence of our leaders. If these men die, they die a hero's death---but their blood will be on the hands of the politicians who put them in harm's way.

I salute all veterans of all wars. The Vietnam vets never got their due. They served honorably in a war that the elite escaped. The Persian Gulf vets have also served with great courage and distinction. So, too, die our Korean War and World War Two vets.

I no longer believe in any political party. I will vote for the person I think can put the rights of the American people above party, prestige or money.

God bless our veterans. May we never forget them or their sacrifices. And may we someday have statesmen---rather than politicians.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day Hike in the Wyoming Tetons

Table Rock is on the western side of the Teton Range, on far right. This was shot about nine or ten on the way up, facing the sun. Grand Teton is in the center right.

Looking down about two thousand feet below the summit--the flat farmlands of the Teton Valley below. The towns of Alta, Wyoming and Driggs, Idaho are just behind the mountain at center, about ten miles away.

Table Rock at center, above a rock field and a small but dazzling meadow of yellow grasses. Grand Teton just visible to the left of Table Rock. The summit is about fifty yards long and ten yards across. The last mile feels like it is straight up.

Today I went for a hike up Table Rock in the Grand Tetons. This 11,100 foot peak is accessed from the western side of the Tetons. It has a vertical gain of over 4,000 feet and when you get up to 11,000 feet I imagine people from the East or West coast are sucking serious air. The hike was over about 13.5 miles round-trip.

A small glacial lake several thousand feet below the summit. I think is is Solitude Lake.

I left Ammon, Idaho at 5:30 in the morning, started climbing a little after seven in the morning, summited about eleven or so, sat on top long enough to rest up, and went back down. Beautiful day, maybe a hundred people on the trail that I saw altogether in seven or eight hours. The oldest looked about eighty and the youngest less than one. And for the first time in three hikes, I did not see a bear, and this was just fine by me.

Even gimpy-kneed old guys can still make it to the top if they take their time.

Looking east, you can see the Jackson Hole Valley below the Tetons. This is from the summit.

A last look through the trees about four miles below. You can still see Table Rock in the center.

Table Rock looks like a giant doorknob. It is a little lower than the Grand Teton but so close you can see climbers on it. Below the summit I saw glacial lakes and craggy rocks. A good way to spend Labor Day. It took me almost as long to figure out my photo program after I got back, despite the fact that I've used it before. I must be losing my grip in my old age.
This flower had bloomed and was sending out parachute-like seeds into the sky.