Sunday, August 31, 2008

Remembering IWO JIMA

When I was a high school freshman, I had a Western Civ teacher by the name of Peter Bonavedge (unsure of the spelling). I loved the guy. He was one of those individuals you could just tell by being around him was at peace with himself and the rest of the world. Mr. Benavedge always wore a suit and tie, had gray hair, combed straight back, and always looked every inch the way a teacher should have looked in those days, right down to his spit-shined black shoes.

I really loved this guy as a teacher and as a person. My guess is he is no longer of this world, but he is one of several good teachers that I had in high school that made me love history.

Mr. B had been a Captain in the Marine Corps, and he had landed on Iwo on Day One. He rarely talked about it, but I have to admit that the few times he brought it up are the only times I remember from his class. For when 'Cap' talked about Iwo, the lesson went from being abstract to being very concrete. Cap was there. This man WAS history.

Cap told us that one day on Iwo, one of the first days, when men were dying like flies, he had a young private come to him in a foxhole.

"Cap," the young man said. "I'm so scared. I just KNOW that if I go out today, I'm gonna get killed. Please don't make me go, Cap. I swear to you, I will go every other day, but I've had a premonition that if I go today, I'll die."

Cap was in a dilemma. As a captain of Marines, he was in charge of several platoons of men. If he let this man stay behind, he risked all. But if he made this man go, and the man died, he would have this man's death on his hands.

He let the man stay behind that day, and the man went on to fight galliently for Cap the rest of the time on Iwo---a battle that killed thousands of young Americans.

I was watching a show on Military Channel tonight about Iwo and about the vets who went back to it. It made me think of 'Cap' Benavage, my old history teacher, such a kind man, such a good and decent man, who dug deep and despite his better judgement let one young man live that day. What a hero you are. And how few know your story.

This blog entry is in honor of Cap Benavage, my old history teacher. God bless you, Cap.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

My New School

Here are some photos of my new school, Emerson Alternative High School. Roughly 150 students, grades 9-12. Two three-hour classes a day, plus one three-hour block at night. The building used to be an elementary school. There are 9 classrooms total. I'm on the second floor.
Thought some people might be interested, especially those from other countries that wonder what our schools are like in Idaho. This is one of the oldest school buildings in town, but actually quite nice inside and out.

Friday, August 22, 2008

My Main Job

Most readers don't know that nine months out of the year, I am a public high school teacher, and have been one for 23 years now. I'm back in this role as of this week, and working hard getting ready for a new school year at Emerson Alternative High School in Idaho Falls, an alternative school of 150 students who have not succeeded in the traditional school setting. I'll be teaching Western Civilization in the mornings for three hours in a one-block class, and 9th grade through 11th grade English all in the same class in the afternoon. Challenging to say the least. It's a strange life, being a writer in the summer and a teacher the rest of the year. Both jobs pay poorly, but the rewards are great. If the number of blog entries falls, it's because I'm busy, because this year, I will teach and continue working on the 95th book as time permits.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

An American Aircraft Returns to Horham

Richard Flagg mentioned something on his website that I thought was very interesting, and I'd like to learn more about it. According to his sources, an American CH-53 Super Sea Stallion Helicopter of the U.S. Air Force made an emergency landing at Horham Airfield in 2003. It was the first time the old runway was used by an American aircraft since World War II. Anyone have further info on this? Richard, do you?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Liberty Belle Flies over Horham

Click on photo for a dramatic giant version!
Photo speaks for itself. From Gerald Grove.

Gerald writes: "Rob, I didn't know if you'd seen this picture of Don Brooks (president, 390th MMF & Liberty Foundation founder) & Liberty Belle over Horham ... enjoy!"

Outstanding Website Shows British Air Bases--Must See

I recently got in touch with Richard Flagg of Hoxne, England, a World War Two aviation history researcher who has built an incredible site that catalogs many of the air bases in East Anglia from World War Two. This website is a real gem, and I urge everybody with an interest in the air war and the air bases to check it out. It's extensive, well-researched, and chock-full of excellent photos.

By way of introduction, Richard writes on his site:
"Hello and welcome to my collection of Airfield & Aviation Memorial photographs. Please enjoy looking at the photographs I have taken and please leave any comments by using the button below the photograph. Feel free to rate the photographs as well (out of 10) and if you feel the urge to write to me then please do so by clicking here.

I started taking photos of airfield memorials and old airfields a few years back and the more I research the more there is still waiting to be discovered. Memorial sites are wonderful places to find as well, some of them are in the most obscure places, some of them more obvious but all are there to remember the past and those who never returned.

Old Airfields are wonderful places to visit, each one telling its own story. The power and grace, the emotion and sadness are all there still to be felt at these places. Every airfield still has an energy and a very special atmosphere that cannot be recreated in a photograph. Every airfield I have been to so far will always remain to be an airfield, regardless how time has fared.

I am always on the lookout for new places to visit and new memorial sites to see, so if you know of any that I am yet to photograph in the areas that I have been to then drop me a line here. I hope to make a comprehensive database of memorial sites and visit as many as I can when time permits. If you do decide to go and have a walk around any airfield, be warned that some are still very active places and flying will be taking place. All of the airfields I have visited I have always had permission to be there, or I have followed a public right of way and I suggest you do the same. Make sure you have gained permission to visit any site as nearly all of them are private property. Although I have disabled the 'right-click' function on this website, use of any of these images is allowed. Contact Me with your email address and I will forward them on to you. If you want to use them for commercial publication then please contact me as well.

Richard E Flagg. Suffolk, UK. "

The website can be found by clicking here:
Bookmark it, visit often, and drop Richard a line if you have a chance. He's done a wonderful thing here.

Thanks, Richard!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Talk with Bob and Pat Cozens

Bob Cozens with his crew, top row, second from right.
The Patsy Ann, Bob's B-17 named after Pat.
Nose art of Patsy Ann.

I got back from Oregon last night, and today had my scheduled and long-anticipated phone interview with Robert 'Bob' and Patsy Ann 'Pat' Cozens. Seems like I've known Bob forever, but actually, I first got in touch with him about seven or eight years ago when I was researching 'Untold Valor'. Bob and Pat are an incredible couple, and I wanted to talk to them both about what it was like to be a married couple during the war years. Bob is still a strikingly handsome man, and Pat remains as beautiful as ever. They recently celebrated their 65th Wedding Anniversary. Pat has been very helpful in filling in a fairly unknown aspect of the air war--what did the wives do while their husbands were off fighting--and dying--in the skies over Europe, and how did they cope with the constant stress and fear?

For the complete story, please wait for my 95th Bomb Group unit history, co-authored by Ian Hawkins and due out next year. But here are some highlights of this wonderful interview with two amazing people.

Bob and Pat met before Bob went into the Air Corps. Cadets were not allowed to get married, so they waited until Bob was sworn in as a pilot. He is fond of saying that 'the Air Corps gave me my wings in the morning, and the little lady clipped them in the afternoon'. Thus began a lifetime together.

Pat followed Bob to many of his early training postings, including Spokane, Washington and Rapid City, South Dakota, and it wasn't easy. While Bob was stationed in Spokane, Pat shared a motel room with two other wives. The husbands were restricted to base six days a week, but got one day off. Whichever husband was off on a particular night, that husband and wife got the bedroom in the shared unit.

Pat remembers that "I was 22 at the time, but looked about 12, and was very shy." After the 95th's Commanding Officer, Colonel Alfred Kessler, suggested to the men that they not take their wives to their next training post at Rapid City, Pat, who was not an experienced driver, had to drive their car from Spokane all the way to California on her own. They spent their first married Christmas apart, and Bob remembers "it wasn't the happiest of Yules". However, once in Rapid City, Bob noted that there were ten or so other wives there, so he told Pat to "come on over".

"Pat spent more time on buses, or cars," remembers Bob. "I have great respect for her for that." Why did she do it? "True love," is her answer.

When Pat arrived in Rapid City, South Dakota in 1943, "it wasn't much of a town. It was cold and windy. The Hotel Alex Johnson was an average hotel for that area. That's where I ended up staying. I was very shy," and though she knew some of the other wives casually, she only made friends with a few. Her best friend was a young lady named Jerry Stirwalt, whose husband Harry was the flight leader in the 334th Squadron. Jerry had with her their 9-month-0ld son.

"Around midnight one night," remembers Bob, "We were advised that we were going overseas, and by two o'clock a bunch of us had piled into a car and were on our way to California to drop off our wives and see our families. We drove 36 hours to California--straight through."

By this time, Pat was six months pregnant with the couple's first child. This must have been a rough trip to take under those conditions.

From there, remembers Bob, they went up to meet his father-in-law for the first time. He chuckles when he remembers dropping the six-month-pregnant Pat with her parents. "All I had time to say was 'Hi, Dad. Glad to meet you. Take good care of my wife--I'm going to fight the war," remembers Bob. Then, the young couple was seperated.

"The day I got to England with my crew," remembers Bob, " was the same day my first son was born. It was April 17, 1943. I didn't know about it for two or three weeks. Pat had to call a taxi to take her to the hospital to get delivered."

As Bob flew dangerous early missions over Europe, Pat waited for him back home. When asked why their relationship survived the war when so many others did not, she responds, "True love. He was the one for me. I wasn't interested in anyone else." Bob, too, stayed faithful to his wife, avoiding the pitfalls of many of his colleagues. "I never went into Horham," he remembers. "And when we went to London, my main stop was to get to Dunhill's Pipe Shop as early in the morning as possible, to be there when it opened. I was a pipe smoker."

Pat sent Bob an 8-millimeter film of their new baby, but Bob couldn't find an 8-mm projector anywhere on the base. Desperate, he went to the 95th's Photo Section and watched it one frame at a time.

The third mission flown by the 95th--to Kiel--nearly wiped out the entire unit. Pat's best friend in Rapid City, Jerry Stirwalt lost her husband Harry on this mission, leaving her alone with a young child. Pat never knew how bad the missions were until that one. Of all the men in Bob's squadron who went over from the States, only three officers completed their 25 missions without being killed, wounded or shot down.

"I worried about it every day and every night," she remembers. "I just tried to keep busy, to keep positive, and I did a lot of praying. I was happy I had a child because if Bob were lost, at least I'd have a little piece of him."

Her fears were not unfounded. Two of Bob's brothers, also Air Corps pilots, were killed in training in the States.

Bob Cozens did survive his tour of 25 missions, one of the very lucky few--known as the "Lucky Bastards". On December 22, 1943 he sent Pat a telegram. "I have just completed my 25th mission". It was over. He had survived. He could come home to his new family.

Over sixty years later, Bob and Pat grace the 95th Reunions. Bob is a quiet leader, a modest but excellent speaker, and a man loved and admired by all. And Pat continues to be the prettiest woman in the room.

This story copyright 2008 by Rob Morris. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Terreton Wedding and First Rain of the Summer

L-R: Eric 'Erky' Davis, Son-in-Law Jacob Cody Davis, three groomsmen, Trevor Good, Katie Davis Good, two bridesmaids, my daughter Nicole Davis (second from right) and Cody and Katie's sister Sarah Davis. In front are some flower girls.

Looking out from the back yard at the fields. Lovely.When I drove away, I took this photo of the farmstead and windbreaks from the outside.

We went up to Terreton for Cody's sister Katie Davis' wedding to Trevor Good. The wedding was held at Jim and Sharon Park's farmhouse, in a lush stand of windbreaks on their farm. Beautiful location, beautiful wedding. On the way home, we got the first real rain of the summer. Grandson Eric 'Erky' Davis was a ring-bearer. He sure looked spiffy in his green tie that was almost as tall as he is.

The storm rolls in. On the high plains, storms only hit small areas. You can see the edges of it in these photos.

Budweiser Sign

I drove past the giant Budweiser sign on the silo today on the way to and from the wedding. Here's my take.

Great Escaper Eric 'Digger' Dowling Passes Away in England at 92

'Great Escape' veteran Eric Dowling dies at 92

By JILL LAWLESS – 1 day ago

LONDON (AP) — Eric Dowling, who helped plan the mass wartime breakout from a German prison camp that inspired the movie "The Great Escape," has died at 92.

Peter Dowling said his father died at a nursing home near Bristol in southwest England on July 21, a day before his 93rd birthday. The Aabletone Nursing Home on Thursday confirmed the death.

Seventy-six Allied prisoners escaped from the Stalag Luft III prison camp on March 24, 1944, in a daring breakout. All but three were recaptured, and 50 were shot on the orders of Adolf Hitler to deter future attempts.

The escape attempt was one of the most celebrated incidents of the war, recounted in a 1963 film starring Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough.

Dowling played a key role in planning the escape. He forged documents, made maps and was nicknamed "Digger" for his work helping to excavate the three escape tunnels, code-named Tom, Dick and Harry.

Over almost a year, prisoners surreptitiously dug the tunnels 30 feet (9 meters) underground, shored up with bedboards and wired with stolen electrical wire. Tom was discovered by guards and Dick was abandoned, but the 300-foot (90-meter) long tunnel Harry was eventually completed.

Dowling was not among the more than 200 prisoners chosen by lottery to make the escape attempt on the cold and moonless night. By the time German guards discovered the breakout, 76 men had crawled free.

Many of the film's characters were composites of real people. Peter Dowling said the one that most resembled his father was a flight lieutenant nicknamed "The Forger," played by Donald Pleasance.

But he also said his father was not a fan of the movie.

"He wasn't the greatest admirer of Americans and it didn't go down too easily that one of them should be playing the starring role," Peter Dowling said. "A lot of the reality of digging tunnels was left out too."

He said his father felt the scene in which McQueen attempts to race to freedom on a stolen motorcycle "was well over the top."

Born in southwest England in 1915, Flight Lt. Eric Dowling flew 29 missions as a navigator with the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command. He was shot down in April 1942 and sent to the prison camp for Allied airmen near Sagan in eastern Germany — now Zagan, Poland.

After the war, Dowling served as an RAF air-accident investigator and later worked for British Aerospace on the supersonic Concorde jet.

Dowling's wife, Agnes Marie, died in 1997. He is survived by a son and a daughter.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Wyoming Memories

Paul Fultz relaxes on his ranch at Como Bluff near Medicine Bow. Paul had Apaloosas, and my kids used to love to go up there and visit them and feed them. Pual was a retired county deputy sheriff, one of the last Wyoming lawmen to pack a six-shooter. Paul's brother Chuck was our neighbor and good friend. A former US Marine who fought at Gaudalcanal and Tarawa, Chuck helped us move to Idaho Falls. (This and Cronberg Photo by David L. Roberts)
Ted Cronberg on his sheep ranch outside Medicine Bow. I helped out a few times on this ranch.
Medicine Bow in its earliest days.

I heard from an old student from my days teaching at Medicine Bow, Wyoming in 1985-1989 and it brought back a flood of good memories. Medicine Bow today. Left, the Virginian Hotel, at one time the tallest building between Denver and the coast. Right, the old train station, now a museum.
Medicine Bow is a very small town on the High Plains of Wyoming. When we lived there it had a population of about 500. It was one of the most isolated places in the lower 48. Fifty-six miles to Laramie or Rawlins, the two closest towns, and 89 miles to Casper. There was a little store in town, three bars, a garage, and a liquor store. There was also a hotel and a motel.

Medicine Bow was made (sort of) famous by Owen Wister when he wrote the first true Western novel--The Virginian--back in the early 1900s. The book was set in Medicine Bow, after Wister had visited and spent the night sleeping on the top of the bar. In the fifties, there was a popular TV show called 'The Virginian' but that was before my time.

We made many close friends there. You had to. There was little to do other than sit and visit, drink coffee, and play games. The weather could get harsh, closing all the roads in and out of town and literally cutting us off from civilization.

I loved it there, and didn't want to leave. But my wife had nothing to do there and it was too far to the hospital in an emergency, so we moved in 1989 to Idaho Falls.

The school, Bow-Basin Junior Senior High School, had about 130 students K-12. We graduated about 12 kids a year. The building in which I taught is now empty, and the kids in town go to nearby mining town Hanna to school.

It was a magical place for me. Last year, my son and I went back and I took a hundred photos, but none came out because I accidentally deleted them. We saw some old friends, including an old rancher friend and the old coach. The town is down to around 300 people.

I'm putting a couple of good photos on here that capture the place. I knew these two men and felt, during those four years, that I lived where I belonged. Well, life moves on and things change, but Medicine Bow, Wyoming has a special place in my heart. Niel Young said it best: "All my changes were there". It was the first place we lived after being married, my son was born there, it was my first teaching job, and it's where I grew up in a lot of ways.

A final blast from the past. Current U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne pass through Medicine Bow back when Cheney was running for the U.S. Congress. The Cheneys are from Casper.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Dinner and Music with Heroes

Hi all, Les Poitras again here.

Tonight was a great night. Bill Bates, the bombardier of the B-17 crew to which my grandfather belonged, invited my family to join him at a barbeque with plenty of beer and live music at his assisted living facility in Mansfield, MA. Bill's good friend and B-24 navigator, John Silvis, was there also.

Once again, I got to sit down, break bread with and listen to a couple of guys who "were there". I love listening. I could listen to them for days on end about what the ETO air war was like for them, what life in America was like before and after that experience - an America that is free because of them and those like them.

l-r: me, Bill Bates, John Silvis

God Bless you Bill and John and those like you. Thank you for inviting my grateful family to dinner.

p.s. At 87, Bill is as girl crazy as I ever was in my teenage years. Watch out ladies! :)

Great Local Photo from Idaho Falls

Click on the photo for super-size version---It's worth it!
Post-Register Photo by Randy Hayes
This photo was in today's paper, so I had to load it and put in on the blog. Big concern locally because Budweiser Beer was purchased by a European brewer. Most of the barley for Bud comes from Idaho, Montana and Washington, and much from just our area.
This is not a doctored photo. The combine is harvesting in front of a giant storage silo north of town in the Osgood area that is draped in one of the largest print ads you'll ever see--the Budweiser Clydesdales on the move. I believe the ad is made from some type of super-durable plastic or fabric because it is up for months at a time.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Favorite Photos and Paintings: Part One

The following is a gallery of favorite images, in no particular order or theme, credited when possible. Double-click images to super-size on most of them.
DeWayne Bennett's plane limps home.
Idaho Lupines, by Bruce Becker, a photographer friend of mine.
Gil Cohen. Rosie's Riveters
Scott Nelson, artist. Gale Cleven's plane goes down.
My favorite, 'When Prayers are Answered' by William Phillips. The cover art for Untold Valor.

Final Mission.
390th BG painting, artist unknown.
Rexburg LDS Temple at sunset, Idaho.
Salt Lake LDS Temple. I took this one.

Bruce Becker, Tetons.
Bruce Becker, Tetons.

Buzzing the field in 'The War Lover'
William Phillips, the Doolittle Raid.

Random greatness.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The 492nd Bomb Group: The Hard-Luck Outfit

My good friend Maurice, a font of knowledge on all things Air Force, sent me a very interesting posting today, which I will reproduce here. I highly recommend anyone wanting to learn more about the 492nd Bomb Group visit its easy-to-use website at
Collage above is from the group webpage.

The following is quoted directly from the website:

"The Mighty 8th Air Force had great expectations for this group. As one of the last groups deployed to England, they arrived with more experienced men within their ranks than any other group serving in the European Theater. They had more flying hours going into the war than most would have at war's end. Some of them were the instructors that had trained many of the airmen during the arms buildup. Others were veterans of Anti-Submarine patrols that had been defending America's coast.

As America's buildup was nearing its completion, these men were allowed to put in for combat duty. They represented America's best. As one of the last heavy bombardment groups assembled, they were the first group ever to:

pass their POM (Preparation for Overseas Movement) inspection and depart ahead of schedule,

fly as an all-silver (aluminum) bomber group and

reach England without losing any planes.
Yet with their superb level of proficiency, the fortunes of war went against them:

They suffered more casualties and losses in 89 days than any other group.

They became the first and only group in American history to be disbanded due to high casualties.

Tough Luck, Hard Luck, Bad Luck, Ill-Fated and Jinxed are among the many phrases used to describe this group's fate during its 89 days of combat service in World War II. At the time, there was no official nickname for the 492nd Bomb Group. General Doolittle and his staff dubbed them the Hard Luck Group. Many years after the war the 492nd Association adopted the name The Happy Warriors, the old unofficial nickname for the 859th Bomb Squadron.

There was nothing the group did or didn't do to deserve their hard luck. They merely found themselves caught by the Luftwaffe without fighter protection on a few very costly missions. Never once, though, did the group fall apart to become easy prey. They turned each potential massacre into a slug-fest, proving that they could dish it out as well as take it. Despite their casualties, the 492nd always punched their way through and succeeded in nailing their target!
The group flew 67 missions in 89 days. Even after their two deadliest air battles, they would crawl back into their planes the next day to resume the offensive. Only bad weather ever kept them out of the air. Armed with hindsight, historians and war experts who have studied the 492nd and their missions have all reached the following conclusions:

They did the best they could and

no one could have done any better.

Perhaps the hardest luck to hit the group was in becoming overlooked, passed over and forgotten. As the war drew to a close, the recognition for their service and sacrifice was credited to another group, a group of night flyers who never flew any Daylight Bombing Operations. The original 492nd received nothing, not even a thanks. To date, the US has yet to see fit to award any unit citation to these brave men for carrying out their orders.

Casualties per 1000 Combatants in WWII
US Army Air Force: 16
US Army: 24
US Marine Corps: 29
467th Bomb Group: 91
492nd Bomb Group: 442

This table was taken from the book
"Two Squadrons That Were One"
by Robin C Janton.

As you can see, the price of victory was especially high for this "Hard Luck" group. The Army Air Force's formula calculated this Group's casualty rate to be 117%.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Correction on Previous Post: Tip of the Hat to Barrett Tillman

I got an email today from WWII historian Barrett Tillman pointing out that I posted an article that was in error some time ago. I am posting his correction and clarification here, with my apologies. I got the story from a fellow historian but did not verify it, so the fault is mine.
Thanks, Barrett, for your correction, and also for your fine coverage of the war in the Pacific.

Following is Mr. Tillman's correction:

"Congratulations on your web site and Untold Valor. Your tribute to the genuinely heroic airmen who served the nation will be appreciated by so many people.
However, the post about "Andy Cowan" needs serious scrutiny. I'm a professional author and historian with over 40 books and 500 articles published, mainly on aviation history, so I'm confident of my sources.
I tried registering to post on the blog but could not sign on so I'm sending you the info directly.
Here’s the facts of the message and video, point by point:
The flakked-up Hellcat sliding to a stop against the carrier’s island bears the “high hat” insignia of Fighting Squadron One, which flew from USS Yorktown (CV-10) in 1944. The name Andy Cowan does not appear on any VF-1 roster I’ve found.
When I first spoke aboard “The Fighting Lady” in Charleston, SC, I asked some ship’s veterans about the oft-seen footage of Number 30 sliding into the superstructure, possibly crunching a fire fighter. I was told that the “hot papa” ducked inside the island just in time. Nobody was hurt.
Furthermore, the Navy doesn’t have “crew chiefs.” It has plane captains. Anyone who’d ever been in the U.S. Navy would know that.
The longest-serving Navy fighter pilot in WW II was the late Captain Jim Daniels, an Enterprise aviator whose Wildcat was shot down by American gunners on December 7 ‘41. On VJ-Day he was off Japan, flying from USS Boxer. The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association declared him the only fighter pilot airborne on the day the war started and when it ended. There’s no mention of anybody named Cowan.
The Naval War College does not present “Top Gun” briefings to fighter pilots. It teaches national strategy and military theory to senior officers. Anyone who’d ever visited the War College would know that. In truth, “young fighter jocks” get their education at the Naval Strike Warfare Center in Nevada.
On December 7, 1941, USS Ranger was not in Cuba. She was off Trinidad. Anybody who had been aboard the ship would know that.
For someone who had four carriers shot out from under him, 'Andy' had to move around a great deal. Considering that we lost four flattops in 1942, he would have to transfer from Lexington in May to Yorktown in June, to Wasp in September, to Hornet in October. Since each had a different air group, nobody served in more than two of those ships in that period. So…presumably our hero was aboard the light carrier Princeton off the Philippines in October 1944, and-or one or more escort carriers between 1943 and 1945.
'Andy' claims 4.5 aerial kills, apparently believing that he could sneak in beneath the “ace radar.” But Dr. Frank Olynyk’s exhaustive study of Navy aerial victory credits shows nobody named Cowan scoring in any squadron. (Consider this: anyone who flew combat for 44 months and only scored 4.5 kills wasn’t very good at his job.)
We are told that andy served with Jimmy “Thatch” (I knew him: he spelled his name with one T), Butch O’Hare, Dave McCampbell, etc, etc. The First Team, John B. Lundstrom’s exquisitely detailed two-volume history of Navy air combat in 1942, lists every pilot in the eight Pacific Fleet fighter squadrons. Nobody with AC’s name appears in either book.
Dave McCampbell (whom I knew) commanded Air Group 15 aboard USS Essex in 1944, at the same time Princeton was sunk. Furthermore, nobody named cowan ever served in VF-15.
We are told that cowan is “a recognized expert” on the Japanese Navy. But a sampling of genuine historians—the New York Yankees of IJN history—have never heard of him before this email began circulating. Neither has any publisher, since Cowan the Expert has never written a single book on that subject. Nor, according to, on anything else (though his name appears in credits for books on cooking and music.)
Conclusion: Andy Cowan (reportedly he lives near Salinas) is a fake, trading on the achievements of vastly better men than himself. Furthermore, he spins tall tales to gullible people who unfortunately take such statements at face value. It would be interesting to know the original source of the story, which has been on email circulars for several months now.
Barrett Tillman"

I recomment the following book by Mr. Tillman: