HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN:

HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN - city of big bottoms and small minds.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

YOU CAN LEARN SOMETHING NEWE EVERY DAY IF YOU READ


I have always been interested in World War Two aircraft, probably because my middle name is Raymond. I was given that name in honor of my uncle Ray who was killed in a P-38 Lightning crash, just days before he was to ship out to England to fly cover for the big bombers.

I have a wonderful book (this sucker is huge!) by Eric Bergerud entitled "Fire in the Sky" the airwar in the Pacific.

It is 723 pages of really in depth information of "war stories" covering all the different types of aircraft flown in the Pacific theatre on both sides.

Generally, I keep the book near my tub at the office and while I soak in hot, sudsy water, I will just open the book to any page and start reading. today I learned something new!

Did you know that Charles Lindbergh flew combat missions in the Pacific? Well, I didn't. His specialty was teaching American pilots how to conserve fuel while flying combat missions. after all, the man knew all about conserving fuel as he made the first airplane trip to Paris from America years before.

Not only could he fly, but he could write. Check this out:

"I tripped my gun switch, brightened the ring sight, nosed down to follow in attack. To my left a Japanese plane disappeared in haze and cloud. A second was banking sharply toward the airstrip under the protection of the ground guns. We dove toward the ship, unmindful of the puffs of smoke and invisible steel fragments that were zipping around us.

Tracers spurted from MacDonald's fighter, a beam of death that forced the Japanese pilot to reverse his bank. A thin trail of smoke informed us that one of the bullets hit, but the enemy showed no loss of maneuverability or power. Miller, Blue 2, fired a short deflection burst against wings that were almost vertical in the air. My Lightning was next in line. I watched the red balls of the rising sun on the enemy plane grow larger, shrink from round to oval, then disappear as the wings cut toward me, knife-edged against the background of gray haze.

It was a head-on pass. I centered the plane in my ring sight and squeezed finger against trigger. Streaks of fire leapt from my fighters' nose out of four machine guns and one cannon. Raise the tracers - creep them leftward - flashes on the target as my bullets hit - but the wingspan widened in my ring sight. The enemy's guns were firing, too. I held the trigger down, head-on with no deflection. There was a rattle of machine guns and streams of tracers. Sightly climbing, slightly diving at five hundred mile an hour we approached, hurtling into an eternity of time and space. The cowling in my sight expanded. Enemy cylinders grew fins. I hauled back on my stick as I sensed our closeness. The Japanese plane jerked upward, too! Was the pilot trying to collide? I yanked back on my stick with all my strength, braced for the crash. There was a bump but it was only air.

By how much did we miss? Ten feet? Five feet? I was zooming steeply. I banked left and saw ack-ack bursts ahead, reversed the bank and swept my eyes over the sky and earth looking for aircraft. I saw only friendly Lightnings. No one but my wingman was on my tail. I saw the plane I had just shot down. My enemy was in a wing-over, out of control. I watched his nose drop. His plane twisted as it gained speed. The rising sun diminished in size. Down. Down. Down. The sea had not seemed that far beneath us. Down. A fountain of spray, white foam on the water, ripples circled outward, merged with the waves. The foam subsided. No mark remained.

Life had balanced on a razor edge during that encounter. If I had been ten feet behind, my enemy would have rammed me. At the speed I was flying, ten feet was less than tenth of a second. Bullets were ripping back and forth at the rate of thousands per minute. It took only one to kill. The slightest difference in our rates of fire might have reversed the outcome of the combat - had my controls been a mite less sensitive, my guns a shade less accurate, my bullets slightly smaller caliber .... I hd the advantage that the most modern weapons give.

My enemy did not.

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I told you the man could write.


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