was born at an interesting time, June 1918 to be exact. At the time my
father was in Brittany, France, serving as Commandant of Training at a
field near Issoudon. There they were teaching artillary officers to
trust aerial observers. His Commanding Officer was Maj. Carl Spaatz.
The field Adjutant was Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, whom I grew up knowing
as “Uncle Rick”. ”. These wonderful men went on to become
Commanding Generals in the Army Air Force in which I flew in 1944-45
the war, The surviving Pilots, so few that they all knew each other,
would visit in our home whenever they happened to pass through Chicago.
Mother and Dad entertained such people as Spaatz, Uncle Rick, Maj. Hap
Arnold, and Billy Mitchel. There were others, but I was a boy of 8 or
10, who didn’t pay much attention, I do remember that Uncle Rick showed
up unexpectedly one time for Sunday dinner with his friend, Jimmy
Doolittle in tow. He had wanted him to
meet my father.
So one of the
outstanding joys of my life was when I could tell my dad about my experiences as a B-24 Liberator
pilot with the 485th Bomb Group in the 15th Air Force. We were flying from Italy, during
World War II.
Naturally, he had read
stories, and seen movies, mostly about the 8th Air Force. But I
could give him a first hand report about those scary trips to Munich,
Regensberg, Augsburg and Vienna. I think this was an occasion when he
was as proud of me as I was of him. Wonderful. Simply wonderful!
I was born and
raised in Winnetka, 18 miles north of Chicago. Anyone north of Madison
Street, Chicago’s base line, was surely a loyal Cub fan. Those south of
Madison rooted for the White Sox. If this seems nutty to my readers,
you're just not with it. You may be right, but this is Chicago we're
I am old enough to remember winning teams. While
not yet a teenager, in the 1920s, I was faithful to such players as
Charley Root, Hack Wilson, Rogers Hornsby, CuyCuy Cuyler, and Gabby
Hartnet. Teams built around these heroes won games' and someday,
perhaps, even seasons. Again, after the War, there were Santo,
Kessinger, Banks, Beckert, Williams, Hundley, Fergie Jenkins. On
and on, a truly great team, playing a great game. But then, the Cubs
could break your heart.
In most years they would start with a rush in April, scoring in the top
ranks of the league, By July and the All Star game break in the
season, they were cooling off. It was heartbreaking; start off
with a rush, leading in the fifth, then commit errors and lose the
game. Finally end the season in last place. And all the time we could
remember glory days. We were sure our Cubs could win it all- -
someday. It requires a strong character to continue as a Cub
fan . .
As a teenager I spent several summers working on a ranch.
After graduating from school, i worked in a munitions plant. Later, I decided to become a pilot in the 15th Air Force during WWII, in which Spaatz was commanding the 8th Air Force in England and Arnold commanding the U S Army Air Corps.
has been spoken of as the greatest generation. If we were, perhaps it
was the strengthening effect of the Great Depression that may have
as an old man, I have compiled my reminiscences of an interesting life.
Growing up in America during that Depression and before WWII was unlike
anything since. This story, “GRANDFATHER STORIES” is broken into several parts, because this life has seen so very much.
Other readers have enjoyed my stories. I hope you will, too.
twice did we visit Mexico, but that was more than most of our
Mid-Western friends did. Mostly they played in Florida or the
Caribbean. But now that I'm in Southern California, so many are
speaking of the wonders of Mexico. In spite of the awful stories
of what the drug lords are doing to their Country, it seems Mexico is
But in 1955 and '57, Mothers, hide your
Children! What we saw was prehistoric! We had been advise
by the tourist agency of the Consulate to go to Puerta Vallarta, But
when we spoke to TWA, they couldn't even find it. Pan Am could,
and did serve it through Mexican Americana, a subsidiary of TWA!
Traveling in Mexico was pretty iffy then. We must first fly to
Mexico City, then to Guadalajara. Only then could we fly to Puerta
Vallarta. The aircraft involved was a Douglas DC3. Not new,
it may have been a converted C-47, which flew soldiers and paratroopers
all over during WWII. At least it looked like it. The pilot
may have learned somewhere in the military. Whatever. FAA
officials would have called for his arrest.
The flight from Guadalajara to the coast was over untracked
jungle. It was the only connection between Vallarta and the rest
of Mexico. Even more isolated were Ameca and Carro Desmonado.
These were a cluster of huts, hiding under grass-thatched roofs, and
served by a flight strip that should have been a foot path.
I had a window seat, and could see the ground. As a pretty
seasoned pilot myself, when I realized he was going to land there,
my stomach siezed up. I closed my eyes and prayed.
Somehow he got over that hill and still got to the ground with enough
runway left to stop the plane before it hit the huts. They
conducted whatever business had brought them here. Then a bunch
of natives took hold of the tail assembly and pushed and pulled until
the plane had turned around.
Good God. If he had landed against the
wind, now he was going to take off with the wind. Oh
Boy! Maybe the Co-Pilot will overpower him and stop this
nonsense. Golly, was there a Co_Pilot?
But no. He raced his engines, lifted off after a short run, made
a climbing bank away from that hill and climbed out of the valley and
headed for the coast. I headed for the rest room.
More jungle. Guadalajara is only about 100 miles from the
coast. This should be quick. But then he began circling and
I could see Carro Desmonando. No hills this time, rather a
generally circular clearing in the jungle with a silly little strip of
cleared land that he was going to try to land on. And that's what
he did. He continued circling until about 100 feet up, then
straightened out and just throttled back. When the wheels touched
down he was barely moving forward.
Take off was much like the last one. I was relieved to see that
Vallarta had a no-nonsense runway that seemed to be several hundred
feet long, and this guy may have trained as a carrier pilot. I
didn't even close my eyes.