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The StoryTeller and his stories .

Lt. Harold Wilder

Lt. Harold Wilder 1945


Hal... 2008


Billy Mitchell and

Eddie Rickenbacker,

friends of my father

Hal Wilder 2005

The 'Crew' in Venosa

Hal is also active in

the Ventura Power Squadron

at Channel Islands Harbor

and as a counselor at the

Brain Injury Center

of Ventura County

The StoryTeller's Stories

Reviews and excerpts

Beyond the stories

The Bottom Line


The Early Years

I 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

After 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 considering.
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.

Ours has been spoken of as the greatest generation. If we were, perhaps it was the strengthening effect of the Great Depression that may have conditioned us.

Now, 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.

Travelling in Mexico

Only 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 becoming modern.
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 clo
se my eyes.

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