Oldest Military Blogger First Flight
You may find this posting a bit unusual in the
sense that this experience was due to my
adventurous inclination and not necessarily
by my stupidity.
I repeat to my “military friends”, never allow
yourself to be swayed by the stupidity of others
and/or especially your own.
The following might read like a fiction fable,
but the reason I had never mentioned it before
was that the risks I and others took,
were so dangerous, I was ashamed to relate them...but
I will, in spite of my reluctance to bare this,
We were stationed at a German POW Hospital in
Carentan, France,it was late September of 1945,
the war was over and I had a mission.
My P38 German Pistol was Chrome Plated in
Antwerp a few months before and I became
compulsive with the idea that this weapon
had to be fired.
The problem...No German ammunition.
One of the prison inmates mentioned that
the P 38 used 9 mm bullets and that any
9mm ammo might fit.
Word was spread around and my scroungers
turned up with 7 bullets of 9mm.
British Sten Gun rounds in exchange for
The bullets fit the pistol's chamber and
now I had to find a place for firing the weapon.
Portnoy got a jeep on a beautiful day, and he,
with nowhere to go, was easy prey for
Okie and I, to be persuaded,“to take a drive
in the country”.
We found an off to the side, little road, followed
it for a distance and suddenly came upon
an open concrete paved area with a couple
of aircraft hangars on it.
When asked what this place was, we were
told it was a P47 Thunderbolt base that
was being dismantled with most of the
personnel already shipped out.
A Captain with an 8th Air force Patch on
his shirtsleeve asked us if
we had ever been up in a plane...
We looked at each other and said, “Noooo”.... “
Stick arround,” he replied,and added “I’ll
be right back.”
In a short while he returned with a
young Major in a crushed Garrison hat and
rolled up sleeves on his Summer Tan shirt.
The Major explained that a B 17 Bomber
had crash landed on the field a few
months back and had suffered tail
and undercarriage damage.
The plane was virtually stripped of guns
and equipment and abandoned on the side
of the field ..
When the need for pursuit planes and pilots
diminished at the end of May,the entire base,
bored beyond comprehension, turned their
attention to repairing the downed Fortress.
They had finally finished a few days ago
and had just been checking out the engines
when we “just happened by”.
And now the Big Question!
Because of the excessive stripping, they were
not sure if the aircraft was stable.
And, would we act as ballast on its Maiden Flight?
Are you kidding us!....
We were asked to sit on the deck, with
our backs to the Cockpit Bulkhead,
facing toward the tail section ..
No chutes, no safety precautions, no
ropes to hold on, no belts, NO Fear.
Just the thrill of a lifetime.
Our First Flight...
When we started moving she shook. roared
and screeched ....and we were airborne.
The landscape rushed by the wide open
gun emplacements a few feet away,to be
replaced by blue skies and a comforting
throbbing that was my heart in my mouth,
in harmony with the excitement of my
Me ...The ardent model plane builder,
in my, not so long ago, youth.
We stood up.
Went to the gun openings on both
sides of the fusilage and looked down on the
waters below as the plane slowly banked ....
We were asked to return to our takeoff places.
We landed with a shake rattle and roll and
There was another man in the pilot's area
with the Captain and Major who “thanked us“
for “helping” them “to complete their Mission”
while pumping our hands vigorously.
The whole thing became a blur.
We got to our Jeep and realized only 3 hours
had elapse from the time we
had arrived at the base and were safely
returning on the sparsely traveled road
back to the Hospital ...
I never got a chance to fire the P38 that day.
Several weeks later when Okie and I returned
to an empty and abandoned Field, he turned to me
and said,” I don’t believe how stupid it was
for me to get on that airplane with you and those nuts..
What were we thinking?”
"You know...." I thought, and said, "those guys,
you refer to as nuts, the Major and Captain,
risked everything for this too, you know" ...
and I muse in hindsight, surely, they ask
themselves that same Question, every once in a while.
I still can’t answer that Question....
but, as my friend Harvey, always wisely said,
Sooo, this, is worth repeating here.
Avoid the stupidity of others and especially your own.
Thank you for your service on this Veterans day in 2010.