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07 December—the Pearl Harbor Attack 75th Anniversary and Jimmy Gates

7 December 2016

This is a guest post from Chuck Stanley and is poignant—not history in the abstract but history in the all too real. Chuck authors the insightful blob, Flowers for Socrates and this post is reposted from his post on the 73rd anniversary of the raid on Pearl Harbor—that almost rare thing of an attack on American soil.

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I remember where I was and what I was doing shortly after one o’clock in the afternoon on December 7, 1941. My dad called me in to where he and a couple of his friends were sitting by the huge Stromberg Carlson 350R console radio, its front doors swung open. They were leaning forward, hanging onto every word coming out of the polished walnut cabinet. The breathless announcer was talking so fast he sometimes stumbled over his words. The usual calm and soothing baritone of a professional radio news reporter was replaced by an almost panicked staccato, an octave higher than his voice would have sounded normally. One phrase has stayed stuck in my mind’s ear all these years, “They stabbed our boys in the back!”

At first I thought they were talking about Japanese soldiers bayoneting our soldiers and sailors in the back, as I had seen them do in the newsreels of the massacre of Nanking. Even as a kid, I knew war was on the horizon. Six weeks earlier, a Nazi U-boat had sunk the destroyer USS Reuben James as it escorted a convoy of cargo ships carrying food and supplies to England.

Everyone thought that when war did come, it would come from Europe. No one but a few farsighted tacticians like General Billy Mitchell were looking west, and even predicting that an attack would come by air. Mitchell was Court Martialed for his outspoken military and political heresy. When Americans were killed in what was to be the first U.S. military engagement of WW-2 with the sinking of the Reuben James, President Roosevelt held back committing troops and sailors to combat, despite the provocation. Hitler was counting on that kind of restraint, or he would not have been so bold as to sink an American warship. He knew the U.S. was not prepared to fight a war, since American troop levels had been drawn down to very low numbers, and much of the equipment was either obsolete or obsolescent. The country was recovering from the Great Depression, and needed time to re-arm.

Admiral Yamamoto took Roosevelt’s options away from him that Sunday morning. Hitler was said to be furious with his Japanese allies.

Which brings us to the story of my cousin Jimmy.

Jimmy Gates was from Cleveland, Mississippi. He grew up hunting squirrels and other game to help put food on the family table during the Depression. He was a crack shot. After he got out of high school, the economy was still reeling from the Great Depression, and opportunities were few in the Mississippi Delta cotton fields. Seeing the peacetime military as a way to escape the hot farm fields, he joined the Army Air Corps as a private. He liked airplanes, and figured it would be a lot better branch of the service for him than being an infantryman. For Jimmy, flying beat walking any day. The Air Corps liked Jimmy too. He was a superb marksman, and had unusually good eyesight, traits which seem to run in our family (when I was his age, my eyesight was 20/13). They made Jimmy a bombardier and nose gunner in a B-17 bomber. It was a good choice, because his ability to put bombs on target was uncanny, at a time when the average bomb fell a quarter mile off the intended target.

Jimmy was playing pool in the Day Room that Sunday morning. He heard airplanes flying at combat power settings and bullets hitting things outside. He ran to the window and saw planes with the “red meatball” markings wheeling overhead and diving on Hickam Field.

He dove out the open window, because he knew buildings would be a target. After all, he was trained as a bombardier, and knew exactly what bomb aimers would be targeting.

He tumbled out the window into the flower bed and took off running. He had only gotten a few steps when a bomb came through the roof , exploding in the room he had just vacated. The blast knocked him down, but he wanted to get as far from the buildings and flight line as he could. Those would be the targets, and he was in no mood to be a target that day. He was a 24-year-old sergeant at the time, and wanted to have a 25th birthday. He also knew his next birthday might be his last, if he did manage to live that long.

He got a chance to fight back soon enough. As the runways and ruined hangars were repaired, new B-17 bombers were arriving from the mainland of the U.S. After a few more weeks of training, Jimmy Gates went to war.

He lost friends that December morning. Some never made it out of that flower bed next to the Day Room. It was payback time.

The August 7, 1942 issue of the New York Times reported that Air Corps Sergeant James F. Gates of Cleveland, Mississippi was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in the Solomon Islands area. It would not be his last medal, or his last Silver Star. After it was created in 1958, he was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal.

When his eye was not glued to the eyepiece of his top-secret Norden bombsight, he was handling the machine guns in the nose, looking for enemy aircraft.

He sank several Japanese warships, one of them by putting a bomb down the smokestack. Apparently one of his crew-mates had bet him he couldn’t do it. If whoever it was that bet he could not put a bomb down the ship’s smokestack had ever gone squirrel hunting with him and his .22 rifle, that bet would never have been made.

Jim was given sole credit for five Japanese warships and one Zero. It was most unusual for a bombardier to shoot down a fighter plane. There were more which were not independently confirmed.

He told of one mission where they were shot up badly by antiaircraft fire. The crew voted on whether to bail out or stay with the crippled plane. He elected to stay. When he jumped down from the plane, shredded ribbons of his parachute started falling out a hole in the chute pack. There was a piece of antiaircraft shell the size of his hand in the middle of what was left of his parachute. But the parachute worked well enough that day.

When B-29s arrived on the scene in the Pacific, he was assigned to a B-29 squadron. He flew right up until the end of the war, including some of the last raids on Japan.

In the early 1950s he came to visit at our house. I had about a million questions, but some he would not, or could not, answer. I asked him if he had been one of the crews selected to train for the atomic bomb. He changed the subject. I remember him suddenly wanting to talk about the outstanding performance of the P-38 in dives and climbs, compared to the Zero. I found out later he had been assigned to the 509th Composite Group. My suspicions had been true.

Jimmy survived WW-2, but stayed in the Air Force. He was one of those aviators for whom flying was a way of life. Because of his outstanding skill, bravery and intelligence, he went to officer candidate school, and became an officer.

Jimmy went on to fly during the Korean war.  At various times he was assigned to B-47 and then B-52 bombers when his squadron got them. He was a three war veteran, staying on through the Vietnam war.

Jimmy retired from the Air Force with the rank of major. He eventually became the victim of Alzheimer’s Disease, living his last years in a nursing facility in Springfield MO.

He is buried in the Missouri Veterans Cemetery at Springfield.

I prefer to remember the young man who took his brother Billy and me to the Saturday afternoon matinée, and who loved to go squirrel hunting. He made a joke of diving out that open window into the flower bed that sunny Sunday morning, but I know now something I didn’t realize then.

There was a hell of a lot of pain in those memories.

Seventy-five years ago this morning.

Pearl Harbor Air Raid: The Japanese Attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet, December 7, 1941

3 December 2016

Pearl Harbor Air Raid: The Japanese Attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet, December 7, 1941, Nicholas A. Veronico, 2017, ISBN 978-0811718387, 208 pp. & 300+ photos

Pearl Harbor Air Raid: The Japanese Attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet, December 7, 1941 by Nicholas A. Veronico

Pearl Harbor Air Raid: The Japanese Attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet, December 7, 1941 by Nicholas A. Veronico

This year is the 75th anniversary of the raid on Pearl Harbor. Fittingly Nick Veronico has produced this new book and it promises to be one for history buffs everywhere because he shows the rest of the story. Yes, the attack is well documented but—and this is where this book goes beyond the others—Veronico (using 300+ images) also shows the aftermath and amazing recovery. The recovery is a victory in itself and its story has long been given short shrift until this book. Veronico also thoughtfully included appendices of the Congressional Medal of Honor awardees as well as serial number listing of aircraft destroyed in that raid. Sidebars and details included give context as well as point to ponder.

Veronico’s writing is a welcome blend of information, insight and I-didn’t-know-that. He simply loves this work and this new book promises to show the entire story if the raid from the U.S. Armed Forces perspective. We are eagerly awaiting our copy🙂

 

 

 

Zinsanity

2 December 2016

 

Zinsanity—photo by Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

Zinsanity wine label—photo by Joseph May:Travel for Aircraft

Ivan Mikoyan: 1927-2016 — Pickled Wings

1 December 2016

Pickled Wings posted about the passing of MiG 29 designer Ivan Mikoyan, nephew of company founder Artyom Mikoyan. Continue to his site for more information as well as his MiG 29 photos.

via Ivan Mikoyan: 1927-2016 — Pickled Wings

Bob Hoover’s requiem

30 November 2016

Long time contributor and aviation expert Charles “Chuck” Stanley forwarded this video link on Vimeo showing a handful of flyovers set to orchestral music hoping the life of Bob Hoover—it is a marvelous minute.

Bob Hoover piloting is legendary and can hardly be addressed here. His life is marked by an escape from a WW II German prison camp to high speed crashes and everything in between. His episodes of aircraft he was piloting not crashing are equally incredible.

I witnessed one of his famed aerobatic routines in a Grumman Aero Commander (or Shrike Commander). The routine was extraordinary when flown with both engines; incredible when flown on a single engine; and outstanding when flown without engines. Yes, seeing the aerobatics occur in near silence (just a bit of whooshing every now and then) then to watch him land and taxi to the start-up point without power was nothing less than outstanding—as magical as a mother’s radar as well as a dog’s ability to follow an invisible trail. Pilots learn of energy management. Bob Hoover mastered it.

!!! W.A.S.P. Women Airforce Service Pilots—finally, WASPs to get their film !!!

29 November 2016
W.A.S.P. Women Airfare Service PilotsW.A.S.P. The Movie art

W.A.S.P. Women Airforce Service Pilots—W.A.S.P. The Movie art

W.A.S.P.  Women Airforce Service Pilots

Producers Sheila Johnson, Bo Derek and Mark Sennet Announce the Pre-Production of the Historical Feature Film “W.A.S.P.” (Women Airforce Service Pilots)

— Theatrical Drama Set to Capture the Unprecedented True Story of the U.S. Military’s First Female Flyers of World War II —

Producers Sheila Johnson, Bo Derek, Mark Sennet and David Greenhill proudly announce the start of pre-production for the historical feature film, W.A.S.P., which will for the first time tell the incredible story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (W.A.S.P.) of World War II. With a screenplay written by award-winning writer B. Garida, and based on the book Santiago Rhythm and Blues by Lt. Col. Andra Higgs, the film follows aviation pioneers Jacqueline Cochran and Nancy Love as they formed the very first group of women pilots who flew for the United States military during WWII.

“History is made when stories of greatness are shared. But for too long, history has been just that: HIS story. These women aviators did incredible things for both our country and the world. I can’t wait to share their amazing experience with a new generation,” stated Sheila Johnson, executive producer, CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts and co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET).

W.A.S.P. will celebrate the heroics of these amazing women during World War II and honor their struggles for recognition in the following years, including obtaining veteran status in 1977, the 2009 awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal to the group for exemplary service, and the passage of the 2016 law conferring the pilots’ right to burial with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Thirty-eight of those brave pilots sacrificed their lives in the service of their country between the years 1942 and 1945.

“These patriotic women overcame great obstacles and prejudice in pursuit of their dream to fly for their country,” commented Bo Derek.  “I’m thrilled to be a part of bringing their fascinating stories to life”

“As a former Time-Life photojournalist, I love uncovering heroic stories. As a producer, I take great pride in sharing the amazing accomplishments of these women,” said Mark Sennet. “The story of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots was lost and forgotten for decades, but more than one thousand courageous women flew for the W.A.S.P. logging more than 60 million miles in every single aircraft in the Army Air Corps’ arsenal during World War II,” continued Sennet.

“General ‘Hap’ Arnold is widely regarded as the father of the United States Air Force. I respectfully submit that Jackie Cochran is therefore the ‘mother of the Air Force.’ Her W.A.S.P. unit was the first to wear the Air Force blue uniform. The distinctive achievements Jackie and her 1,078 W.A.S.P. logged on behalf of our nation is nothing short of exceptionally extraordinary,” said Lt. Col. Andra Higgs of the United States Air Force.

Dr. William Hasselberger, Craig Sheftell, and Aleco Bravo Greenberg round out the team who will produce the film.

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Many thanks to Ms Nikki Pesusich of Coterie Media for this news notice  :)

Lambert’s Role in American Aviation History Comes to Life in New Exhibition

28 November 2016
Former President Theodore Roosevelt and pilot Arch Hoxsey preparing for take-off for Roosevelt's first airplane ride. International Aviation Meet, Kinloch Field. 11 October 1910. Photograph by David M. Boyd, 1910. Missouri History Museum Photographs and Prints Collections. Aviation. n07161.

Former President Theodore Roosevelt and pilot Arch Hoxsey preparing for take-off on Roosevelt’s first airplane flight occurring at the International Aviation Meet, Kinloch Field. 11 October 1910—Photograph by David M. Boyd, 1910 (Missouri History Museum/Photographs and Prints Collections/Aviation/n07161)

Lambert’s Role in American Aviation History Comes to Life in New Exhibition

Photo Exhibit Showcases Decades of Lambert History Based on New Missouri History Museum Press Book

The founding roots of America’s modern day aviation industry can be traced through St. Louis and Lambert–St. Louis International Airport. That amazing history is documented in a new book published by the Missouri History Museum Press, The Aerial Crossroads of America: St. Louis’s Lambert Airport, by author Daniel L. Rust. With the release of that book this week, Lambert and the Missouri History Museum have opened a companion exhibition by the same name in The Lambert Gallery in the Bag Claim of Terminal 1.

Daniel Rust, author of "Flying Across America: The Airline Passenger Experience"--Lambert-St. Louis International Airport image

Daniel Rust, author of “Flying Across America: The Airline Passenger Experience”—Lambert–St. Louis International Airport image

Everything that has taken place on the airport’s footprint—from Lindbergh to American Airlines, jet airliners to space travel—constitutes a microcosm of the triumphs and tragedies of winged flight in America. The Aerial Crossroads of America chronicles the transformation of the patch of farmland leased by Albert Bond Lambert in 1920 into the sprawling international airport it is today. The book and the exhibition tell the story of Lambert but also the history of what it means to take flight in America.

The Aerial Crossroads of America features 53 large-scale reproduction photographs featured and referenced in the new book. The photos span nearly 100 years and were curated from the archives of the Missouri History Museum, Lambert Airport, The Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum and the personal collections of Alan Hoffman and author Daniel Rust.

The book was a project inspired and supported by the Missouri Aviation Historical Society. Many of its members assisted Daniel Rust with research on the project that culminated in the publication by the Missouri History Museum Press. The Missouri History Museum curated the exhibition.

“The exhibition is a visual timeline of great moments and milestones of Lambert that reminds all of us about the great heritage this airport has in American aviation history,” said Rust.

The exhibition follows the book’s timeline, first highlighting Albert Bond Lambert’s pioneering efforts to promote air travel in the Midwest. The exhibition also covers the 1923 Air Races, Charles Lindbergh and his Spirit of St. Louis, the U.S. Air Mail Service, the birth of American Airlines, military aviation, the rise of the aircraft manufacturing industry, the development of air traffic control, regulation and deregulation, and the transformation of Lambert after the demise of TWA and 9/11.

The Aerial Crossroads of America exhibit portion--Lambert-St. Louis International Airport image

The “Aerial Crossroads of America” exhibit portion—Lambert–St. Louis International Airport image

Daniel Rust is an assistant professor of transportation and logistics at the University of Wisconsin–Superior. Previously he served as assistant director of the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. He earned his doctorate from the University of Idaho and is the author of Flying Across America: The Airline Passenger Experience.

The Aerial Crossroads of America will run through November 2017 in the Lambert Gallery, near the Concourse C exit in Terminal 1 Bag Claim. The exhibition is sponsored by the Lambert Art & Culture Program, which celebrates the artistic, creative, cultural and historical resources of the St. Louis region through art and exhibitions at the airport.

The Aerial Crossroads of America book is on sale at Lambert’s Hudson news and gift stores, the Missouri History Museum Shop or online where books are sold. The book is distributed by University of Chicago Press.

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Many thanks to Mr. Jeff Lea of Lambert–St. Louis International Airport for writing this welcome news as well as these fine images🙂