One Man's War

 
While at Pascal, I, and a dozen other pilots waiting with me, were assigned to ferrying planes to Clinton, Oklahoma, where the planes would be stored before being salvaged. They were no longer needed for a war that didn't exist. The plane I was to fly had only about 10 hours on it and I wouldn't add much more time to it. The first leg of our flight was to Yakima, Washington a distance of 50 miles. We hardly got off the ground before we were landing. Spent the night in Yakima and left the next morning for Red Bluff, California. This flight was a little longer, maybe 300 miles. Arriving at Red Bluff the lead pilot (this was some guy who had been ferrying planes from the factory to the west coast and bumping guys like me off commercial flights with their number one priority, when they were ready to return to the factory.), ground looped his plane and tore up the wing tip. With an ulterior motive in mind, I volunteered to let him have my plane. He accepted and later that afternoon I crawled in the second seat of an SNJ and took off for NAS Alameda across the bay from San Francisco. For the next seven days and for every hour that Margie could get away from the hospital we would enjoy everything that San Francisco had to offer. The good thing was that I was on per diem drawing an additional seven dollars a day in addition to my base pay. After seven days I got a little self conscious and caught a NATS plane back to Pascal.

I was again assigned to another plane and followed the same route only this time after Red Bluff we flew to Madera, Ca., Holtville, Ca., Tucson, Arizona, El Paso, Texas, Midland, Texas and finally Clinton. We spent the night at each of these fields. Seven days to get there. If we had taken a direct route we could have done it in one day. But we had time to kill.

It was on one of the return trips from Clinton, OK while I was with Margie in San Francisco, that we were walking down one of the streets in the center of town and I spotted this Naval Officer walking down the other side of the street, his hat cocked on the back of his head, his blouse hanging wide open in an unmilitary way and a woman hanging on his arm. For some reason his back looked familiar and I wanted to know if I truly recognized this guy. We crossed the street just as he and the woman turned into a bar. We followed them in and sure enough there sitting at the bar was Tom Hartshorn. He and I had gone all the way through high school together and were on the swimming team together. We swam naked during practice so maybe that is why I recognized his figure from the backside. Plus the fact that we lived next door to each other for a few years. The three of us, minus the other woman (he had a wife back in Des Moines), spent the rest of the day together. I saw him once shortly after the war and called him on the phone a few years ago. He never returned my call and that was that! He died just a few months ago.

Another chance meeting happened on these SF junkets. While with Margie, I ran into Tom Bloski in the lobby of the Saint Francis Hotel. He had just returned from the pacific and was on his way home. From him I found out that Mike Michaelich and Sy Gonzalaz had survived the war but Bill Tuohimaa had been killed when his plane was shot down over Japan.

That afternoon, with Bloski and Margie and Margie's friend, Carmen from her nursing school days, went to the fleet landing where the USS Ticonderoga had tied up. Somewhere Bloski had gotten the word that our instructor from Green Cove Springs, Lieutenant Crommelin, was aboard. His squadron was attached to this ship. Unfortunately, he was a shore. We left a note just to let him know what had happened to his first students.

I had a Christmas card correspondence going with Bloski until about 1954 when his cards stopped coming. Some twenty years later on one of our driving vacations through the south, I looked up his phone number in the Pensacola directory and I called the number. The lady that answered gave me his number at the newspaper where he worked. I called, the guy who answered didn't know me. It was Tom's son by the same name. He told me Tom senior had been killed in a helicopter crash in New Orleans in 1954.

Caught another NATS plane at Alameda for a flight to NAS Sand Point and Pascal, Wa. after spending the week courting Lieutenant Wada around our favorite liberty town. Another seven days on per diem. That was my last ferry flight. A few days later I was on a train headed for the Great Lakes Naval Training Station and discharge. I was out of the Navy and on my way home on December 15, 1945, three years, five months and seven days after being sworn in to the Navy.

Did I ever see Lieutenant Wada again? Oh yeah! We were married fifteen months later on July 1, 1947, after she received her discharge from the Army Nurse Corps. She has been my heart and soul for the past fifty-one years.

Did I ever fly again? No! I have never flown a plane from that last flight to Clinton, Oklahoma. Did I enjoy flying? Absolutely. Why didn't I join the reserve and fly or do it privately? Because I was going to school and didn't have the time nor the money. Do I regret the time I spent in the service? Absolutely not! It was one truly great experience. I would have hated to have missed it, but I wouldn't care to do it again and I certainly would not want my son or grandsons to have to go through any war.

 

 

 
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