A bend in the graveled dusty road led me to a pile of wrecked air craft. These were not just any aircraft, these were B17’s, B29’s and others that I could not identify. The fuselages were all cut up, forward, mid , and aft sections riddled with bullet holes all over the place, including the two inch thick windows and then there were the wings. They were left laying along side these on the ground. It was a wrecking yard, or a scrap yard if you will. It was 1955 and I was just a kid about eight years old in the days when people could leave their back doors open and cars unlocked. There weren’t many locked doors back then. World War Two I believed changed the nation, it made people help each other and look after each other just as their sons and fathers were doing overseas. The aircraft were covered in dust. Step by step we carefully climbed up over the wings which were stacked atop one another next to the front part of the aircraft fuselage with the gunners door gone in mid section. We climbed into this strange enviornment with its twisted ribs and skin pocketed with flak or bullet holes. The musty smells of dust,dirt, with a hint of old canvas laid heavy in the air. I climbed into the cockpit and just took everything in; the stained pilot seats, all the controls,switches and buttons. I was becoming a bit overwhelmed with the thought of the knowledge needed to fly these crafts by it’s pilots.Now gazing out the cockpit window my eyes strayed to the left visualizing with an imagination of an 8 year old, contemplating enemy warbirds coming up upon our craft, then I saw a bullet hole in the window with what appeared to be inch and a half thick glass and then reality took hold of what these pilots must have went through in the horrors of war. After playing a bit we decided to leave the plane alone and slowly made our way out, only to crawl in to another fuselage.
Now in the many years that followed my years as a child I grew up to find out that my Father was a pilot and Navigator during the years of World War II and as a Bombadier over Midway Islands. He had shared a few memorys with me about the thrill of flying. He especially liked flying in the Lockeheed P38 Lightning.
When my father passed away our mother kept many of his momentos. One item was a flight record book which I will add more about at a later date. Our father after the war had a problem with alcohol of which I won’t go into detail on.I believed it was caused by the war years and family problems. I knew how much he missed flying and it may have had something to do with it, he had suffered for years with lupus of which he had no idea what was wrong at the time,but what ever was going on affected his livelyhood as far as being a pilot. I joined the U.S. Airforce and flew a few times as a passenger not as a pilot like my father had wished, but I had worked around Aircraft like the Boeing C 141, C5 and a couple others and in working the flight lines had learned to respect these giants. While in the Airforce I had even picked parts that went into the repairs of the different aircraft. Stationed at Offutt A.F.B. in Omaha, Nebraska working for the Strategic Air Command we saw many aircraft, The Airman’s barracks were located in old Calvary units which still had the hitching posts out front. It was near the flightline, so if you didn’t hear the aircraft at night it was hard to fall asleep sometimes. At this point in time it was the winding down of the Vietnam Era, and working air ramp cargo services and the warehouse to boot, we saw many different things, one of which I will always remember. This was the processing and holding of fallen soldiers bodys, in boxes being shipped home, at one point they were in a fenced holding area in the warehouse that I once had seen stacked 3 and 4 high.
After leaving and being discharged from the Air Force I went home and ended up working a variety of jobs finding my niche back into civilian life. I ended up working for Sears and Roebucks for 12 years, then I went on to be hired into the Boeing Aircraft Company where I am still presently employed, the funny thing is, when I first hired on I had met an older gentleman that asked me of my last name and how it was spelled. Then he asked of my Fathers name and claimed to had worked with him years earlier in his carrer at Boeing. Of all the things I heard that knocked my socks off. Following in my fathers footsteps and not even knowing it.
Here at the Boeing company, almost on a daily basis, I have seen and smelled parts of aircraft that are still in use today that I had seen and smelt as a child in the old scrap yard.
When I reflect on how this has all impacted and or affected my life, most of all I think it was destiny. But remebering of what my father wanted of me as a child was to learn and carry on where he could not.
To this day I can instantly recognize the smells of aircraft parts, some pungent, or like the smell of canvas, certain plastics and finishes. All this has brought me to respect the Aircraft Industries and the history there of.
Years later I had married and raised a family. I soon learned that my lovely wifes father was a gunner on a B-29. But it was the wind down of WWWII, so he was never to see any action, but he and those by his sides were ready and willing to sacrifice their lives as so many do today in preserving a heritage and freedom for the people of these United States.