Sunday, March 12, 2006

Old pilots never die, they just fly away

The Confederate Air Force isn't called the Confederate Air Force these days.

In a bow to political correctness, the fleet of Texas-based World War II-era planes is now called the Commemmorative Air Force.

They perform at air shows and such.

Every now and then they go through their paces in the skies above Brazoria County, as they did today, using the county airport as their base of operations to practice for their upcoming shows and to log air time to meet certain qualifications.

No matter what you call them, it's a thrill to get up close to these aircraft. They're loud and noisy. They belch a lot of smoke when they start their engines. You realize these aircraft weren't outfitted with many creature comforts back in the day. They were made for killing, not for enjoying.

Many of them are based in Midland, Texas, and at least a couple are kept here at the Brazoria County Airport, we were told.

Men from the Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston were on hand to assist in the practice. A dozen or so onlookers gathered to watch the action.

Among the spectators was a fellow who volunteered the observation that 30,000 World War II veterans pass away each day here in the year 2006. I'd never heard that figure before, and confess it sounded rather high. (Maybe I misheard him and he said 3,000.)

But when you think about it, you realize the number of those passing away each day is certainly high, since WW2 vets are in their 80s and 90s now.

The guy said something else, too. He said if you know or meet a World War II vet, you should go up to them and hug them and say, "Thank you."

I don't know if that's a politically correct thing to do here in the New Millenium, but it makes sense to us.

[More photos on Banjo Pics]
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Anne said...

My grandfather is 88 and was in WWII, in England, France and Germany. When he and my grandmother came out here to visit last fall, we went to the Battleship Texas. He loved the big old boat and he was approached more than once by folks asking if he had been on the battleship during WWII. He wasn't, but that didn't stop the people from asking him to reminisce a bit. And of course, he was thanked for his service.

My grandfather doesn't talk much about his time in Europe, but the little bits and pieces he has shared with us we cherish. My grandmother saved all his letters and he has an old box of photos. One photo in particular made an impression: It was taken from the front seat of a Jeep, looking out over the hood. He said it was taken in Germany sometime in 1945 as things were falling apart for the Nazis. There was a rifle mounted upright on the front of the topless Jeep with the bayonet pointed upward. He said that was because the German people had strung piano wire across streets, in an effort to decapitate troops rolling into town. Obviously, the bayonet cut the piano wire.

Banjo Jones said...

wow. you should tape record his stories.