Guys, I've just GOT to tell y'all this. Not long ago, I learned quite by accident, that a man who goes to church with me and whom I've known all my life, is a WWII Navy fighter pilot. I had no idea. He doesn't look nearly old enough and his daughter isn't all that much older than I am. You just never know everything there is to know about some people.
Anyway, the next time I saw him, I walked over and thanked him for his service and he grinned and seemed willing to talk about it. Over the next couple of Sundays, I asked a few questions until his daughter urged me to "come to the house and visit with him any time; he'd love it". Guys, I just spent the last two hours listening to some of the most captivating stories I've ever heard.
When I first learned that he flew for the Navy, I asked what he flew and he said "Oh, Wildcats and Corsairs"...... I asked if he'd ever made a carrier landing and he said "Oh, yes; 39 of 'em!" I was mesmerized from then on.
He told all about the options to join or be drafted and how he was only 18, etc, etc. But it was the hardware I was anxious to hear all about and he got to that in time enough. He's 89 and still can tell you all the specs involving horsepower, wingspan, stall speed, and armament of everything he flew including the Wildcats, Hellcats, and Corsairs, primarily.
I asked him if he had any gun camera film and he said "No, that was an army thing. We had to have another pilot verify any air kills we claimed." I also asked if he has any aerial victories and he said, "No, none. We were flying wildcats off the coast of Okinawa one day and there were 20 of us up there in a dogfight. I was in an outside loop and just about to line up on one and when I went to pull the trigger......" and he shook his head and thumbed over his left shoulder .... "He got me. There was one over behind me and he got me. I was in an outside loop and tried to pull back on the stick and nothing happened. I looked back behind me and everything from the armor plate back was gone! The whole back end of the plane was gone. I was at about 5000 feet in a dive and I knew that I had about 20 seconds to live. So I opened the hatch and when I unbuckled, the forces just threw me out of the plane. I couldn't tell what was sky and what was ground, I was tumbling all over the place. I pulled the chute and landed in the water. I was only about 4 or 5 miles from shore and I knew they'd be sending out boats to capture me. My buddies saw the whole thing and stuck around to keep the boats off of me."
He went on to say "When I hit the water I couldn't have told you my name, I was so confused. I was in a one-man raft and I started rowing further out to sea because I was so close to shore. I guess I was in the water about 4 or 5 hours when a submarine came and picked me up. They transferred me to a destroyer and the destroyer sailed back over to the carrier group and shot a line over to the carrier. They pulled a rope over and transferred me back to the carrier. You know, they had me back in the air the next day?!"
He told me all about training for carrier landings and how they practiced on a runway marked off like the carrier. Then they had to fly out to the carrier, make a landing and take off again and fly back to base. He told me all about Pensacola, San Diego, Jacksonville and the Great Lakes. I was just eating it UP! He showed me his medals and "salad dressing" and I recognized the Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Wow....
And I've saved the best for last. When the Blue Angels came to the local air show the first time, they all came out to see him and shake his hand. Although he wasn't one of the original performers, he was one of the original Blue Angels team when the team was formed in 1946. They were flying Hellcats then and he was an alternate pilot when his roommate was killed in an early performance.
I'm flattered to know and be able to "thank" Lt Cmdr D.W. Langston. Thank you for your service, Commander.
Does this rag smell like chloroform to you?
What a privilige and a honor you were treated too. Alot of combat guys don't open up like that. Them Naval Aviators (not a pilot Sir!) are a different breed.
Ain't the Navy just Grand?
Life's short . . . Hunt hard
Why tip-toe quietly through life, only to arrive safely at death ?
Video or record some of his stories. His kids and grand kids will foreve be thankful. I have had the honor and privledge to listen to many older people tell their stories from the military and the war camps. I listened to several Holocaust Survivors in high school and regret not taping them then. Now I record as many as I can and give the recordings back.
My father knew several Brittish Pilots and we used to watch the dog fight films on super 8. No not 8 track or any newerdvd's. I still have the super 8 projector my father used. I still cannot find any of the film but now NatGeo shows similar shots in their documentaries. Stirs the heart. I am proud to be American and am proud of everyone who gave their time to defend the USA.
Great to hear another Veterans life. I thank him for the time and tale.
Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some.
The U.S. city with the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, Washington, D.C., has the highest murder rate at 24 per 100,000. The state with the most unrestrictive gun regulations, Vermont, has the lowest murder rate at 0.48 per 100,000.
Amazing story! Please tell the Commander that We all from Jesse's said thankyou for your service.
Post some more stories if you get another chance!
You mess with the bull, You get the horns!
What a great story and a great honor for him to share that with you.
I had a different but similar story last summer. My family and I drove from southern Cal. To Seattle area for my Gramma's 90th birthday. While having dinner with her one night one of my kids asked about her husband ( my Grandfather). Well, he died 30 years ago when I was a kid but was pretty much my hero. He taught me to fish and we fished until our arms fell off and I remember asking him about WW ll. He told me he didnt do much because he was in the hospital with some foot problem and dropped the subject.
Well, flash forward 30 years and she tells me he was in the hospital but it was because his group of men were involved in a secret misssion to prepare the way for D-Day and their boat was sunk by a Nazi sub in the English Channel. They were all sworn to secrecy because they didnt want anyone to know about Nazi subs in the Channel and didnt want to explain what his ship was actually doing there. He and the ship mates that survived were in the water for an extended time (days I think) and he was very ill as a result. I talked to her the other night and she is going to help me memorialize what occurred.
She also said he and his buddies signed up at the first chance they got and they were married in a mass ceremony with about 50 other couples so they could take care of business and she would get benefits should he be killed.
I love sports and those guys have talents that I would love to have but they dont seem like heroes to me. That naval aviator and my Grandfather were heroes. God Bless all you men and women who served us, we often dont deserve you.
I have been renting shop space for the last thirty years to a feller that was at Iwo Jima. He was a sailor on the Bismark, the last American aircraft carrier ever sunk. Hundreds of Americans were killed when kamikazi planes hit the ammo depot. Next month he will be visiting my grandson's high school history class to share some of his expierences.
There was around 600 surviors who were picked up by a small boat after spending hours in the water, but just about all of them are now gone. The greatest generation is almost gone.
Society in any state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil. T. Paine
I am old enough to remember when this really was the land of the free. CS
Great story Belch. We, Americans, owe a debt to that generation that we can never repay.
My Dad is one of those people. He served in WWII and I know he was on Okinawa, but to this day I can not get him to talk much about it. Still my hero and hunting partner at 85.
“Fathom the hypocrisy of a Government that requires every citizen to prove they are insured.... but not everyone must prove they are a citizen".
"Democracy ends when the government takes from those willing to work and gives to those who aren't" Thomas Jefferson.
“There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.” John Adams 1826