September 1, 2014

The Burning Hellcat


Crash landing of F6F-3, Number 30 of Fighting Squadron Two (VF-2), USS Enterprise, into the carrier's port side 20mm gun gallery, 10 November 1943. Lieutenant Walter L. Chewning, Jr., USNR, the Catapult Officer, is climbing up the plane's side to assist the pilot from the burning aircraft. The pilot, Ensign Byron M. Johnson, escaped without significant injury. Enterprise was then en route to support the Gilberts Operation. Note the plane's ruptured belly fuel tank.
"I once showed a photo to my father-in-law (he, and my father, were WW II vets). It showed a carrier deck crewman jumping onto a flaming Hellcat airplane, which sill had the huge fuel drop-tanks attached, and he was trying to help free the pilot. Get it? He was jumping onto a flaming gas can to save a man. Here's what my dad in law said: he was doing his job.

"Now you understand something about that generation. They were made of iron." --Posted by: Casey Klahn in The Top 40: Falling on Grenades:

[Note: I'd been saving this image in my drafts for well over a year waiting for something. This comment by Klahn today was that something.]

Posted by gerardvanderleun at September 1, 2014 11:50 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I absolutely assure you that deeds like these or even more awe-inspiring are done by present-day military members when the need arises.


But great post. My dad, 87, and dad-in-law, 95, are both WW2 vets. They don't tell war stories, though; the words don't come, even to me, who bore arms later.

When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life’s preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime. That is why the true warrior cannot speak of battle save to his brothers who have been there with him. The truth is too holy, too sacred for words. -- Stephen Pressfield

From "Courage, as essay for Memorial Day:

"The pilot gave the engines full throttle, trying to get back into the air, but the landing gear was buried in the sand. The plane ran into a wooded ravine where it blew up.

My friend, Major Baxter Ennis, was with me. Like many of the other soldiers present, we ran into the flames because in the military you never abandon your comrades. There was fire and smoke everywhere, not only from the burning jet fuel; the forest was on fire, too. The heat was intense. We finally left, having accomplished nothing. This is that crash:

Posted by: Donald Sensing at September 1, 2014 11:51 AM

Bridges of Toko Ri:

"Where do we get such men?"

Posted by: Christopher Taylor at September 1, 2014 1:14 PM

When my mother died 20 years ago, I found out about my dad's life and death for the first time, buried away among her memories. He was orphaned when he was 2, eventually rescued from foster care by his elder siblings, started as a window trimmer at Woolworth's and was a store manager when he was drafted at age 26. He didn't want to go.

But he did. He died in France 2 days before his 27th birthday (and about 4 months before I was born,) having followed George Patton from Normandy, in action all the way. His bronze star citation included the words "Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends."

I don't know why you're posting this stuff today, unless it's in response to the Marxist celebrations going on elsewhere, but thanks. Painful; still, always good to know I'm not the only one who remembers.

And by the way, in honor of Labor Day and my own lifelong experience with 'em: Fuck Unions.

Posted by: Rob De Witt at September 1, 2014 1:47 PM

The guys that fought in WWII were tough. There were guys that I fought with in the Nam, that were part of outfits that didn't burn cards, frag officers and smoke dope. They were draftees and enlisted.

Only when this Nation turned against the troops in Vietnam did we get a demoralized military. Korea was no different on the home front nor was WWII

People got tired of the rationing, of the war and giving up their life styles for the war effort.
the press didn't play that up but if you read the oral histories of the vets on the bond tours, you'll read about it.

Anyone that puts on the uniform and gets out front has bigger balls than the whiners back home who don't or won't take those chances for Country.

Take nothing away from the WWII guys but Brokaw is a sack of liquid dog POOP. He never said dick about the Korean or Vietnam vets.

Posted by: Vermont Woodchuck at September 1, 2014 2:13 PM

We got them from all over the US

My dad was drafted in WWII, Little Boy and Fat Man saved him from flying over Japan. Went on to do 55 missions over NK, served a tour in Nam on Westmoreland's staff.

I grew up on air bases. Wouldn't have it any other way. God I miss him

Thanks Gerard, you're a gem

Posted by: Dave Emminger at September 1, 2014 3:07 PM

The rats know the truth and they hate it. That's why the barricades were put in front of the memorial. That's why Bergdahl, Manning and Hasan. That's why Snowden and Don't ask don't tell. I cannot imagine how bad morale must be in the military these days.

Posted by: Will at September 1, 2014 5:04 PM

My Dad has always been my HERO and I let everyone I get to know, know this also. He flew left seat in B-17's over Hitler's Germany at 19 years of age. That fact has amazed me all my life.

He was shot down over North Korea and evaded North Korean troops who were attempting to capture him and the co-pilot by climbing over a mountain range and jumping into the Yalu River and floating down stream to area held by American forces.

My Vietnam era experience was nothing in comparison.

Posted by: Terry at September 1, 2014 5:56 PM

My father was navigator on a heavy cruiser in the Pacific. He was given the task in combat to control the valves flooding the magazine if need be. He had to do that very thing. He then went on to get a degree in nuclear physics during the war and helped develop the hydrogen bomb after the war. Dunno how he lived what that, but some men are made of sterner stuff I guess.

Posted by: nm00seinforest at September 1, 2014 6:04 PM

Terry, whatever river your father ditched into, it wasn't the Yalu. The Yalu is the river that forms the border between China and North Korea. The closest any American unit got to the Yalu was 50 miles -- right before the great Chinese counterattack in late November, 1950

Posted by: Callmelennie at September 1, 2014 6:13 PM

My father: Pfc Ken Klahn. 10th Mountain Division./ .50 cal. machine gunner. North Apennines & Po River Campaigns.

My father in law: Pfc Jim Teel. Transportation Corps.

I shake my head in amazement that they allowed me to wear the army uniform, which although earned, was nonetheless the greatest privilege of my life.

Posted by: Casey Klahn at September 1, 2014 8:16 PM

My father was at home at the end of the Korean conflict. He was a medic in Denver at Buckley. One of the stories he told us was of a transport that crashed on takeoff, full of fuel. He and his colleagues waded through slushy aircraft fuel picking up body parts and trying to identify all the men who died.

Not all the men who served were on the front lines, but they were all needed.

Posted by: Christopher Taylor at September 1, 2014 9:09 PM

I have a lot of respect for today's military. The troops, not necessarily the leaders. The leaders are the ones, see an unlawful order they should not follow it; but so many are only looking out for themselves. The troops are the heart and soul of the forces. Back in WWII most of the troops put their civilian lives on hold and went to war. They came back and got on with their lives like it was no big deal. It was a big deal, the sacrifices they made, but the folks just regarded it as doing the right thing.
Today's soldiers are doing the right thing and it is no big deal for them. It is a big deal for us and I always thank persons in uniform wherever I see them.
I served Army 1966-72 and nobody thanked me. I know what that feels like.

Posted by: chasmatic at September 2, 2014 6:19 AM

My Great-Uncle Dino and my Great-Aunt Flo were married for 62 years. Yesterday, September 1st, I was present in the hospital as she breathed her last breath. Uncle Dino and Aunt Flo couldn't have kids, but they treated all of us (their nieces and nephews, and great-nieces and nephews, and outlaws and inlaws, including neighbors) as their own children.
They couldn't have children of their own because Uncle Dino was on the USS Mt. McKinley on July 1st and 25th of 1946 in Operation Crossroads (Bikini Atoll) witnessing the 4th and 5th atomic bombs ever exploded. Dino was dosed with radiation sufficient enough to sterilize him.
He then suffered two very debilitating strokes (the second in 2010 leaving him paralyzed on the left side and confined to a wheelchair, with full-time caregivers).
When Aunt Flo was found unresponsive next to her bed on Sunday morning and taken to the hospital, Dino set up his vigil at her bedside at 8:30am, and without food or drink, stayed awake talking to his soul-mate until, at 4:35pm yesterday, her heart finally rested.
Due to his strokes, he gets nauseous easily, and for much of the 32 hours he spent in his uncomfortable wheelchair vigil, he was vomiting.
He never complained for himself, and kept talking to Aunt Flo.
It was love and devotion, and especially in that generation, it was his duty. He wasn't about to let her die alone, in spite of how much pain, dehydration, vomiting, or exhaustion was involved on his part.
A tough and devoted man, from a generation of tough and devoted men.
God Bless them.

Posted by: Uncle Jefe at September 2, 2014 12:29 PM

From greatest generation to the next greatest generation, as spelled in this soldier's diary:
"So I led the squad. I kinder think they almost led me. I mean I was supposed to be in front and they were supposed to follow. But no matter how fast I went they wanted to go faster so that they could get at the Germans. The Greeks and Italians, the Poles and the Jews and the other city boys. ... were that full of fight that wild cats shore would have backed away from them." ...
13 Sept 1918, on the way to the St Mihiel Offensive

"I ain't going to show any favoritism nohow. I fought with Catholics and Protestants, with Jews, Greeks, Irish, Italians, Poles and Irish, as well as American borned boys in the World War. They were buddies of mine and I learned to love them.
If there is any of them in these-here mountains we'll make a place for them in these schools. I'm a-going to to give all the children in the mountains the chance that's a-coming to them. I'm a-going to bring them a heap o' larnin."
-- [Sgt] Alvin York, after the war speaking about life in Pall Mall TN.

from, "Alvin York" pages 62-63 & 161
[Col.] Douglas V. Mastriano, 2014

Yes, from conscientious objector to his brothers' protector. American!
Read too about the battles he went through at home until he got that that school built and properly funded despite the local slimeball politicians.

Posted by: Howard Nelson at September 2, 2014 4:04 PM