Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day, Plus 2

The Pilot

What drives a man to take flight? Better yet what drives a man to take flight with the intention to kill and the notion of being killed? The way I think about it, water and air are as hostile to man as the enemy. I guess thats what sets people apart. I need my feet on the ground, but thats just me. The combat pilot has a special place in the annals of our nations history. During our darkest hour, it was a pilot with nads of steel that pulled a nation up off it knees and got it in the fight. People need something to believe in and pilots can give you a hero to believe in. Sure we love our generals, the commanders, or the occasional CMOH recipient, but its the pilots that become legends. Bastards. Its all about the aces, but if your a determined hard ass pilot, this country will love you too. As a country, we cherish our military. Its a source of pride, sense of identity, and for some a life style they can't live without. The pilots, especially the aces, are the cream of the crop.

Pilots of The Great War were remarkable. Air combat was something that was new to the military. There was not a lot of history to fall back on so the rules were made by trail and error. Sucks because on the field of battle, the margin of error usually costs you your life. If you gotta throw down, you want the tools to succeed. Think about that for a minute. A good example is imagine the surprise of the pilot who figured out the machines guns mounted on the front of his plane just blew his own propeller to hell. And if you got shot down in The Great War, you usually had one of three options: Jump and close your eyes so you don't know when you hit the ground, more than likely your wooden plane has burst into flames and you can burn all the way in with it, or you could pull out the pistol in the cockpit and blow your own brains out. Hard core. Harsh I know, but this is what these guys that flew in combat during WWI were living. Hey its wasn't all doom and gloom, they flew hard and they partied hard also. World War I pilots were the reason the stereotype of the whore loving, hard drinking, cocky ass pilot were made. Thats what endeared them to us. They way they lived. Don't think so? Alright then, how cheap would it feel if this guy's story as a World War One flying ace was never told?

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