Thursday, August 20, 2020

Radial engines and a marriage of fate

A radial engine airplane flew over a few minutes ago.

Radial engine airplanes are a rarity these days. Beginning about 78 years ago, though, the rumble of radial engines filled the skies of Florida. And in-line engines as well.

There is something about a radial engine, though, that immediately says “power.” Like a Harley starting up or rumbling past you on a highway, versus a dirt-bike yun-yun-yunning past.

The driver of an in-line airplane would wear a silk scarf. His airplane is a sports car.

The pilot of a radial engine airplane knows he has a workhorse, an aircraft that is more likely to get him there and back. B-17, B-25, B-29, Grumman naval fighters, Douglas dive bombers. Those airplanes worked for a living.

In World War II, the Army Air Force operated almost 30 major air fields in Florida, training gunners, navigators, mechanics, bombardiers and pilots. The AAF also flew anti-submarine patrols over the Western Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Naval air stations did the same work, training air crews and support personnel, flying anti-submarine missions over the same waters.

Texas had its share of AAF fields and naval stations as well.

A friend here was born because his mother and his father were both stationed in Galveston.

John’s father was from Boston, Mass., his mother from Texarkana, Ark. His father taught aerial gunnery; his mother was in the Women’s Army Corps. John’s father had been wounded while flying as a tail gunner with a bomber squadron in the 8th Air Force out of England. When recuperated, he was sent to Galveston.

 John’s  mother and her best friend were working at Lone Star Army Ammunition Plant at Hooks, Texas, when both decided there was more to see in the world. Both enlisted in WAC. John’s mother was sent to Galveston, where she met the man from Massachusetts.

John said he spent several summers at his grandmother’s farm just outside Texarkana. That is why John has more sense than most Yankees. For a few months of several summers, he got out of Massachusetts.

Keep ‘em flying.

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