Spitfire Wingman
 Home Contents Feedback
Home
Brief Bio
Book Exerpts
Audio Book
Photo Album

 

 

Book Excerpts

An Eaglerock like the one in which Haun honed his flying skills.

Here's the Full Chapter List from which four samples are provided (as links) below:

CONTENTS

Foreword  (A  MAN  OF  STATURE)

Preface  ("HERO,  THIRD  CLASS")

THE  EARLY  YEARS    (1911 - 29,  PILLAR TO POST)

 LEARNING  TO  FLY    (1930,  MEMPHIS  BOY WONDER)   

SEAFARING    (1933,  OBSERVING  A  LEADER  OF  MEN)

MARRIAGE  DURING  THE  DEPRESSION   (1935,  MISS  ELEANOR  TAKES  A  FLYER)

A  LITTLE  BARNSTORMING    (1934 - 38, " A MILLION  DOLLAR  THRILL  FOR  A  DOLLAR  BILL")

FRED  HOOK    (1936"OBVIOUSLY THE SPORTING TYPE")

SECOND  LIEUTENANT,  RESERVE    (1939, "CALL  ME  LOUIE" )

FORT  KNOX    (1939 - 41,  ROOKIES  ON  THE  RAMPAGE)

WAR    (1941,  ANTICIPATING  THE  INEVITABLE)

TO  ENGLAND    ((1942,  DODGING  U-BOATS  &  MEETING  THE  SPIT)

FARMED  OUT  TO  THE  R.A.F   (1943,   "HAVE YOU EVER WATCHED A FRIEND STREAM DOWN IN SMOKE?")

100th  FIGHTER WING – PROVISIONAL   (1943 - 44,  DIVE-BOMBING: EMBARRASSMENT  &  FRUSTRATION)

INVASION    (1944,  A  BIRD'S  EYE  VIEW)

NINTH  AF  HQ  AND  BRUSSELS    ((1944 - 45,  THE  VIEW  SOMEWHAT  WIDENS)  

TRANSITION    (1945,  BIG  CAREER  MOVE  TO   A.T.C.)

INDIA  &  THE  HUMP    (1945,  RIOTS  &  BUZZARDS  IN  DIVERSE  PLACES ) 

HOME    (1945 - 46,  PERMANENT  COMMISSION  AT  BAD  KNEE )

WEST  PALM    (1946,  AIRBORNE   SEMI-DRIVER   SCHOOL)

MOBILE    (1947 - 48,  A  PARADISE  OF  SAILBOATS  &  C-74s) 

BERLIN  AIR  LIFT    (1948,  ROUGH  DUTY  BUT  LOADS  OF  LOOT)

BACK  TO  BROOKLEY    (1949 - 50,  "A  BIG  HAIRY  BIRD  COLONEL")

WASHINGTON  NATIONAL    (  (1950,  "TRUMAN'S  MUSTACHE  CUP  HAS  DISAPPEARED!")

MATS  HEADQUARTERS    (1951 - 54,  ILLUSIONS  OF  GRANDEUR  IN  D.C.)

TO  JAPAN    (   (1955,  THE  KOMAKI   CALL-GIRL  CRISIS)

TO  TACHIKAWA    (1956,  COMMANDER,  374th  TROOP  CARRIER  WING)

BACK  IN  MATS   (1957 - 58,   WRIGHT  FIELD  RETALIATES,  BUT  WE'RE  U.S.  BOUND)

TRAVIS    (1958 - 59, "THAT  DADGUM   C-133  DOG  OF  AN  ATLAS  HAULER!")

MINNESOTA    (1960,  MIGHTY  HUNTERS  OF  THE  SUB-ARCTIC)

NASHVILLE    (1961 - 64,  SIDE-STEPPING   GOOD  OL'  BOYS)

RETIREMENT   (1965 - 2001,  HOMEBILTS  AND  BABY  BIRDMEN)  

Epilogue    (TO WHOM HONOR IS DUE)

Appendix    (FINAL  NOTE   ON  FRED  HOOK)

 

When flying was still way more "art than science."

chapter six

FRED HOOK

About this time I met another character, Fred Hook, who would also be much involved in my later years. One day I saw a small crowd gathered around a uniformed policeman sitting on a bench holding his audience spellbound with some tall tale. I eased up close enough to see and hear. This was Hook; he was digging a hole in the tip of a pistol bullet with a pocket knife, making a highly illegal dumdum.

"And the next one I shoot won't stand trial."

Hook wanted to learn to fly and I took him on. I had him in the back seat of a Cub for his first lesson. We were cruising around south of the airport when there was a shockingly loud report in back of me. I turned around and saw a most unusual sight. Hook had his false upper teeth sticking out, his cap on backwards, and was shooting at a buzzard with his .45. I was suitably impressed and judging him to be the sporting type, pulled up and over in a loop, followed by a three turn spin. We became great buddies.

One day an Army trainer landed and out stepped George Stokes. He was all dressed up in an Army uniform. Red and I were standing there dumbfounded. George explained that he was a First Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps Reserve, and was on two weeks active duty, and no, they didn't charge him any rental on that big bird. In fact they actually paid him to fly it! Further, he just might be able to introduce us to the man who just might be interested in getting two such fine future warriors signed up. And so a long, slow process was started that changed both our lives completely.

Red's Waco 10 would cruise at every bit of 80 MPH, which wasn't near enough speed for Red, so he traded it in on a fine Clipped-wing Monocoupe powered by a 145 HP Warner engine. This was the same airplane Phoebe Omlie had used earlier to win several cross-country races. Her husband, Vernon Omlie, had flown Jennies in Mexico with the Pershing expedition against Pancho Villa. The couple had been barnstormers after WW I with Phoebe acting as wingwalker and parachute jumper. They operated a flying service at Memphis…a colorful pair.

That Monocoupe was a dream. It had a very fast rate of roll, making 8-point rolls easy. After I learned to handle it properly, I checked Red out in it and we took several interesting trips. The first was to Atlanta to meet with Major John B. Patrick. John B, as he was known far and wide, was the ranking Army Air Corps officer in the southeastern U.S. and as such controlled or oversaw the Reserve program. George Stokes had made an appointment for us to meet him and see if we could get into the Reserves. George must have made glowing recommendations regarding our sterling worth, as we were ushered into the August Presence without delay.

"Why do you boys want to get in the Army?"

"We want to fly those big airplanes."

"Hold up your right hands and repeat after me…Red, quit scratching yourself – you're taking the oath…" We repeated the oath, whereupon John B said, "I now pronounce you Privates in the Army Air Corps Reserve."

"Hell, Major, we don't want to be Privates, we want to fly those airplanes."

John B explained that we first had to complete an extension course called the ‘Ten Series’ covering various military matters, pass a physical exam, and have at least 400 hours flying experience of which at least 100 hours had to be in airplanes of 400 HP or more.

Naturally we had all that time. "The check is in the mail, Major… Sir."

He told us the courses would be posted to us and, as each subject was finished, we would mail it back. The corrected, or blue copies, would afterwards be returned to us. So, press on!

John B came out to see Red's airplane and commented most unfavorably on the weather. Sure enough, it was solid overcast and rather low, but nothing to bother two such intrepid airmen! So we left. As we buzzed on our way, the ceiling came lower and lower. We were following a railroad that happened to be going the same way we were, at 100 feet or so, when up ahead the tracks ran into a tunnel. I demonstrated my version of a Chandelle, which approaches but is not quite an Immelleman. We went back to the last town we had passed and spent the night. I believe it was Anniston, Alabama. Next morning the front had moved off and we proceeded on to Memphis in bright sun. We didn't bother to tell people that we were only Privates.

Shortly thereafter I began to receive the necessary literature covering various courses such as "Customs of the Service," "Interior Guard Duty," "Organization of the Army," etc., etc., etc. Red didn't bother to work any of this, but made a much better overall grade than I did by the simple expedient of having some girl copy all of my blue, or corrected copies. There were several others that did the same, including Hook. I can't regret that six months of hard work, as it helped give the Army a pool of ready-trained pilots when the War started. That bunch of ours did outstanding jobs. One of them was killed.

I continued training a few students on the weekends and flying Eddie around in his Cessna. Hook got his license and did some crop dusting for a company down in Mississippi named Finkley Bros. I stopped by their strip one day to visit with Hook, but he was out flying, so I had time to look around the operation. Over the front gate there was a sign that read "Transport Pilots and Dogs Keep Out." That should give you some idea what kind of operation they ran. I watched one big fellow who must have weighed 300 pounds straightening out a bent propeller. He laid the bent end onto an anvil and, with a large sledge hammer, proceeded to bang it with mighty blows until it was more or less back into its original shape. They then installed it on a Waco duster!

Hook's furlough from the police department expired, which I considered a good thing, as that allowed him to survive. At home he showed me a little bottle full of boll weevils that he used to convince the farm owners that their cotton crops really did need dusting. "Picked them this morning in your south field."

Fred Hook on Maneuvers in 1940

I had a girl student that caused me a lot of razzing from the guys. She was perfectly round, in all directions, had red hair of a shade between red and orange, and wore glasses that looked like the bottoms of coke bottles. Man she was ugly! She couldn't drive a car, so her Daddy brought her out for lessons. I think they picked me for her instructor because I have such a kind, compassionate face and demeanor. Well we got started using a Taylorcraft. She was quite nervous: normal banks and turns shook her up. After several hours of this, I came to the opinion – influenced by my extreme lack of experience in such matters – that I should give her some spins, so that she would no longer be worried by normal flying. I climbed to about three thousand and headed out to our old field, Hog Waller. This particular airplane had one bad habit. In a spin with the power off, it was necessary to occasionally goose the throttle to keep the engine running. I told her to follow me through on the controls, and kicked it into a spin. She squealed and seemed to enjoy it, so we climbed up again and I told her to try it. She did nicely but I had to goose the throttle for her. I explained why and told her to do it again. She did, and again I had to goose the throttle for her. Well I know how to impress it on her mind; so I told her to spin again. This time I didn't touch the throttle so naturally the engine quit.

She grinned, "How was that?"

"Fine spin and recovery, but look at the prop; we will have to land at this airport below us and crank it." Well, Hog Waller hadn't been used in several years, so I touched down in about three-foot-high weeds. After cranking up I had to run up and down the field a couple of times to knock down enough weeds to let me get off. This was a Sunday and all the guys were sitting out in front of the hangar when I taxied up. My student and her Dad departed, and I went over and sat down on the bench. We had a boy around named Preacher. Somebody called, "Preacher, go out there and bring us some of those long weeds hanging all over that airplane."

Well, I knew I was in for it now. There followed a long and serious discussion about what kinds of weeds and where they usually were to be found growing, which was certainly not on an airport. I wouldn't have minded so much if she had been a pretty little thing. My ‘girlfriend’ never came back.

The Army Air Corps Reserve established a detachment at Memphis under the command of Captain William H. Tunner. He was a West Pointer with over twelve years' service. It took at least twelve years to make Captain in those days, and then only if someone senior to you either died or retired. Tunner later became famous as the commander of the ‘Hump’ operation in India and, after that, the Berlin Air Lift. His final command was MATS, the Military Air Transport Service. Red and I served under him in all three commands. He retired as a three star General. He got Red promoted to Brigadier General after the war. I had been a bad boy a few times, so couldn't make it, for which I'm glad. I have noticed that when someone makes General, his IQ suddenly jumps several octaves. And who would I be trying to kid?

We had completed all our required studies and were given a date to report to Atlanta. We cranked up Red's airplane and shoved off. On arrival we were met by John B, who advised us that we were staying at his house that night. It seems that he was having a party and required a couple of bartenders. We were further advised that every time he took a drink, we were to have one as well. We reminded him that we were due for a physical exam at 8:00 the next morning and we ought not be doing that. His comment was: "If you want to be in my Army, you gotta be tough." The party lasted almost all night so you can imagine what shape we were in when we staggered in to see the Flight Surgeon. He looked us over and asked where we had been. We told him we had spent the night with John B. He felt our pulse and that's about all. I couldn't have even seen the eye chart.

That afternoon I was slated to fly first. John B took me to the hangar. He pointed out a rather large open cockpit biplane with a big Pratt and Whitney engine of about 450 HP, and asked if I had ever flown anything like that. Naturally I said no because if I said yes he might roll out one of those vicious looking things parked in the back. So they rolled out the old BT-2 and we went flying. What he wanted was exactly what I had been teaching students for years. I made only one mistake. When I opened the throttle on that humongous engine, I forgot to shove in full right rudder to take care of the torque, so she started to turn to the left. I slammed in full right rudder and from there on everything went fine. When we got down he had only one comment to make:

"Well, it's just like I thought. You're nothing but a hayfield pilot. I put you out on a concrete runway and you immediately head for the grass. But I guess you fly as well as the average Second Lieutenant we're getting today."

The date was August 26, 1939.

I phoned Eleanor, "You can call me Louie."

 

chapter eight

FORT KNOX

Bright and early on the 6th I dressed up in my uniform and found my way through massive traffic and construction equipment to the Squadron area on the airport. There was a flagpole in front of one of the better buildings, which I rightly judged to be the headquarters. I had re-read the bit in Customs of the Service on how to report on arrival to a new station and was all set to do it right. I walked into the office that said "Adjutant." There was only one person there behind the desk. I failed to notice that he was a Master Sergeant. I marched up and saluted smartly.

"Haun, James R., Second Lieutenant, reporting for duty, Sir!"

The Sergeant sort of tucked his head and almost whispered, "You don't have to do that."

Very old Sergeant Moore; they made him a Colonel shortly after the war started and he was a good one. I spent the rest of the day checking in with the various offices, but I didn't salute any more Sergeants. I learned that the 12th was an old Regular Squadron that had seen service in WW I and was quite proud of it. All the officers were West Pointers with many years' service, and most were about my age. The motion was awfully slow in the peacetime Service. As the only Reserve officer aboard, I decided best I keep both eyes and ears open and my mouth shut. Seemed to work out fine.

The Squadron had four or five old airplanes that they flew once in a while, mainly on Saturday mornings. Fort Knox was an old Cavalry post that was gradually turning into Armoured Force post, and the Air Corps was there to act as the eyes of the Division; we were considered as more or less part of the Division. We even wore the high, peaked caps of the Cavalry! I had to buy a Sam Brown Belt that you hook your sabre to, although I didn't have to buy a sword or spurs. Our mission was exactly the same as it was in WW I. That was to photograph the battle area and act as spotters for the artillery when they were firing.

I got checked out in the O-47 Observation airplane. This was a rather nice flying bird and had been considered quite advanced in the thirties. It was a pot-bellied job with one pilot, a radio operator/photographer in the belly, and a gunner/observer in the rear cockpit. It had a 900 horsepower Wright engine, retractable landing gear, and for weapons two .30 caliber machine guns, one mounted in the left wing and the other for the gunner.  Awesome fire power!

Well, I flew that thing around a little and was then told I must take an instrument check. There were no published let-down charts available in those days, so I made my own, using the Louisville range with an approach to Bowman Field. The check pilot, Lieutenant Bagby, took me up to about two thousand feet and told me to pull down the hood. This was a canvas thing that I pulled over my head and covered the cockpit completely so there was no way I could get a glimpse of the outside. I was quite used to this from my training at Memphis. Bagby flew around for a while to get me sufficiently lost and then told me to turn on the radio, orient myself on the range, and locate the station – all of which I accomplished quickly, with extreme accuracy, and even if I do say it myself, faultlessly. I hit the station at exactly two thousand feet and turned to my outbound heading to start my letdown.

Then Bagby popped the hood and said, "Return to the field."

I was completely confused. What could he possibly have found wrong with my performance? When we got out, I asked Bagby what was wrong.

He said, "Nothing, you did good."

"But I had just started my letdown when you pulled the hood."

He whipped out the regulation covering instrument flying. "Here, read for yourself…'Instrument Check Ride. Pilot shall orient himself on the range and locate the station.' You did it." That was all there was to it in the year of our Lord, 1940, in the US Army Air Corps!

The Squadron had one old B-10 bomber that wasn't flown much and the idea of getting some twin engine time appealed to me. I approached the Operations Officer and broached the idea. He asked, "How much time do you have?"

I said, "Fifteen hundred hours."

"I mean, how much time in military aircraft?"

"Three hundred and ninety three hours."

"Well, you must have 400 hours before you can fly a twin engine aircraft."

So I got busy and volunteered for any trip available or anything nobody wanted, and in due course came up with the magic figure. "Captain Revard, I've got 400 hours now and I would like to get checked out in the B-10."

"Go ahead, the crew chief will show you the systems."

"Won't anyone come along to show me what I need to know about how it flies?"

"Look, Lieutenant, the airplane has room for only one pilot and there are no duals in the rear cockpit. There's nothing to it. Just shove in both throttles at the same time and off you go!"

The B-10 was the first bomber built that was faster than the fighters, or ‘pursuit planes’, of its time. It had retractable landing gear, flaps operated by the pilot using a crank on the right side of the cockpit, and engines mounted in nacelles on the wings. The engine instruments, such as oil temperature, oil pressure, RPM, etc. were mounted on the nacelles and readily visible to the pilot from inside the cockpit, after he learned where to look for this vital information. There was room for a crew of three: The pilot, under a sliding canopy on top of the fuselage, a bombardier in the glassed-in nose, and a gunner in the rear cockpit. It was covered with a corrugated metal skin. I hadn't been able to locate an operations manual for the ship, so the crew chief helped me get both engines running, while showing me all the taps, buttons, and switches.

I taxied out, using the engines separately to make turns plus a little brakes and it acted like any other tail dragger would. The crew chief had advised me not to use any more than 30 inches manifold pressure, as more might damage the engines. Comforting thought! I got it lined up in the middle of the runway and slowly advanced the throttles. I left the tail on the ground until I had good rudder control and she lifted off nicely; then I picked up the gear. I reduced power slightly but had trouble reading the instruments on the right side as the sun was in that direction but I got the left engine reading right and set the other up by sound. At two thousand I leveled off and reduced the power some more. I certainly didn't want to put any strain on those ancient engines.

The old bird actually flew rather nicely, sluggish on the controls but nice and stable. I was enjoying it…looka me, Joe, in this great big twin engine airplane! I was crossing the Ohio River and happened to be looking out at the left wing tip when I hit a little bump, or thermal. The wing tip flexed at least a foot – I quick reduced more power and headed back toward the airport. I got the gear down and used some flaps on approach. I made a nice smooth wheel landing and parked the airplane; then I went in to see the Engineering Officer, Captain Alness.

"Captain, the wings are loose on that B-10. I hit a bump and they flapped!" He laughed and told me to wait until I hit real rough weather and watch them flap. Well, I was now officially a twin-engine pilot!

Captain Lee put me to work first in the office with the Adjutant, learning all about morning reports, how to find any regulation, correspondence, and all that good stuff. After a month there I was moved around to Supply, Maintenance, Motor Pool, the whole bit. The Squadron was organized to be self-sufficient and could be moved at a moment's notice and operate independently on a bare field. After I had spent about six months learning all the inner workings of the Squadron I was at least partially prepared for the responsibilities that suddenly fell on my head when the war started.

The Army was suffering a money crunch, which meant that we were allowed to fly four hours a month, which qualified us for an extra fifty dollars' Hazardous Duty Pay, but very little more. I played a dirty trick on Hook, because misery loves company. I wrote him about all the flying I was doing and what fine duty this was and sure wished he was here to enjoy it with me! Well, he bit and applied for duty at Fort Knox! Naturally he got his request in record time, and I barely escaped with my life when he arrived and saw what was really happening. We finally made up and decided we would set about reforming the Air Corps into something resembling a fighting force. You know, we actually did do a little good in some areas.

We had to go through the Armed Forces School, where we learned to use all the various weapons and become familiar with their tactics. I was out trying to drive a tank one cold, very dark night. I had seen the tanks knock down trees and ride right over them. With half a dozen other tanks we were crawling through a little woods and I decided to see if I could knock down a tree. I picked one about six inches in diameter and rammed into it full bore. I knocked the tree down all right but then crawled right up on top of it, and there I sat. I was straddled on the downed tree and my tracks were both off the ground, spinning like mad but going nowhere. One of the other tanks came up with a chain and pulled me off. I wouldn't have made a good tanker.

We got to fire all the weapons, including some light anti-aircraft stuff, tommy guns, and the flexible .30 caliber machine gun. Hook and I spent most of our time on the skeet range at the airport. We burned up case after case of ammo. Very few of the other pilots seemed to be interested in shooting, so we had all theirs as well as ours to burn up. Really wasn't much else to do.

I got one job that I approached with some reservations. The ground forces were given a certain amount of ammo to use firing on aerial targets; our squadron was to tow the targets, using the B-10. The target was a cloth sleeve maybe ten feet long on a cable that was let out of the rear cockpit of the airplane, seventy-five or a hundred yards. You would think that was enough distance to make this a very safe operation, but one pilot came in with only three feet of cable remaining. He advised the Operations Officer that if he wanted any more targets towed, it would be necessary to find another pilot. Guess who was assigned that duty? Right. Me. I didn't mind when the ground pounders were using machine guns, as I assumed they would at least be looking through the sights on the gun and would no doubt recognize the difference between the sleeve and the airplane; but when they started using stuff that exploded, I'll admit I sat as far forward in the seat as the seat belt would allow. I felt sorry for the guy in the back operating the cable drum as he was some ten feet closer to the action than I was. Luckily we never took any hits.

I saw General George Patton for the first time as he was climbing into the back of one of our 0-47s for a ride back to Fort Benning, Georgia, where he commanded the Second Armored Division. He was only a one star General then but he looked just as fierce as he did later. He was hawk-faced, gray haired, and had the most icy-cold pale blue eyes I have ever seen. To me he looked like ‘Authority’ personified.

Time dragged on and finally we were ready for the annual fall Louisiana maneuvers. The Squadron packed up and moved to our first camp at Marshall, Texas. The Red Army and the Blue Army were at it again, hot and heavy. This time they seemed to have more equipment than before, but not much. There were still trucks with ‘TANK’ painted on the sides, but there were some real ones as well. I saw artillery pieces that I hadn't seen before, and heavy trucks to pull them. Also there seemed to be far larger numbers of troops in the marching formations. There had been some promotions: Major Lee was transferred to Washington and Major Alness was now the CO. We did the usual flying around over the whole operation and dropped a few messages, but didn't take a single picture, at least not from the air. I did have one new experience though. I was sent over to Esler Field to pick up two old Colonels and deliver them to Tullahoma, near Camp Forrest, in Tennessee. Because the weather was a little iffy, they wouldn't go, so we delayed until the next morning. When my passengers showed up the next morning there was a solid overcast, that looked to be quite low. As they climbed aboard, complete with parachutes, they informed me in no uncertain terms that I was to stay under the clouds and under no circumstance was I to enter that gray stuff.

One reason I never made General came out right there: "Colonel, I have orders to take you to Tullahoma, and I will. The weather may force me to enter clouds. Also if this engine quits, I'll give you time to bail out. If you don't, you'll find yourself there alone!" They shut up.

There was no weather station at Esler and no reports were available, but I had good visibility on the runway, so we blasted off in the old 0-47. As soon as we lifted off, I leaned over to reach for the gear handle. When I looked over the nose I was on solid instruments. I glanced over the side and back at the instrument panel. Big mistake! My first case of vertigo and at only about 50 feet off the ground! All my instincts told me I was in a turn to the left, but the instruments said I was in a level shallow climb. Hardest thing I had ever done was to obey old Slim Paine's admonition, "Always believe your instruments: they are right, vertigo can kill you."

We came out on top at about one thousand and the rest of the trip was uneventful. When we landed, the two Colonels got out and never said a murmuring word to me.

After a couple of weeks we moved to a strip in North Carolina. My log book doesn't give it a name and I don't remember. I should, as it was there I met General Patton for the first time. I use the word ‘met’ advisedly. Returning from a death-defying and most perilous flight over the battlefield, I landed and taxied to my usual parking spot, but found a small civilian airplane right where I wanted to park. Hard right brake and lots of throttle and I blasted me a clear spot. Damn civilians! I shut down and unbuckled but before I could get out, up the wing came the maddest and meanest looking man I had ever seen. General Patton! Seems he owned his own little Stinson that he used to run around the battlefield in by himself. Well, he discussed my parentage, the legality of my birth, the level of my intelligence, and some of my other missing attributes. Then he stomped off. I hadn't hurt his little bird, just got it all dusty. I was to come in contact with him again.

Our next move was to Greenville where we pitched camp on the nice airport there. I got the job of flying General McGruder and General Scott around over the area and keeping up a running commentary on what we were seeing below us. I gave them a nice quiet ride at a little over a thousand feet where they could identify the various types of arms and equipment on display. When we landed, they invited me to have lunch with them and their staff. After a lot of small talk General Scott called on me.

"Lieutenant, in actual war would you have flown that mission the same way you did today?"

Well, he asked me. "No Sir, we wouldn't have lived five minutes. If I should have the extreme misfortune to show up over a real battlefield in that airplane, there wouldn't be but one way to handle it. That would be to go over as high as I could and then stick it straight down and come across as fast as I could. Anything else would kill you."

General McGruder growled: "We're not interested in casualties."

"No Sir, you're interested in getting information. One way I might get you a little, the other way, nothing at all."

Before McGruder could explode, General Scott bailed me out: "Lieutenant, what sort of airplane do you think we need for that job?"

"General, we need the fastest little fighter-type aircraft available with vertical and oblique cameras mounted in the fuselage which can be automatically operated by the pilot."

General Scott was all smiles. "That's exactly what I told Hap and he agrees." (Hap Arnold was the Chief of the Air Corps.)

I got out of there in a hurry.

The Red Army under General Patton was trying to build a pontoon bridge across the Pee Dee River so they could outflank us Blue Army guys, and naturally we couldn't stand for that! So those two famous fighters, Hook and Haun, armed with a full load of one pound sacks of flour leapt aloft in their trusty 0-47s, and sped to the attack! We tore into them Reds with furious, slashing attacks that turned their tanks white and had their troops leaping off the pontoon bridge to escape our whirling propellers! Then we returned to receive the plaudits of our admiring comrades. That night as we sat around the supper tables recounting our exploits, someone yelled, "ATTENTION!" And as we jumped to our feet, standing smartly braced, in walks General George Patton! He looked us over for a while and didn't seem much impressed with what he saw. Locking his gaze on our CO he addressed him thusly: "Harvey, your boys did a good job out there today, very realistic; but I want you to tell the little bastards to stop knocking the aerials off my goddam tanks." Then he walked out.

The Blue Army had won the war and we packed up to go home. Orders came down stating that due to the increasing tensions between various nations, all reserve officers presently on active duty would remain on duty for an indefinite period. For Hook and me that meant the entire war. After awhile you have it memorized: "Officers presently on active duty would remain on such, would not be released, but would be extended."

When we arrived at Fort Knox things began to change rapidly. All but one of the original officers left for other duties, forming and staffing new units. Some of the old sergeants and airmen went to form cadres, and we received a large group of pilots right out of flight school. Dick Morrison became CO and I was made Operations Officer. The draft was in full swing; the 1st Armored Division was flooded with recruits. They were called ‘selectees’. The word ‘draftees’ was not to be used. There was a tremendous amount of construction going on. Hook and I drove together each day on the only road from Louisville to Fort Knox; that was one mad ride. With thousands of cars bumper to bumper and pedal to the metal all the way. It soon got where we paid little attention to the screaming of brakes or the rending of metal.

Someone from the Fort came over and approached us with the bright idea that maybe the ground troops could be supplied by parachute. I saw that this might work, so we set about working out the details. The old B-10 could drop bombs out of its bomb bay – why not bundles using parachutes? Trouble was there were no parachutes available except those reserved for our own tender rear ends; and when we asked Wright Field if there was anything available, they laughed at us – naturally, as it wasn't their idea. In fact, during the war and probably even today the Air Force cannot get any piece of equipment that has not been invented or approved by Wright Field. In England during the War, I saw a display of combat equipment some enterprising Group Commander had made with a big sign that read, "The Wright Field Follies of 1943!" More about that later.

Well anyway, with natural American G. I. ingenuity, the ‘gravel agitators’ came up with their own big chutes they had made using TOW SACKS! We tried dropping the stuff, weighing up to three hundred pounds, with only fair results as those home-made chutes didn't work very well. But the Brass saw the potential and put pressure in the right places, and you know the rest. I hope the lad that thought it up got the recognition he deserved, but I'll bet it was his boss that got promoted… Goes with the territory.

A couple of factory men brought us a fine little airplane for our evaluation as a light liaison aircraft. As a two seater with a lot of power, it could take off and land in a very restricted area. I jumped in and leaped off. It was a dream! After five minutes I knew this was one for the books. It handled very much like Red's old Clipped Wing Monocoupe, so I turned her loose and let her show her ability. Eight point rolls, square loops, the works. The whole Squadron was out watching, so naturally I put it to its limit. When I landed the two tech-reps swarmed all over the bird. All the cowling and inspection plates came off; they really went through the whole aircraft with a fine tooth comb. They told me that it had been flown only twice and then only straight and level! They were afraid I had overstressed it, but the G-meter showed I had only put 3.5 Gs on it. They cowled it up and Hook insisted that we go up and let him see what he could do with it. Hook was a very good pilot and learned quickly. We had a lot of fun with that little bird – until we had to give it to Wright Field. That ruined it. They added on everything but the kitchen sink and changed this and that. Then they named it the L-5, and many were built. Some are still flying, but you should have flown the original! That was one fine little bird!

We had one of the first C-45 transports. Today they are called the Beech 18, and there are still a lot of them around. Being the high-time pilot in the Squadron, I used it to haul the Brass around. Boy, was I proud of myself! I might have let Hook fly it, but he was off somewhere. We didn't have it long, as someone ranked us out of it. Then we got orders to go to Buffalo, New York, and pick up some new airplanes made by Curtis-Wright. I think someone drew the plans and the Army bought it sight unseen. Couldn't have been any other way. It was a two-seater observation airplane designated the 0-52, sometimes known as the Owl. A miserable bunch of junk. High wing with the gear retracting into the belly, and an antique hydraulic system that required the pilot to grasp a long lever in his right hand and give about 50 strong pumps to get the gear up, and the same to get it back down. It was overweight and underpowered, and didn't have enough wing either. A killer by design, it killed a lot of pilots, as you shall see. Nine of us went by rail to Buffalo and picked them up. Brand new. At least they smelled good.

Our first stop on the way home was Cleveland, Ohio. As we circled the field I saw a large crowd lining the fences. Must be an air show or something. We all landed successfully and the crowd dispersed. I asked someone what was going on and he replied that they knew we were coming and wanted to watch us tear them up on landing. Seems there was a large stack of the wrecked ones on the field. They were a bit tricky to land, and it's too bad we disappointed the crowd. I played around with one a little and found that it would spin out of a sixty degree bank if you tightened it a bit. I warned the others, but it must not have sunk in.

We also got a pair of Douglas A-20 light bombers. We were told to go pick them up at Bowman Field. Hook and I went over to get them and found them sitting all alone at the end of the field. There was nobody around that knew anything about them. One fellow said he had noticed they always taxied with the cowl flaps open and that they closed the upper ones before takeoff. I could see this was a good idea as the nacelles were flush with the upper surface of the wing, and open flaps would cause the loss of a lot of lift. With this wealth of information we climbed into the cockpits and tried to figure out how to operate the beast. The master switch was located and the batteries were up. There was plenty of gas in the tanks and everything was labeled and arranged right where you might expect to find it. We both cranked up and checked all the systems.

I made two bad mistakes. I put the elevator trim tab wheel in "neutral" and didn't tighten the throttle lock. Can you see what’s coming? Hook did the same thing. Taking the lead I tore off down the runway and she lifted off nicely. I reached for the gear handle but the nose pitched up so that it took both hands to hold it down. When I took my left hand off the throttles to grab the wheel, the engines slowed down to almost idle! I was as busy as a one-armed paperhanger for a few minutes but finally got the trim set and the throttles both locked down. Then I looked back for Hook and saw his airplane going through all the gyrations I had performed. He got it under control and we arrived at Godman without further problems. The entire Squadron was out to see our landings, and we got all the usual questions tossed at us, but we were in too big a hurry to get to the hangar to talk. I told Hook to grab a couple of Cokes while I got my locker open. I had a fifth of Baccardi which fortunately was already opened. I think we flew those two airplanes once or twice more before someone came with orders to take them away. Things were sure well organized around that time.

It happened to us again shortly after the A-20 foul-up. One day twelve twin-engine Lockheed Hudsons landed and the ferry crews said they belonged to us. Actually they had British markings on them, and they had an open hole in the top of the fuselage where the gun turret was supposed to be installed. Some clerk had hit the wrong key and they came to us by mistake. I asked one of the ferry pilots to check me out but he acted like I was crazy, and the whole bunch were set to leave in a hurry. Naturally, before they were taken away I was going to fly one of the things. The operations manual was written in the King's English, but I could figure it out. The airplane used ‘petrol’ instead of gasoline, the propellers must be in ‘fine’ for takeoff and the radios had ‘valves’ instead of tubes…things like that. Hook gave me a blindfold test to see if I knew where all the controls were. I passed and told him I was ready to try it. I expected him to get out but he buckled in. The airplane had only one pilot's seat, but there was a folding canvas one on the right where the bombardier sat until he was ready to fold it up so he could go down a tunnel to the nose. I got the engines running and they sounded good. They were big Wrights and you should hear the roar they let out in ‘fine’ pitch. I checked Hook and several others out before they came and stole our toys. You should try checking a pilot out in a strange airplane without duals! Par for the course.

 

12th Squadron over England.  Haun's plane is lowest left.

chapter eleven

FARMED OUT TO THE RAF

After the so-called escort fiasco it was apparent we needed some training in the fighter business if we were to act in that role. Instead of sending us to one of the Fighter Training Schools the RAF used to prepare their pilots for combat, our Brain Trust decided that some of us should go direct to operational units on the theory that one learns fast when the bullets start flying around! This may be true, but not highly recommended as the ideal. So the 8th Air Force made a deal with the RAF to take some of us. I requested and received orders assigning me to the 485 New Zealand Squadron stationed at Biggin Hill south of London, for thirty days period. I asked Bob (Pappy) Walker if he would like to go with me and he did. We packed our gear and took a jeep for the trip.

Biggin Hill had been badly knocked around during the Blitz but most of the field had been repaired and retained few signs of damage. We had very comfortable quarters and the Mess was nice. I met Johnny Checketts, the Squadron Leader, who had been advised of our coming and was obviously not overjoyed at the prospect of taking on two rookies. I told him what my experience consisted of, that I had never fired on an aerial target, but I had considerable time in the Spit 5-B. He told me that he had lost six wingmen but I could fly with him under the condition that should we find two Huns and he got one, I could have the other. Naturally I agreed. He further said that, as I would have a fuel tank directly in front of me, a hit could mean I would be sitting in a ball of fire, so I must always keep my goggles over my eyes, wear long sleeves and gloves, and my American parachute was no good at all as it had no quick release like the British ones. He demonstrated why…if my hands were badly burned I would be unable to get rid of the chute in case I was going down in the Channel, in which case I would certainly drown. I was supplied with the proper chute and fur-lined boots.

I was then introduced to the Wing Commander, Alan Deere, one of the ranking aces from the Battle of Britain. He was a handsome man who looked like he had been carved from stone. He had been shot down nine times, but not a scratch showed on him. He was very cool and aloof, and I began to get the message: they had orders to take us but it was under protest. Al took me to see the Group Captain, Sailor Malan, who was also a top ranking ace. He was a South African, large, who never looked at me, only straight ahead. Well, I had orders sending me there, so I would just have to make the best of it. I don't recall ever talking to another member of the Squadron except Johnny, and him rarely.

I can understand the cool reception we received. No squadron likes to get new men who cannot be depended upon to perform as team members in the deadly game of combat, where every man's life is at stake. My job was to fly on Johnny's wing and keep him covered so he could concentrate on the attack, and he knew I wasn't trained to do that job. When I told him I had never fired on an aerial target, he said, "Just run your gun barrels up his arse and pull the trigger!"

That sounded easy if they would just sit still while you do that!

The Squadron was equipped with the late model Spit 9-B, which was much improved, having more power and better performance at altitude. It would out-climb and out-turn anything flying in Europe, which ability was to save my neck that month.

Our first mission was to escort a few light bombers to the Le Havre area. The object was to get the Germans to come up and fight, but they didn't choose to play that day, so the flight was uneventful. We were at eighteen thousand feet; I was amazed to see how dark the sky is up there. I had never been over ten thousand before. The next day it was an escort to the St. Omer area, where there were several fighter airfields. We crossed the channel at ‘naught feet’, which means you don't let your prop touch the water and it keeps you off the radar screens. When you get close to the coast you can hear the radar when it sweeps over you. Makes sort of a ‘whumppp’ sound. That's when you go to full power and climb like mad to get above the light flack before crossing the coast, but the Germans throw up a lot of light stuff anyway. It looks like white golf balls and seems to float up real slow until it gets close and then it really whips by, or explodes. They didn't waste much of the heavy stuff on us but saved it for the bombers. Naturally we stayed a fair piece away from the bombers! Again there were no fighters, and that was strange, as this was the home of the famous Yellow Noses.

The next day was July 14th, Bastille Day, 1943, and the B-17s were going to Paris to help the French celebrate. As we were suiting up Pappy was acting sort of strange. He didn't speak and had a faraway look about him. When we cranked up I looked over and gave him the high sign, but he didn't answer, just sat there looking straight ahead. We crossed the coast and climbed up to the bombers. You don't get close to them and you certainly don't point your nose at them or out will come a red cloud of tracer. I know the German pilots must have had a lot of guts to dive into that storm…but they did.

As we neared Paris Johnny started a dive and I went wide open after him, but he drew away and I couldn't keep up. I saw another airplane diving off to my right, and when I looked back, Johnny was gone. I looked around and found myself all alone in an empty sky. I've heard of many pilots reporting the same thing. Look around and everybody disappears. That happened to me several other times. I heard Johnny call for us to regroup on the port side of the bomber formation, so I headed in that general direction. I was weaving, trying to see under my tail all the time and climbing. Off to my left I saw a lone Spit climbing straight away, without weaving. Suddenly from above a FW-190 dived on that Spit. I yelled "BREAK!" but there was a lot of chatter from the French Squadron in the Wing, and the pilot probably didn't hear me. I turned toward him but it was too late. The 190 fired a short burst…a small streamer of white smoke came from under the belly of the Spit. The 190 and I were on a collision course and came so close I almost hit his tail with my prop. There was a big black eagle or hawk painted on the side of his fuselage. He disappeared under me, so I looked for the other Spit, but it was gone; I was again all alone. I stuck the nose down and ran wide open all the way back to England. Pappy didn't return, and someone reported seeing a Spit go in near Beaune.

Johnny was upset at me for breaking formation, and so was I. I couldn't understand why he could pull away from me every time he went in on an attack. It happened several times. Al Deere had me in his office while he called someone in 8th AF Headquarters, suggesting that I was going to get killed from breaking formation. Whoever it was he talked to said that to make an omelet you had to break some eggs. By this time I had my back up and kept flying.

One day I was scheduled to fly as Al's wingman. It was an ordinary sweep over France. We were at eighteen thousand, and after a while I saw that we were by ourselves. I thought, well, we are the bait and the rest of the Squadron must be up in the sun.

Someone called: "Brutus, you are being bounced by six."

Al replied, "Yes, I see them. Now Major, stay in close and I will call the break. Then it's through the gate and a climbing left turn."

I was thinking, "The gate, the gate." From somewhere in my subconscious it came to me. If I push the throttle to the left and shove it hard I'll break a wire that restricts the forward movement of the throttle and the engine will develop its War Emergency horsepower, which can be used for only a few minutes. All this flashed through my mind in the time it took me to slide over into close formation. Now I knew what the trouble had been. Johnny always went ‘through the gate’ when he attacked! I think I actually laughed out loud. Now I can fly as tight a formation as the best – I was practically scratching the paint on Al's airplane. He called the break and we started a slow left climbing turn. In the thin air at high altitude all turns must be slow and shallow or the ship will stall. After a bit Al said, "You may look back now." I did and looked right down the gun barrels of the leader, with the others strung out behind him.

"Now watch me spin that first Barstard in; tighten it up a bit."

We did…the fight was over, and we headed home. I didn't open my mouth about what had happened, although I was tempted, and Johnny didn't lose me again!

The next time I flew with Johnny we were in the Poitou area. He called, "Major, today you get a shot; there are two of them." We went down in a diving left turn and lined up under them. I slid over to the right behind mine. When we were almost within firing range, they slowly rolled over and dived. Johnny yelled, "Go home!" When we got home I asked them why we let them get away; it looked like we had them cold. He said, "They saw us, therefore they had a chance. That's not the way you play this game. We'll try them again tomorrow."

My month was up and I had flown twenty-three missions with them. I had certainly learned a lot, so I went back to Membury. Johnny was shot down about three weeks later and was badly burned. His story is detailed by Vincent Orange in the book, The Road to Biggin Hill, in which Johnny describes his fight, and how the French underground helped him escape and return to England. I met him again in France after the invasion. He told me that an intensive search of the Beaune area failed to find any trace of Pappy Walker. [Editor’s note: Major Haun and Captain Walker are introduced on pages 85-86 of this publication from Mallinson Rendel; Wellington, New Zealand. In 1987 Johnny Checketts sent a first-run copy personally inscribed to ‘my friend Jim Haun’.]

Both books note Haun's participation in their sorties.  

Another pilot from the Squadron, Johnnie Houlton, in his book, Spitfire Strikes, describes the same fight when Johnny’s plane was hit. Houlton was coming out of France by himself and spotted another Spit down low chasing a ME-109 and went to join up. High above he spotted fourteen FW-190s. Twelve came down and two stayed high. In that climbing, turning evasive action Johnny taught me, they reached the two top 190s but one of them got Checketts, who bailed out of the burning airplane, and Houlton escaped. It would appear that I was not the only one who got separated at times. Both of those fellows, by the way, do a better job of writing than I can. [Note: Houlton characterizes Major Haun as ‘a quiet, impressive man’ on page 110 of Spitfire Strikes, John Murray Publishers Ltd., London, 1985.]

I had one last adventure with the old 12th Squadron. The Germans were making some nuisance raids on the south coast. The papers called them "Tip and Run" raids. FW-190s would come across from the Cherbourg area, each carrying a single heavy bomb. They would stay right down on the water to avoid the radar, pop up over some coastal town, drop their one bomb, and run. They killed a few people, and then one day hit a crowded theater. The 12th was moved to an abandoned field named Ibsley, near the coast. We tried patrols, but that never works, so we went on what is called ‘runway alert’. We kept four aircraft sitting at the end of the runway so when we got a call from Sector we could scramble and then follow their vectors to the target. I had the Sergeant in Ops get a flare gun; when the phone from Sector would ring he would fire a red flare out the window even before he answered the phone. You didn't have to warm up the Spit, which had one tiny radiator under the wing. Even taxiing could cause it to overheat. This day I was sitting there reading a book and smoking my pipe when the red flare went sailing out the Ops window. I threw the book one way and the pipe the other and hit the starter button. As the wheels came up I called Sector (I forget the call sign): "Red section airborne." They gave me a heading and said, "Make angels," meaning get all the altitude you can.

The Channel here is about seventy miles wide, and I was approaching Cherbourg. Sector called again and asked for my altitude. I told him twenty thousand. He said, "Good, he is under your left wing." I banked up to look and the engine quit. I mean it got real quiet! I looked around for my trusty three other airplanes, but there wasn't anyone in sight. Sector called and said, "He has seen you, you can come home now." I kept my mouth shut as I knew the German controller was listening, so I set up a glide for England. The prop was still windmilling, but the engine stayed quiet.

I had been warned that it's not a good idea to try to ditch a Spit because immediately after touchdown it will point its nose straight down and head for the bottom. I don't know if that's true or not, but I wasn't going to find out. At two thousand feet I'm going to roll upside down and leave it. I had the usual Mae West and a one-man inflatable dinghy attached to the parachute. I was sitting on that RAF parachute, which I had somehow forgotten to turn in. The Spit has an excellent glide ratio when it's clean, and I was getting along fairly well. About half way across I figured I could risk a call, so told Sector I was having a little engine trouble and asked that they keep an eye on me. There's a lot of water down there, and I sure didn't want to bail out, knowing my chances of being picked up were slim at best. At three thousand I got unbuckled and had the canopy open, and the engine hit one or two licks! It hit a few more times and a lot of black smoke belched out of the exhausts. At two thousand it was lurching along enough to keep me flying, and the coast was getting closer. I made it back to the runway, but had to be towed to parking.

We found that a diaphragm in the carburetor had ruptured, allowing the engine to have such a rich mixture it wouldn't run until it got down into thicker air. The other three guys had various excuses as to why they turned back. I knew what had happened. I had taken off and headed immediately on course, wide open, and they didn't have a chance to catch up. Don't blame them a bit. Of course I didn't apologize!

We were not having a bit of luck stopping the raids, so one day an RAF squadron leader landed at Ibsley in his Typhoon. He asked if I would object if he and some of his boys came down and had a go at the raiders. I thought that was a very nice way to convey Sector's orders! That Typhoon was quite some airplane. The ones I saw had a twenty-four cylinder X-type engine and bags of power, or so I was told. They put a stop to the raids in short order. Their tactic was to lay low out in the middle of the Channel and wait for Sector to call. Then they popped up; that's all she wrote. We folded our tents and returned to Membury, and I still hadn't got a shot.

The Eighth Air Force in England was a Strategic Force. That is, it was mainly composed of long range bombers and escort fighters. Their mission was to hit the industrial strength of Germany and thus impede that country's ability to make war. The planners believed that bombers armed with ten or more heavy machine guns could fight their way to targets which would be destroyed in daylight with pinpoint bombing. This plan required that they be sent beyond the range of the then available fighter escort, where they suffered terrible losses from German fighters and anti-aircraft fire.

The Ninth Air Force was being formed in England as a Tactical Air Force. Its mission was to support the ground forces in the immediate battle area; it was composed of light and medium bombers, plus fighters and fighter-bombers. Our 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Group was transferred to the 9th Air Force. At that time we were about the only unit available from which to draw personnel to man the new headquarters. When we heard that Brigadier General Quesada from 9th AF was coming to pay us a visit, I knew that a lot of changes were coming.

We had a parade and some of us were decorated with Air Medals and such for our heroic conduct in the face of the Enemy! Then we assembled at Colonel Anderson's office where he was to present his idea on how a Tactical Air Force should be organized. If you think his escort plans were weird, you should have seen this! When he put up his first chart I started slinking down in my chair. He had every Division with its own Air Arm! It was awful. I believe his thinking was dated 1916 or earlier. I rather liked the old man, but he didn't have a clue! Although the General didn't interrupt, I could see his face getting red.

After the meeting, Anderson was brimming with great expectations. "Jim, this is my year. I can feel extraordinary things coming for me." He was transferred to 9th AF HQ and given command of the map room in the basement.

 

 

 

 

 

AppendixDashing enough!

 

Note on Fred Hook – by Jim Jr.

Despite limited appearances in my father’s chronicle, ‘Fred Hook’ – or simply ‘Hook’ as the six-year younger pilot was unfailingly tagged by ‘Big Jim’ – was a huge figure in Dad’s life. Until his death from cancer in 1989, by then Brigadier General Fred G. Hook, Jr. remained our Colonel’s lifelong, and possibly closest, friend. Birds of a feather, their bond was a gift for flight thundering deep in blood and bones.

Less prone to weight around the middle than his buddy Haun, Fred Hook – always hawk-eyed above a pencil-thin mustache – portrayed the quintessential figure of the dashing fighter pilot. I’ll never forget as a kid witnessing him wring out a P-51 at a 1949 Memphis air show. Diving out of a moist overcast, he threw that ship across the field like pitching a clipped-wing fast-ball, corkscrewing in continuous rolls at a hundred feet, then continuing to roll gracefully as that beautiful hot-rod droned up and out of sight. I had never seen an airplane move that fast, or that smoothly! Seeing him afterwards, up close, still harnessed in his military parachute and wearing the backslapping grin of a man coasting on leftover adrenaline, I felt the awe of meeting some kind of bigger-than-life hero. This was my Dad’s pal!

Born in Oklahoma City in 1917 to Fred Hook, Sr. and Lelia M. Hook, a seamstress, he became a member of the Memphis Police Department in the mid 1930s. He enters my Dad’s story in ‘36 or ’37 as the motorcycle cop eager to graduate to barnstorming. Readers will recall Dad’s retelling of his future friend’s antics during Hook’s first flying lesson (upper teeth stuck out, cap backwards, shooting at buzzards!) when instructor Haun immediately recognized a kindred maverick – definitely ‘the sporting type’!

After the pair joined the Army Air Corps because "We want to fly those big airplanes," this two-man threat soon managed, on maneuvers, to earn the ire of General George Patton by clipping his tanks’ aerials with their propellers. ("Very realistic," was Patton’s terse comment.) As the only pilots at Fort Knox much interested in target practice, they spent their off-hours at the skeet range burning up every one else’s ammunition.

In January 1999, three months before his 90th birthday, General Robert M. Lee wrote to Dad to offer condolences for the recent loss of my Mother, Eleanor, whom he remembered from the Godman Field/Fort Knox days. To which he added:

Speaking of Godman Field, about 1939, I was commanding the Base and the Twelfth Squadron. Being a bachelor at the time, I had a girl in Memphis that I used to fly down to see. On one of these trips, I ran into Bill Tunner whom I knew from 1927 at West Point…In ’39, he was in charge of the Air Corps Reserves in the Memphis area. He asked me if I could use a couple of topnotch pilots. General Arnold saw that war was coming and authorized units to 100% over strength in pilots and enlisted, which I was doing. Of course, I said ‘sure!’ He said one was a motorcycle patrolman and the other was a cotton duster. That’s how on or about 1 January 1940 Hook and Haun showed up as my new pilots in the Twelfth Squadron. Bill Tunner was right as you both proved him to be later in Europe.

During the war Hook received the Legion of Merit, Combat Air Medal, and Purple Heart. Afterwards, in 1946 he organized the 155th Fighter Squadron for the Tennessee Air National Guard P-51 unit based in Memphis. As flight instructor there he was instrumental in the 155th Squadron’s receiving national recognition for stunt flying.

Proud Papa in Cuba, 1952.

 Then, before Fidel Castro took over in Cuba, Hook served in the early ‘50s as Chief of the Air Force Mission there. Later, by 1956, already Colonel Hook, having graduated to jets as "supersonic Fred," this pilot’s pilot assumed leadership of the 52nd Fighter Group and Commander of Suffolk County Air Force Base on Long Island. Two and a half years later, the 26th Air Division at Syracuse, New York credited Base CO Fred Hook with having contributed outstandingly to giving the Suffolk facility a complete physical transformation.

In 1959 at age 42 Colonel Hook was promoted to head up the Air Guard’s Operations Office of the National Guard Bureau in the Pentagon. There, as Director of Operations, he served under the Air Guard chief, Maj. General Winston P. Wilson.

Retiring from that Pentagon Bureau with the rank of Brigadier General, Fred G. Hook, Jr. in the early ‘70s became one of the original employees of Federal Express Corp., where his piloting skills helped establish the company’s flight operations. Launched in 1973, that huge enterprise was conceived and overseen by Hook’s stepson, Frederick W. Smith, ongoing president, chairman, and CEO. Fred Smith, himself a commercial pilot from his college days at Yale, said at the time of his stepfather’s death at 72, "He was a very well-known, almost a legendary aviator."

As a final conjunction of these histories, Frederick W. Smith and Colonel James R. Haun, along with flight instructors William K. Kershner and Evelyn Bryan Johnson, constituted the original four inductees into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame at a formal ceremony held at the Tennessee Museum of Aviation in Sevierville, September 7, 2002.

A worthwhile stop in the Smoky Mountains.  A wealth of Aviation history and operational aircraft.

Visit them at www.tnairmuseum.com

 

"Yes, Virginia, you can fly the C-54 solo."

 

Jimmy Haun, Jr.  stormwatch@bellsouth.net
Copyright © U.S. Library of Congress 2004.  All rights reserved.
Revised: November 13, 2009.

Back Home Next