Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In reading about the Buckleys, I am reminded that when my father died in 1999, one of my sisters wanted to write the story of his life geared toward children, so the younger grandchildren would know of him. Each of us could contribute stories which Dad told-which were many. I still think it is a great idea, but nothing has ever come of it.

However, to start some sort of preservation of some of the stories I remember, I relate one or two now.

Dad signed up for the Navy in the days or weeks following Pearl Harbor. He was 21 years old in 1941. He joined the Naval Air Corps because he figured being a pilot was the fastest track to becoming an officer. He went so far as memorizing the eye chart to make sure he got in the program. (The results of this are chronicled below.)

I recall him telling of those classmates who said, "Boy I sure hope the war is still on when I get my wings!" My Dad thought such sentiments were crazy. He knew more than one air cadet who died in training. He himself had some harrowing escapes.

Two stories in particular come to mind. In one he was doing a solo in a trainer biplane. It caught on fire, and he had done the prescribed dives etc. to try to put the fire out-but nothing was helping. So he started to climb out on the wing to jump but contemplated that although he was wearing a chute, there was no guarantee it was on correctly or tightened properly (he said the parachute training was not particularly conscientious). Thus he climbed back in the plane and landed it safely.

A second time he was doing a solo in a trainer (this one not a biplane-it escapes my memory which plane it was-I think the US Army version was called the Texan) and the landing gear would not go down. Again, he began to get ready to jump. But once again he decided to take his chances and landed in a field without the gear down.

Eventually his poor eyesight was found out. Dad had bad depth perception-a trait I share (finding out when I applied for a USAF pilot slot when I was in college at The Citadel.) He didn't always know where the ground was-especially when he was required to land without instruments. More than once he stalled the plane when he thought the ground was closer than it was. This finally washed him out of the program.

My understanding is that Dad spent most of the rest of the war as a trainer (including dismantling booby traps) on an island somewhere in the Caribbean. He left the Navy some time after the war ended as a petty officer (I can't remember what 'class'.)

Oremus pro invicem!

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