Cowboy: interpreter, warlord, one more casualty

A little plane in a big war

Janey: A Little Plane in a Big War (Alfred Schultz)

"Dawn's first light crested the eastern hills and gave the earth a rosy glow. Flying on such a day was pure joy. Smooth, dense, misty morning air slowly released its grip as light emerged from the countryside, fulfilling the promise of another day. Our fears vanished as we soared above the sleeping ground. We were immortal. From our perch above the commotion, we watched the world come to life to begin another day of killing."

Normally I'm turned off by the High Literary Style, but the way that passage ends with the knife-twist--"another day of killing"--redeems it with room to spare. Time and again in Schultz's book, he and his collaborator pull off that neat trick: loving memories entangled with the ordinariness of war.

(Like the time Schultz lands Janey in a vineyard that turns out to be a German minefield. He's full of morning coffee, and one of his great hopes on landing was to empty his bladder. There's nothing for it! He just has to piss his pants.)

Schultz and Janey fly and fight with the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division through North Africa, Sicily, the Anzio beachhead and the advance to Rome, and finally the invasion of southern France. They both survive--quite an accomplishment, not only for the pilot but especially for the Piper Cub. Among other tricks, they take off from an LST "aircraft carrier" whose tiny plywood deck is greatly supplemented by 24 knots of wind over the bow:

Of course I am sappy about Piper Cubs. But I really enjoyed this book, and I recommend it highly. Alas, it's out of print, and I'm sorry to say the copies shown on are a bit pricey.

Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Taildragger Tales

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