I have not listed all the Memphis incidents in chronological order. I wish I had kept a diary all my life, especially during my time in service. I look back in happy memories of those years. Yet I sense a guilt complex when I think of those guys who lived in the trenches and faced a wall of bullets for every inch of ground they covered. - Those sailors who fought the Kamikazes or had to abandon a sinking ship in shark infested waters.
Yes, I enjoyed my time in service, but only because of that presence on my shoulder.
We still had hopes of seeing the world and getting a piece of the action. Every month a new carrier was commissioned; the Shangri-La, The Coral Sea, Midway. With each announcement we would storm operations pleading to ship out.
"Hey! We're ready. We're the best! Lets go skipper."
The CO would wave us away saying, "Get out of here. We're fishing experienced guys out of the water faster than we can fit them with ships.
"You'd just foul things up."
I at least had the fun of flying hell out of the yellow perils. By now the cadets would let me fly quite often. I knew the land marks and headings as well as they. Most cadet solos would take us to the north west tip of Tennessee then cross the Mississippi into Jonesboro, Arkansas where we would land and gas up. While the plane was being gassed, the cadet and I would hitch hike to town and buy a coca cola. Save the bottle I was told the first time. "Why", I inquired. "You'll see", said the cadet.
By the time the cadets were soloing, their landings and take offs were pretty smooth.
We'd leave Jonesboro and climb to 2000 feet. Good old Miss. came into view. If we were fortunate, a house boat or barge would be on the river.
We'd set our angle of attack. Throttle back the RPMs and maybe at 200 feet release the coke bottles. We never hit the target, but it pissed off the barge captains. Its a wonder they didn't start carrying shotguns.
They couldn't get our plane number cause we'd flatten out on the water and drop over the tree line. With our aim, you can see how fortunate the Nips would have been.
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