Thursday, November 26, 2009

Profile 38 - "696" as flown by Lt. Claude Hone

Thanks to a bad case of insomnia, "696" has awoken from her 65 year sleep. Forgive the lousy allusion. It's late even now as I write.

This Corsair is my third - the first one being of Medal of Honor winner and triple-ace James Swett. I did it for the American Fighter Aces Journal a few years ago and frankly, I wish my rendering was up to the man who remains a bona-fide hero. I won't post my poor drawing here. Trust me when I write that my skills have improved a bit.

What you see is Lt. Claude Hone's Corsair. You don't see Japanese kill markings* on the side because Claude...never shot any down. He also didn't get the Medal of Honor. He was an ordinary Marine pilot in an ordinary, hard-working squadron. The sole marking, "696" reflects the austere life they lived on Efate, a hot, sticky island in the New Hebrides island chain. I worked to show the effect of sun-cooked paint, pitted by regular roars down gritty runways...I think it's okay.

Anyway, if you're like me, when you think of "History," defining moments come to mind - specific days, named heroes, revolutionary technology. But in reality, History is stitched together by the mundane and or unsung. WW2 was no exception. The Big Battles make the books, but the anxious, tedious times in-between get ignored.

Especially today, people want reality to be amazing. No, make that Amazing! In fact, as I'm typing this, I'm also wondering if readers will appreciate the airplane of a guy who did what he was called to do, without flinch, without ceremony.

Of course you will. Because such things are, in the end, rare enough to be amazing anyway.


PS - Claude's the guy suited up, ready to go, standing on the left with 696's other assigned pilot and the airplane's ground crew.

PSS - Claude was on the first Marine fighter-bomber mission into Tokyo in February 16, 1945. 8 planes went in, 4 came out.

The photo below is of Claude (back row, standing, far right) with fellow Marine and a couple Navy pilots. Taken in San Diego late April '45, the smiles are pure; their tour is done and they're confident they won't be going back. Yet, the war went on for three and a half more months...



*Marine squadrons didn't typically mark their airplanes with victories anyway but you get my drift.

OH! One last thing. I hope you don't get the idea that Claude is anything like his well-worn "Hog." He's 90 and has a spark of life that is positively brilliant. True story - a month ago, he challenged me to a duel of leg-lifts. He won. Of course, there was a trick to it and I'm looking forward to a rematch.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Profile 37: "Dolph's Devil"

Five, six years ago, a buddy asked me if I had any interest in the Korean War and if so, would I think about ever "...drawing (a particular airplane) of that era?" At the time, I wasn't.

For me, there's value in learning of the noble traits of sacrifice, focused creativity and belief in an Ideal. That's why I can so easily call the ordinary service of the WW2 generation, "Heroic."

But Korea? That was the war that pulled the WW2 guys away from their young families. That was the war that taught me that politicians can determine targets. Yeah, I'm generalizing, but the first taste I had of the Korean Conflict was watching "The Bridges at Toko Ri" on late night TV. A fantastic film, but it left me - even at age ten or so - with a kind of emotional heartburn. The movie ends with the quote of grizzled Admiral asking the audience, "Where do we get such men?" Like I wrote, Korea is the war that pulled the WW2 guys away from...

My understanding is that the Korean Conflict was not about the disease - (Communism) - but about the spread of the disease. That doesn't quite make sense. Patton may have been crazy, but he may have been as a fox when he stated that the Allied world should plow through Russia and met MacArthur in Japan.

Would Korea have happened? The Eastern Bloc? Vietnam? Or did the Yin/Yang of Capitalism & Communism somehow stabilize the world?

Bah. I'm wasting time on a non-issue. But suffice it to say, in the past few years, I've learned that though I don't understand the politics, the same wonderful traits of character were all the more apparent in the heroes of 1950-1953.*

And so, thanks to Morton, I am starting on the machine of a particularly heroic pilot named Dolph Overton. You'll like this one.

*Even now, the "Korean War" isn't officially over.