29 June, 2008

Profile 15 - JOHNNY REB - flown by John O. "Doc" Perritt

John Olin "Doc" Perritt's Mustang, comically titled “Johnny Reb” received hits numerous times. “I was very scared...very scared. I’d be thinking about [bailing] out, which I didn’t want to do. They’d skin you alive if they caught you.”

Fortunately for Doc, none of the hits he received were severe enough to cause him to bail out or crash. He always returned from his missions, a fact he states with a humble pride. Doc recalls considering a decision to stay with his flight or return home.

“My tachometer went out. It measured engine speed. It was a necessary instrument and one that we needed to fly the mission. I was flying as wingman on my Flight Leader and I needed to stay there. (In the end) it was a magician’s trick that I learned that kept me there. The eye processes things in cycles and if you take a strobe light and shine it on a fan, you can make that fan look like it wasn’t moving. I was able to make sure my engine was running at the same rpm as my Flight Leader by tucking up under his tail and looking through my prop arc, match it against my Flight Leaders...and adjust the speed so my prop looked like it was standing still. Then I knew I was running the same rpm as my Flight Leader.”

“When one of us had to turn back, we always sent two. You never sent a guy back alone.” One reason to abort a mission meant two less planes on the attack run, four less bombs on target, thousands of fewer bullets fired and possibly one more munitions train would get through, arming one more garrison for one more day...one more day of soldiers on both sides being killed. The ripple effect of one abort could spoil the whole mission, requiring a second, more costly attempt.

Doc, and so many of the successful airmen, had a belief that above all, the worst thing a guy could do in combat was to let the other guy down.