11 June, 2008

Profile 5 - CAROL flown by Raymond Mitchell

Ray tells a story that illustrates the utter need for expert Ground Crew and support for the pilots and planes. When the 328th FS moved from Bodney, England to a forward base in Asch, Belgium, the pilots were the first to arrive, in their planes, with the Ground Crew arriving a few days later.

Stuffing his belongings into the nooks and crannies of his P-51, Ray was given a set of spark plugs for Carol's 12 cylinder Rolls-Royce engine. Standing on that same airfield in 2003, Ray laughed easily at the event. "I wouldn't have had the slightest clue what to do with them! I hadn't ever opened the hood of the plane let alone change the things!"

Though Ray admits a level of ignorance in the mechanics of the engine, he remains deeply in-tune with the souls of his countrymen.

Ray and I stood by the grave of a fallen Bluenoser at a military cemetary in England - one of those with manicured greens and rows and rows of white crosses... anyway, it was a cold day, the clouds were low and the chilling rain spat at our faces.

To be honest, I wasn't really into the moment. For some reason, however, I stood by Ray as he, in his soaking Spring-weight jacket, looked at the cross. We didn't say anything for maybe 10, 15 seconds, then he reached out and touched the bleached marble. His hand no more than brushed the smooth polished surface, and he stuffed it back into his coat pocket. “They’re so cold,” he said matter of factly, almost under his breath. A few seconds passed and he added somewhat self consciously, “I don’t know why I expected it to be warm."

Warriors remember their dead.