10 August, 2008

Profile 24 - DIMPLES flown by JD Collinsworth

It's a shame "Dimples" isn't one of my better pieces because JD "Jerry" Collinsworth is an unforgettable, excellent man of far greater honor than reflected by my almost-lousy rendering of his Spitfire.  He possessed the rare skill of Encouragement - not the arm-around-the-shoulder, "Aw, you can do it!" but the kind that's more pragmatic, systematic - "Let's examine the facts..." kind of guy.

JD had asked about my interest in WWII aviation and in the course of explanation, I said something to the effect of, "I'd have liked to have been born earlier so I could have tried my hand at a Spitfire, but my eyes are too bad."

"Funny you should say that..." he drawled, and  told of the time he stood in line at the end of his Army physical, convinced he’d lost his chance at being a fighter pilot because of his sub-standard eyesight.

The way he told it, I could picture him shuffling along a row of underwear-clad men, awaiting the stamp of approval or rejection from the doctor at the head of the line. With every dull THUD! of inked rubber on paper, Jerry would wince, knowing that his rejection was next...

His eyes swelled up - his dream of flying in the Army Air Corps crumpling  like an airplane crashing through a forest of concrete pillars. Thud, rip, smash... “Next!”

Eventually, Jerry took his turn to stand before the doctor and present his damning documents. Without a word, Jerry handed the paperwork over to the doctor. He could contain his pride, but he could not contain the single tear that made it’s way down his cheek. JD was specific about the "single tear."

He was a “Thud!” away from tethering his dream of flying fighter planes.

It was then that the doctor looked up at Jerry, rifled through the papers, perhaps paused a moment or two over the eye examination, and instead of stamping a rejection, scribbled the words, “Sunglasses, Prescription Ground” on the form, and passed Jerry on the flight physical. Now, a fighter pilot just didn’t wear prescription glasses! Yet, most wore sunglasses - if the lenses needed tweaking a little, what would that matter? Jerry was approved and passed on down the line, dumbstruck and generations later, still grateful.

Perhaps that doctor could sense the potential for success inside Jerry. Maybe the doctor wanted to be a pilot too? Looking back, Jerry seems to believe the doctor saw the single tear. Why the doctor offered this bit of compassion, Jerry was never able to find out. But because of that unexpected approval, JD Collinsworth went on to shoot down six Nazi fighter planes over the sands of North Africa and rocks along the Mediterranean.

One of my computer monitor’s “wallpaper” is of Jerry sitting in the cockpit of his Spitfire fighter plane, wearing those “prescription ground” sunglasses.

By the way, "Dimples" was named for a "cute girl from Taft" California.  They never dated, but she sent him mail before he went off to England in 1943.