23 May, 2009

Profile 32: SNEEZY Preview

This is my latest work-in-progress, a P-47 Thunderbolt flown by "Mac" McKibben of the 352nd FG. I wanted to get something up in time for Memorial Day. For some reason, I always start with the nose.

Anyway, historian Marc L. Hamel published a story about this particular airplane that's quite fascinating. Marc's letting me share his retelling of the account - click here for a downloadable .pdf on the details of a harrowing day for both pilot and civilian alike.

Nevertheless, "SNEEZY" heaved her last breath on March 8, 1944 over England when the airplane (and Mac) was involved in a multi-airplane mid-air collision. They were assembling formation in extreme fog and someone moved a few inches in the wrong direction...kabang! Tons of aluminum, gasoline and ammo clashed at 200knots. A multi-plane pile up in the sky.

Mac bailed out, SNEEZY augured in. Again, click here to download Marc's in-depth version.

Suffice it to say, accidents killed more of the 352nd than the Nazis. Accidents, such as those that happen while trying to get a formation of 12,000lb fighters together in 10 foot visibility. Risking one's life in mortal combat with the enemy may be honorable, but loss and pain because of an accident before the battle begins seems especially cheap and tragic.

Today, in peace and safety, a pilot would be using basic reasoning to stand on the airfield and announce to the wall of cloud, "No way am I going to take off in this soup!" But in 1944, the greater good overruled and the 352nd climbed to meet their particular responsibility.

The facts are, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are the result of decisions made regardless of odds or circumstances. They don't happen by accident.

Oops! Just found out that SNEEZY was a P-47 C-5 instead of a D-5. Perish the thought!