Paper Planes

Uncategorized May 18, 2013

Today I received a call from Jim Ballard, who said he wanted to stop by to show me something related to my exhibit.  The spritely 80 year old man showed up with two paper bags, inside were several carefully packed World War II aircraft made from paper.  These were models he’d made from kits downloaded off the internet, all painstakingly cut and assembled.  With each plane pulled from the bag he’d test me on its identity.  The son of a WW II pilot remembers a lot.  I got all eight models correct.  As we talked about them, two older gentlemen who turned out to be WW II veterans stopped by.  Jim Buchanan leaned over the table, pointed to the Corsair, a fighter, and said: “That was the plane I worked on” and talked about the difficulty of doing oil changes among other things.

His friend Allan Carpenter, told us he was in the Army Air Corps.  ” I was in gunnery school at Buckingham, near Ft. Myer FL,” he said pointing to another paper plane: a two-seater trainer.  “I sat in back facing backward and practiced target shooting.”   Then he told us about the time he was training out over the Gulf of Mexico.  “We didn’t have headsets -just the thin helmets which meant lots of yelling over the roar of the engine.  I thought I heard the pilot yell “Save your ass!”   So I jumped over the side and parachuted into the water. ”

“I was eventually picked up and brought back to base,” Allan continued.  The back story is that empty shell casings were to be saved as brass was expensive.  When the instructor pilot I’d been flying with saw me, he marched over and yelled in my face.  “I oughta throw you in the brig for insubordination!” he began. “I told you to save the BRASS, not save your ASS!”

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For over three decades my profession was as an author and illustrator of children's books. Firefighters A to Z (McElderry Books/S&S) was chosen as a "Best Book" by the NY Times (2000). Over 100 titles are attached to my name. In 2011 my life changed the moment I saw a photo of a WW II fighter pilot. Nineteen year old Griffin Holland, P-47 pilot stood erect on the wheel of his plane, staring off into the distance, cocky as all get out. The need to paint that photo and Griff's tearful reaction to it as an 88 year old man set this journey in motion.

Comment 1

  1. Christine Lurk (aka "Miss Victory" and Amelia Earhart) says on June 22, 2013

    Oh my gosh, that’s too funny! All the more reason they needed gosport tubes in their helmets, righto?

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