Wednesday, June 24, 2015

With all of this crap

 going on over a damned flag in South Carolina I figure I ought to tell a couple of tales of woe of my service under the Stars and Bars.

Back in the 80s when I lived in Kodiak I worked part time for a local air service. They were a rag tag bunch and were a lot of fun. I pulled a lot of shenanigans with the guys and would wind up getting fired about twice a week. This was immediately followed by getting hired back with a final warning.

One time I handed a two month old baby to a pilot and told him to drop it off at Old Harbor. His jaw hit the floor and he demanded to know where I got the baby. I told him the baby was left behind on the Ship's Bar and the mother forgot it. It was going to be a COD deal and they were back in Old Harbor waiting.

Of course, I was immediately fired. I shrugged and handed the pilot the baby and started to walk off. 

"What am I going to do with this infant?" demanded the pilot. I immediately quoted the Three Stooges.

"Hold him for thirty days," I said. "If nobody claims him, he's YOURS!" Then I walked out.

He stood there aghast wondering what to do with a two month old infant for about a full minute when the mother stepped out of the broom closet laughing herself silly.

I was instantly rehired and then we saw one of our other planes land. "Pic, put the baby on your desk and she and I will hide in the closet! Lets watch Dave deal with it!"

Anyway, it was the most professional yet unprofessional rag tag outfit I ever worked with.

One day the subject of the (then)Confederate (now Commemorative) Air Force came up and about four or five of us joined up and were immediately commissioned as colonels. Three or four of us also sent in for the CAF blood chits which we sewed on our leather flight jackets.

Here's what a CAF blood chit looks like:

If you don't know what the CAF is then Google it.

Now this was long before the days of the internet and things were harder to look up. Occasionally someone would ask me what the blood chit was all about. I'd explain to them that it was a group of guys that kept a bunch of WW2 aircraft up and running.

One day a familiar face came up to me when I was working on a housing frame-up. It was pretty chilly that day and I was wearing the jacket with the CAF blood chit on it. The face was Norm Wingate, the local building inspector.

He was an old timer on Kodiak, having been posted there during WW2 and assigned to an all black segregated unit. He liked what he saw and returned after the war to make his home there.

He was well likes and respected and was really a pretty classy guy. I liked Norm even though visits from him were sometimes a pain in the neck.

Norm didn't go charging into things when he saw something out of place. He knew a lot of things were not as they appeared. 

He was one of the truly decent government types I have ever met. He has been the only government type, state or federal to listen to an argument and actually say, "You may be right. I'll have to look into this."

He was THAT kind of guy.

In a voice that emitted curiosity he asked me about the Confederate flag on the back of my jacket.

"I'm a colonel in the Confederate Air Force," I replied. "The patch on my back is in case I get shot down." Then I grinned. "Don't worry, Norm. It ain't no KKK. They keep a fleet of WW2 warbirds flying...supposedly in case the south has to rise again. There's a lot of tongue in cheek. They're out of Texas."

"Really?" he asked. "Sounds interesting. Why Confederate Air Force?" Norm asked. 

"Probably like a lot of stuff the name came out of an inane conversation or something. Who knows? You have to admit it IS pretty funny. They had no airplanes in the Civil War," I answered.

"It does sound kind of odd." he said. "I had to ask. How come you're a colonel?"

"Tell you what." I said. "You're well worth atwo bit stamp. I'll send them a letter. Tell your wife to expect a package from the CAF sometime in the next month or so. Tell her NOT to throw it out. Read it...Hey, you were a WW2 guy and stationed here, an enlisted guy in a segregated unit. Wanna become an Air Force colonel?"

He laughed shook his head and wandered off. That night I wrote for an information/application package and had it sent to him.

A couple of months later I ran into him again. He was grinning which was nothing new. He always grinned when he saw me because he never knew what to expect from me. I always kept him guessing.

"Hey, Colonel," he said. "Can I buy you a mint julip at the Village?"

I laughed. "What's the occasion? You a colonel in the Confederate Air Force or something?"

"I want to wet down my new rank." he said with a big grin.

From Wikipedia:

"In 2002 it changed its name to Commemorative Air Force after a vote of the membership. Many felt the name Confederate Air Force was confusing, did not accurately reflect the purpose of the organization, and was detrimental to fundraising efforts.[7] This name change was deemed by some fans to be a move of political correctness. According to CAF chief of staff Ray Kinney, "In many people's minds, the word 'confederacy' brings up the image of slavery and discrimination. We, in no way, are associated with that kind of stuff. So, it gives us, in a way, a black-eye."

Personally I agree that changing the name made sense. Had I still been a voting member I would have voted for the name change because it made it easier to raise funds. A lot of people have no sense of humor. Still, when they did that it lost a bit of its charm.

Somewhere in my goods and garbage is an old Confederate Air Force blood chit. I don't remember if I took it off of my old jacket or not. I'll have to look.

I'd love to sew it on but living in Pittsburgh would make it too much trouble. I was recently given and AVG blood chit reproduction and sewed it on the INSIDE of an A-2 jacket. Besides being historically correct on the inside I did it because there are too many people in Pittsburgh that would keep asking me what it was.

Lord only knows what kind of unwanted attention a Confederate Air Force blood chit would draw. Wearing it in Philly is absolutely out of the question. 

Still, I see the humor in the origins of the organization and I rate the old name right up there with the Jamaican Bobsled team for its 'What the....?!" value. Both the CAF and the Jamaican Bobsled Team are things I follow, but I am a perverse person anyway. 

Incidentally, in my ham radio logbook there is a QSO I made with "FiFi", the only flying B-29 in existence. I can thank the CAF for that one, too.

To find out why the blog is pink just cut and paste this: NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN THE WRITING OF TODAY'S ESSAY

No comments:

Post a Comment