So this is July 1943, the 8th army is in the process of taking Sicily, and one German airfield was captured so quickly that the Luftwaffe didn’t have time to destroy those aircrafts, so here come a few functioning ME-109s that are left over and one of them had your name on it as far as you were concerned.
You know it was just a quest I just had to have.
Yeah, you couldn’t think about anything else until you had got that ME 109.
Yeah got that one. They got that little island so the first thing I did is get over there with ahead of everybody else find a 109, lay claim to it till I got my crew over there and they put the thing together and I flew it out of there.
What was that like? Was it different?
It was wonderful, it was wonderful. It just it felt like you just, a heavy accomplishment as you got this damn one up and you got it and you’re flying it, it’s a hell of a deal.
You’d never been in a cockpit of one of those before. I have to imagine the controls were different from your American planes.
Oh yeah, that’s right everything was different. First place, the throttle was on the right side, most everything in the cockpit was different. The instruments mostly were similar, different locations, had to get familiar with it a little bit, it wasn’t hard to fly, wasn’t hard to fly.
How far did you take it?
I brought it into our strip in Sicily and parked it in my parking lot.
These strange planes keep showing up. Maybe this is a dumb question, but while you’re flying that German plane with German markings, did you ever think, wait a second I might be making myself a target here, what if somebody doesn’t know it’s me?
Well, that happened. I mean this, when I got the crew up there to get me ready to fly there, we painted stars on it.
But that didn’t make it an American airplane, we painted off the German markings. Oh yeah, it fooled people when I came landing into our base with that 109 it was actually stupid, because they were ready to shoot it down.
I was gonna say, that’s what I would have done.
Yeah, they were ready to shoot it down. I tried to minimize it by going up and down the runway a few times shaking the wings.
So you waved to them but you couldn’t talk to them on the radio because it’s a German plane?
No, no I couldn’t talk to anybody.
And so they were confused about that airplane, it had American markings on it, the guys go rocking the wings down the runway and so but they came damn close to shooting it.
Did you discover that later? After talking to them?
Oh yeah, oh yeah, the anti-aircraft were British, and you know they weren’t to be fooled just because of the markings were different, they saw 109s.
Well I’m glad that we’re sitting here talking.
But I realize you missed your chance of history there, you could have been the only pilot in the whole war, to be shot down as an American pilot flying a German plane shot down by British anti-aircraft.
I’m sorry, I have to apologize.
I’m glad that’s some history you didn’t make.