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|I just finished reading an article in the
Readers' Digest about a mother's recollection of her father's teaching
her to drive--thirty years ago. And how that memory relates to her--present
day--task of teaching her own children to drive.
The theme is how her father exercised patience with her, and how she
is trying to do likewise--but finding it difficult; she wished her father
could "come back" and share his secret with her.
Reading this, reminded me of my son, Lee's, early driving experiences.
Lee learned from "the pro" at his school's Driver's Ed course.
As I recall, Lee had little confidence in the instructor, and pretty
much drew his own conclusions about this new discipline. 
Lee's mother did a great thing by trusting Lee enough to help him get
his very own automobile--a 1984 Ford Bronco.
Lee loved the freedom, of which it had a double portion--it was a four-wheel-drive
Great for "Tooling thru the Tulles."
Lee soon learned the difference between the Hype of "4-WHEELING," and
the deep realities of a vehicle with 4-wheel drive.
Jumping ahead a little more:
Not long after Lee got his Bronco, that Fall--late in the season, he
and I went camping in the mountains toward Boone.
Lee did the driving.
Now, we all know how it is having a parent in the car with us--especially
in our early driving years--you know, the first ten to thirty! Well anyway,
Lee is very aware he has an "Instructor Pilot" in the Right Seat
making judgments on his skills as a brand new occupant of the Left Seat.
And, of course, he is right.
However, I did make a point of leaving my clipboard at Home--this time!
The weather was cold and as we drove West, the road conditions started
to deteriorate--a mixture of water from melting ice and the occasional
patch of ice that hadn't yet had the sun's warmth. Lee handled all of this
as though he had been born to it!
When I was his age, I alternated between being too cautious, and
throwing caution to the wind. Nobody ever accused me of having good judgment--ego
yes, judgment No!
Lee is one of those people whose judgment has always seemed to be just
the right balance between intellect and emotion.
I made a decision:
I had known this kid for all of his sixteen plus years, and
I had rarely--if ever--found his judgment lacking. So what was different
now? The answer was, nothing. --And his proven driving skills up to that
point hadn't hurt this premise.
At that point in time, and on that trip, was the last time I consciously--or
unconsciously--critiqued his skills as a driver. --No more right-foot
synchronized brake peddling for me.
From there on out, I became a tourist.
Instead of watching the distance between the road's edge and the Bronco's
right front wheel, I sat back and took-in the magnificent scenery and enjoyed
the rest of the trip; and since that time, I have never looked back!
Lest it be misunderstood, I am not claiming a parallel between me and
the patient father in the aforementioned Readers' Digest story.
This is about a young man who is Trustworthy!
| One of the most effective learning tools--for
some people--is to have an instructor whom you Do Not Trust to give you
the real poop! That is to say: you check out everything they say--trying
to catch them making a mistake.
A requirement of course, is that you first must really want to know
the subject matter.
The magic of this combination, is that you pay much closer attention
to what's being dispensed, than you would otherwise.
|When I was twenty four, I worked as a civilian
electronics technician at the Nike Zeus anti-ballistic missile test facility,
run by the U.S. Army, located in the Pacific on Kwajalein, Atoll, Marshal
On a return trip to the island, after vacation, I had just sat down
in the connecting bus to our charter flight from Oakland to Honolulu, when
a middle-aged man wearing a flowered shirt sat down beside me.
On the trip to the airport we chatted amiably, and the conversation
got around to the Army's Nike-Zeus anti-missile system. Having just finished
a tour with the U.S. Air Force I felt compelled to contrast the Army's
Nike-Zeus with the Air Force's anti-missile approach. I raved on; about
how the Air Force's boost-phase intercept was superior to the Army's
He listened very patiently, never disagreeing. When the bus reached
its destination, we parted company.
About a week after having returned to the island, my boss, myself and
several fellow workers were entering the Officer's Club for lunch, when
I was greeted by the outstretched hand of a U.S. Army, Four Star General
with his entourage of assorted bird colonels and majors in tow.
I did a double-take. It was the guy on the bus!
With his entourage patiently waiting, we chatted like long lost friends
for a few minutes; never once alluding to our previous conversation--he
After taking our leave of one another, my boss, who was suitably impressed,
turned to me and asked how was it that I knew the head of the U.S. Army
|At nineteen, I was the youngest Installer
in a Western Electric installation group that went from city to city installing
telephone central office equipment.
Being the youngest in a group of old salts, I was often the butt
of jokes and the derision sometimes given to the young by the "veterans."
Also, as I was to find out later, a lot of the mistakes made in the installation
were blamed on me.
I discovered this one day after the completion of an unusually large
job at the U.S. Air Force's SAGE air defense filter center, at Fort Lee,
The project manager--Captain Cook--a rather stern man whom we all were
a little afraid of, gathered all the employees for a mass meeting.
Out of the blue, he called me up to the front. Standing behind me with
one hand on my shoulder, he said that the installation was ahead of schedule
and was a success, and that he wanted to thank Williamson especially,
for "single-handedly installing the office."
He said that he knew I had single-handedly done the job because every
mistake found in the entire installation had been blamed on me, therefore
I "must have been all over the place."
From that day on, I was never blamed for another mistake--I had been
|In the late fifties I was stationed at
Turner Air Force Base in Albany, Georgia.
Because of the fear of being caught on the ground by the recently deployed
Russian ICBMS, the then head of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), General
Curtis LeMay, required the B-52 crews to constantly practice getting off
the ground and into the air ever faster.
General LeMay was so concerned that the air crews take these training
exercises seriously that if a crew aborted on takeoff they were all busted-down
one rank; however if a crew excelled, they could all be raised one rank.
One technique for fast response, was to takeoff two abreast on runways
that weren't intended for such a feat. Because the B-52 pilot could not
see the outrigger wheels which were located near the tip of its swept back
wings, he had to rely on the enlisted tail gunner, who rode backwards in
the tail turret, to call out corrections in order not to run off the runway,
or into the adjacent B-52.
On one such "Seven High" exercise, an overly excited tail gunner called
out a "Right" correction to the pilot when it should have been "Left",
and the worst happened....
For the next month, the tail gunner was seen around base carrying a
large red brick with the letter "R" painted on it, in his left hand.
He was just not "ambidextrous."
|In my days with Bell Labs/Western Electric's
Nike Zeus Project, on Kwajalein Island, every morning after breakfast,
we would all pile on buses for the short trip, up the Island to the "Technical
Area," where the missile launch facilities, RADARs, etc., were.
As the bus would near the Technical Area, it was filled to capacity
with a bunch of "zombies," nobody was talking to anybody. We were all setting
there as if we had had a really bad night, the night before--as some had.
On the bus ride, we were required to stop at the "guard shack" where
the civilian security guard would board the bus and check everyone's I.D.
There was this particular guard, who when he came on board--taking his
time, would speak to everybody--individually; making small talk and cracking
jokes--just a happy guy.
When he would leave the bus, he would make some parting remark that
seemed to always be original, and very funny--breaking everyone up.
As the bus started to move out, everybody--I mean everybody would be
in animated conversion with someone else. It was as if a bunch of dummies
had just had their switches thrown! It was one of the most amazing things
I have ever seen.
His enthusiasm was "infectious."
The sad ending to this story, was that after about six or eight months
on the island, he was fired. The story was that he had been keeping Beer
in his water cooler; which just happen to be located in an unairconditioned
wooden shack in the hot equatorial sun (just 8 degrees above of the Equator).
of 59, near the completion of a yearly check ride of a B-52 crew over Presque
Isle, Maine: the instructor pilot (IP) who was sitting in a "jump seat"
behind the Aircraft Commander's (AC) position, gave the final instruction,
"intercept and turn inbound on Presque Isle VOR's Two Seven Zero radial."
The AC intercepts the radial and begins his coordinated turn (the correct
roll and turn rate).
The IP became distracted by a radio call or a call on the intercom,
and when he looked back to the AC's progress, he saw that the AC was not
rolling out soon enough on the 270 radial; he excitedly shouts: "Roll Out,
The Navigator thinking he heard the command, "Bail Out, Bail Out"--Ejects!
There is Confusion!
Everybody else follows the Navigator, including the AC; the Tail Gunner--who
rides backwards in the tail--this is a "D" model B-52--leaves the aircraft
by releasing and pushing his guns forward and out; as they fall away, he
pushes himself out and opens his parachute.
In less than 20 seconds everybody is gone. Everybody, that is, except
the IP, who has no ejection seat.
He soon figures out that there was no emergency--except, NOW there is!
As soon as the IP gathers his wits, he gets up and goes to where the
seat was, and grabbing the aileron wheel, recovers the aircraft from
it's slow roll, back to a straight and level attitude. Since there are
no seats at either the pilot or copilot's position, the IP cannot use the
rudder peddles and he knows he also could not apply the brakes on landing.
Under the best conditions, one person landing a B-52 is a very difficult
task; but to try doing it with no seat would be fatal!
Knowing this, the IP calls Presque Isle Approach and declares
an emergency! Since he is the only crew member on board, the IP is now
the AC, and as such, is in command, making command decisions, i.e., it
is his call what to do next. --Should he try to land this thing or should
he bail out?
In his mind there is only one answer: he sets the aircraft's autopilot
to an easterly heading that would take it out over the Atlantic Ocean while
requesting TAC fighters to scramble and shoot down a "perfectly good"--nine
million dollar strategic bomber! Then, wearing his chute, he climbs down
into the--now open--bombay and bails out over land.
All ot the crew was recovered but for one--the Tail Gunner: a master
sergeant who had retrained from his former career field of Survival Instructor.
He was finally found six weeks later in his
survival tent, which just happened to be covered by snow. He was feeling
no pain, but he was running low on dessert. --Later there was suspicion
that he had purposely eluded discovery hoping to avoid having to testify
at the Board's inquiry.
At the inquiry, it was determined that there was mis-communications
among the crew. And, because of the rash of--very sudden--B-52 midair explosions
and fires; and the General Order: "Upon getting the command to 'Bail Out,'
leave the aircraft immediately!"
As for the IP, he was found negligent in not landing the aircraft. The
Board claimed that he could have "fashioned a seat from empty parachute
containers on board, and landed the B-52 in a safe manner."
Sun, 24 May 1998
I don't know if you wish someone --particularly a Veteran-- "Happy
Memorial Day" or not.
Watching several Memorial Day related things on TV in recent days
reminded me of "My" WWII days.
I remember the scrap metal drives, the air raid drills --turning
out all the lights, pulling the shades and sitting in one room
with the only illumination coming from a dim yellow light bulb half
of which was painted black.
And the Star hanging in the front window --over the couch, telling
the neighbors that My "Big Brother" was Serving his/our Country.
Needless to say I was proud of my Big Brother Harry!
Later as the War dragged on and the endless parade of Soldiers
being buried on a daily --sometimes twice daily-- basis; many
with no Next-of-Kin, only Legionaries at graveside. (Thank
God for the Legionaries, at least they understood what these
young men, and their families had sacrificed).
It slowly dawned on me --what Mom & Dad already knew-- that
one day one of these brave young men could be You. It was a
realization --in a child's way of picturing the world --that My Big
Brother --My Hero --was truly in "Harm's Way," and that I might never
see him again. My nightly prayers became more than a childish
recitation from there on out.
I remember going to the movies and watching my Heroes like John
Wayne and Randolph Scott, single-handedly winning the WAR;
sometimes the news reels would show something a little closer
to reality, and occasionally there would be shots of, what to me
then --as now --was the sadist sight in the world: scenes of
a beach-head were some of the guys never even made it to shore;
they were floating in the back water face-up, sometimes partially
covered by sand. It was a picture of "Promise that was to never
Then came the thing that every loved-one cringed at the mere thought
of: "The Telegram." --Boy how it Stung! But
at least You were still ALIVE!
Later we got news that you had won the Purple Heart, and the Silver
Star for "Gallantry in Action." Boy was I proud of My Big Brother.
He was a Hero!
In the many years since, I look back at My childhood collection
of Heroes: Joe Louis, Babe Ruth, John Wayne, and years later,
Barry Goldwater; and My Big Brother Harry.
Most "Heroes" can never live up to that Word, and never wish to.
Reflecting back over my lifetime, I try to think of who my REAL
Heroes were. I realize that My Big Brother Harry, had a Profound
Impact on my life!
To Me You have been a Brother, a "Father," a Role Model, and a
To God and Country, You are a Decent, Honest and a Caring Son,
Husband, Father & Friend.
Sadly, too often the Real Heroes go unrecognized --even by those
Harry, this Memorial Day seems a good time to tell You that you
are My Hero, and that You have always been --whether I have
always known it at the time or not!
And, that your Medals have nothing to do in making you that Hero,
but are confirmation of that fact.
Thanks to You and your Comrades, I never had to Fight a War. And
--God Willing --my children will never have to Fight a War.
--For that, I Thank You!
I Love You Big Brother Harry, and God Bless America.
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