Posted by: PD Warrior | September 4, 2007

One picture is worth a thousand words…

Lately I have had a couple people inquire about the two aircraft that have their pictures prominently displayed on this site, i.e. what are they? what is their significance to this site etc. So, I thought I had better explain.

First, I love airplanes. My family and friends would probably further qualify that statement by saying I am obsessed with airplanes, a statement that is very close to being accurate, and yet still a huge understatement. That being said, if the planes themselves had no historical significance I would have still included them on this site just because of my passion for anything to do with flying.

It just so happens, though, that both of these magnificent planes- the one in the blog’s header, and the one featured on the side bar- have both personal and historical significance. Both are from the WWII era, a time period that fascinates me almost as much as the planes themselves.

The plane features on my side bar is an F4-U, more commonly known as a Corsair. It was primarily used in the Pacific Theater by both the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Navy. It was initially designed to combat the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M “Zero.” At the time the “Zero” ruled the sky in the Pacific. It could out climb, out dive, out run and out maneuver almost any plane it came up against until the Corsair appeared on the scene. Not only could the Corsair out fly the Zero, it was also more heavily armored, thus more difficult to shoot down.

Of all the airplanes ever built, past and present, the Corsair is my personal favorite. To me the plane is absolutely beautiful in the way it looks with its graceful “inverted gull” wings, and impressive with its service record. On top of that, it was the plane that was flown by my personal hero – Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington of the VMF 214.

Many people probably remember the TV show “Black Sheep Squadron” that was about Boyington and the 214. The show glorified Boyington and the Black Sheep, but in reality Boyington was a self admitted bum with a huge drinking problem. Normally this is not the kind of man that I would chose for a hero, but he had two qualities that impressed me greatly (besides his skill as a pilot)

  1. He was absolutely passionate about airplanes and about flying.
  2. He knew he was not perfect. He knew he was a “rabble rouser” and an alcoholic. He admitted it. He also admitted that most of the things he accomplished in the air were done out of fear and desperation. The last sentance in his autobiography “Baa Baa Black Sheep” was as follows: “Show me a hero, and I’ll prove he’s a bum.”

Then we have the beautiful B-17 that makes up the header of this blog. Specifically, this is a picture of the real “Memphis Belle” which I had the honor and privelege of seeing up close and personal at an airshow I attended 2 years ago.

Many people associate the plane with solely the movie “The Memphis Belle” and don’t realize the plane really existed and the movie was “almost” a true story. I say almost because the movie very accurately portrayed the courage of the pilots and crew members that flew in these magnificent beasts during the  war, and it also portrayed the capabilities of the B-17 to sustain a tremendous amount of damage and still fly. The movie was also based around the crew of the “Belle” completing its 25th mission before being able to return to the states.

In the movie the “Belle” was almost totally destroyed on its last mission, returning to its base on one engine and almost forced to crash land. 

In reality the true miracle of the “Memphis Belle” was the fact that she not only completed 25 missions with her crew, but she did so without ever sustaining any significant damage; something that was almost unheard of. A bomber crew at that time had a life expectancy of 12-15 missions – a survival rate of only about 30%. 

I chose the “Belle” to be my blog’s header because its history represents everything that I hope to be as a person with Parkinson’s Disease. She and her crew survived the war against all odds, and they did so with courage, grace and dignity.

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