Sunday, June 08, 2008

Wikiwander.

Did you know that Roald Dahl, who wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was a British agent in America before our entry into WWII? He also was a fighter pilot, who crashed his Gloster Gladiator during an emergency landing in the Libyan desert.

The Gladiator was the last biplane fighter to see service with the RAF before being replaced by more modern aircraft such as the Supermarine Spitfire. The Spitfire was an amazingly successful design; its only real weakness was short legs that prevented it from serving as a long-range escort for the daylight bombing raids of the U.S. Army Air Force. Everyone knows about the B-17s of the Eighth Air Force and their brave crews, but fewer people know that the Consolidated B-24 Liberator played an equally big role with the Mighty Eighth.

Commanding one of those B-24s over Germany was a man who had to put on weight to enlist in the USAAF as a private before we entered the war. His flying skills got him a commission, and by a combination of wrangling and pleading, the man who would retire from the USAF Reserve in 1968 as a Brigadier General was allowed to fly in combat against the Hun like he wanted. He's better known for his other career, though, because Jimmy Stewart wasn't a half bad actor, either.

15 comments:

Rick R said...

And during his stint in the service, he sent 10% of his wages to his agent. Jimmy figured that's the way his contract was written.

KurtP said...

Another small problem the Spitfire had was that it couldn't dive steeply because the carberator float would cut off the gas.


Ooops.


I think they fixed it by the last year of the war, though.

Tam said...

Early carburetted Merlins had problems with pulling negative g's.

the pawnbroker said...

hard to imagine some of our "celebrities" today being real soldiers and real Americans...

hunger tours, aids tours, rights tours? crib tours? same thing...just another pr gig...they're the ones that should be tithing their agents...

jtc

phlegmfatale said...

I love love loves me some Roald Dahl, particularly his adult short stories. If you haven't read his Uncle Oswald stuff, you really must track it down. Although he appears to have been an unusual person in childhood and before the RAF, his writing clearly indicates he'd seen something of life. I read recently that one of his offspring said he would come to tell them stories in their beds at night, and always managed to convince them there was something impossibly grotesque lurking just outside the window, knowing this delighted them far more than any happy ending could have done. In an age of governmental menace and micromanagement, there's something rather comforting about facing terrors barely evolved beyond slime-mold.

That's my kind of odd.

jimbob86 said...

".... one of his offspring said he would come to tell them stories in their beds at night, and always managed to convince them there was something impossibly grotesque lurking just outside the window..."

In some places, the .gov would consider this child abuse..... any pretext to separate the kids from their parents...

Joseph said...

I knew Stewert was a bomber pilot, but I didn't know he was involved on the Schwienfurt raid.

I cannot imagine being in the cockpit of a bomber, being attacked by enemy aircraft not for minutes, but for hours.

Ben said...

That was a different time to be sure. The world was different. We were different. A good read on D Day plus 2.

Steve Skubinna said...

I was watching some episodes of The World At War (Wal Mart bargain DVD bin, of all places) last week and saw the European strategic bombing campaign one. It featured an interview with Jimmy Stewart.

Jim Sullivan said...

My Grandfather knew Jimmy Stewart. He (my grandfather) flew Liberators as well. Three different ones, in fact.

He was shot down three times. The last time, he was kept hidden by the French Resistence for 8 months. He also fathered 4 illegitimate children (one Britsh child, two French children and a German child; my family is still in touch with the French 'offshoot'(s) of our family tree). Two of my uncles, Rene and Michel are named after the two guys that smuggled him back to the allies.

My grandmother still had all three different letters that were hand delivered to her, informing her of my Grandfather's death(s), when she died at 74 years of age. Needless to say, the bastard children strained her relationship with my Grandfather. But they stayed married for 56 years and had 9 legitimate kids,my mother being the 8th.

My grandpa hated talking about the war, for many reasons, but he always had a pretty high opinion of Jimmy Stewart.

By the way, I remember reading of Roald Dahl's close friendship with both Ian Fleming and Christopher Lee. I've read that Lee was a highly feared commando in his day. Could be apocryphal. But plausible, knowing what we know of their generation.

Anonymous said...

We had a better class of actors back then. Actors that had class.


http://hollywoodheros.tripod.com/



Tokarev

Don Meaker said...

The major problem with the Spitfire was the British system (or lack of it) for training pilots. During the Battle of Britain, there was massive resistance to speeding up the training of fighter pilots. Because of that, amazingly large share of RAF pilots was foreign. The manufacturing processes were also slow. The marvelously efficient elliptically shaped wing required that each longeron (for and aft structural members) be separately fabricated by skilled craftsmen. By contrast the Mustang and Messerschmidt used longerons which were cut to length from common stock. The tapered wings of the Mustang and Messerschmidt Bf-109 was ever so slightly less efficient, but having more aircraft is a benefit too.

The Spit was also developed into a naval variant. Not a bad run for a nice little plane.

Jerry said...

My Dad was in the Eighth Air Force flying B-24s. He flew over 30 missions. I'm going to start posting some of his stories on my blog soon.

http://jwiley.typepad.com/back_home_again/2005/11/eightyeight.html

Matt G said...

"Dahl was rescued and taken to a first-aid post in Mersa Matruh, where he regained consciousness, but not his sight, and was then taken by train to the Royal Navy hospital in Alexandria. There he fell in and out of love with a nurse, Mary Welland. Dahl had fallen in love with her voice while he was blind, but once he regained his sight, he decided that he no longer loved her."

Too funny!

Michael said...

Although to be fair, it's hard to call the Gladiator a fighter, at least in terms of WWII aircraft.