RAF War Story
TK: Do you have any stories that stuck with you from when you were little?
LK: Why don’t you tell the story about my dad flying in the war?
TK: Why don’t you tell it?
LK: My dad was a pilot in the RAF. He flew special missions–
TK: What war was this?
LK:World War Two (hands on head) he would fly planes, mosquito airplanes, American-made planes, to British troops in England… it was a special mission to have the top pilots that were hand picked to fly the polar route… which now most major airlines fly. Back then they had no radar, no heat, and no (shaking head) and no modern plane facilities. The seat was a jumper seat in the plane, there was no second seat for the co pilot. They flew by the stars.
TK: The stars?
LK: They flew by the navigation of the stars and the weather patterns.
TK: Did anything ever really happen where it threatened his life?
LK: Each plane they were successful in bringing to England. Gave them how much (ugh) A thousand dollars a plane, and back in World War Two that was a lot of money, a lot of money. A lot of people didn’t make it. It’s literally flying by the seat of your pants. (Gets up for a second, moves around but then comes back). The British couldn’t build the planes themselves, because they were being bombed from every which end by the Germans, so they would bring at least 5 or 6 planes a week, or at least tried to because they needed as much as they could. (Starts crying).
LK: I think he was the only surviving member… they all died.
TK: How’d they die?
LK: In the ocean. They didn’t make it, the weather, they couldn’t see the sky anymore. At least one died a week or two, because there was always a two man mission. It was terrible.
TK: Did his co-pilot make it?
LK: Yes, always, because he was with him. He broke the record for the quickest flight, but for his last mission he pushed everything out of the plane because he ran out of gas, ran out of fuel, he pushed every single thing he had out of the plane so he could glide in. Oxygen tanks to the extra seat, every single thing that could be pushed out of the plane was. He barely made it, but he did and broke the record for the quickest flight.
TK: How old was he when he did this?
LK: He was in his 30’s, early 20’s wait yeah? I don’t know, I have to look it up. After that he did another mission, who does that? He was sick in the head. Was that feeling of feeling invincible and he did it.
THE INFORMANT: The informant was my mother, who learned this story directly from her father, the pilot in question. Facts are backed up in the historical record.
ANALYSIS: This is an example of a war story passed down through a family to describe the heroism of one of the family members. The extreme danger and bravery involved, as well as the context of a World War, always creates a setting for a dramatic retelling of a family legend. Further information about this case: he won the 1944 speed record for crossing in 7 hours and 9 min. Overall, he was responsible for delivering 33 planes. Incredibly, statistics show that 1 in 4 planes failed to make it. On the flight where he broke the speed record, he only had 1400 miles of fuel when it took 2200 miles to get there and had to get into the north jet stream to blow them there if they caught it. If they didn’t, they would have died.