And finally, SilverStringers' Vets Batting the Breeze
...Part four of the interview with Jim Driscoll, Russ Priestley and
With the Editors
In concluding this series, we wish to recognize the efforts of Editor Don Norris, who conceived the idea and conducted the interviews. Moreover, our special thanks go to our Secretary Kay McCarte who took all the notes in shorthand, with the aid of a tape recorder, then translated her own hieroglyphics and finished the job on a typewriter. It took many hours of diliigent effort. All of us express our appreciation here.
BR - Bob Ross
DN - Don Norris
JD - Jim Driscoll
JH - Jini (Virginia) Hanley
KM - Kay McCarte
RP - Russ Priestley
DN: So for all three of you, describe the time you were most frightened during your military time, when you were either threatened by hostile fire, had your engines knocked out, or the seas were so bad you were in danger of capsizing, the motor on your aircraft quit. In your case, Russ, it was that right engine on the A26?
RP: Yes, I think that was the worst of it. I had another small plane where the engine just quit - a Piper Cub.
DN: I flew one of those after the war. I wasn't the pilot, but the guy let me fly the plane. That was a ball.
RP: I was close enough to the airport to see it, I guess, I had the altitude and then you can slip the plane by tipping it up and lose altitude that way, level off, and when you know you have enough room, just pull it down on the runway, so it's an easy plane to land if you don't have a engine. This plane has fixed landing gear which means you couldn't make any mistakes. The P47, P51, P40, all those had the two wheels in front and the tail wheel so if you don't land it just straight, you go veering off the runway - but with the tricycle landing gear, which has the nose wheel in front and the other two wheels are here, you just come down and set two wheels down and the other one comes down. No problem.
BR: If you hit the front first, it collapses and you crush...
RP: You don't do that.
BR: Did you see that piece on the news last night, about the weather in the midwest and this commercial plane coming in - the wind was so bad you could see it moving just like this trying to come down the runway and the guy was explaining it over the news said, "Oh, God, the plane s going to crash!" But he landed the thing, everybody was all shook up, but nobody got hurt.
RP: I heard a story within the past year where this guy tried to land on a runway that was 150 feet long and 10,000 feet wide.
JH: A plane crashed on an aircraft carrier yesterday and took another plane with him. There were six people involved and I think four of them were killed. They couldn't find some of them. Well, they ejected, I think, three in one plane ejected and they couldn't find their bodies.
DN: Is that ejection going to eject them high enough to open a parachute?
RP: Not if they're landing, I wouldn't think so.
JH: They were landing on the carrier --
BR: Well, they got ejection seats that they --
DN: Yeah, I know, but normally in your parachute you've got to open before you get to 200 feet.
JH: If you're in the ejection seat, and it hits the water, that's pretty heavy and it's going to take you pretty far down.
DN: Let's see! Was there any time during you service that you felt that you weren't going to make it home, that we weren't going to win the war? It seems rather naive now, but was there ever a feeling in your time --
BR: We were supermen. We was going to win.
DN: You were sure?
DN: Everybody felt that way?
BR: Always. Well, I'll speak for me. I don t know how they felt.
DN: Did you feel that way, too, Russ?
RP: I didn't think I was superman, just thought that if I did things right I would survive.
BR: I think that is the general consensus. You're young, you don't think about dying. You aren't going to die. You're going to finish off the Japs or the Germans and go home. Isn't that the way you feel, Jim?
JD: As I mentioned before, by the time I came into the area the tide had turned, but I did speak with a lot of soldiers who had started and been through Sicily and Salerno, and the thought of their going to a new invasion in Southern France, they were scared. They just figured their time had run out.
BR: Between the Army and the Navy - that's just a different life.
JD: It really is. Just a bullet --
BR: I had a bed, I had food, I had comfort - considering. Those poor guys, they were out there in the mud, when were they going to eat, how could you get clean. I could take a shower now and then, but we had water rationing also. When the water was turned on you could shower; get wet down, turn water off, soap down, wash, turn water on and rinse. Not the best, but better than nothing. But those people out there, they didn't have that convenience. I dont think you can make a comparison between being a soldier and a sailor. You take the pilots, the fighter pilots, as Russ could say, they don't feel like I did, they were up there getting shot at, I'm down here shooting up so your whole life is different.
RP: Our situation was different, too. You two guys were getting shot at, I wasn't.
DN: You never got shot at all - no snipers, no errant aircraft flying by?
JD: One of your own?
DN: Were you ever injured, wounded, or seriously ill during your service?
BR: Not legally - I mean there was a lot of little incidents that you don't talk about.
DN: I would imagine so, yeah.
KM: The jury will disregard that. (Copy deleted)
BR: Thank you. That was just between us. That was a very comical situation.
DN: Did you ever go ashore into former hostile countries, after the war was over and what reaction did you get? Did anybody do that? Jim, you were in the United States, Russ, you were in Guam --
RP: I did. I went into Japan two days after McArthur had signed the Peace Treaty.
RP: We didn't know what to expect. So I got the old 45 out of my trunk, my footlocker, and put it on. I hadn't worn it all during my service and I put it on just to look important. We're walking down the streets of Tokyo with the 45 and looking over our shoulder. All the Japanese came up to us: chocoletto? cigaretto?
DN: They wanted handouts?
RP: Chocolate and cigarettes.
DN: And they weren't hostile to you?
DN: Even though we had destroyed two of their cities?
RP: I didn't meet any hostile ones and I was right in Tokyo.
DN: How long were you in Japan?
RP: Oh, we were there just a couple of days.
RP: We were flying supplies in there for occupation troops.
JH: But you weren't bringing in chocolates?
RP: No. We would fly to Iwo Jima and gas up and fly the rest of the way.
DN: And the authorities, the generals, would allow you to go out on the streets.
DN: That seems strange, somehow, that they would allow single, individual soldiers to go out on leave.
BR: Most of the people were friendly. They wanted to get this thing over with - you were welcomed.
RP: They didn't know I didn't have any ammunition.
JH: They didn't have guns either, probably.
JD: You had more luck with the enemy than we had with the allies.
BR: They're more hostile today than they was after the war. Everywhere, Europe - well, I haven't been to Japan, but I've been in Europe and they're still hostile - Get out, Americans.
DN: Did you go to Japan after the war?
BR: Oh, no. I was in the bay when they signed the armistice - that's where the ship was. That's in the little pamphlet I had - it's in my basket if you want to read it.
JD: We're still waiting for yours (story of the war), Jini.
JH: It's still in my head - see, I had written half of it when my computer died.
JD: Neil, her brother and I were classmates.
DN: Let's see, nobody was married during the war, right?
BR: Thank God.
DN: Too much fun?
BR: Yeah, if you were married, you couldn't fool around - well, a lot did.
DN: You weren't married, Jim, or you, Russ?
BR: They both say, Thank God.
RP: We had one guy who was married and he got a Dear John letter and he was just, oh, wow, it hit him so bad. He was wearing shorts and his pith helmet and sat in his room in the barracks drinking beer for about a week.
BR: How was your mail situation on that small craft, Jim?
JD: All I can remember is getting a big pile. I used to wonder how they ever caught up with us anyhow.
February 19, 1999