Warbirds And Warhawks or Boomers And Bombers

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Plane Commons

Author: Doug Mortimer

Disasters happen every day.  The higher the body count, the more attention one pays.  Six bodies is not a big deal, relatively speaking.  That’s just your basic school shooting or the weekly clash of Saturday night fever and Saturday night specials in Chicago.  But when it happens in your neighborhood, you sit up and pay attention.

I live near the Dallas Executive Airport.  Seeing or hearing planes in the air over my neighborhood is an everyday occurrence.  On the morning of Saturday, November 12, I heard what sounded like a noisy old prop plane flying overhead.  I remembered the Wings Over Dallas air show was taking place that weekend.  The show is put on by the Commemorative Air Force, a non-profit organization that showcases World War II era airplanes in action.  It is a rare opportunity to experience them as something more than just museum pieces.

Imagine my shock later that day when I clicked on an internet news site and discovered that the lead story was about two warbirds, as old military aircraft are called, that had collided in mid-air at the air show.

I have driven up and down US Highway 67 at the south end of the airport more times than I could estimate.  In days of old, when a blimp was the vehicle of choice for capturing aerial shots over stadiums, I often saw one anchored at the airport before some nationally televised sports event taking place in North Texas.  Now the highway was closed due to post-crash debris.

The collision between the two planes, a Boeing B-17 (popularly known as a flying fortress) and a Bell P-62 Kingcobra, was recorded on video from a variety of angles by spectators on the ground.  Several were posted on the internet.  They were difficult to watch even before the identity of the victims was verified.  Here today, gone tomorrow is humbling enough; here one second, gone the next is particularly sobering.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation, but it was described as follows:

The P-63 overtook the B-17 on a descending trajectory during low-level maneuvers and impacted the aircraft from the port side, at a point just above and aft of the B-17’s wings. The tail section of Texas Raiders [as the B-17 was nicknamed] was severed from the rest of the aircraft due to the collision and both aircraft were destroyed in the resulting impact with the ground.

Now we have the victims’ names (Terry Barker, Craig Hutain, Kevin Michels, Dan Ragan, Leonard Root, and Curt Rowe) and faces.  It is no surprise that all six victims (five on the B-17, one on the P-62) were men of the Caucasian persuasion.  In one fell swoop – literally – they joined the ranks of dead white males, and in some quarters, that would be cause for jubilation.

It is surprising that 87-year-old Dan Ragan had been a crew member on board a B-17 during the Korean War.  The other victims, by all appearances, are baby boomers.  Boomers, of course, are much maligned today by the generations that came after.  Yet another reason for jubilation in some quarters.

Boomers, of course, did not fight in World War II, but they certainly heard about it from their fathers.  America’s factories, the much-vaunted Arsenal of Democracy, had churned out thousands of full-fledged warbirds.  Long after jets had replaced propeller-driven planes, the fighters and bombers the Boomers saw portrayed in war movies and on TV shows still appealed to their imagination.  If you were a boy growing up in the postwar period, the B-17 was especially cool, for lack of a better word.

Building and defending a fort in your backyard was literally child’s play in those days.  Today a social worker or child psychologist would probably consider it incipient toxic masculinity.  But when Boeing designed a fort that could fly, they inadvertently created a superb vehicle for youthful fantasies.

Today I suspect the whiz-bang effect of the B-17 has been muted.  The flying fortress can’t compete with the supersonic aircraft of today, not to mention the interstellar airships featured in science fiction movies and video games.

Nevertheless, I am sure some boys were present to witness the warbirds collision on November 12.  At a time when young people are traumatized by pronoun wrongspeak, seeing an ethnic slur in print, or a cutting remark on social media, it is worth remembering there are still some legitimate traumatic experiences to be had.  The sight of an American aircraft crashing and burning was a common enough sight during World War II, but not on American soil in front of American youth.  Air shows are intended to be educational, and the mid-air collision in Dallas was certainly a learning experience for all present.

To put the deaths of the five men aboard the B-17 in perspective, we have to contrast their fate with that of all the young men who fell from the sky during World War II.  12,731 B-17s were manufactured during the war.  Of course, the reason so many were made was because the damn things got shot down.  4,750 – better than one in three – did not return from their missions.  If anyone in the air or on the ground was traumatized by the sight of a B-17 breaking up in midair or slamming into the ground, there were no therapists available to alleviate their PTSD.

And let’s not forget the people on the ground who were likely traumatized by the bombardments.  B-17’s dropped 640,000 tons of bombs on Europe during World War II.  Of course, World War II was fought by the “Greatest Generation” and we were killing Nazis and kindred fascists, so it was all good.  Hard to believe, but just two decades before, Colonel Billy Mitchell had received nothing but pushback from US Army brass when he tried to persuade them that air power was the future of warfare.

As I type these words, we have warhawks in the government itching to embroil the US in the Ukraine conflict.  So instead of prop-driven planes shot down by ack-ack guns, we could have jets shot down by missiles.  Of course, by the time this article is posted, Ukraine may be on the back burner and some other trouble spot may be ripe for American intervention.  I’m sure the State Department will keep us posted.

Today’s weapons of war make the B-17 look quaint, which is part of their appeal.  For example, bomber crews were permitted to decorate their planes with nosecone art.  One of the most popular themes was a scantily clad young woman in a provocative pose.  I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that you will never see any nosecone cheesecake at an air show these days.  Mrs. Grundy gave it a pass during World War II.  Since then she has had second thoughts about the objectification of women.

Of course, today it would be possible to have an air show of non-military antique aircraft.  But who would show up to see a DC-7?  Or a TWA Constellation?  Or a Pan Am Clipper?  I’m sure some die-hard aviation buffs would show up, but the general public would likely stay away without the bombers and the fighters.  Warbirds defeat doves every time.

Is it not odd that we place wreaths on the graves of men killed in wars while also staging reenactments of said wars?  Both acts certify the disposability of men.  Come to think of it, the DFW National Cemetery is just a few miles from the Executive Airport.  Some of the crash victims were veterans, so maybe one or more of them will end up there.  Such a deal!  Risk your life for your country and we’ll plant you for free – and put little American flags on your graves in perpetuity.  During the Vietnam War, a popular bumper stickers read, “War is good business.  Invest your son.”  Not that it had any effect on business as usual.

To be sure, during World War II business was booming for Lockheed, Boeing, Grumman, Curtiss, Northrop, McDonnell, Douglas, Vought, Bell, and other airplane manufacturers.  Of course, the demand for more warbirds meant round-the-clock shifts on the factory floor; as more planes fell out of the air, more had to be built.  Rosie the Riveter took home all the overtime pay she could handle; the men who flew the planes she worked on were paid much less money for much more dangerous work.  In truth, the home “front” in World War II was waaaaaaaay behind the lines and waaaaaaaay out of harm’s way.  Call it gynocentrism by default.

A popular theory is that World War II, not Franklin Roosevelt’s various government programs, pulled the United States out of the Depression.  Unlike the years following World War I, there was scant demobilization after World War II, and we segued into the Cold War.  Military spending continued apace, even though we haven’t had any declarations of war since June 4, 1942, when we put Bulgaria, Hungary, and Rumania in our national crosshairs.

Long after 1945, Hollywood continued to produce movies about World War II.  All the hardware used to fight the war was still entrenched in the public consciousness.  Personally, I preferred bazookas, flamethrowers, and hand grenades, which were employed not only against the Krauts and the Japs but also against giant insects and space aliens in 50’s science fiction movies.  They weren’t as glamorous as airplanes but they were more – pardon the expression – down to earth.

When a young baby boomer was fantasizing about flying in a B-17, however, nobody told him of the risks involved.  Sure, being a tail gunner would be fun…until the guys on the other side start shooting back.  No one was shooting at the men aboard the B-17 in Dallas on November 12, yet now the fence on the southern border of the Executive Airport is the site of numerous homemade memorials in their honor.

The gee-whiz high-tech appeal to American youth has become more sophisticated, as have the warplanes.  To date, Top Gun: Maverick has grossed roughly $1.5 billion worldwide and everyone’s OK with that.  Oh, feminists may raise hell if you classify military-themed toys as boys’ toys, but that won’t stop the designers from coming up with more cool stuff that just happen to appeal to boys more than girls.  And if some girls want to climb on the bandwagon, so much the better.  Female empowerment uber alles!  It’s a key element of “our democracy.”  “We can do it!”

Taking the red pill vis-à-vis relations with women is a popular topic on this web site.  Perhaps it is time to double the dosage to counteract the seductive blandishments of the military.  Actually, the military’s mandatory vaccines and progressive policies have done a pretty good job of neutralizing the gee-whiz, whiz-bang come-ons.  Recruitment has fallen roughly 25% short of the 2022 goals.

The bad news is that Congress can re-institute the draft any time they want to, and if they think that’s what it will take to make the world safe for globohomo, then one day it will come to that.

Offering a film like Top Gun: Maverick to America’s youth is something like a pusher giving a free sample to a teenager to get him hooked.  There’s no doubt that thrill-seeking has always been a characteristic of young males.  But there are other ways of scratching that itch – extreme sports, rock climbing, and rollercoasters come to mind.  No need to succumb to the military-industrial complex’s blandishments.

In the meantime, there are still plenty of graphic video games to prod one’s nascent killing instincts.  Many pundits across the political spectrum blame video games for corrupting the youth of America and preventing them from becoming disposable – I mean productive – citizens.  Personally, I don’t think the video game “menace” is such a big deal.  Like foreign policy, it’s all make-believe.

The six men who died on November 12 were also indulging in a bit of make-believe.  Unlike gamers, they discovered how suddenly the real world can intrude into one’s fantasies.

Original Story on AVFM
These stories are from AVoiceForMen.com.
(Changing the cultural narrative)

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