Radio Commentator: And seated in the copilot’s seat, the favorite of servicemen everywhere, Bing Crosby.
Paula Williams: Welcome to Contrails and Cocktails. This episode is going to be a very special one because our guests just finished a book about the WWII Bomber Boys, the jackets that they wore, the entire language and the entire culture, and everything else around these particular items of clothing.
So, John Slemp was born in Japan and was a world traveler before he was a teen. After attending college on an academic scholarship, he served in the US Army stationed in Germany and out of curiosity, spent many hours visiting well-known museums throughout Europe.
Little did he know that he was preparing for a life in commercial photography, with the world’s best art being a spell-binding tutor. Fast-forward twenty-plus years and his extensive photography experience allow him to create a wide variety of images, including environmental still life, portraits, and lifestyle images.
Light, shape, and composition are all tools used to create images for a wide variety of editorial corporate, and advertising clients worldwide. His goal is to produce the best images possible for each assignment. He’s got a great sense of humor, and he is a big fan of dogs, fly fishing, and a good cheeseburger.
So, John and I are joined by Mark Perry, who is the president of Global Aircraft Group. Global Aircraft Group sponsors this podcast. They offer desktop appraisals, expert witness, and pre-buy inspections. The founder is located in New England, and he travels free of charge for anyone with a situation that needs his services.
That might be an aircraft appraisal, an aircraft transaction, an estate settlement, a divorce, a legal situation, or an insurance situation. Whatever it is, if you’ve got a problem, involving aircraft values, Mark can solve it. So, president and founder Mark Perry have over thirty years of experience in corporate aviation, he has unparalleled access to professional resources and helps the organization achieve positive returns on client investments in capital.
Prior to Global Aircraft Group, Mark worked for Bombardier in numerous capacities, including sales, maintenance completion, and pre-purchase inspections. He worked at one time for the Skunk Works under Kelly Johnson, that’s the luck key to advanced development programs.
And he holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts in Management. He’s a certified aircraft appraiser and a licensed airframe and power plant mechanic. Perry also attended the Massachusetts School of Law in Andover. So, this is going to be a great conversation and I’m really looking forward to hearing all about the bomber boys. So, let’s get started.
Lyrics: Oh, we sing, as we wing through the air,
Look below, there’s our field over there.
With our full crew of all,
Then I trust in the Lord
Coming in on a wing and a prayer.
Paula: John Slemp just recently published a book on World War II Bomber Boys which is I’m sure a fabulous book. I need to buy my copy so that I can go through it in detail. I’ve been seeing pictures of it from it, and I’ve always followed John’s work. It’s amazing and he does great, great photos. So, I’m just happy. Excited to have you guys in the same room.
Mark Perry: Nice to be here.
John Slemp: Nice to be here. Creating the book in and of itself was a story. I started in 2014, basically, as a lark. You know, I knew… I-I’m an army veteran and I’ve known about the jackets for years, but I had never seen one. And so, I put the word out through [inaudible] asking if anybody had one, I’d like to see it.
Of course, somebody had their uncle’s jacket and they brought it in, and it was spectacular. And so, I photographed it and one of my clients is a woman in Aviation International and I have photographed their Board. One of their board members is Dorothy Cochran, who’s on… she’s a curator at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
So just for fun, I sent it to her, you know, in an email, “Hey Dorothy, this is something I’m working on.” And 58 minutes later, I got a separate email from the curator of the Aviation Clothing Collection, Dr. Alex Spencer. And he said, “We have fifteen jackets out of work for your project. When can you be here?”
I was shocked, pleased, and amazed, all the things you might imagine. A few months later, we made arrangements, and I went up there and I shot thirteen jackets, and we were off to the races. Initially, it was just about the artwork. I didn’t really have much in the way of understanding the stories and the aerial combat and that sort of thing.
And as I got into it, I started hearing the stories and fortunately, I was able to meet and photograph, I think over twenty-five World War II veterans, sixteen WASPs, 16 original Rosies[?], and that sort of thing and started hearing their stories. It really became apparent that this all needed to be about their stories. And the jackets were an appropriate way to tell their stories.
And so, that’s how it got started. There was no thought at all of a book or anything like that. I thought, maybe we’ll have an exhibition. Maybe, we’ll have enough to, you know, have an online discussion about lighting techniques and things like that, you know?
But it just kept on growing and growing and we’ve owned up shooting in twelve different museums across the country and over 160 jackets. My initial goal is fifty. So, we certainly blew that out and you know, and of course, I did portraits of the veterans. As I mentioned, we did- myself and a friend of mine did a few video interviews.
We’ve got a little YouTube channel now and we’re trying to flesh out some more stories and it just started to take on a life of its own. And at one point, I thought it would be interesting to talk to a fashion historian about how these jackets influence fashion and culture.
And lo and behold! I finally found a young lady and she wrote a chapter for me in the book, on that very subject, she said she found so much information. In fact, she’s probably going to do her own book on that subject.
John: Yes. And uh…
Mark: Can I ask a quick question?
John: Yes, sure.
Mark: When you say jacket, were you talking about the bomber jackets?
John: Yes, the A-2 Summer weight flight jacket. Yeah, you know they’re colloquially known as bomber jackets, and some guys who are really serious about it, get exercised when you call them bomber jackets. But the technical name is Summer Weight A-2 flight jacket. Yes.
Mark: The leather one?
John: Correct. Yes.
Mark: Yes, okay. I know I got you.
John: Yes, and they first came in, you know, they were not a WWII Innovation, they first came online in 1931, you know, approved for use. But of course, the Depression was on. And during the Depression years, the numbers were very small as far as the numbers that were manufactured like 500 maybe in a year, but then as it got closer to the war in 1940 and so on ’41, they started letting out contracts for 5,000, 10,000 25,000 and 50,000 at max, you know, and my best guess… and because of the Depression inaccurate records, if at all, were kept.
In some years. there was no record kept of how many were created. So, my best guess is about one hundred. Seven hundred-fifty thousand were actually, you know, manufactured/ And so anyway, eighteen different manufacturers across the country, most of them are in the Northeast because that’s where the majority of the garment industry was, right?
The government at that time, procured all of the parts, they procured the leather, the zippers, the cuffs, waistbands, the liner, the snaps, everything, and they gave it to the manufacturers along with a diagram, that said, build us, a jacket. And a jacket cost about $8.25 to put together. [chuckles]
Paula: Wow. And then from that standard jacket, people started to customize, of course.
John: Yes. Yeah. And technically it was against regulations at being in the Army, you know. Technically it was against regulations to paint on them or alter them, that sort of thing, it’s still government property. But, you know, the casualty rates, especially in the Air Force at the beginning of the war were so high that the Commander’s essentially turned a blind eye to the practice.
You know, it was good for morale. It gave a sense of crew cohesion that sort of thing. And the Flyers really, really like the jackets. They look great. They wore… well, they were work jackets. But you know, if you didn’t trash it, they looked great in uniform and they were very proud of them.
And initially, they were just issued to the pilots and so on, and then later on it became a crew standard issue. And you know of course, being the army, they were traded, you know with tankers and extra guys and that sort of thing but by and large, you know, the Flyers held onto them but, most often they didn’t wear them on missions because again they were not warm.
Most aircraft were open-air you know, until [crosstalk] I came along and so they… you know 30,000 feet, minus forty, minus fifty. They didn’t have any use for leather jackets. Some were worn underneath all the rest of it but generally usually most of the time they were left on the ground.
Paula: Yes, but they… status symbol, they became like the stories, and everything got painted on there. Just like the kids doing tattoos nowadays, you know.
Joun: Well, yes, and initially I was just interested in the artwork. I thought it was cool. You know being a commercial photographer. I’ve always had an eye for design, I think as well. And you know, some of the designs were just fantastic, and the variety. The reason also why the back of the A-2 was so attractive to paint on is because it’s all one piece.
Where there’s no seam, no vertical seam, no horizontal seams. So, it was a great canvas so to speak, and just, your imagination… the artist ran wild, you know, and they painted aircraft on there, they painted women, you know, they painted bomb patterns, swastikas, all these kinds of stuff, and it basically became a walking billboard of a guy’s service record.
And once you understand the symbology and so on you could tell how many missions they flew, a lot… sometimes they painted the target on the bomb you know, for that particular mission, swastikas if they shot down a plane, parachutes if they bailed out.
A few jackets have a little POW guy with hands up in the air. POW… and they participated in missions, right at the end of the war where they evacuated POW camps. You know they flew the B-17s in and loaded them up with guys who needed to get out quickly, and some of the other groups also had flour bags painted on there where they dropped food to the Dutch right at the end of the war because the Germans had instituted a food embargo in late ’44 and into ’45.
And over 18,000 Hollanders died, and they starved. Because the underground cut their Rail and that sort of thing. And the Germans got ticked off and said, well, we’ll just, cut off this food supplies and tit-for-tat type thing. But Audrey Hepburn was a child during that time, and that was one of the reasons why she was so thin all her life and had medical problems all her life too because of that.
So, some of the jackets had that. Some of them had a Russian star on it because they there were trying to remember the name. They had a particular name for several missions, that flew across Germany, they dropped their bombs, and they kept on going either into Russian-occupied Poland or into Russia itself where they stopped.
They rearmed, refueled, and then flew back most often across the Balkans, dropping bombs on oil depots and that sort of thing to North Africa, and then they would rearm and refuel and fly back across France going back to England. So, these guys were literally… and if they got shot down, or if they had mechanical problems, these guys were scattered literally all over the European continent.
Paula: That’s amazing. I had no idea they were so… you know, the area was so wide. I always think of them in Europe, you know, and the war in Europe in knots. But that’s amazing that they range so far.
Oh yeah, yeah, I didn’t really know that either. And I read a book actually about a captain who went… he was detailed essentially to go to Russia and recover aircraft and the Russians, being the Russians, you know, they wanted to keep them for the technology. [crosstalk]
So, at one point, he had to pull a pistol on a Russian colonel who’s like, “Hey we’re going this way you know so our guys can have free reign on the plane.” He’s like, “No Coronel, I don’t work for you. We’re taking this plane out of here, so adios.” And the guy got the message and left, and they flew the plane out, I think early the next morning, even though they had to hack their way out of a forest to make a makeshift runway to do it.
But there were Americans on the ground that they had to evacuate as well, who were shot down or what have you. Even though they technically weren’t POWs, they weren’t, how should we say, treated with hospitality either.
Paula: Right. Exactly.
John: So, it was quite a human story actually.
Paula: Hmm. Sounds like thousands of human stories.
John: Yes, one of the stories. So, I was driving down the Sun and Fun several years ago and got a phone call on my cell phone from a fellow in Virginia. Never had met him before. It turns out he’s a curator at the Colonial Williamsburg, you know, park or whatever it is. And his uncle had been shot down over the Brenner pass in February 1945 and was killed.
But to make a very long story short, his uncle’s brothers showed up to that very same unit, 2 days later, and walked into his tent looking for his brother Ray. And all the guys are like, “Well [inaudible] fine, how do you do?” He didn’t know his brother had been killed. So, that’s how he came to have his brother’s jacket, which was then passed down to Eric, the curator of Williamsburg.
And he told me this story, you know, he had done a lot of research on the story and that’s in the book. The crew was recovered and actually returned to the States in 49, I believe.
The Italians, you know, in the Brenner Pass in February, so much snow has covered it and the Italians buried them but marked the graves, church records, and that sort of thing.
And again, I hadn’t really thought about it but there were teams sent out all over Europe looking for guys who had been killed and recovered the remains and sent them back to the States. So literally most of the crews were interred in one place I believe in
Missouri in 1949, I believe. This went on for years, you know. So, the war when it ended, didn’t really end for a lot of people if you know what I mean.
Paula: Yes, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. A lot of missing people, a lot of… missing everything.
John: Lot of unrest, yes. One of the guys that I photographed, spent over a year in a VA Hospital, suffering from PTSD. He had been shot down in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge, and he had been wounded in the leg. A Belgian lady came across him, he said she has a very nice-looking leather jacket, and so on. She said, “Are you wounded?” He said, “Yes.” “Are you American?” “Yes,” he said. “Wait, here I’ll get my husband.”
They came back and got him and at one point he was housed in the basement of a German Army Headquarters, which I thought man, that was pretty cheeky, but, you know, he suffered from PTSD for well, over a year after the war. And I could tell, he still had problems essentially and a friend of mine did a video tape interview after I photographed him.
And during the interview, he said, “When I go to bed at night, I hope… I pray to God that I won’t dream.” And he was in his 90s, you know, so this never left him.
Paula: It never ended for him.
John: It never ended touring. And you start hearing things like that and you realize these guys were eighteen, nineteen, twenty, straight out of high school. Some of them were even younger than that. One fellow from Valdosta, Georgia, his dad forged his birth certificate by a year, and he joined at seventeen, and at eighteen, he was our first pilot in England and shot down in a B-17 and they fished him out of the English Channel.
And the Brits were like, “So who are you?” Well, I’m the first pilot [inaudible]” He’s delusional, [inaudible] will come back to you. You know, and one of the crewmen came back later on and said yeah, he’s the pilot. He wound up finishing his missions in England, came back to the States, and instructed for a short time, but he was still restless, so he got qualified B-29s and went to the Pacific theater, roofing in five missions in B-29s against Japan. [crosstalk]
One of the few guys to fly in both theaters, and he came back- when the war ended, he came back, he was twenty years old, and he became a medical doctor after the war.
Paula: And had his whole life ahead of him [crosstalk].
John: Yes, and just twenty years old, I was still trying to figure out which way was up. It was amazing. The fortitude and devotion and commitment these guys showed, knowing that they were going to get shot at every time they went out on a mission. If you’re in the Infantry, you can you know hide behind a tree or dig a hole and that sort of thing, and you’ve got a medic nearby generally and that sort of thing.
But there wasn’t any Medic in the air at 30,000 feet. So, if you got wounded in combat, either one of your fellow crewmen passed you up or you bled and froze to death at the same time, which was not that uncommon, or fell out of the plane which also happened. One of the guys I’ve photographed in Alabama, passed away about forty-five days later, and I didn’t know this until later on, but on his last mission, he wanted to fly with some friends of his, but he was assigned to another crew, and he asked, you know, can I go with these guys?
And, he was already in the plane he had been assigned to, and a jeep pulled up, said, “Okay, your request has been granted. You can go over to the other plane, so he jumped out of that plane and went into the other one with his buddies. During the mission, the plane that he was originally on was shot down. He was a ball turret Gunner and the ball turret fell out of the plane and that guy fell to his death. And he saw it happened, he was on the plane next to him.
And he came back home, reunited with his wife, and live to old age, and finally got a master’s degree from Vanderbilt, and that sort of thing. That was the one thing I really noticed. A lot of these guys came back and really made lives for themselves. A lot of them got advanced degrees medical doctors, lawyers, started a family, started businesses, and that sort of thing, and they got on with their lives and they didn’t come back and mope around and you know, “what can the country do for me” type of stuff.
They do that. They went after it, and it was a different mindset, that was really heartening and inspiring to me in a lot of ways.
Paula: I worked with the bank manager, who was a World War II veteran, who had been a pilot and he was always the first person in the office in the morning. Last person to leave at night and he was in his 70s at the time. And I remember asking him, “Do you ever sleep?” And he says, “No, I don’t sleep. I’d rather be here than sleeping.” And that’s the only conversation we ever had about his experience. But you know, just amazing, amazing people.
John: Yes. And you know, I had known about Jimmy Stewart’s jacket being in the US. Air Force Museum in Dayton. And I tried to get in there in 2015, but they were… to make a long, another long story short, they wanted a letter from a publisher, which I didn’t have.
And now [crosstalk] we wound up privately publishing as my designer calls it, which I just love that term as opposed to self-publishing. So, I went away and thought about it in the back of my head. And then in the fall of 2021… by that time I had shot in lots of different museums and had lots of images to show them.
So, I contacted them again. A friend of mine had gone there and gotten the director’s card. And so, I contacted them, and they said, well, we have an officer PR office in New York City on Fifth Avenue, contact them, fill out the form. Tell us what you want to do. And about a month later they came back and said, sure, come on down.
And so, I think their attitude toward self-publishing had changed. And also, they saw the pictures and that sort of thing. So, in January last year, I went to the Air Force Museum, and they gave me a list and I chose ten jackets. They said 8, I said, well can we do 2 more? And so, we got 10 [crosstalk]…
Paula: Been negotiating?
John: Yes, and Jimmy Stewart’s jacket was one of them and I think a lot of people don’t realize he [inaudible] twenty missions as a B24 pilot, you know. He was very well respected as a commander. He joined the army as a private before the war started.
And oh, yeah, and he was actually underweight when he first went and the guy said, “Go home and eat some bananas.” So, he did and came back a few days later, you know, having gained the 44 lbs. he needed. And I think the limit was 110, he didn’t weigh 110 pounds.
And anyway, so he came back and made the cut-off, but he was already thirty-three years old. So, he was actually too old to go, and he was already a private pilot with I think over 400 hours, he owned his own plane and all that already, an Academy Award winner, but he was too old to go through the Army Air Corps pilot training program.
He applied for a commission which he got, and he was already a college grad and he applied for some exemption and, you know, became an Air Corps pilot, and then he became an instructor. And I think a lot of the brass were afraid to send him overseas because they didn’t want him to get shot down and killed after.
He did that for over a year, I believe in Idaho, training guys on B-24s and B-17s I believed, and finally, he walked into his boss’s office and said, hey, you know, I really like to go and contribute, do my part, you know, and there was a new unit being formed and his boss called the commander of the new unit who he knew.
So, hey, I got a guy here who wants to come and join your unit, and a few days later he was the operations officer for that unit and then I think two weeks later, twenty days, something like that he became the Commander of the Year.
John: Just that fast. So, it was a squadron, and they went to England, and he later became a group commander, and eventually, at the end of the war, he was promoted to full colonel. He was one of the few guys in the war that went from private to colonel.
And later, he stayed in the reserves and became a brigadier general and retired as a brigadier general. Again, a lot of people don’t know that I didn’t know it, but he flew as an observer in a B-52 mission in Vietnam. And was actually checked out on several jets as well after the war.
Paula: Long, long, long career. Yes [crosstalk].
John: Yes, exciting like that. So, I tried to get a variety of jackets there, we’ve got a Tuskegee Airman, and we got a guy who got off the ground during the Pearl Harbor attack. We got Jimmy’s jacket. We got a flight nurses’ jacket; we got a Medal of Honor recipient.
and we just got another cool jacket from the Pacific Theater that had some really wonderful artwork on it.
You know, just a cross-section of jackets. And the book is organized by theater, you know, I muddled for a little while on how to organize it but in the beginning, we have a little bit of history, and how the jackets came about and how they’re constructed and that sort of thing.
And then we have the European theater and then we have the second chapter if you will, the Mediterranean and North Africa and then China, Burma, India, and the Pacific, you know a lot of people I’m sure, these days especially, have no idea that we were in China Burma and India.
Paula: Right. Not that early right, everybody [inaudible] that the Asian Wars is coming later, so…
John: Right. You know I got Text Hills jacket too, even though it’s a… it’s a navy jacket. He was originally in the Navy and went over as part of the Original Flying Tigers with Claire Chennault. And then when they were disbanded on July 4, 1942, they were reconstituted into the Army Air Force as the 14th Air Force, I believe.
And he became a… I believe group commander and was commissioned in the Army. Because as a member of the AVG, they had to resign their commissions. So, a lot of the guys left and went back to the states or did other things, but he stayed and I believe was commissioned to Major shortly after Lieutenant Colonel and he became the commander I believe, of the 23rd Fighter Group, in the 14th Air Force and stayed with Chennault basically the rest of the war.
I believe he retired as a Brigadier General in the Texas Air National Guard.
Paula: You know, John, you could do an audiobook of, you know, just read the book [chuckles].
John: Yeah, of course, I don’t know why… I was always interested in military history, especially World War II history since I was a kid, and of course, my dad was in the service, we lived in Okinawa for 4 years, so it just seemed natural to me to be interested in all this stuff.
And then I was in the Army, for almost eleven years. So, I understand the military mentality if you will. I tell people I had thirteen years prior service as a kid because that’s how old I was when my dad retired. You know, this book has really helped me put together a lot of the pieces on operations, the flow of the conflict from start to finish, and how it was a worldwide event, how we were involved.
One of the jackets I photographed in California has twelve camels painted on it, for flying the hump which is what they call the Himalayas to resupply missions to China. One of them is facing backwards because they had to turn back difficulties with, you know, the plane. [chuckles]
Paula: That was pleasing.
John: Oh yeah, but the guy who owns the jacket found a letter inside the pocket years after he bought the jacket, and the letter is written as if the jacket is coming to the story. You know, I’m here in Northern India and we’re doing this. And then we go to China and we’re doing this and, there’s no name so we have no idea who owned the jacket.
Woman: Yes. [inaudible] to have you back for more episodes because you know, you’ve got so many stories.
John: It’s, oh, yeah. It’s… I can go on, I guess, yeah, sorry.
Paula: Not at all. Yeah, I think [crosstalk]
John: It became very fascinating to me which is one of the reasons why it’s almost four hundred pages because it just kept- you know, initially we were thinking oh you know, maybe two hundred fifty or so, and then it got to three hundred, and then it kept on growing, but the other thing too is it has an index.
None of the other books on the subject that were done twenty-five years ago have an index which I didn’t realize until I was very far.
along with this, so I made it a point that this has an index because you can find stuff and I have a feeling it’s going to be used for research purposes too. Actually, I have a book in the box ready to go tomorrow to a manufacturer in Germany.
A small company that makes A-2 jackets and German flight jackets- leather jackets that their pilots wear. And I’m sure he’s going to use it for research.
Paula: Oh yeah. Absolutely.
John: The Auburn University Library just got one for their research collection.
Paula: Right. I mean, this is history that nobody knew, you know, nobody put together and nobody’s written down or photographed. So that’s amazing. So, Mark, tell us about your B-17 that you saw recently is that…?
Mark: Well, like the backup on Jimmy Stewart, I had read a lot of what John just spoke about, also, I’d read that when he made It’s a Wonderful Life, in some of those scenes, they said, you could see combat fatigue, that it kind of affected his performing out the realness of his performance.
John: Yeah, that was his first movie after the war. And in that scene, he’s kind of cracking up I think in a bar, was real and the director wanted him to do it again because they wanted to come in tighter on his face and Jimmy said, I can’t do it again, you know. And so, what they did was they re-photographed the film and cropped it you know, which we would do digitally these days, but you know. Yeah, absolutely. And apparently, he didn’t really talk much about the war from what I understand.
Mark: No, he had some combat fatigue from my… but I’m pretty sure of the name… my friend’s father’s name was Lewis Frazee. [inaudible]. He wasn’t on B-17s and B-24s. He started on B-17s and went to England on B-17s, then he was transferred to B-24s, and he did 33 combat missions. And then in his military records that I have, he was sent to a hospital for 6 months of rest. He was a tail gunner on the B-24. So, he saw, who knows what he saw, but they have his jacket fully restored just in the last year or so.
John: Oh wow.
Mark: It’s got the artwork on the back. It’s definitely the 8th Air Force. And like I said, I’ve got the paperwork, you know, the flight records, they blanked it out for security reasons. But they have flight records that are standard forms, and it shows him coming over with the first Air Force and then when they list the sheet that shows all of the bombing runs he was on, they didn’t fill it out at all.
So, there’s no way to know who he’s attached to, and here’s the other piece that’s been frustrating. We know the aircraft he was on Dragon Lady. B-24 named Dragon Lady. This Dragon Lady was on his jacket and [crosstalk]. What’s that?
John: Is there a squadron or group patch on the front? I’ll have to double-check, but that’s a good idea. What the fuck? I’ll have to ask my buddy that and then the Dragon Lady, that’s the most common is attached to another well-researched Squadron and Bomber group, and they have the list of everybody and everybody that’s involved.
But I cannot find this Dragon Lady tied in, with into the air 8th Air Force, so that I could get the bombing missions because I’m stuck on what Squadron he was in. [crosstalk]
John: Yeah, I do know that there were some B-24s that I think were transferred from the 8th to the 9th Air Force, I believe, and wound up in the Mediterranean or [crosstalk]
Mark: I read all his bombing missions are in European theater[crosstalk]. So, we definitely know he was [crosstalk] dangerous… huh?
John: He stayed in the 8th?
Mark: Yeah, he was in the 8th Air Force, and he may have bombed Dresden, we don’t know. Nice someday to figure that out for my buddy, but …
John: They might have records at the 8th Air Force Museum in Pooler as well, outside Savannah. They have a pretty big library upstairs and they have lots of records.
Mark: Oh, okay. Well, maybe I can get that information [inaudible] help. I’ll touch base after this, after our podcast.
Paula: I was just going to say, do you want me to edit this bit out? You know about your…
Paula: Okay, great, yes. I can imagine all of the families that are going to be, going through all of this history and, you know, getting their questions answered, that’s actually a missing piece for a lot of folks that are doing their ancestry.com or whatever, then they come across the book and put the whole book in, you know.
John: Yes, I’ve had several people get really emotional about the book. No one dare read their stories and that sort of thing. You know, it hits home, it’s for a lot of people.
Paula: Yes, I’m sure.
Mark: No, we could have gotten his jacket. and John, have you been to the Mid-Atlantic Air Show at all?
John: No, I haven’t. I’ve got an exhibition coming up at the Military Aviation Museum of Virginia Beach, probably late, March or early April but I’m not been to that particular air show no.
Mark: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. One of the largest that I know of.
It’s all WWII its military, or WWII equipment. They have the Andrew sisters or Shoals. Stan. You know, the flight. That’s right. I did my B-17 flight that I’ve got ready to segue into.
John: I assume.
Mark: That’s the first week of June every year, and I’m also a member of the 26th Yankee division of New England, which is the… that regiment pretty much covered almost all the soldiers that went into World War I. I went over with the 26th Yankee division out in New England and then also pretty much the same in World War II.
And then since then, they’ve been absorbed into other units I think around the mid-80s. I mean that reenactment group. So, I collect a lot of WWII stuff, a lot of original stuff that I can get and then I do some, maybe some reenactments, living histories, and then our unit is usually enforced at that Air Show.
Mark: I did my tribute for like two years ago, two summers ago [inaudible] Yankee lady out of Michigan and it was amazing, and I also follow at it. I’ll send you a video or pictures or whatever that I have if you want them.
Paula: I’d like to use them [inaudible] episode. So yeah, thank you.
John: Before. I forget one of the other chapters in the book was written by Jeff Schroeder who is an appraiser for an antique roadshow, and he wrote a section on collecting the jackets, and it’s actually pretty funny in several places. His mom was an English teacher. So, he’s a good writer too.
But he has a company called Advance Guard Militaria out of Missouri, and he buys and sells all these military items, and I put the word out on Facebook, I don’t know a year and a half ago, it was looking for somebody who is an expert on collecting the jackets. And several people said to call Jeff Schroeder. I had no idea who he was. He agreed to participate and made a nice contribution.
John: Yes, that was very nice.
Mark: Do you have a collection of these jackets or…?
John: Who, me? No, I don’t have one [chuckles] at all. Those people ask me that all the time. I need to… if I get one, it needs to be extra huge you know? But no, I don’t have one. Maybe I’ll get one. I don’t know yet.
Mark: Very good.
Paula: So, Mark, tell us about the B-17 that was at the Mid-Atlantic air show.
Mark: It was right after COVID, or there’s no right after I guess, but…
Paula: [chuckles] There’s no such thing as right after COVID, we’re still trying to figure out when that is.
Mark: [crosstalk] 2 summers ago. I was going to go up on a B-24, Punch of Eden.
John: The name of that one.
Mark: And then they called me. They had a mechanical problem,
which I was glad to hear because I was considering going up in the B-17 that crashed in Hartford and so a couple… some time ago since that happened and then, I fell ill and maintenance just… anyway, long story short, they canceled Punch of Eden, and I just happen to take a walk over and say, I kind of got bumped. I got bumped out of that aircraft, and he said, well, we got a seat for you, in an hour, on the B-17.
So, I got in and I said, okay, I’ll be right back and got in by… it was really hot that day and we got in [inaudible] right behind the radio room. And with the door to the radio room, open to the bomb bays, the bomb bay doors are open that catwalk going across is just barely a foot.
John: Yeah, it’s minuscule rope.
Mark: So, we took off from [inaudible]. I was watching the runway looking out through the radio room from the bomb bays down to the tarmac as we were taking off and then they close the doors.
And then after you get up in the air, they let everybody get up and just wander around, it was great.
So yeah, we got the… went across the catwalk course you can see through the bomb bay doors down through the ground through the curtain of the old- some openings, they don’t seal perfect. So, we got across that catwalk with the ropes on each side and then up. and then just a crawl space under the pilots to get to the bomb, through the bomb bay, or to the bomber section of the nose.
John: The Bombardier Navigator, yeah.
Mark: Norton bomb site is. I decided I would crawl in backward instead of… because of my back… I got back stuff. [inaudible] would be easier, well, I got in there. And then I tried turning around as they got all these warnings… don’t touch if you know, 12 o’clock high where the pilot Gregory Pecks just grabs the edges of the opening and just chains himself up in there.
Well, I’m over that doorway and they said don’t touch any of these you’ll fall through, and I had to like, put my hands all around that thing to get myself, turned around forward. And then I crawled up into the bomb bay and it was like riding in the front of a bullet.
John: That was amazing.
Mark: There was, there was a little kid. It was his first flight. He was sitting in the seat just like… he wanted to move so I stayed up there for a while and crawled back and it was very enjoyable. I’m glad I did it.
Paula: That’s amazing. That sounds like a fantastic experience and there are not very many of them flying anymore.
Mark: Let’s lose it on Dallas.
John: Yes, and the EAA alumina were cast which is in the book by the way it’s down for a spar you know they’re just in the process of moving it back to Oshkosh so they can fix it. They will probably be next year before it flies again.
Mark: Yeah. I would really love to appraise a B-17. I have sold Stinson 77 that had been in World War II air ambulance. Yes, that’s on my list, too. [inaudible] for the plug-in I do… I can do a museum or IRS appraisals and they have a lot.
John: Are you a pilot as well, I assume?
Mark: No, I was in maintenance my whole life.
John: Okay, got you, all right.
Paula: Fantastic. So, did you have a cocktail for us tonight?
Mark: I do. And in honor of literally, one of my favorite World War II movies Twelve O’clock High. Me, my dad and my youngest son would watch that. And we brought to visit him, and my son and I watched it. And, when he was younger, he had a WWII flight simulator. And he actually knew more about it, one or two aircraft, and I did at that time. And then we got it.
We went down to, Smithsonian in Washington and he started… then we started collecting some Noah’s Ark pictures when we could. And so, that’s yeah, one of my favorite WWII movies. I believe that’s on the 8th Air Force with that and them anyway.
So yeah, so tonight’s cocktail is called Twelve O’clock High of course. This one has a 1/2 ounce of Jägermeister. I said that right?
Paula: Yeah, Jägermeister. [chuckles] My brother’s kind of…
Mark: One-half ounce of dry Vermouth, one dash of aromatic, bitters and garnish it with a cherry.
John: Dash of bitters. And a cherry.
Paula: Right. We’ll make a recipe card for it for the…
Paula: That’s fantastic.
Paula: Are you using those dark cocktail cherries or the… any particular kind of cherry?
Mark: I would use the dark cocktail cherries.
Woman: Yeah. You mentioned that in one of the other podcasts and I got some of those. They’re fantastic. They were expensive.
Mark: They are. [chuckles] [inaudible] cherries, you know, they’re great.
Mark: And then it’s hard to find a good drink that mixes well, with Jägermeister. There are a lot of different flavors in that [inaudible]. It’s also kind of interesting, I think.
Paula: I’ve never heard of Jägermeister being used in a cocktail before that’s [inaudible].
Mark: Yeah, well I heard about that somewhere else and wanted to come up with…
Paula: Yeah, well, fantastic.
Mark: I didn’t make this drink myself. It’s one I picked that’s light that had Jägermeister that would fit in.
Paula: Yeah. All right. Well, let’s just kind of do a big finish. I’m Paula Williams ABCI. We help aviation companies sell more of their products and services.
John: I’m John Slemp. I’m an Aviation photographer and commercial photographer in Atlanta, Georgia, and have just written a book called Bomber Boys WWII Flight Jacket Art and it can be found at www.wwiibomberboys.com. I’ve put in the WWII because I did not want the FBI showing up at my door this early morning with bomber boys, the website address. So, make sure you got the WWII in front of “Bomber Boys.”
Mark: I’m looking forward to getting a copy of that.
John: Thank you.
Mark: It’s Mark, Perry, Global Aircraft Group based out of Hartford Senior Certified Aircraft appraiser, aviation consultant, insurance claims expert, witness, and all things aviation financial at www.globalaircraftgroup.com.
Have we really hit our target for the night?
How we sing as we live through the air,
Look below there’s our field over there.
With our full crew aboard,
Then I pressed in low coming in
On a wing and a prayer.
Coming in, coming in on our wing,
And the prayer coming in, on a wing and a prayer.