“Pull wings in, Cadet!”
“Yes, Sir!” Addison Bartush, age 21, responded smartly to his friend’s order. Smiling, Addison snapped to exaggerated attention, making his chest large and his waist as narrow as he could.
“Shoulders back, elbows to your sides!” his would-be commander added for emphasis. In a few minutes Addison and his friend would form up with other cadets and stand at attention for real; they would march as a company to their graduation ceremony at Army Air Forces Southeast Training Center Pre-Flight School (Pilot). This day at Maxwell Field, Alabama, not far from Montgomery, was beastly hot; it was late September 1943 and Addison was about to be promoted to corporal. Maxwell Army Airfield was named for Lt. William Maxwell, an Army aviator and Alabama native who died heroically in a 1920 plane crash in the Philippines. It was a gigantic airbase. Addison’s school was just one of several located there.
The previous February, Addison was in Detroit. With the war effort in full swing, he knew he was about to be drafted if he did not first volunteer for service. He chose the Army Air Forces for its promise of adventure. In the ensuing months his reality had been anything but adventurous. He had survived eight weeks of regular Army boot camp in Miami, Florida, another eight weeks in the College Pilot Training Program at the University of Pittsburgh, a month of physical and mental examinations in Nashville, Tennessee to determine his suitability to serve as a pilot, navigator or bombardier (where he was selected for pilot training), followed by two months in the heat at Maxwell, the “West Point of Alabama,” where incoming “plebes” wore white gloves and had to ask permission to speak to an upperclassman. A total of seven months had passed since Addison had taken his oath but he had not yet even looked inside an airplane save for one short flight in a Piper Cub back at Butler, Pennsylvania during which he was given the controls for a few joyous minutes to see what it felt like to fly.
Addison now thought: And this was the U.S. Army Air Forces? “At this rate the war will be over before I get into it,” he despaired. He was bone tired of his textbook work at Maxwell—studying the mechanics and physics of flight, the science of deflection shooting and similar stuff. The classrooms were so hot one could barely stay awake. And when he was not in class or studying, he was doing physical training, drill marching or undergoing picayune personnel and barracks inspections.
Addison gazed a last time at his wooden barracks and thought of eight men packed into a room built size-wise to accommodate only two. Sleeping in skivvies and on stacked bunk beds with only a small electric fan or two to push around the hot, moist air, this stark accommodation was a world apart from what Addison experienced growing up. He would not miss it.
Oh, to fly an airplane.
But Addison’s friend was not yet finished with him: “Ride the beam, Cadet Bartush!” he screamed.
This time Addison ignored his friend, who, in the spirit of irrational exuberance, blurted out the school honor code for no reason whatsoever. Quivering cadets had been required to recite this code and other school jingles, mostly during their first week; this was done in the presence of upperclassmen or officers. The practice was not an endearing memory for Addison, or for that matter anyone else who had experienced it.
An Aviation Cadet will not lie, cheat or steal, nor allow any other Aviation Cadet to remain in the Cadet Corps who is guilty of the same, Sir!
“you’re annoying me,” Addison pleaded. “Stop!”
Grinning wider, the young man pressed on, reciting the cadet mission statement: “Strong bodies, stout hearts, alert minds and a liking for the air and its adventures . . . Sir!”
Addison looked at the parade ground and was thankful that today would be his last performance at this command. He remembered the weekends when for one night only the cadets were free to drink beer at a nearby hotel and dance with the locals. This habit grew old fast and some of the cadets started referring to their dance partners as “cadet widows,” a euphemism for young ladies known by several classes of aviation cadets. The problem was that there was little, if anything, wholesome to do in the vicinity of the base other than perhaps enjoy a milkshake at a soda pop stand located on base at the USO.
Addison longed for the company of college coeds—specifically the ones he hoped might be waiting for him back in Detroit. At the time of his enlistment, he had completed one and a half years at the University of Detroit, majoring in business administration, and that had qualified him for consideration in the air cadet program. The two months at the University of Pittsburgh was so the government might review his academic performance in college courses selected for him and not by him.
Addison thought again of the weekend parade ground reviews that were usually scheduled for the morning after the night before. Being hung-over was not a good idea for these events and Addison quickly learned to regulate the amount of beer he consumed. The sun would beat down mercilessly while cadets braced in ranks and waited endlessly for the two specific orders to be issued: “Shoulder arms!” and “Forward march!” The marchers would then advance and turn to pass in front of the reviewing stand, ending up in the barracks area where the ordeal concluded.
Addison never fainted but once came close. An alert cadet standing behind him grabbed him on the way down. With great concentration Addison managed to straighten himself up and remain conscious until the magic words finally barked out.
“Keep knees unlocked,” Addison mouthed to himself on that occasion. “Move just a tiny bit but don’t let them see it. Shift weight from one foot to the other, but imperceptibly. Mix up the breathing: faster, slower, deeper . . . stimulate those capillaries!”
Standing at attention was supposed to build character, Addison had been told. Ha! More like building broken skulls, he knew. He had witnessed a number of cadets collapse, and some indeed hit the concrete hard. Insufficient blood-flow to the brain, he appreciated. With enough time standing motionless, gravity would always win. Dehydration in the hot Alabama sunshine combined with the previous night’s alcohol consumption was an effective one-two punch to hasten the process.
“Ride the beam, Cadet! Eyes forward!”
Addison remembered knife and fork school. He had been chagrined (but wisely kept his mouth shut) when he “learned” in the classroom that the fork and napkin were always placed on the left side and that in America one always placed chewable food in one’s mouth with a fork held in one’s right hand, prongs pointed upwards. “Every U.S. officer must be a gentleman,” his instructor emphasized, “and do this properly.” What Addison didn’t let on was that he and his siblings were well aware of these rules, having been raised in circumstances where this was always done properly.
Although Addison’s father started out from modest means, he went on to build a successful business and became a major player in the dairy products industry. Addison and his siblings had grown up in affluence, but their parents, who passed down the lessons of honest dealings and hard work to their children, had not overly pampered them. During the summer months the Bartush boys were expected to do their share, laboring long factory hours at an ice cream plant.
“I said: Ride the beam, Cadet! Eyes forward!” his friend barked to Addison’s annoyance.
“yes Sir, General Spoony, Sir!” Addison answered.
The best advice that Addison had found in his current military situation had come, surprisingly, from the man responsible for practically everything that happened to him at pre-flight school. The school commandant, Major Mark C. Bane, Jr. had written a pocket booklet for pilot-hopefuls at Maxwell Field. In it, he wrote:
In all the phases of your cadet life, be sincere, but not too serious. Remember that a sense of humor, while officially it must be restrained, is indispensable to you as individuals.
From this booklet Addison learned the different ways at Maxwell Field to address the subject of stupidity: first, either directly by title (“Mr. Dowilly, Mr. Dumbjohn and Mr. Dumbsquat”) or alternatively, indirectly by comparison, in like, “Dumb as a Dodo Bird.” He also learned that a “Dawn Patroller” was a cadet who had the habit of arising before reveille (a practice frowned upon) and that the word “Spoony” was a derogatory term denoting a cadet who was always “neat and meticulous.”
And a “Hot Pilot?”
“One exceptionally adept at flying in his own opinion.”
“Gigs,” depending on the number accumulated, could lead to a “Tour,” that is, a solo punishment march during what would otherwise be precious free time. Addison remembered the cause of one of his tours: an inspector kicked his second pair of shoes out of alignment to give Addison that extra requisite gig needed for his “tour award.”
You’re in the Army now, you’re not behind a plow . . .
Oh, did Addison and every other cadet long for a home-cooked meal, the loving smile of parents, the mischief of siblings, the laughter of friends and the element of civilian freedom that used to be. Major Bane, to his credit, did offer to the cadets a method whereby they might express disrespect without being officially disrespectful. The word “serious” stood for all things important, the Major wrote, and the word “seriass” the exact opposite. By a slight inflection in one’s voice one could dissent! It was best to be discreet, however, when doing this.
“It will be good to graduate,” Addison remarked to his snickering friend. They both had had enough of the West Point of Alabama and looked forward to actually start flying. “This place is seriass,” he added.
At the approximate time Addison started primary flight school, Paul Lynch, recently turned 18, enlisted in the USAAF, and like Addison, he did it for the promise of adventure and the sure knowledge that if he did not volunteer, the draft would take him anyway and he might end up in the infantry, where the next meal and clean clothes were not always assured things. Also, Paul thought that his chances for survival might be better in the air than on the ground. Someone he knew from his hometown of Leominster, Massachusetts had been killed in the infantry in Africa, and this weighed on his decision to join what was referred to in his 1943 high school yearbook as the “Army Air Corps.” Of the nine male graduates shown on the open page spread where Paul’s portrait appeared, three indicated a preference for the U.S. Army, two the Marines, two the Air Corps, and one, the class president, “Naval Aviation Cadet.” Only one young man listed “Undecided.” The almost equal number of female graduates shown on the same pages identified various colleges (including nearby Wellesley) and preferences for careers in nursing, office work, teaching and business. One young lady, Barbara A. Landers, expressed an intention to join the United States Marine Corps following graduation.
Paul had been an average student at Leominster High School and his extracurricular activities were the Speech Club and Magnet, the school newspaper, where he acted as a typesetter. Paul’s father, Roger owned a small print shop in town and Paul worked there for three hours every afternoon following school, often doing messy jobs or other tedious tasks. “This will motivate you in later life,” Roger Lynch told his son. “You will hate factory work.” The Lynch family lived in a well-maintained wooden frame home painted crisp white and located at 59 Grand Street. Leominster exuded New England charm and was the birthplace, in 1774, of John Chapman, later to become known as Johnny Appleseed. Paul was the oldest of four children and his family was staunch Methodist.
Although Paul had not put forward much of an academic effort in high school, he did excel in one senior year subject. With the war on, the high school administration applied for and received accreditation approval for physics teacher “Bucky” Bucknell to teach a course in aeronautics to a special class of male students—those interested in entering the air services. Mr. Bucknell had a reputation for being a challenging teacher, and at first Paul was not sure that he wanted to sign up for what would surely be a difficult elective. He did, however, and Mr. Bucknell quickly realized that Paul had the ability to grasp scientific concepts. More important, for perhaps the first time in his life, Paul Lynch wanted to learn. It was Mr. Bucknell, Paul would appreciate years later, who put him on a track ultimately leading to a PhD degree in biochemistry and physiology from an Ivy League university.
Also in his senior year Paul signed up to participate in the Army Air Forces Cadet program administered in Manchester, New Hampshire, hoping this would bolster his chances for becoming a USAAF pilot. There were a few openings for young men without any college experience, but not many. Still, ambition had crept into the life of Paul Lynch. Turning 18 in late September, he was proud to sign the contract as an Army Air Forces Cadet; only one other graduate from his high school had been accepted into the program. Two weeks later, at an extended family dinner, Paul was honored with the gift of a watch. The following day he walked to the bus stop with his kid brother Bruce in tow to wish him goodbye.
In World War II millions of young Americans went through a family farewell such as Paul Lynch experienced. Of those, approximately 418,000 would not return. On the day that Paul left home, October 4, 1943, SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler harangued his Group Leaders in Posen, occupied Poland. He talked about a cruelty that eventually would embroil Paul. An audio recording of his diatribe contained this:
Whether the other races live in comfort or perish of hunger interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves . . . Whether or not 10,000 Russian women collapse from exhaustion while digging a tank ditch interests me only in so far as the tank ditch is completed for Germany.“1
Following his stint in Pre-Flight School at Maxwell, Addison had to succeed at three flying schools that spanned, in the aggregate, a period of seven more months, following which he would be given 15 days home leave—the only leave he would receive before deployment to the war. Each school was roughly the same number of weeks. The schools were known as primary flight school, basic flight school and advanced flight training (twin engine).
By the fall of 1943, the USAAF trained pilots in scores of airfields located across the United States. It was a real advantage for the U.S. to be able to do this without enemy interference; moreover the terrain of North America offered great diversity for different flying conditions.
Addison was sent to Fletcher Airfield in Clarksdale, “Missippy” as he referred to the State, mimicking the vernacular of the locals, for primary flight training. Upon his arrival, he was pleased to learn that the rumor he had heard about the instructors being civilian was true. The Army had contracted out the training. Addison said: “We had a couple of sergeants and only one lieutenant. The focus was all on flying and it was fun!”
The airplane that Addison would learn to fly was the Fairchild PT-19 “Cornell” Trainer, a two-seat, open cockpit monoplane that sported the affectionate nickname “Cradle of Heroes” for having first borne so many cadets who went on to achieve so much in the field of U.S. military aviation. Addison was proud of the fact that he never flew a biplane and that he qualified to fly solo after only eight hours of flight instruction. He found out that qualifying for a solo flight was different than actually experiencing the task at hand, however, and whatever notions Addison may have held about his first solo flight during his months of anticipation did not pan out on the big day itself. The three basic components of flight occupied his mind: a successful takeoff, a stable flight, and a safe landing. For the first time these were all his alone to control. Terrified, he survived without incident. He adjusted his apprehensions though, and fondly remembered subsequent solo flights: “Flying really gets in one’s blood,” he effused. “It’s infectious.”
Shortly afterwards, Addison received a letter from a favorite uncle, who wrote: “Your dad told me you had a solo. No doubt it was quite a thrill to be up in that vast sky all alone, no one around to bump into; in other words you were experiencing that phrase, the sky is the limit.”
When Addison arrived at Fletcher Airfield, a man named A.K. Schaefer, who lived in nearby Clarksdale, contacted him. Mr. Schaefer was a producer of cottonseed oil who did business with Addison’s father. What followed was a series of invitations to Addison for home cooked meals served with true Southern hospitality. Mr. and Mrs. Schaefer and Addison would remain friends for life.
“The instructors told us in case we needed to make a forced landing to fly down in line with the cotton rows and not to cross them, otherwise we might flip the plane over.” While Addison was at Fletcher Field a tragedy happened to another cadet—not a crash—he was killed while turning over the prop of a PT-19.
Addison’s basic flight training took place at nearby Greenville, Mississippi, a distance of only 75 miles from Clarksdale, and he learned upon arrival that Greenville was a seriass place. “It was all military,” he bemoaned. An official publication of the airfield went by the name The Cadet Rudder— Regulations and Information, and its author lacked the light touch of Major Bane. “Military discipline is intelligent, willing, and cheerful obedience to the will of the leader,” this pamphlet for enlisted cadets started.
“Cadets returning from the flight line or ground school will march in formation, and in no case will the formation consist of less than ten men, unless ordered by an officer.” The Rudder went on to explain exactly how marching was to be accomplished: “Eyes will be kept straight to the front and off the ground. There will be no talking. Body will be held erect with shoulders square . . . arms . . . will swing three inches. . . . Cadets will refrain from having hands in pocket at any time.”
The officers, being officers, were exempt from this.
Addison knew that when it came to judging flying skills, officer and cadet students would be on equal footing. Basic school airplanes had a canopy and a radio, and the emphasis was on navigation. Using only a map, trainees were ordered to fly to some town or other location and from there, to proceed to another spot. When destinations along the route were reached, the pilot would radio to a ground observer who would visually confirm the plane’s position using binoculars and log in the time. “Railroad tracks came in real handy,” Addison commented. Basic school also involved flying at night, and this scared Addison but he got through it.
At the successful conclusion of this school Addison was asked his preference for an airplane model. He responded stating he wanted a B-25—the sleek Mitchell 2-engine bomber. Off to twin-engine school he went at George Field, Lawrenceville, Illinois, where he learned to fly the Beech AT-10 “Wichita,” also known as the “Beaverboard Bomber” due to the fact that the majority of the airplane was made of sheets of pressed wood, including, interestingly, its gas tank. This was done to conserve strategic materials for real bombers. The little bomber sported oversized radial engines and a stubby-looking nose. “Both engines should operate at the same speed,” Addison noted. “Otherwise, there’ll be vibrations. Not good.”
As his course completion date approached, the USAAF informed Addison, to his disappointment, that he would be designated as a second pilot and would be promoted to flight officer, but would not be commissioned as a second lieutenant. This smarted. Many graduates in his class received full commissions, not the warrant appointment that he received. He was also informed that he would train on the B-17 Flying Fortress instead of the B-25 he had requested. “One takes what one gets” he wisely philosophized about his military flight training. “I had my silver wings.” Addison had survived the culling-down process; the washout percentage for the aviation cadet pilot program was approximately 40% at that time.
Addison was consoled in a letter from one of the four ‘M’s. Mary B. wrote: “Co-Pilot of a B-17 sounds very impressive Ad, but it won’t be long I’m sure before you are ‘first pilot.’”
On April 15, 1944, some 14 months after enlisting, Addison was awarded his silver wings at a ceremony attended by his parents and 12-year-old sister, Mary Cay. His family had to have been bursting with pride. He was the first Bartush so distinguished. His graduation book, Wingspan 44-D, contained this:
We find it thrilling to graduate as a full-fledged member of the hardest hitting team on earth, but none of us will have a feeling of satisfaction until our enemies have been blasted into submission.
After 14 months of military service, newly minted pilot Addison Bartush now had a short-term objective that was even more important to him than flying in a B-17. He was about to embark on that coveted 15-day leave.
His immediate plan was to get to the Terrace Room at the Statler Hotel, the best hotel in beautiful downtown Detroit, Michigan, one of the richest cities in the world. It was a luxurious place with fine dining and dancing to the music of premier bands. Would Pancho and his Sambas be performing? Addison enjoyed both dancing and Latin music, but he did not particularly enjoy dancing to the Brazilian-style music that Pancho played, and he hoped that a different band would be booked then at the hotel. In a pinch, however, Pancho would do just fine. “All I wanted was dumbsquat pleasure,” Addison confessed. U.S. Army Air Forces regulations required him to wear his uniform at all times when outside his home of residence, and this Addison would do with pride.
Paul Lynch contracted into the aviation cadet program at Fort Devens, Massachusetts and in between the paperwork processing there played in a pickup game of touch football that turned ugly. One of the players on the opposing team had been a member of the University of Iowa football squad and was determined to demonstrate his ability. “We were just as determined not to back off,” Paul recounted about this incident.
Boot camp for Paul would be at Biloxi, Mississippi, which was some 60 hours distant by rail. At stops along the way, local citizens, the USO and the Salvation Army provided free coffee, donuts and other refreshments. Paul was touched by this kindness and patriotic support.
As Paul viewed countryside he had never seen, it was late 1943. The U.S. Army in the western Pacific under the command of Gen. MacArthur was making slow progress against the Japanese on the island of New Guinea. Africa and Sicily had been cleared of the Germans, and Italy was about to become a new battleground. The Soviet Union’s Red Army advanced onwards towards Kiev, having defeated the Germans at the enormous battle of Kursk the previous July. The Soviets still had approximately 1,000 miles to go before they reached Berlin, however, and the Americans and the British would not land at Normandy for another eight months. In either direction, east or west, there was plenty of war left for Paul Lynch to join in on.
Paul took his training at Keesler Field and lived in a tent city, four men per tent. The weather was mild at first until a hurricane hit, flooding the entire base including Paul’s tent. “We paddled around and then it got muddy,” he recollected. It was not long before Paul joined others in referring to Keesler as the “S—hole of the universe.” The only diversion from mindless marching and reviews was the across-the-street WAC barracks. In the evenings, which ladies might leave their shades up?
It was Keesler Field that the playwright Neil Simon later immortalized in his play Biloxi Blues. His famous one-liner, “You need three promotions to be an asshole,” fit Paul’s circumstances to a tee. At Keesler there were plenty of drill sergeants who had more than their requisite three.
Paul, like Addison, witnessed men collapse on the tarmac. The ambulances that picked them up were referred to as meat wagons. Recruits were shown graphic films about the effects of venereal disease; shocking films depicting grossly afflicted male and female genitalia. The disturbing images and strong warnings made an impression on Paul, who reflected on his sheltered existence growing up in small-town Massachusetts.
World War II exposed tens of millions of young adults to behavior previously unknown to them. True to his religious upbringing, Paul did not succumb to temptation. But no one who participated in the war, succumbing or not, would come out of it “naive.”
Another thing significant to Paul’s experience at Keesler was something that he was intentionally not exposed to. All the time he was there, he never once saw what today is referred to as an African-American, and back then, a Negro, in uniform. And yet, there were 7,000 African-American soldier-airmen training on the other side of the Keesler Airfield when Paul was there.2 Not only did he not see them on or off base, Paul didn’t even know they were there. It was not until 1948 when President Harry Truman integrated the U.S. Armed Forces by Executive Order that this segregation policy ceased to exist.
As luck would have it, Paul got a cushy assignment while at Keesler. At a beer party at the PX one night a sergeant came up to him and asked, “How would you like to ride the jeep tomorrow during the parade?” Paul jumped at the chance to avoid standing outside at review in the hot sun. For the rest of his stay at Keesler Paul got to ride each week as part of an elite “Camouflage Unit.” “Our only job was to keep the jeep clean,” Paul joked.
Paul’s basic training at Keesler ended in a disappointment for him, somewhat akin to Addison’s, but with more impact. Only two members of his 200-man unit were selected to continue on in the air cadet program, and he was not one of them. “One had a commercial pilot’s license,” Paul observed. Paul believed that at this juncture, the U.S. Army Air Forces had more air cadets than needed.
Paul learned that he would proceed to Buckley Field, near Denver, and then on to Las Vegas to learn about B-17s and how to operate the M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun. “I was pleased to discover I would be going to Europe,” he said. No one told him this but he deduced it (undoubtedly Addison did as well) from the fact that that was the war theater where practically all the B-17s operated. Paul explained: “I had absolutely no desire to fly long distances over water. I once almost drowned as a kid.” The prospect of being in Great Britain appealed to Paul also.
At Buckley Field Paul learned how to release a Sperry Ball Turret (it weighed more than 1,000 lbs. and in an emergency situation it might need to be jettisoned), to arm and safely dispose of bombs that might become hung up, and to clean and service machine guns. “Week-end passes were offered for good grades,” Paul reported, “and I got ‘em!” On one occasion he skied at Berthoud Pass, elevation 11,300’ and on another hiked near there. For Paul, this was a far cry from the rolling country of the eastern woodlands. On weekends Paul and his buddies shunned the local saloons and honkytonks in favor of the Park Lane Hotel, the Statler-like establishment of downtown Denver. They wanted to meet nice girls, he explained.
Once on a Sunday morning, Paul and his friends headed off base to a church service, where en route, prostitutes solicited them by calling down to them from the open windows of their establishment. “This bothered me,” Paul recollected tongue-in-cheek, “as my mother taught that Sunday is a day of rest.” When they arrived at the church, one that they had not attended before, they discovered that they had walked into a fever-pitched hallelujah revival! All in all, it was a surreal day, Paul reflected—the stuff good memories are made of, particularly for young men new to a larger world.
In World War II the USAAF trained 300,000 gunners, “more than any other specialty except aircraft maintenance,”3 and the schools were in remote areas where bullets and shell casings could drop harmlessly on what was then considered desert wasteland (today environmental concerns would be raised by such an activity).
At Las Vegas Paul began by shooting skeet on the ground and quickly ended up in the waist of a B-17, shooting the powerful M2 Browning machine gun that had a muzzle velocity of3,050 feet per second, an effective range of2,000 yards (more than a mile) and could fire at a rate of500 rounds a minute.4 “We shot at a sleeve towed by another aircraft,” Paul said. Each student’s bullets were colored differently and the color would rub off on a target sleeve, enabling the instructors to determine those students who scored hits. Sleeves were towed at a distance of 500 to 1,000 yards. Piloting a tow plane was dangerous work and women sometimes performed it. “They feared being accidently hit,” Paul indicated. “Some trainees did not seem to know what they were doing.”
Paul was taught to lead his opponent, that is, to let the enemy fly into his stream of bullets, and also to fire in short bursts. The gun sights had rings around them that the gunner could use to lead an attacker—two rings for longer distance, one ring for more close in. Shooting accurately was very much a judgmental matter, Paul learned, and there was not much time to react.
At a survival course Paul was instructed on how to use a parachute. He was told not to open a chute too soon because of air turbulence behind the B-17; that the wash of the props and the large airplane body might spill the air out of the parachute. “Count to ten before pulling your rip-chord,” he heard. Also, “If enemy fighters are in the air, wait on the rip-chord until you can distinguish tree branches below.” No practice parachute jumps were made.
Paul visited Las Vegas only once and was not impressed. It had gambling centers, yes, but was yet to be improved by the gangster Bugsy Siegel. He enjoyed seeing nearby Boulder Dam, however.
Paul’s next assignment would be at Gulfport, Mississippi, where he would become part of a B-17 crew. It was August 1944.
The co-pilot detachment Addison went to following home leave was at Buckingham Army Air Field, Fort Myers, Florida. In short order he was flying almost daily. The airplane that he flew, the B-17 “Flying Fortress,” was one of the most famous and extensively used combat airplanes to come out of World War II. The Flying Fortress had a service ceiling of 35,600 feet, a maximum speed of 287 mph (although Addison would dispute this) and could deliver a 5,000 lb. bomb load to targets as far as 800 miles away. Its large rudder/tail assembly and long wingspan, at almost 104 feet, made for stable flight. Moreover, the B-17 looked as a propeller driven heavy bomber should: a thin, rounded, tapered fuselage, proportionally large airfoils and four enormous Wright “Cyclone” turbo-supercharged radial engines—each capable of producing 1,200 hp.
It was the B-17’s reputation for absorbing battle damage, however that made her special. Newsreel after newsreel depicted incredibly torn, twisted, holed and seemingly unflyable B-17s successfully limping back to home base. “Built tough,” a great deal of credit also belonged to the expert ground crews that superbly maintained this aircraft. The American public fell in love with “The Fort.” So did Addison Bartush.
The B-24 airmen became jealous of the B-17 crews, and started calling the B-17 the “Hollywood Bomber,” because it appeared in so many news-reels and movies about the war. In retaliation, the B-17 airman started referring to the stumpy looking B-24 not as the “Liberator,” its proper name, but rather the “Flying Boxcar.”
Addison quickly learned that there was more to being a B-17 co-pilot than simply being available to take over command of the aircraft if something happened to the pilot. The co-pilot had a host of duties: pre-flight checks, starting and warm-up duties, pre-take-off and take-off duties, inflight responsibilities, landing functions and a detailed report to be completed after landing. A co-pilot under instruction wrote a poem entitled Lament of a Co-Pilot and Addison agreed with what it said.
To start right engine—procedures the same;
Just use the checklist—don’t trust your brain.
When Addison was a veteran combat second pilot this checklist proved exceptionally handy on one memorable occasion. His squadron was grooming him for first pilot status, and one afternoon out of the blue on a day that he had no assigned flying duty, the word came down that he was to immediately take up a B-17 by himself, that is, without any crew including a copilot. “The problem,” Addison confessed, grinning like a red-faced Cheshire cat, “was I had had a beer.” It was the checklist that saved him.
Addison learned formation flying while at Buckingham. He also had some time to sightsee the Fort Myers area, where Henry Ford and Thomas Edison had winter estates. Addison enjoyed the wild aspect of the lands and waters. “It was beautiful,” he said.
It was at this duty station that Addison received an interesting communication from Shedd-Bartush Foods, Inc., the new name of his father’s ever-expanding company. An uncle who worked at the company wrote:
Enclosed is a new Air Travel Card showing the change in company name. Also enclosed are instructions in connection with the use of this card. Kindly return your old card which was given to you just before you left Detroit. . .
The instructions explained that any charges would be billed to Shedd-Bartush Foods for payment and that airlines were not to accept cash from Addison for his purchase of tickets. This card enabled Addison to travel anywhere in the world on 16 different, named, commercial airlines.
Joseph Addison Bartush, his full name, was not an average Joe, so to speak. “My problem,” Addison chuckled, “was that during the war I couldn’t go anywhere!”
It was August 1944 and Addison was ordered back to “Missippy,” only this time to the Gulfport Army Airfield—to a Combat Crew Placement Pool there.
“Pleased to meet you,” Addison said, extending a hand. “My name is Addison Bartush. I will be your co-pilot.”
“Paul Lynch, Sir, and I’ll be one of your waist gunners.” As the two men sized each other up in the briefing room, Paul reflected that maybe this was a good start. Addison had not introduced himself as Flight Officer Bartush.