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  #1  
Old September 1st 03, 03:15 PM
Mike Marron
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Default WW2 Story

Bruce Carr: The Dead Chicken Around My Neck Was Beginning To Smell

After carrying it for several days, 20-year-old Bruce Carr still
hadn't decided how to cook it without the Germans catching him.
But, as hungry as he was, he couldn't bring himself to eat it. In his
mind, no meat was better than raw meat, so he threw it away.
Resigning himself to what appeared to be his unavoidable fate, he
turned in the direction of the nearest German airfield. Even POW's
get to eat. Sometimes. And aren't they constantly dodging from tree
to tree, ditch to culvert. And he was exhausted.

He was tired of trying to find cover where there was none. Carr
hadn't realized that Czechoslovakian forests had no underbrush until,
at the edge of the farm field, he struggled out of his parachute and
dragged it into the woods. During the times he had been screaming
along at treetop level in his P-51 "Angels Playmate" the forests and
fields had been nothing more than a green blur behind the
Messerchmitts, Focke-Wulfs, trains and trucks he had in his sights.
He never expected to find himself a pedestrian far behind enemy lines.

The instant antiaircraft shrapnel ripped into the engine, he knew he
was in trouble ..serious trouble.

Clouds of coolant steam hissing through jagged holes in the cowling
told Carr he was about to ride the silk elevator down to a long walk
back to his squadron. A very long walk. This had not been part of the
mission plan. Several years before, when 18-year-old Bruce Carr
enlisted in the Army, in no way could he have imagined himself taking
a walking tour of rural Czechoslovakia with Germans everywhere around
him. When he enlisted, all he had just focused on flying airplanes ..
fighter airplanes.

By the time he had joined the military, Carr already knew how to fly.
He had been flying as a private pilot since 1939, soloing in a $25
Piper Cub his father had bought from a disgusted pilot who had left it
lodged securely in the top of a tree. His instructor had been an
Auburn, NY, native by the name of Johnny Bruns. " In 1942, after I
enlisted, " as Bruce Carr remembers it, "we went to meet our
instructors. I was the last cadet left in the assignment room and was
nervous. Then the door opened and out steped the man who was
to be my miitary flight instructor. It was Johnny Bruns ! We took a
Stearman to an outlying field, doing aerobatics all the way; then he
got out and soloed me. That was my first flight in the military."

The guy I had in advanced training in the AT-6 had just graduated
himself and didn't know a bit more than I did," Carr can't help but
smile, as he remembers .. which meant neither one of us knew anything.
Zilch ! After three or four hours in the AT-6, they took me and a few
others aside, told us we were going to fly P-40s and we left for
Tipton, Georgia.

We got to Tipton, and a lieutenant just back from North Africa kneeled
on the P- 40's wing, showed me where all the levers were, made sure
I knew how everything worked, then said ' If you can get it started ..
go fly it' .. just like that ! I was 19 years old and thought I knew
everything. I didn't know enough to be scared. They didn't tell us
what to do. They just said 'Go fly,' so I buzzed every cow in that
part of the state. Nineteen years old .. and with 1100 horsepower,
what did they expect? Then we went overseas."

By today's standards, Carr and that first contingent of pilots shipped
to England were painfully short of experience. They had so little
flight time that today, they would barely have their civilian pilot's
license. Flight training eventually became more formal, but in those
early days, their training had a hint of fatalistic Darwinism to it:
if they learned fast enough to survive, they were ready to move on to
the next step. Including his 40 hours in the P-40 terrorizing
Georgia, Carr had less than 160 hours total flight time when he
arrived in England.

His group in England was to be the pioneering group that would take
the Mustang into combat, and he clearly remembers his introduction to
the airplane. " I thought I was an old P-40 pilot and the -51B
would be no big deal. But I was wrong! I was truly impressed with
the airplane. REALLY impressed! It flew like an airplane. I FLEW a
P-40, but in the P-51 .. I was PART OF the airplane.. and it was part
of me. There was a world of difference."

When he first arrived in England, the instructions were, ' This is a
P-51. Go fly it. Soon, we'll have to form a unit, so fly.' A lot of
English cows were buzzed. On my first long-range mission, we just kept
climbing, and I'd never had an airplane above about 10,000 feet
before. Then we were at 30,000 feet and I couldn't ' Angels Playmate'
believe it! I'd gone to church as a kid, and I knew that's where the
angels were and that's when I named my airplane 'Angels Playmate.'

Then a bunch of Germans roared down through us, and my leader
immediately dropped tanks and turned hard for home. But I'm not that
smart. I'm 19 years old and this SOB shoots at me, and I'm not going
to let him get away with it. We went round and round, and I'm really
mad because he shot at me. Childish emotions, in retrospect. He
couldn't shake me .. but I couldn't get on his tail to get any hits
either.
Before long, we're right down in the trees. I'm shooting, but I'm not
hitting. I am, however, scaring the hell out of him. I'm at least as
excited as he is. Then I tell myself to calm down.

We're roaring around within a few feet of the ground, and he pulls up
to go over some trees, so I just pull the trigger and keep it down.
The gun barrels burned out and one bullet, a tracer, came tumbling out
and made a great huge arc. It came down and hit him on the left wing
about where the aileron was.

He pulled up, off came the canopy, and he jumped out, but too low for
the chute to open and the airplane crashed. I didn't shoot him down,
I scared him to death with one bullet hole in his left wing. My first
victory wasn't a kill; it was more of a suicide.
The rest of Carr's 14 victories were much more conclusive.

Being red-hot fighter pilot, however, was absolutely no use to him as
he lay shivering in the Czechoslovakian forest. He knew he would die
if he didn't get some food and shelter soon.

I knew where the German field was because I'd flown over it, so I
headed in that direction to surrender. I intended to walk in the main
gate, but it was late afternoon and, for some reason, I had second
thoughts and decided to wait in the woods until morning.

While I was lying there, I saw a crew working on an Fw 190 right at
the edge of the woods. When they were done, I assumed, just like
you assume in America, that the thing was all finished. The
cowling's on. The engine has been run. The fuel truck has been
there. It's ready to go. Maybe a dumb assumption for a young fellow,
but I assumed so. So, I got in the airplane and spent the night all
hunkered down in the cockpit.

Before dawn, it got light and I started studying the cockpit. I can't
read German, so I couldn't decipher dials and I couldn't find the
normal switches like there were in American airplanes. I kept looking
, and on the right side was a smooth panel. Under this was a
compartment with something I would classify as circuit breakers.
They didn't look like ours, but they weren't regular switches either.

I began to think that the Germans were probably no different from the
Americans in that they would turn off all the switches when
finished with the airplane. I had no earthly idea what those circuit
breakers or switches did, but I reversed every one of them. If they
were off, that would turn them on. When I did that, the gauges showed
there was electricity on the airplane.

I'd seen this metal T-handle on the right side of the cockpit that had
a word on it that looked enough like 'starter' for me to think that's
what it was. But when I pulled it, nothing happened. Nothing.

But if pulling doesn't work, you push. And when I did, an inertia
starter started winding up. I let it go for a while, then pulled on
the handle and the engine started.

The sun had yet to make it over the far trees and the air base was
just waking up, getting ready to go to war. The Fw 190 was one of
many dispersed throughout the woods, and at that time of the morning,
the sound of the engine must have been heard by many Germans not far
away on the main base. But even if they heard it, there was no reason
for alarm. The last thing they expected was one of their fighters
taxiing out with a weary Mustang pilot at the controls. Carr, however,
wanted to take no chances.

"The taxiway came out of the woods and turned right towards where I
knew the airfield was because I'd watched them land and take off while
I was in the trees. "On the left side of the taxiway, there was a
shallow ditch and a space where there had been two hangars.
The slabs were there, but the hangars were gone, and the area
around them had been cleaned of all debris.

I didn't want to go to the airfield, so I plowed down through the
ditch, and when the airplane started up the other side, I shoved the
throttle forward and took off right between where the two hangars had
been.

At that point, Bruce Carr had no time to look around to see what
effect the sight of a Focke-Wulf erupting from the trees had on the
Germans. Undoubtedly, they were confused, but not unduly concerned.
After all, it was probably just one of their maverick pilots doing
something against the rules. They didn't know it was one of OUR
maverick pilots doing something against the rules.

Carr had problems more immediate than a bunch of confused Germans.
He had just pulled off the perfect plane-jacking; but he knew nothing
about the airplane, couldn't read the placards and had 200 miles of
enemy territory to cross. At home, there would be hundreds of his
friends and fellow warriors, all of whom were, at that moment,
preparing their guns to shoot at airplanes marked with swastikas and
crosses-airplanes identical to the one Bruce Carr was at that moment
flying. But Carr wasn't thinking that far ahead. First, he had to
get there, and that meant learning how to fly the airplane.

There were two buttons behind the throttle and three buttons behind
those two. I wasn't sure what to push, so I pushed one button and
nothing happened. I pushed the other and the gear started up. As soon
as I felt it coming up and I cleared the fence at the edge of the
German field, I took it down little lower and headed for home.
All I wanted to do was clear the ground by about six inches, and there
was only one throttle position for me: full forward.

As I headed for home, I pushed one of the other three buttons, and the
flaps came part way down. I pushed the button next to it, and they
came up again. So I knew how to get the flaps down. But that was all I
knew.

I can't make heads or tails out of any of the instruments. None. I
can't even figure how to change the prop pitch. But I don't sweat
that, because props are full forward when you shut down anyway,
and it was running fine.

This time, it was German cows that were buzzed, although, as he
streaked cross fields and through the trees only a few feet off the
ground, that was not the intent. At something over 350 miles an hour
below tree-top level, he was trying to be a difficult target, but as
he crossed the lines, he wasn't difficult enough.

There was no doubt when I crossed the lines because every SOB and
his brother who had a .50-caliber machine gun shot at me. It was all
over the place, and I had no idea which way to go. I didn't do much
dodging because I was just as likely to fly into bullets as around
them.

When he hopped over the last row of trees and found himself crossing
his own airfield, he pulled up hard to set up for landing. His mind
was on flying the airplane. I pitched up, pulled the throttle back and
punched the buttons I knew would put the gear and flaps down. I felt
the flaps come down, but the gear wasn't doing anything. I came
around and pitched up again, still punching the button. Nothing was
happening and I was really frustrated.

He had been so intent on figuring out his airplane problems, he forgot
he was putting on a very tempting show for the ground crew. As I
started up the last time, I saw the air defense guys ripping the tarps
off the quad .50s that ringed the field. I hadn't noticed the machine
guns before, but I was sure noticing them right then.

I roared around in as tight a pattern as I could fly and chopped the
throttle. I slid to a halt on the runway and it was a nice belly job,
if I say so myself.

His antics over the runway had drawn quite a crowd, and the airplane
had barely stopped sliding before there were MPs up on the wings
trying to drag him out of the airplane by his arms. They didn't
realize he was still strapped in.

I started throwing some good Anglo-Saxon swear words at them, and
they let loose while I tried to get the seat belt undone, but my hands
wouldn't work and I couldn't do it. Then they started pulling on me
again because they still weren't convinced I was an American.

I was yelling and hollering; then, suddenly, they let go, and a face
drops down into the cockpit in front of mine. It was my Group
Commander, George R. Bickel. "Bickel said, ' Carr, where in the hell
have you been , and what have you been doing now?' Bruce Carr was
home and entered the record books as the only pilot known to leave on
a mission flying a Mustang and return flying a Focke-Wulf.

For several days after the ordeal, he had trouble eating and sleeping,
but when things again fell into place, he took some of the other
pilots out to show them the airplane and how it worked. One of them
pointed out a small handle under the glare shield that he hadn't
noticed before. When he pulled it, the landing gear unlocked and fell
out. The handle was a separate, mechanical uplock. At least, he had
figured out the important things.

Carr finished the war with 14 aerial victories after flying 172
missions, which included three bailouts because of ground fire. He
stayed in the service, eventually flying 51 missions in Korea in F-86s
and 286 in Vietnam, flying F-100s. That's an amazing 509 combat
missions and doesn't include many others during Viet Nam in other
aircraft types.

What makes a fitting ending to this story is that there is no ending.
Bruce Carr is still actively flying and routinely shows up at air
shows in a P-51D painted up exactly like' Angel's Playmate'. The last
original ' Angel's Playmate' was put on display in a museum in Paris,
France, right after the war.

There is no such thing as an ex-fighter pilot. They never cease being
what they once were, whether they are in the cockpit or not. There is
a profile into which almost every one of the breed fits, and it is the
charter within that profile that makes the pilot a fighter pilot-not
the other way around. An make no mistake about it, Col. Bruce Carr is
definitely a fighter pilot.

Stallion 51 Note:

We are sad to say that Bruce Carr, long time friend and guest of
Stallion 51, passed away in April of 1998 at the age of 74. We are
proud to have known this true American hero and fighter pilot.

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  #2  
Old September 1st 03, 10:25 PM
Leadfoot
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Posts: n/a
Default

Stallion 51 Note:

We are sad to say that Bruce Carr, long time friend and guest of
Stallion 51, passed away in April of 1998 at the age of 74. We are
proud to have known this true American hero and fighter pilot.


So Old and Bold fighter pilots do exist!!!


 




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