11-09-2017 Tri-City Area History Page

“Storick’s Little Paw Paw Lake”

 North Berrien Historical Museum is always interested in photos, stories or information sharing.  The museum can be contacted at 269-468-3330 or by email to info@northberrienhistory.org.

From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum

300 Coloma Avenue, Coloma

The Paw Paw River Journal

A backward look at war

Veterans Day is approaching, and it gives me an excuse to revisit WWII one more time.  And I’ve been thinking about my last flight before finishing pilot training in the Air Force.  It was a night, cross-country trip, and I almost “bought the farm!”  My own fault and I’m not proud of it!

Twin engine advanced trainers, the planes were UC-78s, and could carry four passengers.  Two student pilots always flew together, and I was admittedly a little nervous… hoping I would be paired with one of my friends.  Not so!  I got a stranger, a shy kid named Smitty, and the first thing he did was ask me if I would fly the whole trip!  He said he was so shaky, he didn’t think he could do it!

This irritated me, and perhaps a psychologist would say that his anxious face just mirrored my own anxiety at flying a long night cross-country over strange territory.  Adding to my anxiety… we had just gotten a hot flash from headquarters.  If we ever had an engine failure, we were not to try to reach home base… just bail out. Those UC-78s would not maintain altitude on single-engine!  I’d made up my mind if it ever happened to me, I’d try to nurse it back home anyway and call the tower for a straight in approach!  I’d even practiced that.  Now I was doing it at night. That part of Texas was mesquite, arroyos, jack rabbits, cactus and rattlesnakes.  I was flying almost solo… no copilot, just another passenger!

I controlled my anger, and I guess that contributed to a mistake.  A pilot lives (or dies) by his check lists.  There is a check list when you go out to the airplane… another one before you start the engines, another one before you take off, one after you get to cruising altitude, and one before you land.  And a pilot had better never, never, ever skip anything!

On those twin engines there are two wing tanks.  Each one feeds gas to that engine.  There is a cross feed valve between the pilot’s seats.  You have it on in case one fuel pump fails… and the engine will draw from th