Looking Back From Ninety


First Lieutenant Chennault

In October, I began to mine Claire Chennault's military records to trace his career through the US Army and, after he retired, the independent US Air Force. When I was a soldier, I knew my personnel record as a "201 file," but Chennault's is simply headed "Master Personnel Record." It's amazing how much paper an American soldier leaves behind; this file at the St Louis archives runs to 838 pages, and through two of his descendants I also have a few hundred pages of medical records, some duplicated in the personnel file but others not. This has taken me awhile. In November I sketched his life up to September 1917, when he applied to the Army, and now I continue with his early service.

Under the pressure of the First World War, a few months of officer training apparently served as the equivalent of the usual entry grade of 2nd lieutenant, for in November 1917 Chennault was commissioned a 1st lieutenant of Infantry, with serial number O-10090. He was fated never to see service on the Western Front, probably because he was felled by the great influenza pandemic of 1918. But he managed to be assigned to the newfangled Air Service, and eventually to become a fighter pilot in his own right, flying an open-cockpit Boeing MB-3. This part of his life is posted on the Annals of the Flying Tigers this month and, with his early years, in a new file on his military biography, with more to come in January.

The Lost Paratroopers of Normandy

In June 1944, some 160 paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were dropped too low, too fast, and too far from the D-Day beaches. Some were injured and some drowned, but the survivors gathered in the village of Graignes. The villagers helped them defend the town against a murderous Waffen-SS division, the 17th SS Panzergrenadiere (mechanized infantry). It's a great story. Read about it on the Warbird's Book Club.

The US Army in the 1950s

I was drafted in the happy decade after the end of combat operations in Korea and before they heated up again in Vietnam. Some years ago, I posted a page about my six weeks of basic training in the mud and snow of Fort Dix, New Jersey, when we were run ragged by a cadre of Korean War veterans who for good reason took our training very seriously. To my surprise, that page became one of the most popular on my website, probably because many of the American soldiers to see combat in Vietnam would have had Basic much like mine. So now I have filled it out by adding Chapter Seven of my book Looking Back From Ninety, recalling the two years and a day that I spent at Fort Dix, New Jersey; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and Coligny Caserne in Orléans, south of Paris.

Blue skies!

I am writing this over Thanksgiving, which American colleges call Fall Break, just as their Christmas and Easter vacations have been secularized as Winter Break and Spring Break, so no one will feel left out. Around the dinner table, in addition to Sally and me, were our daughter and her two daughters. (Our son-in-law remained in Alaska, hunting black-tailed deer and hoping for some early skiing.) Both the young women are college students, so my first order of business was to settle the two burning questions of our time: 1) Who is Taylor Swift?, and 2) What is Spotify? Of course both had the Spotify app on their phones, so I listened to one of Ms Swift's laments and concluded that she was a reincarnation of the Bob Dylan and the Joan Baez of my ski-bum year in Aspen, and that she probably deserves her immense popularity, which had just crashed the Ticketmaster website.

And I was pleased to see that Younger Granddaughter also had Luciano Pavarotti (La donna é mobile) on her playlist. So all is good, and the oncoming generation has not entirely lost touch with the greatness of the past.

So blue skies and Slava Ukraini! (Glory to Ukraine!) -- Daniel Ford. You can send humanitarian aid through Razom for Ukraine (a 501c3 charity). Or support the military through the National Bank of Ukraine.

And welcome to the forum!

Here are a thousand or so files on airplanes, pilots, and the wars of the past hundred years, grouped under these headings:

Annals of the Flying Tigers
Annals of the Brewster Buffalo
Annals of Poland: war and exile, 1939-1948
Japan at War, 1931-1945
Annals of the Chinese Air Force
Glen Edwards and the Flying Wing
Remembering Bluie West One
Annals of Vietnam
War in the Modern World

Plus these excellent places to look for more:
The Warbird's Book Club
Daniel Ford’s books
The Piper Cub Forum

Flying Tigers
revised and updated

On this website: Front page | Flying Tigers | Chinese Air Force | Japan at War | Brewster Buffalo | Glen Edwards & the Flying Wing | Vietnam | War in the Modern World | Bluie West One | Poland 1939-1948 | Book Club | Book reviews | Question? | Google us | Website & webmaster | Site map

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Posted December 2022. Websites © 1997-2022 Daniel Ford; all rights reserved. This site sets no cookies, but Mailchimp and Amazon do, if you click through to their services. I never see those cookies.