Pilots of 17 Squadron at Mingaldon airport in February 1942. Sgt. Barrick is second from left. On far left is another American, Lloyd "Tommy" Thomas from Chicago. On the right, leaning against his Hurricane, is "Bush" Cotton, a Flight Leader in the Royal Australian Air Force. The others are unidentified but may have been Canadians. (From the Aces of World War 2 website.)
Reading the diaries of the Flying Tigers in Burma, it's astounding at how long it took them to realize that most of the Royal Air Force pilots serving alongside them weren't "Limeys" as they had believed. The first such mention I can find is by Charlie Bond, who encountered some Brewster Buffalo pilots at Magwe toward the end of February 1942. "What I thought were RAF men actually are New Zealand pilots," Bond wrote of RAF 67 Squadron on March 1. "Good guys, and very much like Americans." (And in fact they were "RAF men." They'd been trained in the RNZAF, but in Burma they were serving in a Royal Air Force squadron.)
And apparently no Tiger ever noticed that there were also five Americans in RAF 17 Squadron, flying Hurricanes at Rangoon, Magwe, and across the border at Loiwing when the Allied air force retreated into China. One of the most notable, and a decorated British ace as a result of his combat alongside the AVG, was John Frederick Barrick, whom his squadron mates called "Tex." Enjoy the story, which I wish I'd pieced together long ago.
Magdalena Grzebalkowska's Poland 1945: War and Peace is another remarkable book, brilliantly translated into English. Read the review on the Annals of Poland.
I worried about dragging this magnificent mini-series into the Warbird's Forum. But what the heck! The Queen's Gambit takes place in the 1950s and 1960s, and if Beth Harmon is to become the world's best chess player, she must beat the Russians at their own game. There's some Cold War menace in the background, and of course Netflix, like most of the entertainment industry, thinks the Soviet Union's only flaw was giving up too soon on Karl Marx. The Americans therefore are shown as crass and the Russians as big-hearted, and at the close Beth finds fulfillment in a Moscow park, playing chess with sweet old men with not a hint of sexism or xenophobia.
The critics have gone gaga over Anya Taylor-Joy, who does indeed do a great job as a chess-obsessed and Librium- and booze-addicted girl and woman who wipes the floor with almost every man and boy she plays against. For me, though, the more amazing actor is Isla Johnston, who plays Beth as a 9-year-old whose life is changed by a sad-faced janitor in the basement of her orphanage. With her terrifying calm, Ms Johnston is so good she's spooky. I was disappointed to find her replaced in episode 2 by Ms Taylor-Joy as a teenager adopted by a dysfunctional couple and placed in a standard-issue US high school. Again, chess saves Beth from the Heathers and football heroes who populate the place. Nothing can stop her now, save the occasional Russian! By episode 6, we're on to Paris, with Moscow not far behind. Altogether, and despite the occasional slowdown, this is the best piece of television I have ever seen. (And speaking of addictions, look more closely at the chessmen on that board!) Blue skies! — Daniel Ford
Here are a thousand or so files on airplanes, pilots, and the wars of the past hundred years, grouped under these headings: