Posts Tagged 'dien bien phu'

Glory Days In Dayton

At the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, standing with arguably the world’s most beautiful airplane, ever; the 1932 Boeing P-26 “Peashooter,” was the U. S. Army Air Corp’s first low-wing, all-metal pursuit (fighter) plane, an aesthetic jewel of an airplane. 

Unfortunately for my prospects of worldly success, I am a person who can identify, on sight, virtually every military aircraft to have seen service in any air arm in the world, between 1935 and 1955. 

At the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, I spent an ecstatic day wandering among the beautifully restored wonders of military aviation. They were all there, the P-39 Bell Airacobra with its through-the-nose cannon, the P-51 North American Mustang, considered the ultimate propeller-driven fighter, the Korean War jets, the F-86 Sabre and the F-84 Thunderjet, last of the machine-gun armed, dog-fighters.  While it’s always the fighters that catch my imagination, it was the bombers that got me thinking. The B-17, the B-24, the 36, the 47, the 52 and even the newest Stealth models, all testifying to the strategic reasoning for the existence of a national air force, independent of its antecedent role which until 1947, was as the aviation branch of the U. S. Army. Continue reading ‘Glory Days In Dayton’

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A Simple Plan

“The great disasters occur, not as a result of major blunders, but when finely reasoned calculations, begin to slip, just a little.” S.L.A. Marshall – Quoted in the preface to Bernard Fall’s account of the 1954 French military debacle at Dien Bien Phu.

On any of the many websites celebrating the “Darwin Awards,” my name deserves to appear among the list of contenders. It’s been a little over three years since my grown son presented me with a forty-inch, “Sector Nine” longboard skateboard, and before finally hanging it up just short of my seventieth birthday, I’d logged over eighty hours of riding. Despite forty years of competent skiing and more recently snowboarding, the learning curve on the longboard was gradual in the extreme. I needed dozens of half-hour and one-hour sessions on the nearly flat surface of a movie theater parking lot before taking on the slight to moderate grades of the quiet suburban street in front of our house. Soon, the more challenging topography of an adjacent street began calling me.

The respectable rise in terrain on that nearby street entered my brain and started to dominate my internal landscape. This mountain of my longboard ambitions had on one side, a gently graded, straight descent of about one hundred and fifty yards, and on the far side, it dropped much more sharply, curving and leveling off after a run of about two hundred yards. Months of false starts and nervous reconnoitering went by before I mustered up the nerve to take the plunge. When I did, there was little room for technique. It was all just bombing and holding on until the flat run-out slowed me down. Gradually, I began to gain the riding skills needed to control my speed by carving my board back and forth across the fall line of the hill in what I believed was a series of graceful slalom-like moves. Every run produced an amazing rush, and every run was never less than scary. I was quickly hooked on the thrill of riding, and I suspect, to the utter improbability of the idea that someone at my age would be on a longboard skateboard. Adrenaline and vanity can make for a near lethal combination. Continue reading ‘A Simple Plan’