|[Flame, superhero of the 1930s and '40s- wikipedia]|
It's true. It's fun to read about cartoon superheroes, and to see them come alive on the screen, but the real heroes in life don't need... or want... a spiffy outfit or cape, because they generally don't want to draw attention to themselves.
One definition of hero is someone who risks personal harm to protect and serve others, like firefighters, police officers, and members of the military. As you know, we're losing more and more World War II veterans every day, so I think it's important to share some of their stories from time to time, so we can remember their places in history.
I'm gonna tell you about one such man today. His name? Louis Curdes, and he didn't need no stinking cape, because that hero man was a brilliant aviator. Matter of fact, he was an ace, and he also bears the rather unusual distinction of being the only person who has ever been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for shooting down... his girlfriend.
|[Louis Curdes, with his plane Bad Angel]|
Good. That's the idea.
Curdes was already an ace with a ton of war and flying experiences, including being shot down and escaping from an Italian POW camp, when our story opens. Following their mission to attack Japanese positions on the island of Bataan in the Philippines, one squad member, low on fuel, had flown back to base, one had been shot down, and was floating in the water on a rubber dinghy, another was flying at a higher altitude, trying to summon a rescue plane by radio, and Curdes was flying a low-altitude pattern above his fallen friend, prepared to protect him, and provide cover, if need be.
|[C-47 transport plane- wikipedia]|
Another plane approached from the distance, and as it got closer, Curdes could see that it was a C-47 transport plane, AKA jungle jumper, bearing U.S. markings. It lowered its landing gear, clearly signalling its intention to land on the Japanese-controlled island. Curdes had heard horrific stories about the fate of people captured by the Japanese, so he simply couldn't let that plane land. He tried to contact the pilot via radio, but to no avail. He dove in front of the plane several times, but the C-47 continued its descent. He fired a warning burst of machine gun fire across the other plane's nose, but that didn't work, either. So what could he do?
|[50-caliber machine gun in Bad Angel's wing]|
The only thing he could do.
He shot it down.
First, he took out one engine... and then the other. The C-47 pilot had no choice but to ditch the plane into the ocean, where it settled close to the other fallen aviator's dinghy. Soon, all twelve occupants of the C-47 were floating beside him on life rafts. Curdes dropped a note down to them, saying, For God's sake, keep away from shore. Japs there.
Only three WWII flying aces shot down planes of all three Axis powers, but only one of them, Louis Curdes, also shot down an American plane, thereby saving everyone on board.
Two of them were nurses.
One of the nurses was his date from the night before.
They later married.
I guess you could say she really fell for him... like a shot outta the sky.
Curdes' plane, as she appears today, at the Pima Air and Space Museum, in Tucson, Arizona.
Indiana native Louis Curdes retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1963. In his twenty-two years of service, he earned many medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and numerous flying awards. When he died in 1995, Senator Richard Lugar delivered a fitting tribute on the Senate floor. In the senator's words, Curdes was truly an example and inspiration for all who follow him.
Okay, so maybe this song isn't the perfect choice to go with this post, but it's stuck in my head, so in an attempt to get it out, I'm gonna share. Besides, it's never a bad time to listen to something that makes your toes tap and your heart sing...
You know, there are things other than danger that can define a hero. For example, I find it bordering on heroic for someone to work a job (s)he hates, day-in, day-out, without complaint... because that's what (s)he has to do to support a family. Maybe your husband or wife? Your parent? You? Appreciate their efforts, and value your own.That kinda love makes the world go around.
Love doesn't make the world go 'round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile. [Franklin P. Jones]
Okay, I sit corrected.
Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.
NOTE: Next week's post will be on WEDNESDAY, in conjunction with the monthly Insecure Writer's Support Group confab. If you've been thinking about signing up, it isn't too late. Go ahead! You know you wanta... so do it right here