Friday, September 30, 2016

The Ace of Her Heart

Thought for the day:  Not all heroes wear capes. 


[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]
Intrigued?

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

48 comments:

  1. Thank you.
    Hero is one of the most over-used/misused words. I get a major case of the irrits when someone who is good at sports (and generally paid very well) is described as a hero.
    Love the example you gave.

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    1. You're welcome.

      You're absolutely right. The word hero is tossed around so carelessly these days, its real meaning is often forgotten and tends to be trivialized. True heroes remind us of the good things humans are capable of accomplishing.

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  2. Hero is a much used word that is need but not always used correctly.
    The Pima Air and Space Museum is really wonderful. Also the Aircraft "Boneyard" is beyond belief. Largest Military Aircraft storage. Plus it was used a part of the Unites States/Soviet peace accord that so many of our fighters, bombers... were put into storage. A soviet satellite would come over and count the disabled planes. Tucson is so strange but so much fun.
    Great post as always.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Pima sounds fantastic. We've visited quite a few air and space museums, and have enjoyed all of them, but yours sounds particularly interesting. It's very cool that you've actually been there. :)

      Cheers back atcha.

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  3. Heroism comes in many forms, as you aptly pointed out, and that's what makes it so uniquely special.

    Also - as the two previous commenters said - it is a highly misused word. It's so refreshing and inspiring to hear about TRUE heroes, and you always have a knack for finding them and presenting their stories. I appreciate that.

    And while I'm on a roll - true heroism always makes me feel humble.

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    1. I know what you mean. Seeing what great things heroic humans are capable of accomplishing makes me more humbly aware of my own shortcomings, but it also makes my heart soar to know humanity contains such greatness.

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  4. Hi Susan - what an amazing story and then for them all to come out alive. Totally agree with your take on 'hero' ... wonderful story ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Hi-ya, Hilary. I'm glad you liked the story. There were lots of WWII heroes in the RAF, too. Maybe I'll have to dig one of those stories up. Just for you. :)

      Cheers back atcha.

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  5. What a great story and you are right...real heroes don't wear capes and tights....they get up in the night to look after sick kids and work their fingers to the bone til last light to provide for their families. I, like so many others, was raised by heroes.

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    1. Yes, indeed. Many of the people from our parents' generation toiled long and hard, often at jobs they hated, to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads.

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  6. Wow, they took falling for each other to a whole new level indeed. Heroes without capes are the true ones.

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  7. Wonderful true story about a good man who put his life on the line for others. I love that his story is celebrated and lives after him. Little known heroes do great things.

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    1. Me, too. I love that his story lives on, because too many stories have already been lost.

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  8. I love the story of Louis Curdes. Thank you for telling us about him. My dad was a hero, which I didn't realize until after he died. The video made me want to dance around in my skivvies.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. HA! That was my reaction to the video, too. (Believe me, NOT a pretty sight...)

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  9. that is quite a story - Wow. talk about fate and timing and everything else. Thanks for sharing this on a Friday - I'm sure there are some other quiet heroes out there doing their job.
    It's actually "fall" now in TX - hope you have a great "cool" weekend

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    1. Yep, we're surrounded by heroes every day. We just don't know it.

      Cool! It actually felt like fall here this morning, too! I am soooo ready for it, even if it only lasts for a few days.

      You have a "cool" weekend, too. :)

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  10. What a great story! That's one to tell and tell again. Have a nice weekend!

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  11. I like a good war story, but war brought out the hero in many. I want to read of heroes without war.

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  12. I agree with you 100%. Most "heroes" I have come across in life don't think themselves heroes and yet they have done more heroic things than many "real" heroes. Excellent post.

    Greetings from London.

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    1. Absolutely. Those who would call themselves heroic rarely are.

      Greetings back atcha.

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  13. Every time I come here, I learn something new and interesting. It's like being back at school...but without the violence and the detention and the unrequited crushes and the awful school meals and the...well, you see where I'm going with this...

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    1. Hmm, if you miss the whole "school" atmosphere, I'd be happy to smack you on the knuckles with a ruler, or serve you some mystery meat and a little carton of warmish milk... :)

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  14. I have had the privilege of witnessing heroics many times, but the times I most value are everyday acts of compassion. Few days ago, in a huge Lowes Hardware, I saw a little girl about 3 years old with that panicked look we all know --running jerkily, eyes darting in all directions. I stood back about 20 feet and told Norma I wasn't budging until that kid's parents found her. Another man walked up, appraised the situation more thoroughly and yelled,"Niña perdida!" And mom arrived to scoop her frightened daughter up and coo to her in Spanish. I gave that guy a nod and smile, acknowledging a hero. He returned it and we went our separate ways.

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    1. Yes, that man... and you... both showed great compassion in looking after the welfare of that little girl. What's kinda sad is that sort of behavior used to be the norm, whereas nowadays, it's considered extraordinary.

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  15. The story about Louis was absolutely fantastic. What a gripping history lesson. I love stories like that.

    I'm yet another person who gets irked by the misuse of the word hero. To me, it means someone who goes above and beyond. Instead, it's often just used to describe regular people doing what they're already supposed to do. "I mean, wow, he just goes to work every single day and supports his family 24/7, 365 days a year. What a hero." No, he's just doing what he's supposed to do. If he didn't do those things, he would be a crappy human being.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

      But I'll disagree with you about the second part of your comment. I knew many people, especially from my parents' generation, who had minimal educations, very little money, and few opportunities. Even if the only job they could get (i.e. coal mining) was literally killing them, they did what they had to do without complaint. They sacrificed their own health and happiness to do the right thing, and did without many of the things we consider basic necessities because they wanted their children to have a decent education and a shot at a better life.

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  16. Dear Susan, that was a really gripping story!
    Yes - I agree: there are many silent heroes, too. Maybe all those without the added label "super". Though in their way they are very, very super.

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    1. Dear Britta,

      I'm glad you liked the story. The whole idea of him shooting down his future wife really captured my imagination.

      Yep, many unsung heroes are super in their own way.

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  17. That's a great story.
    I've been lucky to know many heroes. Right now my biggest hero is my aide, Alicia. 5 days a week she looks after those who need help living. Cooking, cleaning, bathing, dressing, feeding, shopping for, going way beyond job description. She loses people, too, and carries it all like a pro should. She also has a teen girl, a tween boy and a dingbat husband to raise. Every day I'm amazed at her good humor, responsibility and devotion. There are heroes, just like there is love, all around, if we look.

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    1. Your aide sounds like a very special lady, but your comment about her having a dingbat husband to raise cracked me up. :)

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  18. What a super story! I couldn't wait to show this to my hubby ... a real WWII aficionado. Now I'd like to read more. Thank for spotlighting this amazing Gentleman.

    Although Real Heroes are far too modest to sing their own praises, you make me want to look for others. I always have enjoyed a good treasure hunt!

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    1. I hope you hubby got a kick out of the story, too.

      There's lots of them around. When you find some treasure, please let me know. :)

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  19. What a story! I wonder how often the fact that Louis Curdes shot down his future wife was brought up in their marriage (and I'm picturing good-natured ribbing and joking here, because to end up marrying the person you had shot down certainly requires a good dose of humor!).

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    1. I can imagine them getting into light-hearted squabbles about him shooting her down, too. :)

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  20. What a story! And so interesting. Just to think of it.

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  21. I agree, we overuse the word hero often substituting it when we mean role-model or inspiration. Our sports and entertainment personalities rarely display the selfless courage that defines a true hero like Curdes. What a fabulous story!

    VR Barkowski

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    1. For sure. The words "hero" and "sacrifice" both get distorted all out of proportion when they're stretched outta whack to describe sports figures, entertainment personalities... and (ahem) politicians.

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  22. I'm actually surprised that I've never heard of Curdes. I was pretty sure I knew most of the big name pilots at this point (my wife and I are a huge fan of aerospace museums and I grew up on an air base). That said, you've given me someone to go check out. Thanks. :)

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    1. My hubby and I have been to a lot of aerospace museums, too, but we've never been to the Pima museum in Arizona. (Yet.) It tickles me that Curdes' story is new to you. :)

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