A little more history, culminating in some LRAFB action

During or just after WWII my uncle Ralph came from Utah to view properties he had bought some years earlier. We all piled in his car and he drove from South Central Los Angeles, where we lived, to various suburbs of L.A., principally in the San Fernando Valley (popular song of the time: "Sentimental Journey"). There were one or two pieces of land in the Palmdale area. As we went past an airfield next to the highway on the way to - maybe - Rosamond, I spotted a parking lot full of Mosquitos. I was very excited, having learned the profiles and designations of every aircraft in the pack of rehearsal cards my Navy-officer father brought home to study. Everyone was amazed that an eight-or-nine-year-ld could identify the more-than-a-hundred olive-drab airplanes. (I have been advised the airplanes I saw could not possibly have been "Mosquitos", since they were never present in Southern California in any numbers, or some such. O.K. I like my story, anyway.) They were somewhere in the neighborhood of today's Edwards Air Force Base. No idea what it was called in those days.

A few years later we were living in Torrance, California, just south of Hawthorne, home of Northrop and site of "flying wing" manufacture and development. The weird 'planes were seen in the air from time to time. One time we were traveling north on Hawthorne Boulevard when there was a big dust-up a few blocks ahead, and traffic stopped. One of the wings had failed to stop at the end of the runway, and skidded across the street, trailing cyclone fence and blast-diverter debris. As I remember it, no one was hurt, but the wings stopped flying from that field.

Back to WWII: Dad was in the Navy, we lived in South Central L.A. (two blocks from ground zero of the King riots, many years later). Hot summer days Mom would pick a beach and drive us there for some sea breeze and beach play. One time it was Santa Monica beach, under the LAX flight take-off path, very near the P-38 manufactory. So, the eight-or-nine-year-old was happily burying his three-or-four-year-old brother when he looked south down the beach and saw an airplane headed his way. Excitement! Heard the scream of the P-38's engines. Fear! Recognized that the damn' thing was fifteen or forty feet above the beach! Action: Began digging a foxhole for himself, frantically and sincerely wanting to be way down when the shrieking winged monster arrived. It did, and went on up the coast, flattening beach-goers like wind on wheat fields. It was followed very closely by another. I loved it. Woo hoo!

1956, now. I'm in the USAF, learning to live in a barracks upstairs from the Reconnaissance Technical Squadron's business site. One evening the First Sergeant (did anyone else call the First Sergeant "First Shirt"?) dropped by to chat with the new guys. He said he had spent some of his military time in Southern California. He'd been a "Flying Sergeant" during WWII. One of his assignments was to pick up P-38s at Los Angeles and ferry them to the east coast where they were passed off to real pilots who took them to Europe. Hm, says I. I had experience with a P-38 during WWII, and explained what had happened at the beach. He was delighted. Guffaw followed guffaw. "Yes", he said, "We used to enjoy doing that." The pilots would trade places in line, since the first one didn't get to see much of an effect, but the second and subsequents would take great pleasure in watching the vertical beach-goers suddenly become horizontal fugitives.

The end.

Not really: The First Shirt was known to look into unlocked wall lockers during his frequent inspections while airment were at work. I had a small rug made of a mountain lion skin, with a realistic wax head with snarling mouth and slitted angry eyes. I put it in a locker with its face at First Shirt head height, where it would be ready to leap out at any unsuspecting usurper. The First Shirt took the bait and nearly had a heart attack. Vengeance was mine.


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