You don’t remember, as I do

This Veterans Day we are honoring those who served by sharing the stories of war in the air, as told by the pilots who were there. Over the next few weeks, we’ll publish stories by pilots from World War II, Vietnam and other wars. Some are short, some are long, but all offer a glimpse into the life of a pilot at war.

I was 5 when Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic.

P-47D
The P-47 Thunderbolt, a “rotten airplane” according to the author.

I was seven when I got a ride in a Ford Trimotor off a hayfield in LaMoure, ND.

I was an “airport rat” for years, hoping for a ride I never got.

I took CPT (Civilian Pilot Training) and soloed three weeks before Pearl Harbor.

I got my private license January 20, 1942.

I enlisted and was called September 2, 1942 to the Classification Center in Nashville.

I graduated from Craig Field May 28, 1943.

I flew 94 missions strafing and dive bombing in Italy, Corsica and southern France. November 1943 through August 1944, in three aircraft: 39 missions in the A-36A (wonderful plane), 40 missions in a used up P-40F and 15 in the rotten strafer, P-47D. (Ask people who loved the P-47 if they ever flew anything else.)

Joined a flying club with a wonderful Cessna 170B and flew it to Fargo, ND four times, mostly different routes.

I’m 91 now.

THERE’S NO ROMANCE IN FLYING TODAY!

It’s kind of pedestrian.

It seems like everything has already been done!

Dr. Charles E. Dills
Capt. USAAF, 1942 – 1945
Visit Dr. Dills’ website here

 

*** Want to share a veteran’s story? Write an article and email us: editor@airfactsjournal.com ***

10 Comments

  • I thank Dr. Dills for his service and for his memories. I’m a little saddened that he now views aviation as a pedestrian activity. But maybe GA is rather pedestrian after the highs and lows of combat.

    • Don’t be sad.

      As they say, “There’s comes a time—————)

      When I got to San Luis Obispo, I taught Chemistry at Cal Poly.

      Then I joined the Faculty Flying Club.

      I flew over 500 hours in a 170B, tail dragger,

      It was a wonderful machine.

      See: http://www.charlies-web.com/WWII_med/Post_War_Log.html

      I enjoyed the hell out of it.

      It was a wonderful airplane.

      I once left Fresno and was able to fly right over the Sierras above their 14000 foot ridge with no turns, DIRECT!

      It was powerful and comfortable for my my wife and two kids on maybe two of my four trips to Fargo.

      Then one of the willful young whipper snappers that wouldn’t listen to me, checked out in it and wanted to fly it immediately fly it to Montana less than a month before an annual inspection was due.

      I was Engineering Officer and voted, “No!” but the rest of the members voted to let him take it.

      He ground looped it on his first stop.

      They also claimed they did the annual, charged $2700 and wiped out our next engine account.

      The two main wheels had different colored greases and it was poorly rigged it.

      I dropped out, later they sold it.

      I thought it had been scrapped but the new owner painted it beautifully and sent me a picture.

      I was so pleased that it was still flying.

      But, “the time had come—————–“. Dr. Charles E. Dills chemist
      BS North Dakota State University
      MS the George Washington University
      PhD Harvard University 1956

      The last two were courtesy of ypu and the other taxpayers, the GI Bill.

      I was a broke orphan at 14 and would not have had them otherwise, so I thank you and everybody else that put me through these colleges.

  • Thank you Dr. Dills for your service and for sharing your memories with us. I went to your website, and I really enjoyed reading your comparative analysis of the P-51 vs. the P-47 as attack or strafing aircraft. Very interesting!

    As to those P-47 pilots of World War II who’ve expressed affection for their warbirds, despite the shortcomings, that’s not surprising. I imagine that their opinions of the P-47 they flew are somewhat like those of the tank crews who drove and fought the technologically inferior Sherman tanks – lovingly referred to as “Ronsens” for their tendency to catch fire after taking a hit from more robust diesel-powered German tanks like the Tiger … or like those sailors who expressed pride in their unarmored and somewhat unstable destroyers that all too often served as “canon fodder” in big sea battles between battleships and cruisers.

    It’s no secret that the P-51, especially the D model, is widely considered the best propeller driven fighter aircraft of all time, of all air forces around the world (perhaps it’s a tossup with the British Spitfire). Flying a P-51 as you did is probably every pilot’s fantasy, even for (perhaps especially for) today’s pilots of advanced supersonic stealth fighters like the F-22 Raptor.

    Thanks again!

  • Thank you Dr. Dills for your comments, I enjoyed your brief story.
    The P-47 did have some things going for it; that wonderful P&W R-2800 engine and the Republic team. I had a chance to work with them in the early 1980s. We supplied major airframe components for the A-10 (Warthog) and the trainer that was cancelled. While their plant was old and drafty their engineering and construction was outstanding.
    Too bad they couldn’t get along with the Air Force bean counters. When they gave up the United States lost one of the best. In fact as far as I’m concerned, only Grumman was better.
    What is now being turned out matches William Durant’s middle name.

    • I get most references — literary, popular culture, historic, whatever… but the Will Durant’s middle name reference went over my head. Straight to Google where I learned Will Durant’s middle name was Crapo, although the name was alledgedly pronounced CRAY-PO

    • You never spent time enemy airspace with a mode of conveyance whose gas consumption could vary from 120/gal/hr at cruise to well over 300 gallons/hr at full throttle.

      It had lousy performance, cruised at 245 mph (P-40 220 mph) while the P-51 cruised at 295.

      Add 20% for density correction.

      I flew three fighters in combat and the P-47 was a travesty.

      Read my page.

      Did you ever fly it?

      Did you ever fly anything else?

      • Dr. Dills:
        Yes I flew–Multi-Engine, Instrument rated. As pilot I flew all the United States and Canada east of the Rockies. In 8 years of SAC I was an engine mechanic mostly on R-4360s as installed on the KC-97. I became the Wing Standardization Flight Test Engineer. At my first station we had 44, KC-97s. At another we had KC-97s, C-97s and C-54s. At my last station we had C-47s and U-6As (Beavers).
        I respect your opinion of various aircraft and in no way did I indicate disagreement. My only comments related to the Quality of the Companies and their people.
        After leaving SAC, I spent 41 years with our companies producing aerostructure components. I was in every prime airframers plant and most second tier contractors plants. I stand by my comments.

  • Thank you for posting your life story online. It’s great to here stories of how things were from the people who lived in them.

    I’m afraid your last three statements:

    THERE’S NO ROMANCE IN FLYING TODAY!

    It’s kind of pedestrian.

    It seems like everything has already been done!

    are very true. Aviation is commonplace today and most younger people don’t view it as anything special.

    • Not all of us feel this way…I live on an Air Park with 100 other
      aviators who are still passionate about flying. I’m speaking from a backround of 30,000hr+ with both civilian,military, & airshow flying. Our very active EAA chapter flies the young eagles during a mass gathering twice a year; we also work with local Boy Scouts on their aviation merit badge. All is not lost…yes, avgas prices are out of control and the price of flying is very high but…we are not giving up! My grandkids are all enjoying their introductory flights as well as the Sporty’s course through young eagles. I plan to start them out in sailplanes in a glider club I belong to. General Aviation is only over when we say it is…Hang in there!

  • Anyone who considers contemporary flying should have to spend a few hours flying the Alaska bush. Perhaps the fastest way to a real attitude adjustment!

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