111 years ago today, The birth of flight

Builders:

Today is the anniversary of the Wright’s first flight.  When all the commentary on who supposedly flew before them, or some other esoteric angle dies away, there is only one element that matters: They were not professionals, they were determined and persistent homebuilders, committed to the accomplishment no matter what it took.

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In 1899, four years before, there were at least 1,000 other competitors on the planet who had a bigger budget, a better education, and more experience. The Wrights beat them all because they were meticulous planers, they were rabid about testing, they felt pressure but never rushed, they didn’t have to hire others to build their ideas, they corresponded with people of experience, they were willing to change their minds in the face of evidence from testing, and the refused to quit. These elements beat out comparatively giant budgets and vastly superior educations.

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They were homebuilders, the flyer was homebuilt #1, and the plane in your shop is a direct descendant of the flyer, and when you pick up a tool and work on it, you are directly continuing their work and using their model of success to write your own page in the history of flight. If you walk out to the shop, and you honestly think “who am I kidding, I will never turn this pile of materials into a flying plane”, absolutely know that the Wrights thought this very same thought countless times. To have your own version of their triumph, all you have to do is pick up the tool and remind yourself that you are in the spiritual and philosophical company of the two greatest homebuilders of all time. -ww.

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1903 Wright Flyer Fabric Taken to Moon Apollo 11A piece of fabric and wood from the Wright Flyer taken to the surface of the Moon by the crew of Apollo 11, the first lunar landing mission, in July 1969.

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If you are an American reading this, know that you have a special legacy and responsibility to honor. Great aviators have come from every corner of the globe, but there is a reason why the Wrights  did it first, why Lindbergh flew the Atlantic, why Yeager broke the speed of sound, and why Armstrong went to the moon. We are not better humans, nor brighter, nor better educated. The unparalleled edge we have is freedom. These men were free of a class system, and aristocracy, free of a society that reserved opportunity to the privileged, and free of a restrictive government drastically limiting their actions.

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It is easy to complain, but if you really want to build and fly your own plane, and you are an American, recognize that you have it a lot easier than anyone else on the planet. Wealth, legislation and materials aside, It should be culturally ingrained in you that you have every right to build and fly. recognize that there are many builders outside the US who would kill to have it this easy.

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I am very proud to be an American, but I want to remind my fellow countrymen, on this day, that it is now our watch, it is our time to prove that we are willing to do something with the great opportunity that fortune has served us. Not every contribution by our generation of Americans has to be the Rutan Voyager. Your contribution can be any flying plane you build with your own hands, a plane that will not change the world of flight, but will certainly change your world of flight. -ww.

 

 

 

 

William Wynne Sr. Turns 89 today

Builders,

Today, my Father, the real William Wynne turns 89. To our friends fortunate to still have their fathers present, I feel blessed as you must also. To our friends who’s fathers now live in their hearts, I hope the season brings time to reflect on the men who made us who we are. -ww.

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Above, my father’s official USN photo circa 1975.  His service remains the centerpiece of his life’s work. Please take a minute to read: William Edward Wynne Sr. –  Father’s Day Notes; it is a story I wrote about father on his 84th birthday. If you have ever wondered why I am intolerant of police states without human rights like China, the story will be illuminating.

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 Sun ‘N Fun 2006,  Here my father and I are in front of a Grumman F8F Bearcat, a serious piece of hardware from my father’s era of Naval aviation. My father entered the U.S. Navy in 1943 and is USNA Class of 1949. He served on active duty for 33 years.

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Corvair College #9: From left above,  Bob Cooper , Brent Brown and my Father.  In talking with Bob, my father learned that he was a 1961 veteran of Operation White Star in Laos. Little known outside military circles, White Star is considered the prototype of all unconventional U.S. warfare. The Kennedy administration sent the cream of the crop of America’s most elite warriors there to meet the Pathet Lao communists on their own terms. When my family lived in Thailand 10 years later, my father did extensive work to support the royalist democratic government in Laos. He and Bob had traveled to many of the same places inside Laos. Our friend Brent, who spent most of his 22 1/2 year military career in Special Forces, is probably one of the few people of my age group who have an understanding of the significance of Bob’s actions in White Star.

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Corvair College #14: Above, I introduce the real William Wynne, my father.  His career in the mechanical world spans being a Company Commander with ACB-ONE in Korea through Director of Advanced Technology for Raytheon. The single thread that ties all of my father’s experience together is an absolute allegiance to quality control. Seven and 1/2 years of my father’s 33 year U.S. Navy career were spent working directly under Admiral Hyman Rickover, The Father Of The Nuclear Navy. Rickover’s career spanned the impossibly long 1918-1982. Widely misunderstood as an all-powerful tyrant who was apparently immortal, my father states that Rickover is easily understood when viewed as the ultimate proponent of quality who was willing to accept nothing short of perfection to ensure the dominance of the U.S. Navy in the Cold War.

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My Parents at the Naval Academy in 1949: The above photo is of my parents when they were first engaged. They have now been married for 64 years, and remain the light of each other’s lives.

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For a more in depth look at my Father’s world, follow these links:

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William E. Wynne Sr. turns 88 today.

Happy Father’s Day William E. Wynne Sr.

 

 

 

 

FlyCorvair.net passes 750,000 page reads.

Builders,

Yesterday, this site, which has been running for 36 months, passed 750,000 page reads. While this isn’t giant, it is a good indication of the popularity of the Corvair and our work with it, and a sign that this can be a trusted source of information, insight and maybe a little humor..

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It is interesting to look at the growth in traffic: At the end of 12 months we had 124,500 page reads; the next 12 months was 233,800 and the last 12 months have been 392,250. That is a solid trend in the right direction to assure new builders they are joining a growing movement.

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Right now there are 630 published stories on this site. I have another 154 drafts on a variety of  aviation subjects. I am always open to suggestions on topics. For a categorized look at 30% of the published stories look at this:  200 Stories of aircraft building

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Blast from the past, Corvair College #9, November 2005

“Above, I stand with Pat Green of Jacksonville, Fla. Pat started his plane in 1967, and first flew it in 1977. Since then he’s logged about a thousand hours in it. Again, the Golden Rule in action. In my hand I’m holding a photo of Pat and I standing in exactly the same positions in my old hangar eight years earlier (1997). We had a laugh, because I pointed out Pat was wearing the same hat, and he commented that it looked like I was wearing the same shirt. Pat is good company, and a sharp observer of human behavior. When he talks, I listen because he’s a man of many experiences in life. Among them is having known Bernard Pietenpol personally.”

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Vi Kapler passes from this Earth, age 88.

Builders,

Devoted Minnesota aviator John Schmidt sent word that, Vi Kapler, the strongest living personal connection to the life’s work of Bernard Pietenpol, passed from earth last night. A very rich book of memories, knowledge, and understanding has been closed, never to be opened again. If you are a Pietenpol builder, a fan of the life of BHP, or fascinated by early homebuilding, it is hard overstate what has slipped from our grasp.

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I was fortunate to have spent a number of hours with the man, in person, listening to what he knew and thought. He was kind and humble. I borrowed the photos below from several websites, to remind Piet builders of what he looked like. This is important, because he surely had countless conversations with builders at Brodhead, and perhaps half of them didn’t understand that they were speaking with Vi Kapler.  He was the kind of guy who could share something with a new builder without needing to be pre-understood as the living authority on Pietenpols.

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Vi’s list of contributions to Pietenpol building is very long, but I treasured most the fact that he had worked for many years, side by side with Bernard Pietenpol, and you could ask him almost anything about the experience and he was glad to share it.

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The stories most people tell about working with people understood to be famous or legends tend to get polished with every re-telling, until become something of a caricature rather than a sharp photo. The things Vi shared were just the opposite, they all had a real grit and grain to them which gave you the feeling that it happened yesterday. You were left with the feeling you had just be given a real look at how it was, and how it will never quite be again.

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Blue skies and tailwinds Vi, thank you for leaving aviation a richer place than you found it.  -ww.

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Vi with a model A powered air camper

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Vi Kapler looking at N63PZ

At the 2013 Brodhead Pietenpol fly-in, Vi with a cane, looks at Pat and Mary Hoyt’s Zenith. Vi had his own Corvair powered aircamper and made many parts for Corvairs in the 1970s and 80s.

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Above, in the blue hat, sitting on the bench at Brodhead.

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I used to call BHP ‘Bernie” in my writing. I can tell you the exact minute I stopped this. I was speaking with Vi Kappler at Brodhead, in the MacDonald’s in town. It was early in the morning on Saturday, about 10 years ago. Listening to Vi, he was speaking of a man who was not an aviation legend, but a dear personal friend, who was gone. When Vi said the name ‘Bernie’, it suddenly struck me as private, sacred and something that was not mine to use in Vi’s presence. BHP, was my hero, but he was Vi’s friend, and to use the familiar name in Vi’s presence seemed very wrong. I stopped right there, and have written ‘Bernard’ ever since, because I never wanted to imply I was friends with the man, especially not to anyone who really was.

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For further reading:

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Don Pietenpol Passes, 1/8/14

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B.H. Pietenpol, Patron Saint of Homebuilding

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Cherry Grove story, “The long way home”

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Cherry Grove story, Part 2.

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From The Past: With Steve Wittman 20 years ago today

Builders,

Many days in life pass without distinction, a handful of others stay with you for good, not just as a static memory but as a turning point in your personal perspective. 20 years ago today was such a day in my life.

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Above, 12/11/94, I stand next Steve Wittman, after flying with him in his Olds V-8 powered Tailwind, N37SW. Today this plane hangs in the terminal of Oshkosh airport which is named in Wittman’s honor.

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There was a tradition at Embry-Riddle that senior engineering students were invited over to Leeward Air Ranch in Ocala FL after the semester was over, for a long social day. One of the professors was married into the Leeward family, and it was always an exceptional event. Although I had already graduated, I knew the instructor and asked to come along. Out of the group of students, I was the only person who knew what the large “W” over Judy Leeward’s neighbors door stood for.

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I looked over into his hangar, and Steve’s wife Paula came out, invited me to wander through their hangar which had the Old’s Tailwind, The O to O special and the V-Witt in it. She said Steve would be back shortly, and he would be glad to take me flying. I was stunned. While waiting for his return, I mentioned this to Judy Leeward, who assured me that if Paula said it was good, it would not be an intrusion into their day.

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We went flying for just 25 minutes. It started with a brief efficiency demonstration that the plane could do 125 mph at 2,500 rpm and 18″ of manifold pressure, the same power setting it took to taxi in 6″ of wet grass. This lead to 195 mph flybys on the deck and a long series of very smooth positive G aerobatic maneuvers. It would have been a skilled display for any pilot, far less one who was 91 years old.

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After landing we spoke about the modifications to the 215 Olds, an engine I knew pretty well. There were a few photos, including the one above. A moment after it was taken, Steve looked at me and said with some disgust “You are wearing a Monocoupe shirt” He didn’t say anything else about it, as if disliking Monocoupes as the most natural thing any aviator would do.

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When I got home I wrote him a brief thank you note and mailed it the next day. A few months alter I saw Steve and Paula at their forum at Sun n Fun. She recognized me an said that the note was unexpected and made her and Steve feel appreciated.  Two weeks later they both perished in the crash of the O to O special on their way back north to their summer home, Oshkosh.

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I have carried forward the lesson that most of the good things that have happened in my life in aviation took place because I showed up for them. The aviators I have known have almost always showed themselves to be very kind and generous people. They will gladly share what they know and have experienced with anyone who is genuinely interested, but you have to be there.

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The sole important difference between myself and my roommates who didn’t go flying with Steve that day was I got in the car and drove 100 miles to be there, and they didn’t. You can spend a lot of time looking at magazines and websites, lamenting the expense and difficulty of engaging in aviation, or you can decide that in 2015 you will not lose an opportunity to have your own event in aviation, one that you will remember 20 years later.-ww.

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“If you look at their lives close enough, all of the greats offer something to guide us in pursuit of the timeless truth of flying. Pietenpol teaches that we are more likely to find it in the simplest of planes; Lindbergh knew that you started your search inside yourself; Gann said that we will not see the truth directly, but you can watch it at work in the actions of airmen; and Wittman showed that if you flew fast enough, for long enough, you just might catch it. These men, and many others, spent the better part of their lives looking for this very illusive ghost. Some of them paid a high price, but you get the impression they all thought it was worth it. ” – from our Oshkosh 2008 coverage, -ww.

 

All about Dipsticks, Part #2206

Builders,

Here is a topic that I have covered before, and it is covered in some depth in the 2014 conversion manual. The part number we assign to the dipstick is #2206, in the #2200 oil pan group.

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The dipstick itself is an after market model for a 289-302 Ford V-8. You can get it in the Mr. Gasket brand from most auto parts stores or SummitRacing .com. Discard the stock mounting clamp that comes with it.

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Before I put the two case halves together, I run a .375″ drill down through the hole in the case. This makes it from a hard drive fit to a light tap in place item. The bottom part of the dip stick tube below the shoulder is 1″ long. If you rough this part up with 40 grit paper, you can then bond the dip stick tube in the case with Ultra Gray Permatex RTV. This is a better sealed installation than a dry driven in tube in the stock case hole size.

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The stock overall length of the tube is about 12″. Use a tubing cutter to neatly reduce the overall length to 8″. This is 1″ below the shoulder and 7″ above it. After using the cutter, run a Unibit stepped hole saw into the tube to clean out the crimping left from the tubing cutter. Test fit the dip stick.

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Put the tube in the case, with the RTV smeared over the last 1″. Put it in the case so the bend in the tube brings the tube closest to the top cover on the case. It should be about 1/2″ away. Later if you wish to make a small tab to stabilize the tube to the top cover bolt, you can, and it will be short and neat. We call this part #2207, it is just a light tab with a 3/8′ hole on one side and a 5/16″ on the other.

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Before putting the oil pan on, after the lifters are adjusted and the oil pick up #2202 is in place, test the dip stick in the engine. YES, it is aligned with the top of the pick up, so the dip stick must be trimmed off not to strike the top of the pick up.

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YES, this will preclude having the dip stick long enough to tell when the engine is down to the last quart in the pan. Have a cup of coffee and think this through: When will you need to know the difference between having one quart or two in the pan? Never. The only thing you will need to know is when the engine has 5 quarts in it and when it has four. That is the operating range. A well built engine will use none between 25 hour oil changes. No one needs to know when their engine is down to 3 quarts.  Having the pick up where it is better for oil suction to the pump. Dip stick location to tell when the oil is down to one quart does not take design precedence over having the pickup in the best location.

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Do not mark the dip stick! Test run your engine with 4-5 quarts in it. If you are on a level test stand and have no cooler for the test run, use 4 quarts. If you are running it with a cooler or on a tail wheel airframe, use 5 quarts.

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After the test run, drain the oil. With the airframe in the position it will sit in on the ramp, ie  tail wheel on the ground, or tri gear normally loaded, pour in  4 quarts of oil. put the dip stick in, note the oil level and mark it. I generally drill a 3/64″ hole. Then, add one more quart, recheck, and make the top mark. This defines the operating range of the engine.

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Number of running engines that I have personally done this to, and had it work perfectly with no leaks; About 80.

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The total length of time to cut the stick, de-bur the end, sand, drill the case hole, bond it in, cut the stick and later mark it: About 10 minutes. 

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Total expense involved for this system: About $13

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Alternatives: People can go on the internet, pose the question to discussion groups, get 8 ideas, all of which take longer, cost more, and have not flown. One can then read 26 responses in favor of/ totally against the 8 ideas, all written by people who have never built a flying Corvair engine. Spend a week fretting over which idea is the best. Pick the one that involves driving the oversized tube in place on the assembled motor. This pulls off a tiny sliver that falls in the pan. It fits through the screen size, gets drawn into the pump, stuck to the tooth, and gouges the walls of the WW-2000HV oil pump housing, causing low idling oil pressure. Get back on same discussion group and ask about the low pressure. Same guy named “Flyboy26″, who suggested driving in the dip stick tube like it was The Golden Spike at Promontory Point comes back and has a long diatribe about how ww sells defective oil pump housings, and he learned a much better way when he was a factory-trained, Renault Le-car lug nut service specialist in Canada the 1970s. (complete with a side bar on why wheels only need 3 lug nuts.) This starts a long discussion on why 1969-73  4WD Ford F-250s has left handed threads on the right front hub only. Guy chimes in to say this isn’t true, and BTW, Elvis is alive, Oswald was acting on orders from Hoover, men never landed on the moon and orange marmalade cures cancer. Two people write back to say that is preposterous, it is actually raspberry jam that cures cancer. Guy from Ghana writes into say that trucks built by Holden in Australia had left handed lug nuts on every hub except the right front, because they were used in the southern hemisphere. Another guy writes in to say that the safety shaft threads should be left handed. Ghana guy writes back to say Yes, but only in the northern hemisphere. Third guy writes in to agree, but points out that some engines will be used in pushers. Fourth guy offers to write a giant Excel spread sheet covering all the possibilities. Guy from Equador writes in, but it takes a day for someone to translate it: Says that when he drives is car over the equator, he has noticed the lug nuts get looser going north, tighter headed south. At which point it turn out that he is actually driving the last Renault Le-Car in south America. He should be great friends with guy in Canada, but they have an argument because guy in Equador innocently asks why the queen of England is on Canadian money. Last post on the story is about using an MGA carb on a Corvair, but the heading on the post is still “Dip stick tube alternatives.”

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1981 Renault LeCar [5]

1981 Le Car in movie “Totally Awesome

Dec. 7th

img005Above, My Father as a 17 year old enlisted man in WWII. He stands between his beloved pony Bob,  and his own father. My grandfather served in every station on the Passaic NJ police department from patrolman, Chief of Detectives to assistant Chief. Passaic was a very large tough working city with a significant organized crime problem.  Recognized as incorruptible, he was targeted by the mob, but would not be intimidated.  The only years he took off from law enforcement in his adult life were 1917-1919 when he was a Sargent in the 78th division in France where he saw savage combat in the trenches. His only real wish in life was that his own son would not have the same experience. It didn’t come true, as my father went to both Korea and Vietnam.

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Dec. 7, 1941; On that Sunday, my father was just about to turn 16 and was attending a Passaic (N.J.) High School football practice. With the news of Pearl Harbor, the game was called off. All 23 seniors on the team decided to enlist in the Navy as a group the following morning. They were early graduated in January 1942 and sent to boot camp with the best wishes and pride of their home town. It was their fate to be assigned to the cruiser the U.S.S. Juneau. For shipmates, they happened to have five brothers from one Iowa family whose name would become tragically well known, the Sullivans.  The Juneau was sunk on 13 November 1942 off Guadalcanal.

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Because of censored news, the sinking was not known for several weeks. My Fathers’ adopted older brother was a Chief Petty Officer named Frank Ryan who was on the Cruiser Vincennes in the same area,  it was not unusual to have long breaks in mail. Everyone just assumed they were on a long patrol out in the South Pacific. While walking home after work just before Christmas of 1942, my father was stunned to see Frank Ryan, standing in front of him in Passaic. He was emaciated and ill, his uniform hanging on him. He could only say to my father “Billy, they got the Vincennes.” Although it was sunk in August, this was the first word. It was the first moment that my fathers simple pride in the Navy had to confront that the fleet was not invincible. With growing foreboding, my father realized the lack of contact from friends on the Juneau might be for the same reason. In another week this was confirmed on the eve of Christmas. All 23 of the teammates and the 5 Sullivans had gone down with the ship. Of 697 crew on board, there were only 10 survivors. This event led my father to Join the Navy when he turned  17. He eventually spent 33 years on active duty.

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From the Past:  Sun N Fun 2005

 The man in the photo is Jim Giles. Out of thousands of people whom we spoke to, Grace noticed he was wearing a U.S.S. Vincennes hat, and suggested I introduce myself. The Vincennes was a heavy cruiser in WWII. It was a modern fast ship. It was one of the escorts that took the Doolittle Raiders close to Japan.

It was sunk on August 9, 1942 in a ferocious night action that was later known as the Battle of Savo Island. Technically, it was a severe defeat for the U.S. Navy, who lost several ships that night. But, they blocked the Japanese forces from descending on the Marine foothold on Guadalcanal. Among the plank owners on the Vincennes was a 35-year-old U.S. Navy chief named Frank Ryan. He was an adopted as a orphan by my grandparents in the 1920’s. Frank joined the navy in the late 1920s , and was the largest influence in my father’s choice to devote his own life to the U.S. Navy. Upon seeing Jim Giles’ hat, I mentioned Frank Ryan’s name to him, and he instantly replied “He was a chief in the Black Gang. Built like a fireplug. I remember him well.” An impressive memory reaching back 63 years.

 Frank Ryan survived days in the water to be rescued, he was one of the very few of his shipmates who lived. He returned to combat as a plank owner on the Missouri. He survied the was but was haunted by tragedy. He died before he was 50.

  When we got home from the airshow, the first phone call I made was to my father to tell him that I had personally met a sailor who had served with the hero of my father’s youth. He was very surprised and it brought back a stream of strong memories.”

 

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