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Journal of GySgt S.Thrift USMC

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1 May, 1917.

I've decided to keep a journal of my flights and days here stationed with RNAS-10 in France in hopes that it may in some way help, or not, some other young aviator that follows my path and becomes caught up in the air war over France. My journey began several years ago with my enlistment into the United States Marine Corps, several duty stations, several armed conflicts and pilot traning at NAS Pensacola, Florida. None of that matters right now, as I have been assigned as a "combatant observer" here in France. Along with official reports that will be sent back to my higher command, I will record my experiences here.

I have just completed my first trip over the front. "No-man's land" is what they call it and it is just that. It is actually pretty amazing to look upon. Miles upon miles of trenchline, churned earth, shattered houses and slaughtered men. Nothing survives in the beaten zone and it is so foreign to anything I've seen before. I imagine the deserts out west after being shelled for a year would be the closest thing I could use to describe the terrain here for someone who has never seen it. I've been in my fair share of ground combat, but seeing what happens down there, makes me glad I'm flying over it.

About the flight, myself and another sergeant, Roy Norris, were assigned to fly out and spot artillery. After having been here only a few days, I was expecting maybe an orientation flight. Roy had laughed at my notion and said that the best way to get orientated was to fly missions. We headed out over no-man's land at about 0815 this morning. I watched the constant barrages as the Hun obviously have some sort of operation going. It took just over forty-five minutes for us to fly out to the target area. We circled the area for a few minutes, gathered all the information we needed and headed back. Was that all there was to this? After the horror stories I'd heard about the terrible losses from both sides in air to air combat, I guess I expected there to be Jerry fighteres at every turn. Well, after nearly ninety minutes of flying, I've yet to see my first German fighter. I guess that's ok, 'cause if I didn't see them, they didn't see me. Landed without incident and that was all there was to that.

I've not seen a schedule, but I think we fly two or three missions a day. Guess I'll find out after chow.

More later,

S.Thrift

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:thumbsup:

Meanwhile, Corporal Dick Sullivan, late of the USMC and now a member of the French Foreign Legion, is flying with an outfit called N124, starting to gain notoriety as the Lafayette Escadrille ...

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Good stuff Shawn. :thumbsup:

I'd put my war diary up too but...well on a lark I decided to call my latest pilot (all the rest are in the morgue and/or blown to little pilot-y bits all over France) Edmund Blackadder. And wouldn't you know it...he's done the best of any of them so far! Hmmm, writing a diary as Blackadder could be fun too though. :lol:

Lee, there's a movie in production right now about the Esc. Lafayette, I stumbled on it when I was doing a search to see if they were going to make a movie about the book Flyboys since all his books are seeming to be in some sort of movie production state. Needless to say the Esc. Lafayette movie is called..."Flyboys". ;)

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Good stuff Shawn.  :thumbsup:

I'd put my war diary up too but...well on a lark I decided to call my latest pilot (all the rest are in the morgue and/or blown to little pilot-y bits all over France) Edmund Blackadder. And wouldn't you know it...he's done the best of any of them so far! Hmmm, writing a diary as Blackadder could be fun too though.  :lol:

Lee, there's a movie in production right now about the Esc. Lafayette, I stumbled on it when I was doing a search to see if they were going to make a movie about the book Flyboys since all his books are seeming to be in some sort of movie production state. Needless to say the Esc. Lafayette movie is called..."Flyboys". ;)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

And your Ack Emma is called Balric? :D

(Actually, that final episode of Blackadder, when they go over the top, always sorta gets to me. Ends the series on a somber note, but it works.)

Interesting that they're making a movie about N124 right now. Not sure if "flyboys" is the right slang for the period. Lotta characters in N124 -- Lufbery's life is worth a movie on its own. Hope they don't make a hash of the story.

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Yeah that last episode of Blackadder always gets to me too. Very touching.

As for how the movie'll be...well it's gotta be better than Pearl Harbor eh wot?

;)

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As for how the movie'll be...well it's gotta be better than Pearl Harbor eh wot?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

You'd think. At least it's gotta be better than that awful film they made back in 1958. I mean, Tab Hunter -- please!

Looks like some ultralight company is building four Nieuport 17s for the new film:

http://www.airdromeaeroplanes.com/

Kit runs $10K, minus engine. Let's all chip in ... :D

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Very cool site there. I went and read the interviews they had up...along with everydamnthing else they had on their repros...and it looks like the director has a clue at least. I especially liked the line about them having 6 real planes out of the 1,000s shown in Pearl Harbor. :lol:

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OOOOOOOOOO! 6 thousand quid for a full-size Neuport replica?

Then there's the engine, of course, but still, that's less than half what we paid for a car last year...

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I know Staggers, the article about the 4 replicas they made in less than 2 months for that movie said that for the movie they were using...Volkswagen engines. :blink:

Those are pretty cheap...hmmm I feel a cunning plan coming on. ;)

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Those are pretty cheap...hmmm I feel a cunning plan coming on. ;)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

See! I knew Balric was your Ack Emma ... ! :D

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1 May, 1917

Three sorties a day. Boy howdy. It's no wonder the attrition rate is so high. Well, I don't know how long I can last out there. One, maybe two a day I could see, but three? Day starts with a morning patrol at around 0800. Depending on how long that patrol is then you get to go back around noon. Fifteen hundred rolls around and if they can find you, meaning you're back from your last patrol, then you go again.

My second mission over the front started like my first. Nice and quiet. "Go fly a reconasaince of this area" the CO says. OK, so me, Norris and a Captain Nash take off and head south. It's another forty-five minute flight near the same place I was at earlier 'cept this time, we'll be over on Jerry's side of the line. Let me say here that Reconasaince means circling an area and letting every Jerry bastard on the ground take a pot-shot at you. Oh, and that area we were told to take a look? Yeah Jerry is there. Nice little airfield and very well defended. Somebody at HQ can sleep more secure tonight knowing that the airfield is there.

The enemy below started sending up what the boys call "Archie". Anti-aircraft fire. Depending on your altitude, will depend on what size they shoot at you. The black puffs look harmless enough, but be in the wrong place and the wrong time and see what happens to you. I was and saw a nice set of holes appear in my starboard wing. Metal sure does a number on cloth.

Well, the good captain decided we had had enough and turns us for home. Archie followed us plum across the front. Just as we reached near on the center of no-man's land, I saw some dark little shapes below us and to port. The captain saw 'em to as he turned toward them and started a spiraling decent. I watched him go for a second or two then started to follow.

Remember that Archie I wrote about just a second ago? Well it was still there. My Tripe shuttered and bucked and lurched up a bit. "Well that probably wasn't good" was what I was thinking. That little spinning prop on the starboard side of the cockpit, well, it stopped spinning and a quick look told me my airspeed was dropping quick.

OK, so what do you do? You're up top with a hurt bird, hell a dead bird, ack-ack still coming up at you, still shy of the frontline, and Jasta 2 pilots looking to make you as dead as that engine is up front of you? Push the nose down and hope like hell you don't run out of altitude before cross that line. Fortunately for me, I didn't. Made it across the line with two of them bastards close behind me.

It was a long truck ride back and my Tripe is a complete write-off. I got back to Gravelines around 1600. You know that Lt. Col. Colishaw wanted to send me back up? Luckily for me, we didn't have an airplane available.

S. Thrift

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No plane available eh? What did you do go around and slash all the tires at the base with your K-bar? ;)

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Now would I do something like that? Don't freakin answer that Schatten!

Naw, the day advanced, what could I do?

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2 May, 1917.

Today was an intersting day. Three sorties over no-man's land. Two of them, I probably shouldn't have walked away from. First thing this moring, Norris and I headed out with Capt. Nash to do an airfield attack. Now this is part of the reason I'm here; to work on the notion of close air support. I decided that this would be good stuff that head quarters was dieing to get their hands on. Well, I almost died in the gettin.

We flew out at 0720. The arty barrages had already started and I really couldn't tell you if they gave it up over night. We headed out to the east and then cut back in toward the airfield. We started getting ack ack just as we crossed over the lines. They really didn't want us there I rekon. So we get near the airbase and the captain don't do anything but start a lazy port turn. I figured what the hell, went starboard and started dropping altitude. I lined up a bunch of aircraft and let fly with them French made rockets they gave us. Walked them right up line and left at least two of them burning. As I cleared from my run I heard the distint whiz-pop of bullets passing through canvas. Yep, them Jerry's down there had them some Maxums and they gave me a good peppering. So much so that the bastards hit my fuel tank. I put the nose down and headed to lines. I was still over No-man's land when the ole prop stopped turning. I coasted here down and landed (if that's what you want to call it) just over on our side. Bird was a total write-off. If I never, and I mean NEVER, do another ground attack again, it will be way to soon.

Next mission we left around 1030. "Balloon Busting". Sounds like some party game you'd play at some kids birthday party. Well it aint. Both sides use gas bags back behind the lines to spy on, and call in arty, on the other sides troops. We had an offensive planned and to cover it from Jerry, they needed these balloons knocked out. Sounds simple. It aint. Them balloons are well protected. I got chewed up pretty bad on my run. Got the balloon though. So we headed back over our lines and just as we get back, I see little dots down below me. I decide to go down for a look-see. Four Albatroses and they aint seen me or my wingman. I keep dropping down preparing to get the last guy in the flight to starboard. They were heading straight for one our airbases at just under 1,000 ft. I'm lining this guy up when wouldn't you know it, my prop stopped turning and the engine died with a sickening cough. Luckily, the Germans never saw me and I landed, if that's what you want to call it) near a friendly base. That stump just jumped right up in a valiant attempt to save me.

Well, I got back in time to fly the last mission of the day. Artillery spotting. Well, shold be a boring flight I think to myself. What was I thinking. It's about a forty-five minute flight down and we hadn't even gotten to the area yet when I see four dots high at my eleven o'clock. More Albatroses. I starting clawing for altitude with my flight leader, Ellis Reid. These goons break into two groups and drop on us like it aint nobdies business. When they started in, I turned into them and lined up a shot on the leader. Hit him pretty good to, but I had no time to enjoy any success that may have given me. All of sudden we were turning each trying to gain the advantage. Just when I thought I had one, he would dive away and his buddy would be behind me. Amazing how you can tell the difference in the sound of a gun over the engine noise and wind and everything else you can hear up there. I lost sight of Ellis but finally, I gained an advantage. One of the Huns dropped low and left me and his pal up top. He pulled this "stall and fall left" on me, but I was right on him. I gave him a long burst around the engine and cockpit. He fell away but when he pulled out he was straight and level. I was able to get the lead on him and gave him another quick burst. He pulled left and I followed right on him. Got enough lead again and another quick burst the poor lad rolled right over and plowed in. I caught sight of his wingman coming after me and a snap turn, stall and some elevator and I was back behind him riddling him from stem to stern. He flattened out and headed east but I didn't let him get away. No sir, I shot him full of more holes and I must have hit him, 'cause he nosed over right into a creek. I looked around and found Ellis pretty close by. He was finishing off one of the other Albatroses. We flew over, finished the mission and returned home with no further incident.

Not a bad day but I swear all this flying will catch up to us all eventually. The boys in the trenches have their worries. Shelling, gas, machine guns, us. I just have this feeling that the flying will kill me before this is all over. Only two days gone and I'm already exhausted.

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Great stuff, Shawn! :popcornsmilie:

"Sounds like some party game you'd play at some kids birthday party." LOL! Man, those balloons are tough. And they're way too tempting for me, ever since RB1. Must be that bio of Frank Luke I read back in fifth grade. Notice that OFF doesn't credit balloons as air-to-air kills. The OFF team is working on changing that for Phase 2. Just as soon they wouldn't. I don't need any more encouragement to go after those gasbags.

Love these AARs. You can really feel the tension!

:thumbsup:

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3 May, 1917 1000hrs

This was the morning I had dreaded. The day I died. And I almost did. I drew the a 0644 patrol BEHIND friendly lines. Take-off and the flight down near Vimy went fine. Funny, now that I think about it, I don't remember any shelling. Anyway, get near the end of our patrol route and was getting ready to turn back to the northwest. They were low and I didn't see them until the first four were climbing up on my starboard side. I broke into the threat but my wingman, a new lad, never saw them. These goons were coming from an allied airbase a couple miles away. Eight of them to be exact, though I don't know when I found time to count them.

So, I turn into them and make a pass at the leader head-on then run like hell for that allied base. I get there and there are Nueports lined ready for take off. "Thank God" I sighed. I turned back in and start twisting and turning with four of the Kaiser's lads. I got with a short burst into one and put him down pretty quick but the leader and another experienced airman got me between them with altitude. I'd turn on one, the other would make a run on me. Not a good situation. I look around for the help I thought was coming. I see a single Neuport mixing it up but by then, he was on his on. I could barely get enough speed out of my shot up crate to keep her in the air. I finally put down at the strip.

My command is probably getting an ear full about right now from some Frenchie about right now but I don't care. When you roll your aircraft back inside the hangers and not put them up for being "Afraid they would all get shot down", well, even the most patient of Marines can loose it. They tell the guy will be out of the hospital in a couple days and won't lose the use of the right arm.

More later. Off to balloon bust.

S.Thrift

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6 May, 1917

Well, it happened. Or almost happened. How ever you want to look at it. Been in the hospital for three days already and they figure I'll be here for another two weeks. Balloon bustin. Jerry can keep the damned things as far as I'm concerned.

At 1013 on the 3rd, I was assigned to fly with two other pilots down the lines and balloon bust. Damned gas-bags are heavily protected. I didn't feel good about this one as we prepared to leave. Capt. Conner Robinson's crate was acting up and he had to take another one. 2nd Lt. Mark Orton was the third of our group. We formed up and headed out. "Archie" got into the act early and often and I took a beating going in. I had three rounds go off close enough to me that I heard some of the riggings snap. I found the target and bore in. I tried to varry my course and altitude but the damned Germans just threw tons of the crap up. Eventually you'd fly into a burst.

Well, I bore in and flamed the bag. Yeehaw. I still had to get out of there. And Jerry wouldn't let go. They had my scent like a Blue Tick on a 'Coon. I felt the stinging sensation in my right leg all the way up my side but don't remember much else. Doc said he pulled as much wood and canvas fragments out of me as he did metal. I don't know. I don't remember much about the flight back. The captain said I appeared lucid and he didn't think much was wrong till he saw the right side of my airplane. He said the gear collapsed on me during the landing. Like I said, I don't remember.

Anyway, there's no shelling, food is good, bed is soft and warm and the nurses are pretty. Can't understand a damned thing they say when they get excitable though 'cause I don't par-le-vou or how ever you spell it. Not that I'm in much shape right now to do anything with any of 'em anyhow.

S.Thrift

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1 June, 1917,

Back in the hospital again. This time for whole twenty-four days. The day after I got back to the squadron, I pulled ready duty. I awakened at 0600 and had morining chow. Then at about 0644, three ole boys Jasta 1 decided to come by and welcome me home. Nice of the Kaiser's boys to do that. Of course I was obliged to go up and return the greeting. Myself at two other pilots, don't even remember who they were, went up after the boys. They were flying DIIIs. One locked onto me as soon as I left the ground. Turned hard and finally got on him and put him out of my misery. Two left so I turn on the closet one. I was able to get on him and stay on him the whole time. Got some good lead on him and after a half dozen turns, finally put him down. One left. He appeared to be runnin but I figured he came all this way to say hello, it would be downright un-neighborly of him to leave without a proper good-bye.

Don't know what the pilot up with me was thinking, but he actually was able to turn the guy around. That put me head to head with guy. We fired at each other as we closed and I guess I got the better end of the deal. He's dead, I'm writing this.

Maybe I ought to call my higher command and request out of this mess. Twice in two months I wind up in the hospital. Third time might wind up being Jerry's charm.

Seven claims and no confirmations yet.

S.Thrift

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