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Don Locke: Lookin Thru Bifocals

Mac McGeean was really difficult to describe...Captain Mac McGeean. I do remember he was from the North West….(Washington State or Oregon maybe)  I don’t recall his first name,  but he was still hard to forget. 

Mac was a big guy, tall and somewhat chuffy...always laughing.  He laughed at the good and the bad and everything in between.  Mac and I car-pooled together one summer when we were going through FORWARD AIR CONTROL (FAC) school at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.  This was in 1956.  We had a lot of World War II Air Force pilots attending FAC school.  Most were ten years or so my senior: I was 23 or 24. 

There were five in our carpool because of his size, we gave Mac the front passenger side seat.  Three of us rode back seat. 

Having all these fellow students - these old guys -  most of whom had “been-there, done that”, over the skies of Europe or the Pacific, was an education into itself for us younger fellows.  We relished hearing of their air combat experiences - of which most would only tell up to a point.  Not so with Mac. He would tell all and “die laughing”  Mac was a B-24 bomber pilot over Germany in World War II...flying out of England with the 8th Air Force.

He had a lot of stories - one was a doozie:  We came off the bomb run over the target.  We had two engines out, and two left; one of those was a smokin when we turned back over the channel heading for home base in England.  We were losing altitude.  We threw out everything that wasn’t tied down, including machine guns and ammo.  When we got to a lower altitude and denser air, our altitude loss slowed some.  Our windshield was completely shot away.  Me and my co-pilot had ice on our faces where we had sweated.  It was winter. 

“I had both good engines throttles bent forward clean over the throttle quadrant..  The airplane had other damage including part of the twin rudders were gone.  Fortunately both “good” engines were on opposites sides.  It could affect some guidance of the plane using differential thrust on the two throttles.  If we elected to surrender, we could drop the landing gear and head for a neutral country - in this case Switzerland.  This was SOP.   It gave the crew a choice:  I got on the intercom and said you guys want to drop the landing gear and heard for Switzerland: or do you want to stay and fight? 

My navigation came up and was standing between me and the co-pilot…his pencil protruding from under his flight helmet.  “Let’s fight,” he said. 

“What are you gonna do?  I asked him “erase all this enemy flack and there enemy fighters, with the rubber end of your pencil?”  They made it back on a “wing and a prayer”.

I almost forgot to mention:  Mac Mcgeean was once a ballroom dance instructor.  Meanwhile I’ll grab my saddle horn and blow. 

Kindest Regards...

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