Old Man Jack-ism #6 – The Zero

I stopped by with a cigar to visit with Jack today.  I hoped there will be others visiting given the date and holiday season…

Today, I thought I’d visit with Old Man Jack for a while.  I didn’t drive my supercharged and unmufflered Grabber Orange Mustang to visit him although he loved it so much.  It looked like rain.  But I did take a cigar with me.

I know he didn’t mind the cigar.

He said it “doesn’t smell much better than the stinkin’ islands…but anything smelled better than those stinkin’ islands”.


He would reminisce much more frequently about the war on those islands when it involved “fun memories” and I recalled one while chatting with him today at his grave. Believe me, whether it be a “fun” memory or not, a tear or two always tags along.

Old Man Jack always described the islands in the Southwest Pacific to be “those stinkin’ islands”.  He had said that while things always stunk, “everything smelled like shit”.  Pardon the French but those are the words expressed by the now old man who was back then a young boy of nineteen.  Hell, put it into perspective.  That spoiled young singer Justin Bieber is nineteen.  I’ll leave it at that.

“When I got there, I wondered why things smelled like shit,” he said with his trademark grin.  The one where the left corner of his mouth rises.  “Well, I was a dumb shit punk myself back then.”


We had been touring the mock up of the CV-6 carrier deck (USS Enterprise) at the Chino Planes of Fame Museum back in 2003.  Our friendship had begun solidifying by then.  I had taken him there primarily to see his beloved F4U Corsair so this was a side trip at the museum.

On the “flight deck” was a Douglass SBD-5 Dauntless dive bomber.

Jack in 2003 with the Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless behind him.  You can make out his boyish grin.

One thing he immediately spit out was after seeing the plane was, “That rear seat is just a metal plate.  You sat on your parachute for a cushion…”  He then continued, “…and those were twin .30’s back there.”

He told me once a Navy dive bomber pilot “grabbed him by the collar” early on and told him to get into the rear seat “quick-like”.  I remember asking him why because at that time, I didn’t know he was certified to fly.  In typical Old Man Jack fashion, he quipped, “‘Cuz I was the only one there.”  Accent on the “there”, please.

“Well, we were flying up there.  Man, that parachute made for a lousy cushion,” he said.  “Then a Zero got on our six…and then I saw these little flashes.  I figured out real quick he was shooting at us.”  Jack’s still got that grin on his face.

“The pilot yelled, Shoot, you son of a bitch!  Shoot!  Shoot!  So I did.”

“The pilot kept yelling, Shoot!  Shoot!“.  Then I yelled, “I did! I did!”

He wasn’t afraid to say it.  Jack said he got so scared he just laid on the triggers and didn’t let go.  There was only about 15 seconds worth of rounds.  He had fired off all his ammo.

“Man, I heard every god damn cuss word from that pilot,” he chuckled, still with that trademark grin.

But then he ended it by saying, “…And whoo-ee, I crapped in my pants…  And that’s how I figured out why everything smelled like shit.”

rear gunner
A WWII period photo of rear gunner and the twin .30 caliber machine guns.


I never asked him what happened to that Zero…or if they successfully dropped their bomb…or what happened to that Navy pilot.

But one thing is for sure.  I would have liked to have seen Justin Bieber in that back seat behind those twin .30s.

I’m sure his voice would get even higher…permanently…and would have needed a diaper change.

Real men don’t wear diapers.  Jack sure as hell didn’t.  He just shit in his pants and wasn’t ashamed to admit it.


I enjoyed our chat today, Jack.

And I’ll be sure to drive the Mustang next time so you can hear it.

Miss you.

28 thoughts on “Old Man Jack-ism #6 – The Zero”

  1. Koji, I enjoy reading your stories, especially the old man jack stories. There are not many heroes left in this world, but when I read these and know how he has touched your life and the appreciation and respect you have for him it inspires me. You are a hero to me for keeping jacks mark on this world alive. Keep doing what you do my friend, you are good at it!

  2. Hi Koji,

    Good to revisit Jack’s grave and remember him. Grand story and pictures there, thanks for sharing.

    Dec 23 was the anniversary of my Dad’s death. December was a strange month for him – born on the 18th, married on the 19th, died on the 23rd, first son birn on the 24th. Bit like Solomon Grundy.

    By the way, the old shipmate of my Dad whom I met in January of this year died a couple of months ago. Not many WWII veterans left now.

    Hope you and your family have a good Christmas break Koji. Best wishes for 2014.


    1. Yes, Ian, I recalled your father’s passing – the same day as Old Man Jack. I don’t know if your website shows it but I visited your site yesterday (the 23rd here in Southern California). It was good to see your father’s picture once again as well as that wonderfully retouched picture on board.

      All the WWII vets and their wives have now passed in my neighborhood, including Marge Johnson whose Marine husband died a few months after Jack. We will never see their likes again, Ian.

      Merry Christmas to you and your wife as well!

  3. When you write about Old Man Jack, Koji, I am always reminded of my Father-in-Laws stories about flying over the Hump into China during WWII. There is a certain romance that goes with the stories, even though we know they also reflect the horrors of war. Thanks for your tales. Somewhere, Old Man Jack is smiling, happy to be remembered. Happy Holidays. Curt and Peggy

    1. Yes, I remember your father-in-law flew (dangerously) over The Hump in CBI…and your son is a Marine chopper pilot, yes? And you are so right in mentioning “romance” and “horror” at the same time.

      I wish you could have talked with Old Man Jack…and see that boyish grin yourself… Merry Christmas, Curt…and Peggy!

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