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.
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.”
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.