❤ Sharing Folkworthy Stuffs ❤
2 Comments Vintage
From an interview with him, ” The Spitfire was a fun plane to fly, there was nothing to worry about. It looked nice, it felt nice, it flew nice, it didn’t take very long before you felt comfortable in it . You had a well-built plane, good firepower, the range, and if you kept your head up and didn’t let the Germans get behind you, your chances of surviving were pretty good “
I was in the 308th TFS when they were at Homestead AFB in Florida. Years later (1997) I organized a reunion at Luke AFB, the then current (and I think it still is) the location of the 308th FS. At the time they were flying F-16s. Anyhow, about 2 months before the 1970’s era reunion, I discovered a group of WWII 308th FS members who’d been having reunions since WWII. The then organizer of those reunions was Buz Howell, who lived in the Oklahoma City area. Here, I had absolutely no idea that this group had been having reunions since the war! So, I contacted Buz and he sent me his address list and I sent him mine. We eventually exchanged photos that he’d collected during their history. I sent him some of mine, thinking he’d probably not have much interest in the squadron in F-4’s and F-16’s.
As it turned out, Buz was also in charge of their newsletter, and some of MY photos made it into their newsletter! Anyhow, one of the guys who’d been a radio man I think, Ed Olbey, was an engineer post-WWII, who I later discovered was a borderline genius. He later graduated from college and went on to design instruments and systems for Bell. In the last years of his life, I would keep in touch with him, and he told me that he would do triginomitry problems in his head to relax him! That really describes what Ed was like. Anyhow, during the war, Ed had one of the few cameras around and I think his parents had a camera shop back in the states. He got lots of film sent in care packages, would take his photos, and send back the films undeveloped. He had no idea if they would turn out good or bad. When I was planning the reunion in 1996-97, Buzz Howell had me contact Ed to get some photographs for MY newsletter I’d created for our 1970’s reunion. Ed lived in Indiana, and I’d later fly up to meet him when he was placed in a nursing home. But before then, back around 1996, Ed was in much better health. And Buzz Howell, being in charge of their (WWII era) reunion, asked me to come to that year’s reunion. It was to be in Biloxi, MS. and about a year before our reunion at Luke AFB, near Phoenix. When I went to the reunion they had, I found out that in their “hospitality suite” Ed Olbey had brought ALL of the WWII photos he had in shoe boxes. Lots and lots of shoe boxes!! So many, that they were stacked about 3 or 4 deep and entirely covered TWO card tables! Wow! I spent as much time as I could looking at them, but it’d take weeks to go thru them all. I got his contact info at that reunion, and we kept in touch up until the time of his death. I only wish I could’ve copied each and every photo that he had. Buz Howell had several of these photos, as well as others he’d accumulated during the war from other people. Buz was computer literate even into his 80’s and would often forward me photos with emails. We spent lots of time on the phone, and I decided to record some of those calls when he would start telling me stories from WWII. Especially stories about the photos he’d send me. Some of the few color photos he’d sent me was of pilots with their aircraft, as apparently Ed was also just then experimenting with a new camera and color film sent to him. When I was looking for history about the 308th, to see if there was anything “new” about the 308th, I spotted YOUR photo of your grandfather with the “Lonesome Polecat” and it fired off a neuron in my brain that I’d seen that photo before and heard that name before. So I opened my “.doc” files up with the reunion address list. I am guessing your grandfather had passed before that reunion list was made up, since all that was shown was “Mrs. Skinner” with NO address. Anyhow, I’ll try to dig around and see what I come up with, but I’m pretty sure that Buz Howell mentioned your grandfather by name also. It might have been from that same photo, or of one of his (many) WWII stories, but I do remember hearing it. And when I did the reunion out at Luke in 1997, I must have had a copy of at least that photo, as I printed out descriptions of all the photos we’d printed out from WWII and had on display at the reunion hotel, the night of the dinner. Unfortunately, due to the late discovery of the WWII “bunch” I could only go by Buz’s current address listing to invite the WWII guys to our reunion in Phoenix, AZ. EVEN SO, some of the members of the 308th had retired in the Phoenix area, as that is a retirement area like Florida, and four or five did show up. Ironically, one of the small group who did make it was the very first 308th Squadron Commander. So I got to take a photo with the first commander and the (then) current commander. We also included the Spitfire and F-16 Falcon in the reunion newsletters after that one. But, what you’d be most interested in is the description of the photos you’ve posted here online. The one I’d gotten from Buz Howell read as follows: “Lt. William J. Skinner – Pilot of the 308th Fighter Squadron, with his Spitfire VIII “Lonesome Polecat.” Here he points to the two swastikas, denoting his success. Lt Skinner’s aerial victories came over Anzio and Cassino in early 1944. Photo taken at Castel Volturno, Italy – Early 1944.” Send me an email and we can keep in touch should I find anything else out in my WWII files. By the way, I have all the 308th Fighter Squadron’s newsletters from Buz Howell, in boxes sitting in my storage unit. Someday I’ll go through them and see how easy or difficult it is to get separate copies of them all. I’m pretty sure you’d find them interesting. As there are many stories from the veterans themselves about what it was like during the war. I remember asking Buz once “what was it like in the war?” As I was an Air Force veteran, but certainly never saw any “action” like they did. He asked me, “Were you ever in Boy Scouts when you were young?” I said yes! Then he said, “So you went on lots of campouts then?”
I said yes, sure, I was even an Assistant Scoutmaster when I was in the USAF at Little Rock AFB, my last duty station. He said, “Well just try to imagine going on a campout for two years straight, and that there are other guys from another country also on a long campout, and sometimes your two campgrounds are only a mile or two apart. But the other group of campers have guns and are trying their damndest to KILL you! That’s what it was like!” And believe me, all of the veterans I’ve ever known, and I’ve known several, have never explained it quite like that! Here’s my email. If you don’t get a response, keep trying, as I occasionally check my “spam” file to see what’s being filtered out. Also, I’m on Facebook, but not all the time, and I don’t use their “Messenger.”