When your July 21 issued arrived, I turned immediately to the back page…as I always do…to see the articles by Larry Bledsoe. It’s like having dessert first.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” hit a special chord for me. A few years ago I had the honor of flying with Joe Gentile, son of the World War II ace Don Gentile. I was then a captain at Southwest Airlines and Joe was my first officer. When I discovered who Joe was, I was honored just to be in his airspace!
We had a scheduled overnight in Ontario, Calif., and I forced Joe to come with me to see the Planes of Fame Museum at nearby Chino Airport. He really didn’t want to come along, but I insisted. As we entered the museum, on the wall facing us was a portrait of Don Gentile with his P51-B Mustang! Standing in front of that portrait…beside Joe… left me speechless.
The following week Joe brought his father’s logbook to work. I held it in my hands and read the entries made during each sortie. It was not written in the usual uninteresting manner, but was a narrative account detailing the flights.
He told of climbing up through the overcasts to form up with John Godfrey, setting courses and flying the missions. It was like reading a novel. There in the lines were red-penciled swastikas for each plane he had shot down. And I was holding that piece of history in my hands!
Joe is now a captain for Southwest and I have been forced into retirement by the Age 60 Rule. I hope Joe will be able to share this history with others, perhaps in a movie. It is a great true story.
Capt. Richard J. Hawley