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TOPIC: LT Thomas (TA) Cook, Fighter Pilot USAAF


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RE: LT Thomas (TA) Cook, Fighter Pilot USAAF


Those pictures are great Tom/Tarkey but that top one is a winner

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The Liberator in particular interests me. It has an E on the tail and I cannot find any group which had this marking. I have asked my old frined Fred Preller in the US who runs the Mighty 8th site and forum. He is a firnd of MH as well, since I took him round a while ago.

I wondered if the Liberator was part of the attack on the oilfields at Ploesti in Romania
see

http://wn.com/ploiestithe_main_european_oilfield_in_wwii_romania

it does they went from N Africa and Italy but I understood some went from near here

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Have a look at the USAAF Library in Norwich Tarkey they have a wonderful collection of models I will have a look at some of my photos

maybe this link has some meaning at Bottisham
 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Bottisham



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I know that my father made at least one escort run to Romania because I saw it on a record of his missions. Which missions these photos were taken from remains a mystery. I have had discussions with Peter Randall of the "Little Freinds" web site and he mentioed that he thought that the mission records for the 360th Sqadron were in College Park just outside of Washington DC. I offered to do some research for Peter if I get that way (about a days drive from here). He has detailed records of the 359th squadron's missions. Peter also mentioned that it might be possible that fellows traded areal photos with esch other while in England which could add to the confussion if my father participated in this. It seems as though all the other pictures were taken by my dad.

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Some more wonderful information from Tom passed on to hi by his Dad

My father always said that when he pulled the trigger on his Mustang the bullets looked like six solid white lines streaming forward converging at about 100 yards. As only every fifth bullet was a tracer you could only see 1/5 of the actual fire power coming from the six .50 calibre  machine guns aboard the Mustangs. He also told me about a mishap at the gun alignment range at Martlesham where a Mustang wasn’t properly lashed down for it’s alignment procedure and when the technicians fired the Mustang’s guns the recoil threw the plane violently back out of the test jig doing damage to the jig and airplane. This prompted me to ask my father how violent the recoil was on the Mustang when the guns were fired. My father replied that it would slow the plane down an immediate 30 miles per hour. I said; that’s like diving in a car at 30 miles per hour and hitting a wall. My father’s reply was that “you had the make sure that you were firmly harnessed into your seat or ran the risk of putting you face into the instrument cluster in front of you in the ****pit”. He also went on to explain that “you also had to be cognizant of your airspeed as well or could risk stalling the airplane”.



In flight school the pilots were taught to follow a certain pattern of constantly looking at their gages to make sure everything was alright. My father said that “you had to disregard that training when in a combat situation. Either the plane was going to fly or it wasn’t and all of the looking at instruments wasn’t going to change that. You never wanted to be caught with your eyes inside the ****pit during combat”. He sited an example of a German 262 fighter jet that was below their escort formation and just slowly cruising along. One of the mates in his wing rolled over and shot him. My father said that the 262 just nosed straight into the ground and that the pilot must have had his eyes inside the ****pit and never saw what hit him.



One of the weaknesses of the Swallow 262 jets was their inability to manoeuvre. Because of how fast they could fly they had to turn in huge sweeping arcs. My father said that a 262 once approached his formation from above and behind. I asked my dad what he did and he said that he just yanked back on his stick and that it was going to take the jet another 3 miles out of his way to turn around and come back after him.



One of the other basic flight lessons that did serve my father in flight school was the importance of believing your instruments when they told you that you were straight and level in a cloud formation with no visual reference. He said that his ears would be screaming at him that he was upside down and his instruments would say he was straight and level. He always trusted his instrument and lived to come home and tell about it. Others weren’t so lucky. They lost a lot of pilots to this disorientation. The loss of JFK Jr. is a recent example of seriousness of this phenomenon.



My father often talked about how low the German V1 buzz bombs would fly over Martlesham on their way to London. “They sounded like an old truck rumbling down a country road”. He said that more than once they were mistaken by the tower as a friendly aircraft on final approach.



As a result of the heavy losses of bombers over German territory in the early days of the war; the bombers were grouped into box formations to provide the maximum amount of redundant fire coverage by the bomber’s gunners for any potential Germany fighter threat. The fighters were always to be grouped in numbers dividable by 2. They flew in 2s, 4s, 8s, 16s and 32s. They had a name for the different size groups but I cannot recall what my father called them. By the time that my father joined the war; the fighters would surround the bomber box formations with at least 16 fighters in front, on both sides and above and in the rear of the box. This meant that a German fighter had to go through all of that fire power to get at the bombers. I sarcastically mentioned to my father one day that if you broke formation you wouldn’t want to rejoined the formation in any haste. My father said quite seriously when rejoining the formation he would fly along side, outside of gun range and then move in slowly showing all his plane’s markings.



Once the bombers neared their targets the German flack would come up over the target area. The fighter pilots knew that the Germans weren’t going to be flying any of their aircraft through the flack so they would all go around to the other side of town and wait for the bomber to come through the flack and then regroup to escort the bombers out of the area. Occasionally they would fly over recently liberated France and then over the Alps and then approach southern German targets from Switzerland to throw the Germans off and minimize flying time over Germany.



During an escort mission over Germany a Spitfire flew over the escorted bomber formation and then ascended upward into the sun. A potion of the fighters escorting the bombers pealed of to examine the aircraft and just could never quite figure out what happened to the plane. While they were absent from the formation German fighters strafed the bombers. In retrospect, they concluded that somehow the Germans got a hold of a Spitfire and were using it as a decoy to distract some the fighters from their bombers in a desperate effort to get at the bombers.



After my father finished escorting the bombers through hostilities he was allowed to break formation and look for “targets of opportunity” on the ground. He once came across a barn in the middle of a farm yard and decided to fly through it. He lined his plane up with the opening on the side of the barn but at the last minute didn’t feel he could clear the top of a tree behind the barn in the distance so he pulled over the top of the barn. As he looked back in his rear view mirror at the barn he realized that one of the barn doors was closed on the back side. Not only did you have to be a good pilot and a team player during the war but often times you also had to be lucky.



The fighter pilots would often get together for an evening of watching gun camera footage spliced together from their various exploits. My father told me of a particular piece of footage from one of his buddy’s gun cameras that showed him hitting a steam locomotive pulling freight and the train blew straight up into the air leaving his friend nowhere to go but through all of the nuts and bolts and debris from the train. I see footage like that regularly on our cable network’s Military Channel and wonder if any of that is the same footage.

Another one of the weaknesses of the P-51's design was the air intake scoop on the underbelly of the plane. This housed the engine coolant and oil radiators for the Merlin engine. If it was hit you were not doing home in that airplane that day. Not only was this air scoop vulnerable the flack, debris and gunfire but it presented a problem for any pilot that had to ditch his airplane as it had a tendency to flip the plane over on it’s back upon contact with the ground or water. My father lost a good friend, LT Raleigh Ragsdale who developed engine trouble and was too low to bail out of his aircraft requiring him to ditch the pane in a field. The plane rolled and nosed over onto the ****pit, killing Lieutenant Ragsdale. My father never mentioned Raleigh to me. I found out later doing research on my own.

After the war was over my father served “occupational duty” in Munich. He never provided much detail of this time. I only remember three stories. He said that as the American planes landed in Munich they needed room on the base to park all of them. The Germans had just walked away leaving their aircraft mostly in tack where they were. The Corpse of Engineer’s was assigned the task of making room for all of the American planes coming in to use the base and simply bulldozed all of the remaining German aircraft out to one small heap in one corner of the airbase. As the allied forces did such a thorough job of eliminating German aircraft; if they only knew how valuable all of those air planes were to become they might have treated then a little better. It’s probable that those aircraft are all in museums somewhere now.

As a youngster I went hunting for lizards with a BB gun. I got caught up in the stalking and the hunt and finally shot one only to watch it suffer. I mentioned to my father that my hunting days were over and he told me about a time during his occupational duty he went deer hunting in the Black Forest with his squadron mates. He said that he shot a deer and that it wasn’t a clean kill so one of his mates dispatched it with his service pistol. My father spoke of the suffering the animal went through and how it tore him up inside. He never hunted and was opposed to having fire arms in the house (especially with five boys). The only exception was a German pistol he brought home as a souvenir from his occupational duty in Germany. It was a Browning .32 caliper, handle magazine loading type of hand gun. It never had bullets and I was told to, “under no circumstances, ever bring any bullets home for it”.

My father’s time in combat started in the summer of 1944. He spoke a lot of how decimated the German air force was by then. He witnessed many of Germany’s desperate but futile attempts to reverse the tide. He always contended that we allies didn’t win the war because we were smarter than them. We won the war because they misjudged our ability to out mass produce them. “For every airplane they put in the sky, we could put 10. For every tank they could put on the field we could put 10. Eventually those odds just caught up with them”. He always had great respect for Germans and didn’t like the fact that we had to fight them. He was not a gong ho type either. He contended that he never killed anyone during the war. He was a modest man but also very honest. So I believe him. He was a mild mannered, easy going; optimistic person and talking about the war didn’t fit his personality. I think that is why most of the stories that he told me were of a humorous nature. I knew that war wasn’t a joking matter and would occasional ask him if he saw plane go down or if he saw someone get hurt or killed and I always got a one word answer: “Yes”. That answer was always coupled with a look of please don’t ask any more from my dad. Out of respect I never did.

I remember running through the house as a child with my army gear on and my father grabbed me from a full gallop and stopped me to show me a wounded sailor crossing from one ship to another on some sort of tethered line on a television show. They pulled that sailor off the tether and I could see him crying like a baby. My father held me tight and said: “see that Tommy. That’s what war is really like. Do you see anything brave or gallant about that?”  Years later, when he was ill, I reminisced about all of the things that he taught me and his eyes welled up. I asked him what the matter was. He replied; “if I had known you were listening so closely I would have been more careful about what I said”. I think that he did a great job with my brothers and me. I’ve always felt privileged to have had him for a father and a role model. I savoured every moment with him and still miss him immensely.



2 more photographs of Tom Snr





-- Edited by tarkey on Friday 18th of February 2011 10:36:55 PM

-- Edited by tarkey on Saturday 19th of February 2011 05:46:22 PM

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