Every time there’s a news cycle dominated by events relative to flying and airplanes, it reminds me of so many experiences, married to a command pilot.

The past ten days’ domination of the news, in connection to the lost Malaysian aircraft carrying over 200 passengers, and the mystery of its disappearance, keeps me awake at night, wondering what happened, and all seems so deja vu to me.

My husband was a natural born pilot, who lived and breathed flying. When he was 18 years old, living in Clewiston, Florida, at the edge of the Everglades, his parents bought him a little Cub airplane. In the early forties he signed up for military duty, and trained to fly B29s during world war two.

After the war, he returned to civilian life for a short period, before being recalled into the military as a reserve officer. Then trained as a helicopter pilot, spent a year in Korea, in air-sea rescue.

During the period he was not serving in the military, he spent time flying around in south Florida in a Cub aircraft. Frequently flying into the Everglades on hunting trips. I recall the time he decided to take-off on a deer-hunting trip, the day before Christmas, and crashed the plane in the Everglades. It was cold rainy weather, and the children and I woke up to the news that he and the plane were missing, on Christmas morning.

A rescue mission out of Miami found the wrecked plane in the Everglades, but pilot and cousin passenger missing.Took them 3 days to walk out of the Everglades, while rescue mission searched for them. Exhausted, wet, cold and hungry, both survived.

Later, after being recalled into the Air-Force, survived a year in Korea, flying behind enemy lines rescuing the wounded during the Korean war.

Upon return to the States, spent next couple of years on many missions, flying scientists in and out of atomic testing projects, from Eniwetok to Yucca Flats. At one time he had more flying time in helicopters than anyone else in the Air-Force.

In the mid-fifties, re-assigned to a base in south Japan, and the children and I joined him there six months later. Later moved to fifth-Air-force headquarters in Nagoya, where he was re-assigned to nine months in Burma, to train Burmese pilots flying helicopters. He was named an honorary member of the Burmese Air-force, while the children and I remained in Japan.

Upon his return, re-assigned to Tachikawa Air-base in Tokyo. Shortly after his return, I received a call he and his crew were in a helicopter crash off the coast of Yokohama in Japan. Later learned, when the chopper went down in the ocean, it only took minutes to sink, but my husband as the pilot, managed to pull all his crew out before sinking, and everyone survived. They were rescued by a Japanese fishing crew, taken ashore, where they were served “old ocean” whiskey by the Japanese.

Later the mangled wreckage of the helicopter was pulled from the ocean, and I still have pictures of the wrecked helicopter, after its removal from the ocean.

After a four year tour in Japan and other far-east countries, we returned to the States in 1969 and re-assigned to Stead Air Force base in Reno, where he was an instructor in survival techniques in the desert, the next two years. Then sent to Sewart AFB in Smyrna, Tennessee, still flying air-sea rescue missions, on many assignments to other areas on temporary duty away from home.

Frequent missions, flying top-military personnel assigned to the Pentagon, to various places. I have pictures of his landing a helicopter near the Pentagon, to pick up personnel there.

In 1963, he received orders to go to Viet-nam, to serve in air-sea rescue missions for a year in that war. The children and I remained in Tennessee, and upon his return, re-assigned to Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio as a test pilot.

We had built a lovely home in Tennessee, and for a period, I remained in Tennessee, while he commuted home on the weekends, before I decided to join him in Dayton. It was at Wright-Patterson, I began receiving notices from the military outlining detailed instructions, of expectations of my role as an Air-force wife, and telling me what I should do to support a military officer. I still have those orders.

During those years, I supported him through three wars to fight for this country, the government never paid me one cent, however he received a small amount in his paycheck, for me as his dependent. But never anything paid directly to me.

I had been studying hte Philosophy of Freedom several years and reading the orders issued to me by the military, I threw my hands up and announced to my husband this was no less than “involuntary servitude,” and I was leaving military life and returning to my hometown in Georgia. It was his decision to stay in or get out, but my decision was to leave military life after over twenty years. He decided to retire from the military, and we moved from Dayton back to Georgia, near my family in Atlanta.

Lo, these years later, as I read all the news about the missing aircraft, and stories about the pilots, I feel tremendous empathy for all those aboard and their families. So deja vu, as I recall, times when my pilot husband was missing, or wrecked in airplane crashes. However, he survived, three wars and many adversities, and so did I.

My husband was a natural born pilot and could fly anything, from B-29s to helicopters. I supported him in whatever he chose to do, but personally, I never liked getting on an airplane, and haven’t flown in years. There are some people who take to the air like a duck to water, I’m just not one of them, despite the fact I’ve flown many times in the past.


Email: annecleveland@bellsouth.net

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