Triplane Builder

Poems by Triplane Builder - William (Bill) Woodall

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In retrospect, a youthful mind is frightening to behold;
Has utter trust in what it reads; and believes what it is told.
Really not a mystery-- that fighting men are young.
Guys, they need who question not---as into a breach they're flung.

A case in point (involving me), comes readily to mind.
"Navy planners, (surely be), the most perceptive kind".
(Would never replace the SBD, unless with a better plane),
That newest, from Curtiss they're building now, must really be a gain!

The fact that these are tested-- not far from where I'm based,
Gives chances to ride in them--(as acceptance squawks are chased).
To me it's strictly pleasure; "flight skins" are not a quest,
Whether or not a "gunner's" aboard-- not a factor in the test.

The wide stance of the landing gear---the big four bladed prop;
The jutting of the cannons--bomb doors that hide the "drop".
The rear-seat--twin machine guns---the frame, from which to aim,
Give a look of "strictly business" to this latest battle plane.

Non-com's arriving Saturdays, (if early in the day),
Might get chosen for a "hop", (while tests are under way).
Quizzical looks from assignors, could be something to think about,
As if in volunteering---might mean your brain's not stout!

I just thought them jealous as they "flew" their office space,
And knew I really had it made, when seat-packs left their case.
Glad was I to make my climb, to that rear-most gunner's seat.
And tighten up the various straps that would hold me in-- complete.

The 'briefings' by the pilots were blunt and short and terse;
"If I say our condition's RED!---bail-out before it's worse"!
Clearly, I'd be on my own--- to conquer any fear,
No one was going to stick around-make sure I don't stay here!

All hops I had were thrills for me---glad to been in the steed--
Like the time we dived on 'Flying Forts'- their gunners practiced "lead".
And our split-ess into a bombing dive--- to see if our dive brakes' serve,
And the many G's that shoved me down, as we rounded out the curve.

And the thunderous surge of "pick-up" as the big prop bit the air,
Coupled with the brake release--flung me backward in my "chair--
The numb of cold at altitude, when my gunners fairing failed,
And the spiraling, biting slipstream---my hands and face--assailed.

There was a point that troubled me, and left a lingering 'thing'.
It had to do with the seat pack chute, and the twin gun's mounting ring.
'Cause when the flights were over, and we're safely on the ground,
Far too long for me to egress-get my 'chute above the 'surround'.

What would have happened-(I wonder)-with not a second to spare--
If I'd had to do that red thing--- get quickly out of there?
Slack in the seat pack risers, let the pack fall back and away,
Larger, now than the hole in the ring--was why it tried to stay.

There should have been instruction-from someone who knew how;
Spell out the proper sequence---a chance for escape--allow.
Some seeds of doubt were planted about the candor of the brass;
(If officers rode that gunner's seat---be a plan to save their ass).
Another confidence shake-up---was when I came to learn,
That the SB2C bomber didn't easily take its turn!
There'd been so many problems 'bout using it with the fleet
That SBD's soldiered on and on---their status--- obsolete.

There is a way with pilots, (and the nick-names they provide)--
"Slow But Deadly" (for the SBD)--shows respect for what they ride.
But the SB2C Curtiss had different names--and paired---
Sometimes just--"The Beast"--or "Son of a bitch that's squared"!

So a long time after all risks had flown-- I came to realize---
Naval planners mistakes may make--- and boys have starry eyes.
I was lucky no emergency cut short my glory days;
My wisdom was sadly lacking though, in those "not required" forays.

Bill Woodall

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