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Title: Pilots of Coomalie - 1942
Name: Smith, Tom
My Story: Australian and American pilots were rated highly. It was frequently said that they could do more with their aircraft than the makers had thought possible. On Anzac Day 1942 against superior odds, the main plane casualties were not from the Japanese, but doing victory rolls on their return to refuel. Fortunately the pilots - mainly in their nineteens and twenties - were saved, but were asked not do victory rolls because of the shortage of aircraft. "Blackjack" Walker, an Australian air ace, was a pilot to be feared. It was said he had no nerves in his body. He visited the Coomalie Fighter Base one weekend when we were visiting. A Lockheed P38 (Lightning) with twin fuselage, landed. The American pilot was delivering a message, so did not cut the engine. This allowed "Black Jack" to "inspect" the cockpit. He then waved away the mechanics taxied to the end of the strip and took off. The American was frantic. However he was not prepared for what was about to follow. It was one of the best exhibitions of aerobatic flying witnessed in the Territory. The American pilot was filled with trepidation - but also with awe, as he witnessed an event not seen before in a Lightning. He was more amazed when he met Black Jack after landing, to find out that it was his first appearance in a P38. There were some well known fighter aces in the Territory at times. Bluey Truscott was as adventurous on the ground as he was in the air. Quite often when the air raid alarm sounded, he was at Adelaide River Hospital socialising with the nurses. He would drive his car at break neck speed up the highway to the strip and hop straight into the cockpit ready for action. It was said he would not see the end of the war - either a plane or car accident would claim his life. Eventually he did crash into the sea and was killed. A Dutch Squadron was not the best of buddies with Australian troops. When they left their base on a raid, they would drop empty bottles on Australian camps. An empty bottle creates a piercing scream and when it lands, explodes with a dull pop. For this reason rumours spread that the Squadron did not complete a raid. It was said that threatening weather or a sighting of an aircraft in the distance would give them a good reason to abort the mission. In later years the history of No. 18 (Dutch) Squadron flying Mitchell bombers recorded a creditable performance in the number of successful air raids they made.
Appears in Collections:Territory Times Gone By

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