While the world celebrates several golden anniversaries, we pause to acknowledge a 50th of another sort.
The golden anniversary of events during and at the conclusion of World War II was attended by a series of worldwide commemorations. Recently, participants in the Berlin Airlift observed the 50th anniversary of that mammoth undertaking, and many individuals and organizations offered their warm remembrances during the celebration.
What many call a “puddle-jumper”–an ex-Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Aeronca L-16B–even had its moment in the spotlight during the recent 50th anniversary of the CAP as the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. The CAP Historical Foundation restored and is displaying the two-seat liaison airplane at airshows around the country as a tribute to our military aviation heritage.
You also might say Aviation History Magazine was there 50 years ago, too–in an admittedly tenuous way. C.V. Glines, a founding member of our editorial advisory board and a regular contributor, flew in Lockheed P-80 fighters and transports on associated missions in Germany during the Berlin Airlift–aka Operation Vittles (see story in the May 1998 Aviation History). He remembers flying “Gooney” (Douglas DC-3/C-47) missions in Germany and, on several occasions, holding instruments and parts for the airlift aircraft that had priority on flights going to and from Berlin.
No, Aviation History was not around 50 years ago, and we’re not celebrating a 50-year anniversary–but with this issue, we are commemorating our 50th-issue anniversary. Our first editorial in the September 1990 premiere issue carried the headline, “The mirror of the past offers the best perspective on how aviation developed.”
We noted that the concept of “what is past is prologue” comes through as a guiding principle for a publication that aims to make aviation history live on as a recognizable link to the present. We pledged to “do our best to make Aviation Heritage [the magazine’s original name] both interesting and enlightening, a magazine you will enjoy reading each issue.”
Well, with this 50th we can but reaffirm that commitment as we continue doing our best to produce “interesting and enlightening” issues of Aviation History. We look forward to announcing our 50-year anniversary when we deliver the September 2040 issue. By then, a younger editor will be at the helm, one who will carry on the commitment–for aviation has so much rich history that the light of its torch will shine so long as there are pages on which to print it.
A Respectful Reflection
The July 1993 issue of Aviation History included a story about the Japanese pilot who flew a floatplane from a submarine surfaced just off America’s West Coast. His quixotic mission was to drop incendiary bombs over the forests of western Oregon in 1942–ostensibly to let the United States know it was not immune to attack. The effort did not produce much damage, and the pilot, Nobuo Fujita, subsequently visited and became friends with the people of Brookings, Ore., the logging town near the site of his abortive bombing raid. Fujita died recently at 85, shortly after he was proclaimed an honorary citizen of Brookings. His 400-year-old samurai sword, a gift presented to the town as a symbol of his regret over the earlier bombings, hangs in a place of honor in the local library.
And another fallen hero, one of our own, Richard J. Vodra also “went west” recently. Vodra wrote in the January 1995 issue of Aviation History about his experiences as a fighter pilot with the 49th Fighter Group in New Guinea. He vividly described the not-so-glamorous workaday life of a wartime pilot who flew daily despite sweat, fatigue and fear. He flew despite the gnawing uncertainties of serving in the transition zone of friendly–and definitely nonfriendly–territory early in World War II. Vodra is officially credited with shooting down two enemy aircraft–one he plucked off the tail of a squadron mate in another Curtiss P-40 Warhawk–and he earned several major decorations. Unofficially, he is credited with more aerial victories, and will always be an ace to us. After the war, Vodra prospered as a Hollywood writer for radio, television and motion pictures, as well as an accomplished inventor who earned several patents.
People, people, people–the glue and the life force of aviation history.
Arthur H. Sanfelici, Editor, Aviation History