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A terrorizing swan song.

THE INCIDENT Staff Sergeant Paul Drake describes in this excerpt from a wartime letter to his mother occurred in September 1943 at Minter Field, a US Army Air Forces training base near Shafter, California.

... At 4 p.m. I was walking out of the mess hall when an AT-6 Texan [training aircraft] flew right past the front door, making the building shake. He was about 10 feet off the ground going down the street under the power lines. People were running in all directions! He then continued making passes at the field, several times knocking down telephone lines. He soon had all of the people on the post out of the buildings, watching and dodging. He would climb up at a steep angle, stall out at about 200 or 300 feet and then dive down on the streets pulling out of the dive at about 10 or 15 feet altitude, doing well over 200 miles per hour.

You could hear people screaming and running in all directions trying to keep out of his path. Nearly a dozen times on my way back to the flight line I had to run for cover and try to get out of his way, and three times I ended up flat on my stomach as he would come down the streets at high speed!

... The tower talked to the pilot, a flying officer, and he told them he did not intend to come back alive, that when he was ready he would dive it into the ground right on the field....

He continued until 5:30 p.m.... He then began circling the field and talking to the post bigshots as he climbed to about 10,000 feet, almost out of sight. 1 then went to my office and listened on the tower frequency. They were pleading with him to land, but he just laughed and said he was going to land alright, but not in one piece. I then found out the reason for this. He had his wings taken away from him that morning, and was permanently grounded [reportedly for buzzing a nearby town].

... The next thing I hear over the radio is his girlfriend pleading with him to come in and land. He laughed and talked with her and asked where she was. She said she was in the control tower. He said "Good, I will be right down. I have something to show you." The next thing I heard was "Time 6 p.m., altitude 10,000 feet, propeller high pitch, speed 140 miles per hour. This is it. Coming in." After a short pause I hear him say "Speed 300, coming down for my last landing." By this time I could hear the drone of the aircraft in a dive, so I ran outside to see it. There he was in a power dive headed straight for the field. At the very last second, he pulled out of the dive, which looked impossible to me without tearing the wings off! He called in and said "Fooled you that time, didn't I? I hate to crack up this plane, it's such a good airplane, but I am getting low on gas. I have enough for another hour before I die. I would just go to prison if I did land. You took my wings away, and when a bird loses its wings, it dies. I do not want to live if I cannot fly."

He then started making passes at the field and barracks area again.... After finding out his girl was still in the tower, he kept making passes at it, rocking his wings with no more than four feet of clearance. Finally, everyone evacuated the tower....

His girl then went out on the field by the landing strip and waved her handkerchief at him to come in and land. He said, "OK, I guess I will land." He came in and landed, rolled down the runway and then went full throttle, took off again and began terrorizing the people again....

All the lights on the post were out as he had knocked down the power lines.... Just about dark at 7:20 he came down across the field and said, "Watch this one. This is the last. You people can rest now." He pulled the plane straight up to about 500 feet, stalled out, and plowed straight down into the ground with one big explosion. It burst into flames, killing him of course and completely wrecking the plane.

... I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw it hit, and so did everyone else. I never in my life want to see such a flying demonstration again....

PAUL DRAKE

Submitted by his son Steve Drake

Gladewater, Texas
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Title Annotation:A WWII Scrapbook
Author:Draker, Paul
Publication:America in WWII
Article Type:Excerpt
Date:Feb 1, 2017
Words:789
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