B-17 Flying Fortress by John Beresford
Tom and Mark Harmon about the ages when Bill and his dad knew them.
|CANAL ZONE||CEN. AFRICAN REP.||CHAD|
|ETHIOPIA||FINLAND||FR. W. AFRICA|
The 1969 devastation of Hurricane Camille brought out every imaginable form of aid to the victims in her path. The only runway that was open at the New Orleans airport was half covered with water. Bill and his DC-3 crew would squeeze the touch down on this 1/2 runway and literally push cargo out the bay doors. This required landing half in and half out of the water. While on full power holding the brakes, the wind from the propellers would lift the tail then release the brakes and hope it will fly. Precision maneuvering at its best. It was about as close to a touch and go as you could get. They did this 2 or 3 times a day for about a week. Bill probably flew the DC-3 workhorse more than any other aircraft.
The goal of this page is to relate as many of Bill's anecdotes as possible that I have scattered around the margins of my notes so that they will not be lost when the bigger editions are published. It also rearranges things published earlier on different pages. After all, when you are writing about a member of the US Air Force you'd better streamline it.
|SICILY||SIERRA LEONE||SOUTH AFRICA|
|UNITED STATES||VENEZUELA||VIET NAM|
Driving down from Ann Arbor to the Ypsilanti area meant swimming in a river or lake. Bill's dad became friends with Tom Harmon there when Mark was just a kid. They were friends for some time. Bill described Tom as a quiet man and Mark as a well-behaved kid.
Note: Not knowing much about Tom Harmon beyond his name as a famous ball player your webmaster came across this impressive event: "In his final football game (against Ohio State, Harmon led the Wolverines to a 40–0 victory, scoring three rushing touchdowns, two passing touchdowns, four extra points, intercepting three passes, and punting three times for an average of 50 yards.
Almost everything in Tom Harmon's bio is equally impressive and we are not saying that just because he was a fellow pilot.
Note: It occurred to us that you do not know the 100 + countries (if I counted correctly) where Bill landed, spent time, or set foot on. Problem solved.
PEGASUS, THE FLYING HORSE
As the newspaper article indicates the Pegasus Statue was a gift to the USAF Academy from the Italian government and is a replica of one at the Italian Air War College. The statue weighs 81/2 tons and is ten feet tall. It is also fairly wide. What the article does not relate is the story of its truck ride across the country to Colorado.
A little background - A sergeant that worked with Bill was from Brooklyn and had a habit of joking around. So...one night Bill answers the phone and this fellow with a Brooklyn accent says, Captain, I've got this stupid horse that won't fit anywhere and on top of that I have the bosses son with me who isn't good for much. Made 12 miles today. Bill says, "Is that you Sargent? Sargent, quit fooling around," and hung up.
The next night the phone rings again and the voice says,"looks like I will have to go around whole states because this $#*$W! horse is to tall to fit under some overpasses or is too heavy for some bridges or both. And the kid is driving me nuts." This time Bill asked some questions and found out he is talking to the actual truck driver hauling Pegasus to the Academy.
From then on Bill would sympathize on the nightly calls from the beleaguered man. It took 14 days to transport the beautiful white marble statue to its new home on the terrace of Arnold Hall, the cadet social center.
Tom and Mark Harmon
Early on Bill made a comment to Walter Netsch, the chapel designer, that has been retold and altered over the years. The comment made its way to one of the local newspapers that attributed it to Bill. The powers that be were not pleased and made things a little uncomfortable for Bill for awhile.
The comment was, "The seventeen spires of the chapel represent the twelve apostles and the five members of the appropriations committee." Subsequent comments say the spires represent the twelve apostles and the five chiefs of staff.
Every comment is open to interpretation except, perhaps, when it is said while in uniform
6 string Guitar
80 years of playing the harmonica
Bill and Shirley admire the Citizens of the Year plaque given them by the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce for the 10,000 volunteer hours they worked over the years restoring Miramont Castle. The 1985 presentation may also have reflected Bill's development of a town trolley system by adapting the counter-balanced cable cars from the Manitou Incline pictured in front of Miramont at the right.
Miramont was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 3, 1977. The structure has nine kinds of architecture and currently 42 rooms.
Shortly after WWII one of Bill's new crewmembers was Eddie Lincoln who played in a famous harmonica band before the war. Their plane brought the first harmonicas out of the famous Hohner factory in Germany. Bill's love of the harmonica goes way back. (Sidenote: Another Lincoln - Abraham - also carried a harmonica.)
Perhaps this is a good place to insert the list of musical instruments played at different times in Bill's life. As a young man he had perfect pitch which disappeared about when he was in his thirties. But now in his eighties, for some reason, it has come back much to his dismay and delight. Once he even had a band called "The Hungry Five."
Elvis and Tommy Sands
For the new Air Force Academy the U. S. Air Force hauled every conceivable plane out of mothballs and shined up the new ones for the graduation fly-overs. Some of the lumbering hulks strained just to get over the hills around the housing valleys while the P-51's zipped around.
At the time Walt Disney was experimenting with circarama theater dipicted above. He set up thirteen cameras encircling a platform to film the flyover with the cadet wing marching on all sides. As the colors went by the platform one of the airmen who was helping stood and saluted and blocked out three cameras. Walt Disney laughed about it when he found out.
This internet picture shows Elvis and Tommy Sands at about the age when Shirley and Bill saw them.
On two different occasions Bill and Shirley saw Elvis and Tommy Sands before they were stars. Another time Bill was on the scene when Elvis left Fort Dix to serve in the military. (Details are sketchy on this encounter but we are working on it.)
The first time a local used car dealer ran a TV ad in which Tommy Sands and Elvis stood on either side of a car and each proceeded to knock out a headlight with a baseball bat. Their line was, "Now that we have your attention!"
The second time was Elvis only on the Louisiana Hayride.
Below Walter Netsch in his later years and the US Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel. He was 34 years old when he designed it.
ONE WHO CAME BACK
William H. 'Wild Bill' Copp
ONE WHO CAME BACK
Shirley's parents did not want her to marry Bill in 1945 - not because they didn't like him - because he might not come back from WWII. Undaunted and deeply in love Shirley boarded the train that many many transfers later took her to Gulfport, Mississippi and the dashing young man and his flying machine.
His crew witnessed the ceremony and that night - their wedding night - flew the rumbling B-17 past their 5th floor hotel room and almost touched the Gulf pulling up.
Congratulations, Shirley. You married an Air Force man!