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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Overstreet and Mad Jack

While I missed Veterans Day . . . 

and without going off the deep end . . .

again . . . 

about the atrocious way our Government treats our vets . . . 

I KNOW! It takes an enormous amount control on my part . . . 

Here are two AMAZING stories of WWII veteran.

Captain William Bruce "Bill" Overstreet Jr. (April 10, 1921 – December 29, 2013) enlisted after Pearl Harbor and was accepted in the Air Corps to train as a fighter pilot.

While in his nineties, Overstreet was interviewed about his war service and credited his piloting skills to the unusual teaching methods of his military instructors and leaders.  

While training in Santa Anna, "The instructor would flip the plane upside-down and then cut the engine."

While stationed in Santa Rosa, "(Our leader would) take a flight of four to the Golden Gate Bridge and do loops around it."

"We all thought we could buzz pretty closely, but while we may be able to 'mow the fairway' on a golf course, only (the flight leader) could “mow the greens.”

"Our legal officer, told me years later that he was able to hold up action on bushels of charges, and took most home with him after the war."

"I asked (one commander) why we got by with so much. He replied, 'If you were picking pilots for combat, who would you pick? The fellows who flew straight and level or the ones who pushed the envelope and tested the limits of their planes?'"

After being stationed overseas, Overstreet had more near misses and incredible successes.
"I had a freak accident. . . . While over enemy territory, a burst of flak cut my oxygen line. . . . The next thing I knew, I was in a spin, engine dead since the fuel tank it was set on was dry. . . . I had no idea where I was, but remembered where I had been headed so I reversed it." Dodging trees, he was able to land on the coast of France after passing out for 90 minutes.

During another mission he escorted bombers over Germany while he had a sinus infection. He went into a power drive that caused his eyes to swell shut. One of his fellow pilots radioed him with ongoing instructions back to base. He was grounded for several days until he could navigate in the traditional method.
Later in the war, he was assigned to act as an escort for a group of B-17s flying into Italy. Not thinking he would run into the Luftwaffe, Overstreet volunteered to swap out his ammunition for an ammunition bay containing Russian beet vodka. Returning to base, the escort group ran into enemy fire. The pilots armed with more than vodka took care of the situation and pilots, planes and vodka returned to base.
Overstreet was also assigned to flying supplies to the French Resistance while picking up downed airmen from behind enemy lines. 

However, he was best known for another dogfight. In 1944 he was flying near Paris, escorting bombers, when they were met by German fighters. Overstreet hit on of the German's engines and the pilot headed into the city where heavy anti-aircraft artillery.

Overstreet followed and the German pilot aimed his plane at the Eiffel Tower.

"He figured I'd try to get around and he'd have time to get away. He was wrong. I was right behind him, right under the Eiffel Tower with him. And when he pulled up, I did get him. But that's a huge space. That's not close at all. It's plenty of room to go under the Eiffel Tower. But it makes a good story."

"A lot of people don’t believe I did it. I don’t blame ’em but I got back to Leiston with barbed wire under the tail and cat tails on the wing tips"

Pastor Jeff Clemmons, a combat veteran of the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps and a close friend of William Overstreet added, "The Paris citizenry actually rose up in defiance of the Germans for a period of three days, celebrating that victory." 

In 2009, Overstreet was awarded the Legion of Honour by the French Ambassador Pierre Vimont. 

"I didn’t do anything special. We were a team." He dedicated his award to "my comrades who never made it home."

Lieutenant Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming "Mad Jack" Churchill (16 September 1906 – 8 March 1996) graduated from the Royal Military Academy in 1926. 

Prior to WWII he worked as a male model, a professional bagpiper, a newspaper editor in Kenya, and a movie extra demonstrating his champion archery skills in several films. He also toured across India on his Zenith motorcycle crashing his bike into a water buffalo. 

Churchill went to war equipped with a longbow, bagpipes, and a basket-hilted Scottish broadsword, his motto being, “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed."

During an encounter in Paris, Churchill instructed his unit wait for his signal to attack. His signal was to send a fatal arrow into a German Sargent.
Soon after, he volunteered for the Commandos and while leading a raid in Norway, leaped from his position playing “March of the Cameron Men” on his bagpipes. Post completion of the tune, he threw a grenade and ran into the battle in the bay. Subsequently he received the Military Cross and Bar.

He received the Distinguished Service Order after leading his unit into Sicily and capturing a German observation post. Having lost his sword during hand to hand combat, he walked back to retrieve it and told a disoriented American patrol they needed to change direction because he wasn't coming back "for a bloody third time" to rescue them.  

In 1944, he was captured in Yugoslavia, flown to Berlin for interrogation and then transferred to a concentration camp. Churchill and a Royal Air Force officer crawled through a drainage ditch and attempted to walk to the Baltic coast but they were recaptured and sent to Austria. 

Eventually he dropped his shovel and walked away from work detail. He transversed 150 miles through the Alps, “liberating” vegetables, until finding a U.S. Armored column. 

After WWII, Churchill was posted to Palestine where he co-ordinated the evacuation of 700 Jewish doctors, students and patients from the Hadassah hospital.
Later, he served as an instructor at the land-air warfare school in Australia. While commuting home from work, he would throw his briefcase out of the train window, landing the case into his back yard so he wouldn’t have to carry it home. 

He learned how to surf and after returning to England, he was the first man to ride the River Severn’s five-foot tidal bore. During his retirement and well into his 80's, Churchill bought and refurbished steamboats on the Thames along with riding in several motorcycle speed trials. 

Churchill's obituary included his idea of a good military leader. 

"An assault leader should have a reputation which would at once demoralize the enemy and convince his own men that nothing was impossible." 

So to Overstreet, Churchill and all the other vets who went out and did a very difficult job, thank for your service.

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