Based on the letters of Earl Philip Reinhalter (1922-1953). Edited by his son, Earl Philip Reinhalter (1950-).

<- PREVIOUS LETTER August 26, 1944 (light fiction)
Saidor, New Guinea

New Guinea still

Aug. 26, '44

Hello Ma:

      In this short (?) story I will tell you something about the Air Corps as affecting me personally. I will present a few of my experiences herein also. Well, to get started, here we go again:

      All About the Air Corps -

      My pilot friend and I have done a considerable amount of flying. (In an airplane - not on a magic carpet. The C.O. called me in on the carpet once - but that's another story. That carpet must have been a little bit magic, too, for me anyway, 'cause I managed to "wiggle" out of that scrape without so much as losing a stripe.) My pilot friend is rather thin; in fact, his ribs showed through his flying jacket not unlike that of an airplane wing of which the fabric had been "overdoped" (Air Corps slang for a special kind of fabric finish, sorta like paint). He's about six (pick-up sticks, Yvonne) feet from propeller spinner or rudder trim tab; or rather I mean, from hair cowlick to toenail (the toenail which causes your shoes to wear from the inside toward the outside, instead of vice-versa). His shoulders were broad, measuring every bit of nine or ten (big fat hen, Yvonne) inches in width. He was a jolly old beanstalk, I cannot deny truthfully. One time while cloud hopping, we ran, or flew, into an area having a comparatively low ceiling. Visibility being limited - although we could still make out with a little difficulty, the readings as indicated by some of the dashboard instruments. Incidentally, we had a Plexiglas window cracked, through which the existing weather, whatever it be, seeped or gushed through. I had a problem trying to convince the pilot that we were flying upside down. (I wished at the time that Roosevelt had repealed the law of gravity.) But I finally proved him to be slightly incorrect by endeavoring to pick up my loose sixpences off of the cabin ceiling. It had naturally fallen earthward from my pockets. He realized that "mazuma" could not possibly have fallen upwards. We both agreed that money does fly - but of course, it does not actually become airborne - as those having the intelligence of the average Jap soldier might be led to believe. And to think that my pilot friend was supposed to have an Army instrument rating, too. Oh well, he casually blamed it on aeronautical gremlins, or something as to that effect. We almost had to make a "belly landing" (our landing gear was of the retractable type) as one wheel wouldn't full extend. But lo and behold, amen; one of our mechanics (he was, being a private, naturally, in comparison to our intelligent like sargeants, mentally awake and he was also of the brawny masculine type; having revealed to Charles Atlas his secret of muscular expansion - mainly, I believe, those muscles between the ears) saved our airplane by running alongside of our plane and supporting its weight on that said side until we finally rolled to a dead stop. He started to weaken physically though after a while, as the other mechanics took a long time to get the defective wheel down. You see, we were sort of airplane jacks, so he had to continue holding the plane up while the mechanics worked on the bad wheel strut. He got more mad when they stopped to take time for a smoker.

      Gad! What an imagination I have. I even surprise myself - sometimes. Yes, I do, too (or were these excess words which were irrelevant and immaterial and had no bearing on the subject whatsoever - or better and still more important; is this amateurish attempt at lengthy letter writing comprised of in your opinion, all excess words which do not have any bearing on any subject, whatsoever).

      My! Old boy, how you do ramble on.

      To adjust the tail wheel brake on an airplane has about as much sense as trying to find a tail skid on the China Clipper. One of the gang suddenly exclaimed, "Look at that plane! There's going to be a forced landing. He's only got two wheels down and only one engine running!" We all unhesitatingly looked skyward. But what did we see? You guessed it - or did you - we saw a Piper Cub [a small plane which by design has one engine and two wheels (not counting the little tail wheel) - Ed.] gracefully gliding in for a landing. Oh heck, I guess that the boy was just trying his hand at originating some humor, which seems to be so prevalent around abouts. We all gave a sickly smile and turned back to our work (work? that is, to read our books, Flash Gordon and Terry and the Pirates - which are standard equipment for the aircraft worker over here - it seems as if).

      To continue with this "run-on dribble":

      An engine and propeller specialist (he must have never worked on anything but gliders) got too near a whirling propeller one day. His cap was sucked into the spinning blades and came out on the other side looking like Shredded Wheat.

      Some boys are given the difficult task of looking for such non-existent articles such as: propeller wash, Alclad putty, the key to the vapor lock, a metal crack remover, etc.

      An old amphibian Australian flying boat blew out a tire when landing here one day. The gas tank cap flew off and went through and damaged a blade of the four-bladed propeller. Well, it so happened that a boy in my squadron had a hand-carved boat paddle. So, far, we haven't been able to convince the Australian crew of the ancient relic to give the propeller a chance to run using the boat paddle to replace the bad propeller blade. Oh heck, what a gang of guys we have in my squadron - able to meet any difficult situation which may arise, whatever it may be - maybe. After the war, some of our ingenious mechanics (me, too) can qualify for a high-paying job such as "soda jerk."

      Well, the tree leaves are just about finished falling. Incidentally, speaking of leaves, I would like to fall heir to a "rest leave" (furlough to you). I could use it to a great advantage, as I am suffering from a disease which is prevalent among all great surgeons. You know, "operational fatigue." Sometimes I feel pretty good - when I am under the alcofluence of incohol.

      Oh come, Regina, in my flying machina; or - the modernized version, come lil' daughter in my flying helicopter; or - the archaic version, come old Topper in my flying ornithopter; or - the World War I version, come Benny in my Flying Jenny; or - the auto salesman's version of one lovely yesteryear; oh come Lucille in my merry Oldsmobile [referring to the popular song "In My Merry Oldsmobile" - Ed.] - you can go just as far as you like (I always wondered just what its cruising range was) in my merry, etc.; I don't know the remainder of the lyrics.

      Well, I still am crew chief on my Beechcraft. Oh yes, I forgot to tell you, for the past three months I have had a private jeep just for myself. I told a lieutenant who flies my airplane that I was getting tired of walking a half mile every time my airplane returned from a trip. That is about the distance from where my airplane parks to where the gas and oil trucks park. Soooooo, the lt. got me a jeep. Besides, this lt. was himself beginning to get tired at having to walk a block, telephone his outfit, and then have to wait about a half hour for one of his jeeps to come and pick him up. He was missing chow too many times that way. The only drawback in having my own jeep is that I have to do most of the mechanical work on that, too - besides my airplane. Oh well, it's worth it, even if the front wheel did come off once, got two flat tires - different times - and a couple spark plugs burned out. With the bad spark plugs, the jeep sounded like a motorcycle. It had only two, or three at the most, cylinders firing. My battery wouldn't charge once, so I went to work and did some experimenting. After fooling around with the reverse current relay, I finally got it to work. So, now, both jeep and airplane are in good condition.

      I won't be sending any more money home for about the next four months as I am buying something that I have always wanted - even when I was a civilian. I am getting, all in all, a good bargain. No, I am not buying an airplane. Do you remember Buddy and Gordon's hobby of a few years back? Do you remember what Gordon sold me for $50 and just recently Buddy offered to buy back - at the same price? Well, it has to do with that. It's not a sure thing yet, so I don't want to bother you with details. [In later letters, he reveals that he is buying a movie camera. - Ed.]

      Well, this letter is getting to reach preposterous proportions and, not wanting to make the censor too mad, I'll sign off for now. And so, cheerio -



“In My Merry Oldsmobile” by Bing Crosby


The Kindle book includes the letters; all 23 issues of the unit’s wartime newsletter “The Squadron Pulse,” which was originally edited by Leonard Stringfield; all 12 issues of the “Pennant Parade” newsletter that Stringfield published while sailing home after the war; complete text of the U.S. government booklet “Pocket Guide to Australia,” which soldiers heading Down Under were given to read; more than 200 photos; pre-war and postwar family history; and over 700 explanatory endnotes.


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