Sunday, May 24, 2015

World War II Wings: An Ace

"Nice D.P.A.s neighbor! Impressive!" 

There he was.  Leaning over his side of the fence, he was watching us clear great thorny stands of underbrush in the backyard of the property. Dusk was creeping up and so were the mosquitoes.

"What's a D.P.A?" 

"Designated Pile Area. S'a military term. You all are welcome to come over and build some D.P.A.s in my yard if you like." 

He clinked the ice in his cocktail tumbler and smiled broadly.  The drink looked so unbelievably delicious and cold, he surely noticed our pathetic exhausted, bug-bitten, mud covered faces staring at it.

"Better yet, it's happy hour. Why don't you two come over for martinis?"

It seems so long ago we met Jim. He was our new neighbor on the lake where we had just bought an overgrown acre with a dilapidated house nestled in the oaks, Spanish moss and sky potato vines.  It was a shambles, but it was going to be home.

Jim's house, next door to us on the lake, was the opposite.  It was beautifully landscaped and well-tended in direct contrast to the seething  jungle we were attempting to tame.  Likewise, Jim was dapper at all times in his ever-present golf wear.  

Besides happy hour, golf was his passion. He and my husband would go out in the morning all ready to subdue the enemy links with a vengeance.  They would return in the evening, conquering heroes, leaning on each other in thick discussion of the economy or politics or any other topic where a little shouting, carousing and good-natured argument seemed sporting to make a point.

He was just a charmingly continental, mustachioed, gregarious, conservative retired guy of Scottish descent on his second marriage to a supernaturally patient Filipino beauty named Aida. 

And we loved him.

David, Aida, Jim and me at their nuptials.

Lt. Allen J. "Jim" Chalmers joined the U.S. Army when he was in his mid-teens, effectively lying about his age.  They bought the fib, he was tall and mature for his age, and he was off to training.

His goal:  Fly planes. 

Based in the United Kingdom, Jim flew sorties in and out of mainland Europe in his quick and maneuverable Mustang named "Daisy Mae III." He, and his squadron, escorted giant, slow and unwieldy B-17 bombers to their targeted drop zones, repelling enemy aces who buzzed around the bombers like flies.

Jim's squadron was known as "The Little Friends."

Thank you, Jim.  Raising a glass to you, our friend.  Ride the skies.

Capt. James D Smith, 376th Fighter Squadron. P-51D 44-14514 E9-Y "Daisy Mae III", being flown in this photo by Lt. Allen J "Jim" Chalmers. War weary P-51B behind is 42-106538 E9-A and at the rear is P-51D 44-14650 E9-V "Curiosity Betty II" of Lt. Kenneth J Scott Jr.
Photo: Ed Kozicki

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