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Where the stories come from

A bunch of people have asked over the years where the stories come from that we tell in The Order of the Air. Many of them are based on real incidents either that happened to people our families know, or that we heard about somewhere. Here's a perfect example from the May 2015 issue of Air and Space, from a retrospective article on V-E day. The man this actually happened to is Richard Leo Smith, of the 303rd Bomb Group, a B-17 unit that was based in England. I'll quote the story to you in his words:

We went to Wiesbaden on the 15th of August, 1944. My squadron, the 360th, had 36 airplanes in it. And the first we eer saw any Folke-Wulf 190s was over that target. A hundred of them made one pass, and shot down 12 of those 36 airplanes. Our number 3 engine quit, and we feathered the prop and made it back. The tire was blown on that side and we ended up in a field.

We were sitting in the officers' club that night and the crew chief comes in and says, "I found out why your number 3 engine quit -- I dug this out of the supercharger." And he held up a 20-millimeter shell. He says, "It went through your number 3 main tank, blew the tire on the right side, and stopped in the supercharger. And here's why you're still alive." He pours out a bunch of sand from the shell and says, "Some Polish slave laborer had filled it full of sand instead of gunpowder." That's why I'm still here.

And that's a story we have to retell. That solitary act of defiance and courage, never knowing what came of it, saved eleven men.

So look for that story when we get to the right point in the series. That's the kernel we'll build a chapter or two around.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 5th, 2015 11:52 am (UTC)
I wonder who the slave laborer was. I'd like to know his/her story too.
Jun. 5th, 2015 12:51 pm (UTC)
Me too. That's the story I want to know, and the one that is forever unknowable. I hope we can convey that, and make that emotion stick. That the characters the reader has come to love have been saved not by their own skill or luck, but by an unknown person whose act of courage will never be revealed, forever unknown to them and to the reader. But that person is responsible for all the good they do after that point. All their future actions are made possible by someone who remains anonymous. And so the only thing to do is try to pay it forward.
Jun. 5th, 2015 05:27 pm (UTC)
I look forward to seeing that!

A bit of information you may enjoy -- I was waiting for someone at the Tucson Airport the other day, looking at the art & reading all the signs on the exhibits, and discovered that TIA (Tucson International Airport) was the very first municipal airport in the US. I thought of you all as I was reading :-)
Jun. 12th, 2015 09:39 pm (UTC)
That is so cool! I'll have to bear that in mind.
Jun. 7th, 2015 06:12 am (UTC)
Oh, wow.

Just wow.
Jun. 12th, 2015 09:39 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that was my thought too!
Jun. 14th, 2015 04:59 pm (UTC)
What a great story!

Four for you, Polish person.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )