Monday, September 03, 2007

God is My Co-Pilot by Col. Robert L. Scott

God is My Co-Pilot by Col. Robert L. Scott (later, Brigadier Gen. Scott)
Copyright 1943 - my copy printed 1971
Ballantine Books
206 pages

For almost another hour we sat there glaring at one another, expecting every second that the jagged top of one of the Himalayas was coming through the clouds and into the cockpit. Try that some time while you are making two hundred miles an hour, when you can't see your wing tips--and just see if your hairs don't get grayer and grayer. Mine did.

God is My Co-Pilot is the memoir of a WWII Army combat pilot who served in Indo-China. Really, the above quote's a pretty funny quote, considering the fact that the author lived to the age of 97. His longevity certainly wasn't affected by his hair-raising (and graying) adventures. You can read a slightly outdated bio, here.

The book starts out in what I'm slowly figuring out is the typical pilot memoir format - a little of his childhood history, followed by training and then details of his experience during the war. This particular pilot was quite a rascal, even as a child. He fashioned his own hang-glider with canvas stolen from a church tent at the age of 12, jumped off a "high Colonial home in Macon, Georgia" and plummeted 67 feet, into a rose bush. Unfazed, he went on to buy his own airplane and talk a neighbor into teaching him how to fly - until the neighbor crashed Scott's plane and was killed. Whew! Glad he wasn't my kid!

After the initial bits about his childhood and training, including quite a few troublesome antics, "Scotty" ended up training pilots and transporting mail in the United States. He was a very determined man, though, and eventually ended up in a group that was scheduled to perform a secret mission. The Japanese were winning the war on the Pacific/Indo-China front, at the time, and disaster led to the cancellation of the mission. Instead, he and his fellow pilots ended up stationed in India, transporting parts across "the Hump" - the Himalayas. Eventually, though, Col. Scott managed to finagle himself a fighter plane and went off on missions against the enemy completely alone.

The point at which the author began describing his missions is about halfway through the book and that's where it really began to become gripping. Later moved closer to Japanese occupied Indo-China, Scott became a leader in General Chennault's fighting forces, the Flying Tigers. The tales of adventure during his time in this elite group of fighter pilots are absolutely amazing and definitely made it worth hanging in there with this book. Still, there were some yawn moments. He described his missions, particularly the geography, in painstaking detail. And, I'm an American - or a United Stater, or whatever we're supposed to call ourselves, now - so I don't really know my geography all that well. A good atlas would have been much appreciated. As it was, I eventually used Google Earth a bit and discovered, darn it, that Google Earth is not as great as I imagined. I finally trained myself to skim over the details that went over my head and continue to enjoy the meaty parts of the book. I'm going to hang onto this one for a future reread, though, and next time I'll have maps handy.

The book was written in 1943, when the war had not yet ended. Although my copy was published in 1971, it doesn't appear to have been edited or altered to reflect the fact that the war was long since over. I think that was incredibly sensible on the part of his editors as it gives the reader a genuine sense of immersion in the time and place. In fact, there are even some rather shocking racial slurs; and, his hatred for the enemy is almost tangible. I have no doubt that a 2007 printing of this book would be altered in places.

Back to the story . . . when the author was sent to India, the Allies were in bad shape. They had suffered major defeats, there were few airplanes or supplies and they were fighting a losing, mostly-defensive war. So his anger is somewhat understandable. At the same time, I found it rather difficult to read about his joy when he bombed trucks or boats and then strafed the soldiers who tried to escape. I've read about WWII from many angles, now, and the one thing that really jumps out at me is that everyone is essentially the same. We're all just humans. The horror of those being shot at and bombed on the ground or plummeting in a burning plane is universal. So, at times the book can be a little disturbing.

4/5 - sometimes gripping, sometimes a little dull but an excellent read, in general

Still reading:
Haunted Castles of the World - for the RIP II
Dying in Style - for the Cozy Challenge

Soon, soon - I will get that sidebar updated to reflect the latest challenges, oh, yes I will.

Photographed - a would-be car thief, trying to open the Honda door:

Thanks to all for the birthday wishes. I decided to call any book that entered my home, this week, a birthday present. That made the birthday appear to be a serious windfall, as I got received two books won in a blog contest, bought two, received 5 from Paperback Swap (two of which I'd had on my wish list for over a year - I'm almost out of points!), and happened across an ARC-giveaway at the library. I'll post a list or photos of my acquisitions, later.

Last night was a doozy. We emptied the linen closet, searching for a bedspread for eldest son's new bed, refolded and piled everything on the futon . . . and then I fell asleep on top of the piles when I realized my reading was disturbing the hubster's sleep and climbed on top to finish up God is My Co-Pilot. Since I'm known to have Princess-and-the-Pea problems (a fold in a pillowcase will literally keep me awake all night, if I can't figure out how to get it out of my way), it's shocking that I actually slept on piles of blankets, regardless of how neatly they were folded. And, here's the kicker - the bedspread we offered the kid was "too girly", after all that work digging through the linens. Apparently, I haven't taught him the "When you're broke, you accept what you're offered" adage well.

Gotta go,

Bookfool, who shows no other signs of royalty


  1. A lovely photo, Nancy!

    Maybe I'll do that too with my birthday and the books that come in the mail. But can I do that this week since all the books I've ordered are coming then? Haha Bookie even wrote a card out to herself when she gave herself books for her own birthday. I like cards and could probably find the pefect one for me . . .

    Enjoy your week!

  2. I have the same princess and the pea syndrome! Other people think I'm crazy, but I can always feel the slightest crease, and it drives me insane.

    Looking forward to the bookpile picture!

  3. The bedspread was 'too girly'? Are you sure that wasn't MY son you had over there? Sounds really familiar.

  4. Wendy,

    Thank you.

    Heck, yes, go ahead and start now. LOL Next year, I'm going to think ahead! I realized this wasn't going to be a great birthday because my mother's too wimped to send me anything, but I didn't expect to not even get a card or letter from her, so when nobody else came through, it was really icky. Sometimes you just have to make your own fun, so I'll do that in the future. I'll just plan for it. :)

    Thanks, hope you have a great week, too!

  5. Princess Eva,

    It's a pain, isn't it? I've never met anyone else who couldn't sleep because of a wrinkle or crease; we're apparently a bit unusual. LOL

    I've got to find a sunny spot to pose those books. It looks oddly dark in the house - think I'd better throw open some windows.


    I wondered what you'd think of that bedspread business. I distinctly remember that when my husband and I were offered ugly old hand-me-downs from our mothers, we were thrilled. We didn't care that they were ratty-looking. When you're young, you can't afford to be picky. Daniel hasn't quite figured that out. Oh, well. A few months in the real world might straighten him up. :)

  6. Now that's a car thief with ambition!

    Love your new blog header photo, btw. :)

  7. Heather,

    LOL! I'll say!

    Thanks. I've already got the next header possibilities rolling around in my head. Now that I've learned how to change photos and alter them to fit, I have the urge to change the photos frequently.

  8. Whahaha! I love the sleeping on the blankets. I can sleep anywhere, but I'm not sure even I could've done that.

    And a *thwack* for the son re: the comforter. *double thwack*

    I can't wait to see the list of books you got!

  9. Andi,

    Pretty wild, eh? The blankets need to be refolded, now, because I kind of slid down between blankets and futon, just a bit. It was such a hilarious way to wake up!

    Thanks for thwacking the son. It'll be interesting to see if he becomes more aware of the value of hand-me-downs or turns into one of those SUV-driving morons with a phone pressed to his ear and a perfectly decorated apartment, in the next few years. Whatever happens, he's on his own with his debt in (checking calendar) 4 months.

    Oh, books. I forgot the books - thanks for the reminder. I'll try to do that, tonight. I'm between runs, here, and have to dash out to the band field in a few minutes. I need to talk to the director. My son's trombone got stepped on at the football game on Thursday evening. We just paid for nearly $100 of repairs and now it looks horrible! I'm so peeved.

  10. Happy belated birthday!

    Here's to this year being your best yet.

    I think you would have a stroke if you walked into my house. Creases and wrinkles rule, top to bottom.

  11. Thank you, Cupcake. :)

    My bed is actually one of the few tidy places in our house. You should see me primp before I hit the sack. If I don't, I wake up in pain!! I'm so odd. And, I'm truly grateful for no-iron sheets, let me tell ya.

  12. I have the "too girly" syndrome too. I've been suffering with this sea green, pale blue and white striped comforter for about a year now...One could tell my 26 year old butt to go buy my own comforter, and that's exactly why I don't complain :p

    I have strange annoyances when it comes to sheets as well, though folds in the pillowcases don't bother me. I just can't stand tangled sheets..I have to have an equal amount of sheet length hanging off each side of the bed. I'm weird :p

    Sounds like it was a great week for books! A pain in the ass week for the post man! Can't wait for pics :)

  13. Chris,

    Sea green, pale blue and white? My favorites!!! I love that combination. LOL The comforter I offered eldest is subtle, but definitely kind of feminine. Still, the word "free" should be meaningful to someone who is constantly calling home to ask for money, you know?

    I'm just as odd about sheets and blankets. If the bed is really messed up (and, this is weird, but sometimes I won't make the bed till I have help - my husband throws so much on the floor and I'm such a klutz that I figure he'd better do his own side or I'll break a bone in a very embarrassing way . . . bed-making accident) then I can't stand to get into bed until it's been remade, first. My husband thinks I'm completely off my rocker. He can sleep anywhere, though - he even slept soundly on the ground in Rocky Mtn. National Park - and our campsite was not smooth. Rocky Mountain earned its name.

    Yeah, great week for me, but the poor postal worker. LOL He's very tolerant of me!

  14. What a stunning car thief! Great pic, Nancy.

  15. What a pretty hitch hiker.

    You mentioning books and stuff coming in the mail is making me think I need to have a give-away soon. Hmm...

  16. Thanks, Carrie!


    At any given time, we have between 1 and 4 of those (red-spotted blue) butterflies zipping around our rotten fruit. It was nice to see one land somewhere other than a bunch of leaves or a pear, just for the change of background!

    Giveaway? Remind me to hang out at your blog. :)

  17. When I was a child, I was convinced that I would always be able to feel the pea. When I am truly tired, however, I can sleep anywhere. Now being a royal pain-in-the-a** is my claim to fame. You may call me.....

    Queen Bonnie

  18. Queen Bonnie,

    I didn't just feel the pea, it really did make me feel black and blue all over. I admit to being an odd duck, though. :)

  19. Great photo! Hope you are having a great week!

  20. Thanks, Myutopia!

    Right back at ya! :)


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