formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

Be sure to read your weekly Liberty Gazette newspaper, free to Liberty area residents!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

June 27, 2017 Allan Chambers' Letters Home - Week 3/4

The Liberty Gazette
June 27, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

This week we offer you part three of four of Allan Chambers’ Letters Home. We left you on the plane with Allan shuttling a hundred million dollars, so hop in the jump seat, keep calm and let’s fly on.

Oct. 18, 1945 Calcutta I am back in Calcutta today. I came all the way from Shanghai in one day.  It was 13 ½ hours flying time with stops in Kunming and Dinjan. The Hump flying may be over soon.

Oct. 25, 1945 Dinjan I have been flying nearly every day. Dinjan is in a valley surrounded by mountains that usually have clouds on them.

Nov. 8, 1945 Calcutta My new job is flight instructor. We have Chinese students and they don’t understand English.

Nov. 15, 1945 Calcutta We are about finished flying the Hump. On the way down here, we flew over Myitkyina, Burma. There was a big fight for the city during the war and now there are only 2 or 3 buildings left. 

Nov. 16, 1945 Calcutta I have 3 students that I fly in the mornings. It looks like they’re going to have a real civil war here in China. I sent Billie 20 yards of silk.

Dec. 2, 1945 Calcutta Not much flying lately, our airplanes have had engine trouble. I can’t find a rosary here. Thanksgiving was last Thursday, but it was just another day for me.

Dec. 19, 1945 Calcutta I will probably be going to Shanghai the first of the year. It’s cold up in China and the Japanese took all the heating systems out of the buildings.

Dec. 28, 1945 Calcutta I’m through instructing and will be going up into China soon. This is an R.A.F. airfield and will soon be abandoned. There are millions of dollars of airplanes that are being destroyed, but I guess that’s the only thing to do.

Jan. 24, 1946 Nanking, China I have been all over China since I wrote last. Over to Chungking, Peiping 4, Hankow and up to Tsingtao. I’m going to Chungking tomorrow, hauling gasoline and bringing people back. They crowd people in these planes like you would cattle in a box car! There are a lot of Japanese planes here that people are fixing up and flying.

Feb. 3, 1946 Nanking I have been flying all over the country. I left Chungking yesterday and flew to Peiping and back to Nanking today. General Marshall was at my hotel in Peiping the last time I was there.  4

March 17, 1946 Shanghai, China There is a world of business here in China. Since C.N.A.C. is a government organization they should to have the inside track.

March 23, 1946 Hankow, China The weather is bad, cold, rainy, muddy. I’m going on my way to Nanking.

April 28, 1946 Shanghai We have been moving equipment out of Kunming. We quit flying the Hump last week. My base pay is $800 a month and up to $400 extra for overtime.

One more week left. Do not miss the final installment of Allan Chambers’ Letters Home. Keep reading them aloud, and try to live it as you read it. See you next week.

4.     Now Beijing; formerly Peiping and Peking

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

June 20 Allan Chambers' Letters Home - Week 2/4

The Liberty Gazette
June 20, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

If you missed reading this space last week be sure to go back to Week 1. This is part two of four of Allan Chambers’ Letters Home, and we know you don’t want to miss even one dot or tittle.

August 29, 1945 Dinjan I’m still flying the Hump, but I heard I might be moving to Shanghai. If I do move into China I guess I’ll be out of India altogether. There has not been a lot of changes made since the war is over. I hear Hong Kong and Shanghai were nice before the war, so maybe they’ll be an improvement over Calcutta.

Sept. 6, 1945 Dinjan I have been flying out of Dinjan which is in the Assam Valley of northern India. We made trips to Kunming and Luhsien, which is near Chungking. We see mountains that are 17,000, 18,000 and 20,000 ft. along the way.

Sept. 7, 1945 Dinjan Even though the war is over there is still plenty of flying to be done.

Sept. 11, 1945 Dinjan I got back up here to Dinjan on the 11th and I made a trip to Kunming yesterday and will probably make one today.

Sept. 16, 1945 Dinjan I have been flying the last few days and have been to Kunming two more times.  I started to go to Canton and Hong Kong but did not go on that trip. Today was like fall in Kunming, cool and clear.

Sept. 23, 1945 Dinjan From Kunming the other day I went up to a place called Hsichang, up in the mountains. One of our planes was stuck in the mud. That country is sure pretty when you are on the ground. The little airport is just a green field 5,000’ above sea level. On all sides there are 12-14,000 ft. mountains. They look straight up when you are down in this valley. The U.S. is sure putting a lot of money into China.

Sept. 27, 1945 Kunming, China I am here in Kunming and make about a trip a day over the Hump to Dinjan and back. The weather has been pretty good on the Hump.

Oct. 3, 1945 Kunming I am staying here in Kunming and flying to Dinjan. Two different government groups are fighting in town, there will probably be a lot of trouble in China before long. I might quit flying the Hump at the end of this month and move to Shanghai.

Oct. 8, 1945 Dinjan Yesterday we took a load of money to Luhsien. It was about $100 million. Now we are hauling gasoline, steel, some money and radio and medical supplies. While the war was on we hauled gasoline, shells, powder, dynamite, steel and bales of cotton. We fly C-46’s and C-47’s. The C-46 is a bigger plane.

That’s all the space we have this week, but see you next week for part three of four of Allan Chambers’ Letters Home.

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

June 13 Allan Chambers' Letters Home - Week 1/4

The Liberty Gazette
June 13, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Allan Chambers was born in Liberty, Texas in 1920. He graduated from Liberty High School and then Schreiner Institute in Kerrville where he became a flight instructor for the Army Air Corps. He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in October, 1944 and then joined the China National Aviation Corp. He spent 18 months flying Douglas C-47’s and C-46’s in India and China – including almost 100 trips over the “Hump” – the air route over the eastern Himalaya Mountains, an unprecedented, difficult and dangerous way to supply China during and after WWII.

With gratitude to his son, Tommy Chambers, we have the honor of sharing the following excerpts from letters Allan sent to his mother in Liberty during his time in India and China. Allan Chambers’ Letters Home has been written as a four-part series, so be sure you don’t skip a beat. We expect you’ll relish these as much as we do. We recommend reading them out loud.

May 5, 1945 Karachi, India We left New York and went to Newfoundland, Azores, Casablanca, Tripoli, Cairo, Abadan and here, Karachi, India. I saw Will Partlow for a few minutes in Cairo.

May 6, 1945 Calcutta, India Arrived here in Calcutta. It is a big place, but very dirty and hot.  I received $100 pay in rupees, and it filled up my pockets. I went to church this morning.

May 8, 1945 Calcutta We heard Germany surrendered, so today was declared a holiday.

May 12, 1945 Calcutta You can sure see a lot of queer sights here. Everyone drives on the left side of the road and there are cars, horse carts, ox carts and hand carts. They use brahma cattle and water buffalo to do work.

June 11, 1945 Dinjan, India I have been flying with the Chinese fellow that brought Doolittle out of China.1

June 20, 1945 Dinjan That big shot in China came down here yesterday, I won’t attempt to spell his name but he’s the President and everything else.2

July 20, 1945 Dinjan I did quite a bit of flying this month. I put in 21 round trips. Some of the snow-capped mountains look like Colorado, except they are higher here. I am sorry to hear about Nolan and Glynn. That is too bad.3

July 22, 1945 Dinjan We have to fly on a different type of airplane than we have been flying…got a haircut in a regular barbershop in town, it had chairs and electric clippers.

August 1, 1945 Dinjan I am glad to hear the cattle are fat, and it seems like now would be a good time to sell some calves and all of the old cows. I am sorry for the Miles and the Picketts.

August 12, 1945 Calcutta I hear the Japs are about to quit the war.

August 15, 1945 Calcutta I just heard the war is over…since that new bomb came out, it must be a very powerful thing.

Time out for a week-long station break. These excerpts are too good to leave any entries out, so we’ll pick up here next week with more.

1. Moon Fun Chin – a Chinese pilot who flew Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle out of China after his aerial raid on Japan in 1942
2. Believed to be Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek
3. Nolan Pickett and Glynn Miles, both from Liberty, were killed in WWII

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

Thursday, June 8, 2017

June 6, 2017 Dan Cooper's Smokin' Deal

The Liberty Gazette
June 6, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: How much above the ticket price would you pay if airlines offered to pack a parachute under the seat? One evening in November of 1971 a Northwest Orient Airlines passenger paid $20 cash for a one-way ticket and the airline actually provided him with not one, but four parachutes and rebated him $200,000.

I say that tongue-in-cheek because it’s the one act of air piracy the FBI has not been able to solve. A passenger, who called himself Dan Cooper, mistakenly identified by the press as D.B. Cooper, bought a last-minute ticket and boarded a Boeing 727 bound from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington.

He took a seat in the rear of the cabin. Once airborne, he handed a note stating he had a bomb to one of the two flight attendants who was seated nearby. She dropped the note in her purse thinking it was his phone number, something that must have happened quite often. Moving closer he whispered for her to read it and gave her a glimpse of the explosive device inside his brief case. He didn’t look or behave like the typical hijacker of the day. Dressed neatly in a shirt, tie and black overcoat, he was polite and relaxed. He took his time and his plan appears to be mostly well thought out.

The flight attendant took his demands to the captain and they were forwarded by radio to the airline’s Seattle office. Then the plane circled for two hours as the sun set and the authorities gathered the dough from several local banks and parachutes from a local skydiving operation. When the airplane landed the hijacker ordered the crew to taxi to a remote and well lighted area of the airport. He commanded the pilot to turn off the cabin lights. This was to keep sharpshooters from being able to target him. The airline’s operations manager approached the airplane from the rear and the hijacker lowered the rear boarding ramp, a feature unique to the Boeing 727. One of the flight attendants collected the parachutes and the money.

Once the airplane was refueled and the parachutes and ransom money in negotiable American currency were on board, the hijacker let the passengers and one flight attendant leave. He instructed the crew to fly toward Mexico City, allowing for a fuel stop in Reno. He also wanted them to remain at ten thousand feet and keep the cabin unpressurized. Airborne, he directed the remaining flight attendant to join the three pilots in the cockpit. Following her obedience, he lowered the rear ramp, walked to the end and jumped off into the darkness.

Two Air Force fighter jets were following but because he wore dark clothing on a dark night, they didn’t see him exit the airplane. It is thought that he jumped someplace near Mount St. Helens.

There have been theories as to what became of him, but no answers. It isn’t known if he even survived the jump. The FBI closed their investigation after 45 years and 60 volumes of data and notes, yet the case has not been solved.

Who was Dan Cooper? No one knows, or no one’s telling, but he got a smokin’ deal on that airfare.

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

May 30, 2017 Remember Them With Pride

The Liberty Gazette
May 30, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: To continue honoring Memorial Day, we are sharing the lyrics to a special song written for Tom “Daddy” Ken Whitfield, the British Royal Air Force pilot we spotlighted last week. Whitfield’s best friend and fellow RAF pilot, Leo Harris, lost his life during WWII when his engine failed and his Spitfire took him down into the Mediterranean Sea. In memory of them, the ones who sacrificed all for a free world:

Remember Them With Pride – by Steve Goodchild

In peacetime calm between the storms in Stockton town there I was born
Between the wars, and took my father’s name,
But not his trade – no, not for me; my school days made it plain to see,
Once schooled, within the schoolroom I’d remain.
You grow up fast in troubled times – I learned they’d swarmed across the Rhine
And cut a westbound swathe towards Paris,
Ambition then I set aside – from call-to-arms I would not hide
And I signed-up to defend democracy

Chorus: Far over land and inland sea, their names we must remember – heroes
One and all - they stood to turn the tide,
They held the sky; they held us safe, and those who’d fall to no known grave
Nor resting place – Remember Them With Pride.

From Biggin Hill, to fields afar we flew through hardship to the stars
Gibraltar’s Straits; the convoys to defend’
They hit me once and took me down - I crashed and burned, but once aground
Survived, and found my way back home again.
When all was done in ’45, and thankful that I had survived,
I put it all behind me as you do,
A change of clothes; a change of name; pick up the threads and once again
The noble task of teaching to pursue.

Chorus: Far over land and inland sea …….

So down the intervening years of family fortunes, hopes and fears,
I soon forgot the gauntlet we had run,
And as each September came around; new faces lost all needing found
Thirty-eight years passed – my time was done.
That Spring in Nineteen eighty-eight, I paused outside Valetta’s Gate
And strained to screen my eyes against the light,
A name in bronze engraved in stone of marble wrought and brought from Rome,
Neath gilded eagle, proud and poised for flight.

Chorus: Far over land and inland sea …….

With eyes closed and a silent tear, I wandered, winding back the years
And there – he stands before me clear as day,
His flying helmet hanging there – in leather, much the worse for wear!
He said “I missed you Tommy when you flew away”.
Up there, in cockpit five miles high, our friendship forged in hostile skies
We’d parted in Gibraltar and moved on,
Along the strand that evening-tide I left my name in sand and smiled,
That his in marble-memory still lives on.

Chorus: Far over land and inland sea …….

They held the sky; they held us safe, and those who’d fall to no known grave
Nor resting place – Remember Them With Pride.

Mike: We do remember them, and they make us proud. Thanks to Steve Goodchild for permission to reprint his song. You can find the music of Steve Goodchild and Horizon Ridge here.

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

May 23, 2017 No Known Grave

The Liberty Gazette
May 23, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Tom Kenneth Whitfield was a British Royal Air Force test pilot in the Spitfire Mark IX. On November 9, 1942, Whitfield and his 611 Squadron engaged some Germans flying Folke Wulfs over France. During the battle he was separated from the rest of his squadron. While checking the map to find his way back to Biggin Hill his airplane was hit by enemy fire. It was too damaged to make it far, so he made a crash landing at the Hawkinge Airfield in Kent. Doctors removed shrapnel from his left side and in six weeks Whitfield was back in the air.

Mike: Flight Officer Reginald (Leo) Harris was also in the British Royal Air Force during WWII, serving with Whitfield in Flight 611 Squadron. On August 23, 1943 he was flying his Spitfire as usual on a mission when the airplane’s engine failed. He’d been flying low looking for submarines which gave him no time to bail out. Officer Harris perished in the Mediterranean. His best friend, fellow Flight Officer Tom Whitfield, grieved his loss, and decades later while vacationing in Malta, Whitfield and his wife visited the Royal Air Force memorial.

Harris had been one of over 2,000 men lost over the Mediterranean, and when Whitfield found Harris’ name on the memorial he wrote a poem dedicated to his memory.

In this week before Memorial Day, in memory of Leo Harris, Tom Whitfield, and the many men who sacrificed all for the security of a free world, we’d like to share Officer Whitfield’s poem, which was published by his son, Aidan Whitfield, here.

And Have No Known Grave

In February, nineteen eighty-eight
I stood outside Valetta City Gate
And screwing my eyes up-sun against the light
Beheld a gilded eagle, poised for flight,
Crowning a capital, pinions outspread,
Into the tramuntana turns its tyrant head.

PER ARDUA AD ASTRA, plain to see,
And underneath at 1943, In mute memorial to our glorious dead
One and a half columns I had read
Before, in shock, I saw a name I know
HARRIS R.H.W. F/O.

I shut my stinging eyes and there he stands, Helmet and goggles dangling from his hands,
A fighter pilot to his very roots, From ardent eyes to well-worn flying boots.
He smiles and nods his head as if to say, 'I missed you, Tommy, when you flew away'.

Crouched in our cockpits up to five miles high, We forged our friendship in a hostile sky,
Then parted at Gibraltar; I moved on
But felt, alas, the golden days had gone.
My name I scratch in sand upon the shore;
His name in bronze lives on for evermore.

By T K Whitfield

Linda: Next week, the day following Memorial Day, you’ll be treated to the lyrics of a special song that was written by Steve Goodchild for Tom Whitfield, commemorating his dedication to freedom, and to his best friend, reflecting on that day when Harris died and Whitfield flew on. We heard Steve and his band Horizon Ridge perform this song in Houston and we can’t wait to share it with you. You can find out more about Horizon Ridge and their music here.

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

May 16, 2017 Land on the Line

The Liberty Gazette
May 16, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Amid the backdrop of the snow-covered slopes of Pike’s Peak and the Rocky Mountains, a white and blue plane made a descending left turn. This was the final airplane in the last group of planes to take their turn in the spot landing segment of the competition. There would be plenty more action to come in the annual National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s Safety Conference. My peers and I, the spotters and judges, kept our eyes on it from our assigned positions several feet apart, on both sides of the runway.

I had done this before. A previous year I performed these same watchful tasks alongside a runway in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where, because of unexpected rain, everyone there sported stylish trash bags to serve as raincoats. This time I kept the collar of my jacket turned up, my wool cap pulled down snuggly, and my hands tucked into my pockets. Out there by the runway at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs the chilling winds cut right through all my layers.

As the plane made its final approach we anticipated its touchdown point would be somewhere within the 300-foot long box, each side of which the spotters stood. Each pilot would aim for the target line drawn 100 feet inside that box. Depending on where it actually touched ground, the closest spotter would mark the landing. I stayed focused in case it would land in front of me.

White stripes were painted on the tires so that we could tell the exact point the tires touched the pavement. The wheels would begin to roll when the plane touched down, which they did not do in the air. When the wheels landed and started moving that white stripe would, too, indicating the landing spot.

As with the other planes before it, the tires’ rubber made a chirp sound when they touched the ground. The spotter marked the distance from the landing point to the target line was their distance score for the spot landing contest. Penalty points could be assessed for landing entirely outside the box, and in this contest, a perfect score is zero.

It all began May 7, 1920 when nine schools competed at Mitchel Field in Long Island, New York for the first contest held by the Intercollegiate Flying Association. Yale University took first place. On their team was a naval aviator who would later found Pan American Airways, Juan Trippe, flying in a Curtis Jenny scrounged up from war surplus.

Today, the top 20 college and university flying teams, totaling about 50 pilots from around the country arrived in their school-owned airplanes. In addition to spot landings, their mettle was tested in precision flying events such as navigation and instrument flying skills, and timed written tests on regulations, flight planning, and aircraft recognition.

With the final contestant on the ground and taxiing to the staging area, we retreated to the heated motorhome where we sipped hot chocolate, coffee or tea and discussed the landings. The winners would be announced at a banquet at the end of the four day safety conference and they would proudly accept the prestigious trophies and titles. These are the best of the best collegiate pilots.

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com