The Liberty Gazette
August 9, 2016Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: Every muscle tenses as he pulls the control stick toward himself - into his lap. Blood rushes from his head from the G-forces. The smooth beat of the 13-foot diameter propeller in front of him throbs as the round engine pumps its monster 28 cylinders against it. As the nose of his airplane reaches a 45-degree up angle the pilot rolls to the left and stomps hard on the rudder as he eases the stick forward. The world turns around and a long stretch of sand slides into view. White foam sloshes about on a blue-green background as waves crash on shore. Ant-like figures are running about. Near the dense vegetation along the beach below he sees wreckage of an airplane smoldering. The pilot’s engine changes its tune winding up into the dive. Lining up for another pass there is a deafening roar as his wing cannons belch fire, ripping trails of splattering sand as the enemy soldiers scatter, retreating into the woods. As he levels out over the beach at nearly 400 mph, he scans seaward, catching a glimpse of the downed enemy pilot surfacing for air.
“How long would you have stayed there,” my dad asked. Jack replied “Till I had fuel enough to get offshore about a mile. Then I’d ditch. That was the difference. They’d give up ten men to get one piece of equipment. We’d give up ten pieces of equipment to save one man.”
Herman John “Jack” Trum, III couldn’t make up his mind. He wanted to fly and sail the seven seas. Where do you go if you want to do both? Join the Navy. Focused, Jack won a cadet slot at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, graduating Class of 1940. A large percentage of his classmates did not make it through WWII.
After graduation Jack served first as a midshipman on a battleship in the North Atlantic, its secret mission to find and sink the Tirpitz, sister battleship to the Bismarck. Unknown to them at the time of the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor, the ship had already been sunk.
Jack ended WWII as a Naval Aviator, then flew 104 missions during the Korean War flying reconnaissance and cover for downed pilots. He talked of flying so low at times that upon returning to the ship the planes’ bellies had to be washed to remove mud.
As his career progressed he served as a fighter squadron commander, fleet oiler captain and then Captain of the aircraft carrier the USS Oriskany from 1963 to 1964. He made Rear Admiral in 1967, serving on two carrier divisions and later the commander of NAS Whidbey Island in Washington where he retired in 1972.
Jack was my dad’s first cousin, but Dad looked up to Jack as a boy idolizes his older brother. As adults, no matter where they lived, still close as brothers, each year they’d meet somewhere and catch up. During one of these meetings right after the Navy’s Tailhook scandal ended the careers of the Chief of Naval Operations and Secretary of the Navy, Dad asked if Jack thought the punishment was too severe.
Jack replied, “It wasn’t severe enough. They either knew or should have known what’s happening during their watch. Neglecting their responsibilities is not the quality of a leader. There is no gray area.”
We lost them both years ago but their influences remain. I’ll be thinking about cousin Jack’s response when I cast my vote in November.