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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Bridges of Toko-Ri


Going through a pile of old books I came across a copy of James Michenor's The Bridges at Toko-Ri.  It looked familiar, but I didn't recall the story, so I started reading it and soon encountered the character "Beer Barrel", the LSO (Landing Signal Officer) who worked better when he had a couple of beers in him, and since he was critical to the successful operation of the aircraft carrier, the admiral overlooked the keg of beer he smuggled on for each cruise. So, yes, I read the story a long time ago.

Skyraider attacking a North Korean bridge during the Korean War.

    Scott sent me a link to the "true" story of the Bridges at Toko-Ri today, which reminded me of another story story about the Korean war that I wrote about earlier. This story had a couple of interesting bits in it. One is that the single engined Douglas A-1 Skyraider aircraft they were using had as much bomb capacity as the four engined WW2 B-17 heavy bomber, which depending on how you add things up could be true. Combat aircraft carry four kinds of payload: crew, ammo, fuel and bombs. Crew and ammo are pretty much fixed. You carry all the ammo you can, you don't want to run out. If you are not operating at the limit of your range, fuel and bomb load can be traded off. More bombs, less fuel, or vice versa.
    Another was Operation Pinwheel, where the propellers on the prop planes were used to help dock the aircraft carrier. I remember seeing this in a movie as a kid and I was amazed that you could do such a thing. I mean, who'd a thunk it? I didn't understand what the people in the movie were so upset about. I mean, those props are just big fans, aren't they? Why not use them if they are handy. Well, sonny, for the same reason guys get upset when their woman uses his razor to shave her legs. Or put it more plainly, for the same reason a surgeon would not want you chopping vegetables with his scalpel. You don't use highly stressed, precision instrument for crude, barbarian type work.
    The last was "the pilots marched into the wardroom singing the prisoners song" (para-phrased). The Prisoner's Song? What's that? A sad, sad lament. Not my cup of tea, but YouTube has several versions, including one by Johnny Cash.

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