When I was a kid, I had a thing for war planes. I would get the plastic models that were so popular with boys my age in those early years after WWII and put them together with glue, stick the decals on them and mount them on a shelf in my bedroom.
When I was finished with them, I’d imagine what flying in them would be like, and we would see all the war movies showing them in action. They were the coolest looking things in the world to me.
This video is about a pilot who flew one of my favorite fighter planes, the P-38 lightning in WWII. I thought it was one of the fiercest looking fighter planes and had several models of them perched on stands on my bedroom shelf. It was sleek and graceful, but deadly too.
There is a museum in Colorado that has restored a lot of WWII planes and one of them is an old P-38 Lightning that was found in New Guinea after the war. While they were restoring it and old gentleman came into the museum one day and asked if they had any P-38’s and told them that he used to fly them back in WWII. His name was Frank Royal, and he was already 92 or 93 years old when he showed up at the West Pac Museum that day.
They did have a couple, and they were working on restoring one at the time. He asked if he could go back and look at it, and they were happy to oblige him in that request.
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Well, come to find out, one of those old P-38s was the very plane that he flew in combat back then, White 33. While it was being restored, Royal would show up regularly over the years, to check on his old friend. At the time of this video Royal was 100 years old and, according to the museum, his old P-38, White 33, is one of only seven P-38s that are still flying at this time.
Listen to this wonderful old veteran pilot tell one of the stories from back in the war about when his wing man’s plane was hit and the pilot had to “hit the silk” to escape the falling plane. Royal had to defend his wing man from Japanese pilots who were strafing him as he was descending in his parachute. Royal was able to fend off the enemy planes and to see his wing man land safely in a palm tree on the island below.
During this fight, one of Royal’s gas tanks was hit, but since the P-38 has twin tanks, he was able to switch tanks and had enough fuel to get back to base.
You will get a kick out of the lively and humorous nature of Frank Royal the 100-year-old former P-38 pilot. He would love not just to sit in that cockpit one more time, but go up in her one more time too.
The Veterans Site honors Frank Royal for his proud and courageous service to the nation in the Army Air Corps during WWII. We can not thank you enough.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.