Interview with Retired Brig. General Robert L. Scott – American World War II Ace Pilot and Hero

“The sun was going down now, even from our vantage point up there at twenty-five thousand, where Holloway and I were patrolling.  We called to the other ships to land, and as we saw them go into the Lufbery circle and the rat race that fighter pilots like to land from, Holloway rolled over and dove straight for the ground.  I started to roll with him–then I turned back for one more look at the setting sun.  Down on the earth, to those earthbound creatures, the sun was down.  There the shadows of the approaching night covered the ground, but up here I could see above the mountains, and the sun still shone on my fighter.  I pulled almost straight up in the steep climb that I like to make before diving home, and looked into the vivid blue of the Yunnan skies.  Some verses were running through my thoughts.  Against the drumming of the engine I heard my own voice repeating the words of another fighter pilot, John Magee, who has died with the RAF in the battle of Britain.”

“Up, up the long delirious burning blue

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace

Where never lark, or even eagle flew,

And while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod

The high untresspassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”

SOURCE

Their world was so far removed from the one I knew, when I first read a copy of God Is My Co-Pilot.  The world now, makes that time seem as if it were a distant dream; a reality the millennials, as they have been labeled,  couldn’t begin to understand.  I made this link to an online copy of Scott’s book; for your perusal. USE the magnifying glass symbol to turn the pages of the book. It is the second of many personal accounts I read, by people who have now “gone home”.  Scott passed away on Feb 27th, 2006, at age 97.  Below is an excerpt from the interview with him:

During World War II, Robert L. Scott’s name was synonymous with the U.S. Army Air Forces. Born in 1908 in Waynesboro, Georgia, and reared in nearby Macon, Scott developed a fascination for flying at the age of four when he saw his first airplane. He became famous in World War II for his daring exploits in China with Brigadier General Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers, and was dubbed ‘a one-man air force.’

Credited with shooting down 22 enemy aircraft, Scott was awarded three Silver Stars, three Distinguished Flying Crosses and five Air Medals. His fame was enhanced by his first of 12 books, God Is My Co-Pilot, which inspired a hit movie that still runs from time to time on television.

Today, at a very vigorous 87, Brig. Gen. Scott is national director of the board of the Museum of Aviation, in Warner Robins, Georgia. Founded in 1984, the museum displays 85 aircraft spanning the entire history of flight. Almost every day Scott can be found working in his office, which is full of memorabilia from his long and distinguished career, including a large tiger-skin rug with ferocious fangs on the floor in front of his desk. A tall, slender man, Scott answers questions about his World War II experiences with the zeal of a young boy recounting some adventure he just had.

WWII: During World War II your flying exploits were well-known nationwide. How did your interest in planes begin?

Scott: Mama said that when I was 4 she took me to Central City Park in Macon, Georgia, to see a demonstration of a plane flying. The flier’s name was Eugene B. Ely. He crashed and burned that day. I dragged my mother by the hand to see the dead pilot in the cockpit, and she said that from that day all I ever wanted to do was fly.

WWII: What other early adventures did you have?

Scott: I was in Scouting, and I wanted to get the aviation merit badge. The requirements included building a model plane that could fly 75 feet. Hell, I wanted to do more than that, so I made a glider large enough to hold a man. We tried to tow it with a Ford automobile, but the police ran me off the road, so I decided to try to fly it from some high point. There was a very large two-story house on Napier Avenue, in Macon, owned by Mrs. Bessie Napier. I asked her if my friends and I could fly my plane from the top of her house. She naturally thought that we were referring to some small, hand-held plane. We had to hoist it up on the roof with a pulley attached to a 4-by-4 we put on the roof. I jumped off the roof strapped in the plane and managed to fly about 40 feet before the main spar broke at the point where there was a knot in the pine 2-by-4 I had used. I fell down more than 60 feet into a Cherokee rose bush. I was picking thorns out of myself for days!

WWII: When did you get your first plane?

Scott: I bought it at the age of 13. They were auctioning off a number of World War I surplus Curtiss JN-4 Jennys, over near Americus, Georgia, and I bought one of them. As soon as the auctioning opened, I blurted out ’75 dollars,’ because that was all the money that I had, but I was outbid by several hundred dollars by a man in the back who continued to outbid me on other planes. Finally, he came up to me and said: ‘Look, kid. Buy your one plane for $75 and get on out of here. I’m buying for an airline.’ That’s how I came to own my first plane.

WWII: How did you learn to fly it?

Scott: I was taught by a local streetcar conductor — I’ve forgotten his name — who taught me in Central City Park, where the flier had been killed when I was 4.

WWII: You graduated from West Point, but it seems that you attended a little later in life than most cadets. Why was that?

Scott: I had not taken enough of the proper courses in high school to gain admission, so after several tries I went back to high school to take the necessary subjects, math mainly.

WWII: How did you get along with the other cadets?

Scott: I was popular with the upperclassmen because I could already fly and many wanted to learn. They would come to my room for flying lessons. We would put two straight-back chairs together, one in front of the other, pretending they were the seats in the cockpit of a plane. That was my classroom.

WWII: After graduation from West Point, you were admitted to the Army Air Corps. Where did you go for training?

Scott: I went to Randolph Field, Texas. My teacher was Robert H. Terrell, who taught us to take off and land into the wind. Truman H. Landon was another of my teachers. He later became a four-star general. He told me that I was too rough on the controls. You were expected to solo after only four hours of flying with an instructor. They only wanted men who had confidence in themselves. When they asked you so early if you thought you were ready to solo and you showed any hesitation, they washed you out. It was the screening process.

WWII: I expect you were an eager student.

Scott: Yes. I tried to anticipate what Lieutenant Landon would say even before he said it. Once I thought he said, ‘Dive.’ We were at a low altitude for diving, but I tried to please. As we went into the dive, he took the controls and brought us over the trees into a cotton field. He said to me, ‘Scott, what in blazes were you trying to do? I said, ‘Glide.”  Another time, he got out of the front seat with his parachute after a few rough landings, and I knew he thought I was good enough to do my first solo. Yet as he got out of the plane, he commented that he wasn’t going to let me kill him while I practiced. He told me that when returning I was to land as close to him as possible. I tried to do what he wanted. I could have landed right on top of him. Yet he threw his parachute down and ran. After I passed, I looked back and I thought I saw him waving. Waving your hand meant to come around again. I later learned that he was shaking his fist at me. I came around on him again and landed near the hangar about a mile from where I left him. He had to walk back. I later realized what I had done, but my ship had been taken by another student, so I couldn’t go get him. When he finally walked up, he said as he passed me, ‘It’s kinda hot out there.’ The next day after a lesson he took me down at the exact spot where I had left him the day before. He told me to get out of the plane and he would show me what he wanted me to do. He blew dust all over me taking off, and three times buzzed me, making me run like hell. Then he landed near me and taxied to the hangars, leaving me with the long, hot walk back with my parachute. The next day I soloed again, but this time I didn’t forget to go back and pick him up.

REMAINDER of this interview at:

HISTORYNET

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