January 3, 2012

Daddy’s Plane

My daddy went to work at the aircraft firm of Chance Vought in 1935, I think, when he was nineteen or so. Jobs were hard to come by, but he was smart and mechanically inclined and he had a high school degree.

When the US entered WWII, my daddy was exempted from the draft on account of his working in a ‘critical industry’. Vought’s biggest customer was the US Navy.

After the war, Vought’s military contracts must have dwindled. Or maybe moving operations inland seemed like a good idea. Anyway, the company transferred 1300 key personnel from Connecticut to the right-to-work state of Texas. It was the biggest-ever US corporate move at that time. A Hollywood film inspired by the move even went into pre-production, and Spencer Tracy was said to have been cast. I imagine my mother in a Katharine Hepburn role.

The F4U Corsair (1940-1952) was Vought’s triumph.

The Japanese are said to have called the plane Whistling Death.


  1. Sheila Ryan on January 3rd, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    You can hear the first whistle of death about a minute and forty seconds in.

  2. Carole Corlew on January 3rd, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Oh oh oh! This is fantastic. A ground crewman who worked on my father’s WWII plane told me their B-26 Marauder was known as the “whore of the skies.” I feel like I can’t say the rest of his quote on this family wire. It crashed a lot. So use your imagination. This was about 15 years ago, during a ceremony for a large marker with the names of the men associated with Flak Bait when it was displayed at Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. This old fella said this to me right in front of Miss Nell, who smiled politely and said, “Okay, well now…” and took my arm and hustled ME off.

  3. Sheila Ryan on January 3rd, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Whore of the skies. I love it.

  4. jch on January 3rd, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    It’s my favorite plane. So beautiful.

  5. Sheila Ryan on January 3rd, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    It is a beauty, isn’t it?

  6. Daryl Scroggins on January 3rd, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    I love those wings. It just looks like it would hold itself in the air better that way, doesn’t it? I also like the P-51 Mustang. I once heard one fly over at about 500 miles per hour, and that’s just an amazing sound. Horsemen of the apocalypse.

  7. Sheila Ryan on January 3rd, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    I wish I had talked more with my dad when he was alive — about airplanes and about his work. He started out on the line, and I remember knowing (when I was very little) that he was a foreman and being very proud of that.

    He died in 1969, when I was fifteen and had my head elsewhere.

  8. Rick Neece on January 3rd, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Shiela, Daddies. Mine still lives. He loves me, as I love him. Still, figuring the right question to ask to get him to tell stories? It seems the people I came up from held stories close to their chests. I don’t know why. The stories I own are mine, not theirs.

    Some people grow up in story-telling families. I did not. Makes me a little sad.

  9. Cindy Scroggins on January 3rd, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    My Papa was a great storyteller, but I have only a vague idea of his actual life. I’ve never been able to determine which stories were true. That’s not to say that I didn’t know him–I knew his essence, his heart. But details, facts about his life–those were only as reliable as the story allowed.

    I do recall one day at the lunch table with a number of relatives. Several were WW2 vets discussing their time in the Navy. Papa said, with some enthusiasm, that when they took out a Japanese ship or submarine, they’d shoot the survivors in the water. “Like shooting fish in a barrel,” he said. He suddenly looked across the table at me and changed the subject.

  10. Carole Corlew on January 4th, 2012 at 7:44 am

    It took close watching of them, didn’t it, those fathers of ours. Shelia, they were trying to spare us.