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Delighted to be here. May I come in?


Our Combat Engineers excelled in building 'em up; our job was to knock 'em down; not the U.S. Combat Engineers construictions, just everything else. I'm a retired Tactical Air Command fighter pilot, but that doesn't make me a bad person.


As an exportee from HBO Band of Brothers and Wild Bill Guarnere Band of Brothers, I guess I go all the way back to the first day of the HBO forums, and I see several familiar names here. Hi, gang!


I am also Susan Smith Finn's uncle and Robert Burr "Mr. Clean" Smith's brother, so maybe you had better shoot me before I corrupt the site.


Some of you may know me as




Das SS ShweinhundtDumpkopfBayonetBrigade





Welcome Unk, alias Long John, alias...


Enjoyed your emails this week and I thank you first off for pitching in and trying to help Wendy and her dad Vince. :pdt34::pdt34:


Susan Smith Finn is a good woman, so you come here with with a few feathers in your cap already. :D


Our Combat Engineers excelled in building 'em up; our job was to knock 'em down; not the U.S. Combat Engineers construictions, just everything else. I'm a retired Tactical Air Command fighter pilot, but that doesn't make me a bad person.


I see that you were a fighter pilot. Please tell us about your experiences and when you served. Love to hear all about it Unk! And I'll give ya a break and and assume you are not a BAD person, until other proven. :pdt12::pdt12:

You asked for this, Marion, so don't blame me if it ruins your day. "Mr. Clean" and Susan Smith Finn are known all over the world, and that is as it should be. Moi? Not even the dogs know me, once I'm beyond the front door.


I didn't start out as a fighter pilot, I began my 29-year military career as a frustrated Aviation Cadet. They closed my pilot training Class in 1944 while I was in Primary, so I was trained as an enlisted radioman/gunner who wound up on B-24's of an 8th AF Special Operations Bomb Group known as The Carpetbaggers. I re-enlisted and spent 3 years with SHAEF/US Military Government in Europe as an Interpreter Interrogator after WWII ended, then back home and back to school. I joined the Air Force Reserve and reached the rank of M/Sgt (E-8) flying as a radioman on C-46's and C-47's of a Reserve Troop Carrier Squadron in Northern California, doing additional duties as NCOIC of the Radio Shop and as Group Public Relations.


Re-enlisted in the newly-reopened Aviation Cadet pilot training program in 1949, graduating just in time for the Korean War. Flew P-51's and F-80's in that one, then was with the 20th Fighter Wing for 5 years in the U.S. and the UK flying F-84's. Spent 2 years flying with the US Navy on Exchange Duty (VA-113, Air Group 11) flying A4D-2's and 10 1/2 months deployed to WESPAC aboard USS HANCOCK (CVA-19) for the opening of the war in SEA. Went back to SEA in F-100's (309th Tac Fighter Squadron, DaNang and Tui Hua) then with F-4-C, D, E of the 433 & 497th TFS.


When I returned to the Air Force from Navy Exchange duty in 1962 I was assigned to the 1st Fighter Day Squadron, 31st Fighter Wing, George AFB, California, commanded by then Lt.Col. Chuck Yeager. I remained with that squadron as Operations Officer until 1966, although Chuck Yeager left for Edwards AFB before the 31st Wing moved en masse to Homestead AFB, Florida before and because of the Cuber Thang.


Retired with a little over 5600 hours of cockpit time in a grungy mixture of aircraft, starting with the Piper J-1 and J-3 when I was 16, flew with all services, and with several foreign countries, including Holland, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, The UK, Australia and Japan. I'm a graduate of the Army School of Languages (Russian) European Branch, Oberammergau, Germany, 1955, and slipped in and out of Intelligence assignments off-and-on throughout my career..


I hadn't quite reached my 17th birthday when I entered Aviation Cadets the first time in 1943, but the Army Air Force read my forged enlistment papers and believed I was 18, as reflected in my service dates and Retirement orders. If they ever found out I flew under false colors they never mentioned it to me. I was integrated into the Regular Officer Corps in 1957 as a Captain and retired in 1972, having held every rank and grade from Private to Colonel, missing only Warrant Officer.


My first experience with Combat Engineers was while riding a French freight train from the coast of France to Germany in June, 1945, a couple of weeks after Willie Willie Deuce ended. The train would run along for 10 or 20 miles, then sit still and puff away for a few hours while the Combat Engineers rebuilt the railbed and railways. It went that way for almost two weeks, the route being from Le Have, France to Namur, Belgium to Bonn, Germany, then to Frankfurt for a few days before finally reaching our destination of Nurnberg and Feurth/Erlangen via Furstenfeldbruk. The CE's also kept us alive by pulling up alongside our 40/8 boxcars and tossing in cases of K and 10-in-one rations. We'd trade B-bags full of Calvados for 6x6 truckloads of food, keeping both us and the Engineers happy. Good bless the Combat Engineers.


See? And it's all your fault!


Unk John

Unk John:


So glad you told me all about your long stint. I really do like hearing about it. A very fascinating history too, including the mention of one of my heroes, Chuck Yeager. I have a signed book by Chuck and have always admired him. When The Right Stuff appears on TV for the thousandth time, I am always glued to the TV screen. So did you get to know him at all? If so, what were your impressions?


Ah I can see right now that you will make several of my pilot buddies very jealous. Why you ask? Well because you got to fly the beloved P-51's. Several pilots I talked to say that that was their one regret; not being able to fly that baby.


My father-in-law was a pilot too. He flew at the end of WWII and through the Korean War. He flew:








He had quite a scare once and was lucky to come through it alive. He flew off carriers and one afternoon came in for a landing. Well this time things didn't go so smoothly and he missed the first trip wire, then the second and the third and the camera was rolling the whole time and caught his plane doing a compete forward roll. He DID land on the carrier and about the only thing that was hurt was his pride. Said it scared the piss out of him. I imagine so. We still have the photos. I should try scanning them this week and placing them on the site.


So you speak Rooskie? Wow, you are full of surprises. Russian is quite a tough language to master. I am duly impressed.


Glad you got to experience the combat engineers doing thier THANG. A pretty impressive group of soldiers. I'm pretty darned proud of my ol' man. The more I learn the more I shine!


Well, we are going to get along just fine. I see we will have all kinds of subjects to talk about. My husband is a real aircraft fanatic and is extremely knowledgable on all kinds of aircraft, especially WWI and II. He was a primo scale model builder and when we lived in Detroit, had his works on display in hobby shops. Let's say he had the eye and the touch.


I bought him a signed copy (by pilot) of the Memphis Belle crew and a signed copy by artist Craig Kodera, titled, This is No Drill. It is also countersigned by Brigadier General USAF (Ret.) Kenneth Taylor and Zenji Abe, a Lt. Commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy, who took part in the raid and are pictured in this painting. I don't know if you know the story, but the pilots went on to become friends and have met many times in person after the war.


Well look what you've done now. You got me started. Oh God forbid. See I told you we'd be good for each other. :pdt12:


Are you the brother of Robert Burr Smith, Susan's father?


Till later my new friend...


Maid Marion,


The good General Yeager and I hunted, fished, and flew together for the better part of a year at George AFB. We have stayed in contact but haven't been face-to-face since he remarried a couple of years ago and moved to Klamath Falls, Oregon, which is sort of off the end of my maps. When you've read through all the junk on the WBG site you will know how much time I spent with him, and some of the things we did together. (I AIN'T gonna tell NOBODY the other stuff!!)


Chuck Yeager was always 100% West Virginia farm boy, and more interested in how things were put together and how they ran, than in running them. He had a black '29 Model-A coupe when he was CO of 1st Fighter Day; had restored it so it looked like it had just now rolled off the production line in Detroit, and drove it to work just like any other car. The Fastest Man In The World and his Model-A Ford. It is to laugh. Glenna was still alive then, and a 1st Fighter Day party was always the biggest hit of the Century.


I didn't get a lot of P-51 time before moving up to the F-80, but loved every minute of it. On the other hand, I always wanted to fly the P-38 and have always regretted I never did get to do that. Your father-in-law was obviously a Tail Hooker, and I wonder if he knew any of my Navy friends from Air Group 11? My cabin mate, Cdr. Bob Bennett, USN Retired, flew Turkeys (TBF's) during the Korean War and my Skipper in VA-113, Cdr (Capt. USN Retired) Bob Gallatin flew the same aircraft as your father-in-law, starting with the Hellcat. I made 136 total traps, 102 of those aboard USS HANCOCK and the rest aboard USS MIDWAY, plus one aboard HMS ALBION, a British aircraft carrier, but your father-in-law's ride through the crossdeck pendants scares the hell out of me!, and I'm damn near fearless. WOW! I'm looking forward to seeing the photos.


Not having a website, I am unable to include any photos from my misspent youth and my speaking acquaintance with various fighter aircraft. Give me an email address and I'll send along some, including a set of The Stingers, a USN flight demonstration team I led while we were in WESPAC. Gene Cernan flew left wing, and he's our youngest daughter's God Father.


Da, ya govoril po Russkii, no builo dolgo dolgo tamoo nazad kogda ya uchilsa v shkole razviedke, i teper ne mozhno govorits, chitats ili pisats po Russkii.


I haven't spoken Russian for about 40 years, and when the salesman who sold us some furniture last week told us he was from near Kiev, Urkania, I tried to hold a conversation with him in Russkii. Bob Hope never got a bigger laugh.


I wish I had your husband's touch with model airplanes. I have lots of photos of just about everything I ever flew but no desktop models. Oh, I built a few, (you can count the number on my scarred and almost-severed fingertips) but the wings or tail always sort of, well, you know ... fell off.


I know who Zenji Abe is, of course, having read about him but never met him. I was a charter member of the International Fighter Pilots Association, back in the '50s, and met some of the Japanese pilots who made Pearl Harbor, but Saburu Sakai is the only one with whom I spent more than a few minutes and he wasn't in the Pearl Harbor attack. He was merely Japan's leading ace. *sigh*


Yes, I am indeed Burr Smith's brother and Susan Smith Finn's uncle, and couldn't be prouder of filling those two slots.


So there, too.


Unk John

Hey Unk John: Welcome aboard. Great profile . The way it should be done. This old

ww 2 Infantry rifleman (3rd Inf Div) is glad to have you here among us. By the way,

ever hear of the P-47 outfit (we called the orange tail fighter sqdn.) which helped us out a couple of times in Germany??? I owe those guys a couple of drinks. Saved our

azzes twice. Dug in tanks. My only brother was a gunner on B-25 in ETO.

Hey Unk John: Welcome aboard. Great profile . The way it should be done. This old

ww 2 Infantry rifleman (3rd Inf Div) is glad to have you here among us. By the way,

ever hear of the P-47 outfit (we called the orange tail fighter sqdn.) which helped us out a couple of times in Germany??? I owe those guys a couple of drinks. Saved our

azzes twice. Dug in tanks. My only brother was a gunner on B-25 in ETO.




Always glad to hear from someone from the 3rd, maybe even Audie Murphy. The 3rd was still in Germany when I arrived there in June, 1945. The Rock of the Marne has a great history. Everyone owes you guys a couple of drinks.


The "Orange Tails" were 358th Fighter Group, 356th Fighter Squadron, and an old friend, Col. John J. Kropenik, USAF RET., flew with them during the closing months of Willie Willie Deuce. The "Jug" outfits (including my old 22nd Fighter Squadron, 36th Fighter Group) moved almost daily in order to keep up with the 1st and 3rd Inf Divs, who they primarily supported with ground attack and close air support.


There weren't that many B-25 units in the ETO, so you should be able to track down your brother and his unit fairly easily. My only brother was a machine gunner in Easy Company, 2nd Bn., 506th Parachute Infantry, 101st Airborne Divison, those guys in "Band of Brothers."


Thanks for the welcome!


Unk John

Unk John:


I was really impressed by your last posting. I told my husband all about you and told him that the two of you should write to each other. He was wowed when he found out that you personally knew Chuck and really wowed when he found out you met Saburu. I think hubby has read virtually every book about the great flying aces of WWI and II. He knows his stuff.


Oh by the way, when you called me Maid Marion, I laughed out loud. That was one of my nick-names when we lived in Detroit, especially at our old hang-out, the Warrendale Bar! :drinkin:


I can imagine that you wanted to fly the P-38. What an awesome looking plane. There's certain planes that you just look at and... :wub:


I will send you my email address this morning. Sorry I haven't done it yet. It's been a really busy week or so. Just got back from a visit with one of the 540th, my dad's unit. I had the best time and learned a lot more. Bill and I and his wife hit it right off and had the best visit. I know I made dad proud! :pdt34:


Off to run for some coffee. Been up for an hour and I'm starting to fiend! :pdt12::coffee:


Love hearing about all your ventures.

I was snooping around in some older posts this evening and I found this one. Unk John is here!!!


I read his posts on the WBG site and I don't think there is much of anything this man hasn't done!


John is really something else, a great guy to read about and chat with.



Come Back OberGrumpenFuhrer, Come Back !