Congo Bill was a 1940s comic book hero pretty much in the same mold as Jungle Jim. How is it he came to be a pilot with the Flying Tigers? The plot line for his story and how it all came about, like several 1940s comic book heroes, especially aviator types, goes back to World War I.
Congo Bill, Captain Midnight, Buck Rogers, and as well my Mentor, were all pilots during World War I. The first three of course, were fictional, being either comic book/comic strip, movie-serial, and/or radio personalities --- or a combination of such. All four were born in that 1898-1899 bracket, making them just about at the lower level in age to have been able to serve in the military during the 1914-1918 period of the war, but still viable enough to have been a credible particpant in the Second World War, especially action hero aviator types. All four, besides being about the same age, were also all Americans and loved flying. They went to Europe as not much more than kids to fight way before the U.S. got around to entering the war. However, the differences between the first three and my mentor were, one, he was real, not fictional; and two, at age 40 or so he didn't go off doing all kinds of major heroic deeds during World War II --- or, as in Buck Roger's case, the far future. Also, where the exploits of the first three were presented on a regular weekly or monthly basis in comic books and films, any adventures my mentor may have had were pretty much reserved to the pages of a best selling book written by the highly acclaimed British playwright and author W. Somerset Maugham.
It is acknowledged that Buck Rogers was in the air service during World War I. Although they didn't go on-and-on about it, the artist that drew the original strip, Richard Calkins, under the direction of the strip's creator Philip Francis Nowlan, depicted Rogers early on as wearing an aviators helmet and goggles and clearly shown with a World War I bi-plane painted with the markings of a combat fighter.
Captain Midnight as written, was a pilot in World War I flying for the French under the branching umbrella of the Lafayette Flying Corps, typically flying a French built Nieuport 17. Midnight's time in the air was spent basically flying unescorted, often unarmed and alone, participating in dangerous low and high level observations, scouting, and photo reconnaissance. Cumulatively his abilities eventually morphed, because of his extraordinary flying skills and knowledge of the lay of the land, especially behind the lines, into solo secret missions.
Where the flying background of Midnight and Rogers is built into the ongoing theme of who they were so they could participate in and do what they did in their escapades, much less is known about Congo Bill's World War I flying background. Other than what is found in the September 1940 issue of More Fun Comics Volume 1, #59, in a story published 15 months before the outbreak of World War II titled "Gloria Desmond's Quest," where Congo Bill says --- in one single panel out of the whole story with no additional back-up by the way --- "I flew in the World War...of course those crates were kites compared to this," the World War meaning of course WWI, not much else is known.
In a sense my mentor was much like the other three. He had crossed into Canada at age 16, fudged about his age, and joined the Royal Flying Corps flying for the British long before the U.S. entered the war. He was a front line fighter pilot, nearly always flew in multiple plane squadron-like groups, usually in a Sopwith Camel, and was wounded twice. However, parallels notwithstanding, unlike my mentor who remained within the ranks of the Royal Flying Corps when the U.S. entered the war, Midnight and Rogers like a large portion of American flyers, shifted to the American forces, being commissioned officers in the U.S. Army and receiving, at least in Midnight's case, the rank of Captain.
Interestingly enough, although Congo Bill is almost a direct duplicate of Jungle Jim, Congo Bill operated out of Africa, hence "Congo" in his name, while Jungle Jim's jungle was Southeast Asia. The thing is, the Flying Tigers operated exclusively in the China-Burma sphere, more-or-less Jungle Jim territory. It should be noted in the Jungle Jim Johnny Weissmuller movies, Weissmuller was so well established in the African jungle because of his multi-year Tarzan role, the producers of the films set the series in Africa, in turn blurring the whole issue for many.
CONGO BILL IS A CRACK SHOT. EVEN IN THE DARK HE THINKS HE MAY HAVE WINGED HIM
THE NEXT MORNING BILL RUNS INTO SHORTY ON THE FLIGHT LINE
FEI WEING: BIRTH OF THE FLYING TIGERS
THE WANDERLING: OF OLGA GREENLAW, FIREHAIR, AND
A BUNCH OF OTHER EARLY INFATUATION EXPERIENCES!
THE FLYING TIGERS
THE BOY IN THE MAN REMEMBERS THE LEGEND
SO, DID THE WANDERLING FLY?
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As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
In high school I worked part time in a small mom and pop restaurant called Fred and Liz's. Fred had been a cook in the Navy during World War II. Somewhere along the way he met and married a woman from India that he and everybody called Liz. One day a movie and television actor by the name of Norman (sometimes Dean) Fredericks stopped by the restaurant. Fredericks played the role of the Hindu manservant Kaseem in the then running TV series Jungle Jim. Even though Fredericks was not of Indian descent, Liz fawned all over him.
THE HINDU MANSERVANT KASEEM
Later, although I couldn't remember one thing about being in India, but thinking it might help me score points with the boss's wife, I told Liz, unlike the actor, I had been there. When she questioned me as to where, dredging up the only thing I could think of, told to me by a man who had remembered seeing me traveling by train in India, I told her about trains. I only recalled the train punch-line because as a kid, not only did I own a huge table top Lionel electric train set, but I also rode in the cab of a 6000 horsepower 4-8-8-2 Cab Forward. I was also caught up in and survived without a scratch the derailment of the Santa Fe Chief #3774 which killed four and injured 126, all of which sparked a general interest in learning about trains --- was "meter gauge railroad." When I told her about meter gauge railroads I got nothing but a blank stare as it meant nothing to Liz, India-wise, or me either at the time, only becoming a viable matter of discourse years later. See:
THE LAST AMERICAN DARSHAN
SOPWITH CAMEL AS FLOWN BY MY MENTOR IN WORLD WAR I
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Any adventures my mentor may have had were pretty much reserved to the pages of a best selling book written by the highly acclaimed British playwright and author William Somerset Maugham. That best selling book was:
THE RAZOR'S EDGE
THE BEST OF THE MAUGHAM BIOGRAPHIES:
SPIRITUAL GUIDES, GURUS, AND TEACHERS INFLUENTIAL IN THE RAZOR'S EDGE:
Although my mentor was a pilot in World War I he never rose to the level and fame either during or after the war as such figures as Captain Midnight, Buck Rogers, or Congo Bill. He was a pilot nonetheless, fought bravely and wounded twice. Below is what Maugham wrote about him:
"The man I am writing about is not famous. It may be that he never will be. It may be that when his life at last comes to an end he will leave no more trace of his sojourn on earth than a stone thrown into a river leaves on the surface of the water. But it may be that the way of life that he has chosen for himself and the peculiar strength and sweetness of his character may have an ever-growing influence over his fellow men so that, long after his death perhaps, it may be realized that there lived in this age a very remarkable creature."
W. Somerset Maugham, THE RAZOR'S EDGE
The type plane he flew is not mentioned in the book by Maugham, but it was known to be a Sopwith Camel.(source). Maugham himself had seen the war and the war's carnage not from the air but at field level because, like Ernest Hemingway and other writers and authors of the time, he was a former volunteer ambulance driver, one of the so-called Literary Ambulance Drivers of the day. The following is how Maugham presents what happened as he listens to my mentor tell his story:
"The day we were to go on leave (to Paris) we were sent up to fly over the enemy lines and bring back reports of what we saw. Suddenly we came bang up against some German planes, and before we knew where we were we were in the middle of a dogfight. One of them came after me, but I got in first. I took a look to see if he was going to crash and then out of the corner of my eye I saw another plane on my tail. I dived to get away from him, but he was on to me like a flash and I thought I was done for; then I saw Patsy come down on him like a streak of lightning and give him all he'd got. They'd had enough and sheered off and we made for home. My machine had got pretty well knocked about and I only just made it. Patsy got in before me. When I got out of my plane they'd just got him out of his. He was lying on the ground and they were waiting for the ambulance to come up. When he saw me he grinned."
"I got the blighter who was on your tail," he said.
"What's the matter, Patsy?" I asked.
"Oh, it's nothing. He winged me."
"He was looking deathly white. Suddenly a strange look came over his face. It had just come to him that he was dying, and the possibility of death had never so much as crossed his mind. Before they could stop him he sat up and gave a laugh."
"Well I'm jiggered," he said.
"He fell back dead. He was twenty-two. He was going to marry a girl in Ireland after the war.