"Although a lot of people think it is a lot of horse manure, my dad actually bought the jeep after answering an ad similar to the one below. The ad offered surplus jeeps for $278.00. There were literally hundreds of scams around right after the war saying you could buy surplus jeeps from $50.00 and up and that's what most of them were, scams. However, after really looking into it he discovered he could actually purchase a brand new, or at least never used, World War II Jeep for $225.00 cash right off the docks in San Francisco, which in reality turned out to be not docks in San Francisco, but across the bay in the naval ship yards at Vallejo or Alameda. I know because I went with him."
A BOY AND HIS JEEP: ADVENTURES IN THE DESERT
Jeep in a Box. Jeep in a Crate. Surplus jeeps $50.00. Ads with similar and like leads appeared in any number of publications from Popular Mechanics to Boys Life to a variety of comic books starting right after World War II to right up to right now. Most of those ads offering "Jeeps for $50.00" or any other unrealistic low amount were for the most part scams. They may not have been out-and-out purebred lies, but were worded in such a way to trick or deceive the person sending in the money for the information that they, through the firm or outfit presenting the offer, could in fact from that source purchase a jeep. Such was not the case. If you read the ads carefully they are only offering information about other sources that sell military surplus items for the government. Where some of the catalog offering firms may have sold surplus items, jeeps were not among them. Although jeeps were often depicted among the graphics, most information in the ads that were jeep specific was in a special little bordered off section that reads, as found in the large ad below something like:
SPECIAL SECTION WITH COMPLETE SOURCES AND
INFORMATION ON HOW TO BUY DIRECT FROM THE
GOVERNMENT AT AMAZINGLY LOW PRICES----------
That is not to say surplus jeeps were not available for extremely low prices, it is just that the popular media ads were not the source directly making the jeeps available.(see) If you go back to the small print ad I've presented above right, the lines just underneath what I've presented in red and black above, reads, "Also listed are more than 1,000 places where you can see thousands of different surplus items and buy them right on the spot!" The words also listed and 1,000 places is the key. They list the places, not what is sold at those places other than surplus items. The color ad above left gives itself the name "Government Reprint Services" and offers a catalog for $4.00. The so-called catalog is actually either the printed free and sent out by the U.S. Printing Office catalog or a copied reprint by the firm. In either case it is being sold for $4.00 and only informs the prospective buyer where, when, and how to obtain the jeeps. They themselves, didn't sell them. And of course, the catalog is free to anybody through the government Printing Office anyway just for the asking.
AND NOT JUST JEEPS, BUT PLANES TOO:
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If you go to the full page Surplus Bargains ad down the page a bit, or even the smaller black and white one above right, and of which of the larger one I state that a similar ad offering a jeep at a good price set my dad off on his search for the jeep he eventually bought for $225.00, has within it's text not only jeeps for $278.00, but also airplanes for $159.00. The photograph above depicting a bright red and white P-40 Tomahawk sitting atop a gas station as more-or-less an advertising promotion was bought by the station owner right after the war for $150.00 in full operational condition. The P-40 stood on the roof of his station in Everett, Washington undisturbed for 40 years. That same plane ended up being "Old Exterminator," the P-40 Tomahawk of the World War II Flying Tiger ace Col. Robert L. Scott, Jr with 13 kills under his belt.
AND JEEP ADVENTURES:
The jeep my dad bought right after the war off the docks in San Francisco, i.e., actually across the bay at the Naval ship yards at Vallejo or Alameda, for $225.00, stayed under his and/or my stepmother's ownership for at least 12 to 15 years after the war, possibly longer. Whatever happened to it or where it ended up I have no clue, but I bet, if it hasn't destroyed in some manner, is still running the same as it always did.
As found in The Boy and His Jeep, one of the last times I saw the jeep, or at least that I was specifically involved with it at any major level, the foreman of my stepmother's ranch, who's every other word was an expletive and had at one time, been a World War II Pacific Fleet Navy boxing champion, along with a few Navy buddies from China Lake Naval Air Station took the jeep with me along with them, down to Tecate, Mexico. There they put railroad track wheels on it similar to the graphic below and drove it on the railroad tracks from Tecate in Mexico across the border into the U.S. to the little town of Ocotillo as shown on the map below just for the heck of it.
THE NOT-A-JEEP STILL IN A WOODEN BOX
BEFORE MY FATHER EVER OWNED A JEEP MY STEPMOTHER BOUGHT A BRAND NEW
FOUR WHEEL DRIVE FORD WOODIE FROM THE FACTORY JUST LIKE THE ONE ABOVE
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AND NOW THIS:
"(My dad) discovered he could actually purchase a brand new, or at least never used, World War II Jeep for $225.00 cash right off the docks in San Francisco, which in reality turned out to be not docks in San Francisco, but across the bay in the naval ship yards at Vallejo or Alameda. I know because I went with him."
FROM THE OPENING QUOTE AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE
Throughout World War II my dad worked in the construction and repair of Liberty ships on Terminal Island in the Long Beach, San Pedro, California area. If there was one thing he knew or learned was his around dock and piers and shipyards. The day we went to some naval station shipping facility in the San Francisco bay area he took us through the labyrinth maze-like docks as though he had been there a million times.
On the docks or the land adjacent to the docks between the buildings and the open bay were literally hundreds and hundreds of jeeps lined up row after row along with other rows with all kinds of other military hardware and equipment. The jeeps themselves had been taken right off the factory assembly line to the docks months before for transshipment to the South Pacific just as the war ended and when I was there with my dad as a kid, all of them were still just sitting there gathering dust and getting flat tires. Others weren't even assembled, still in boxes or crates, tires and everything.
I don't recall anything specifically about the logistics of how or what my dad had to do to get the jeep or how he beat the system. I don't recall how long it took, how much paperwork he had to shuffle, or how the jeep was prepared so we could drive it home, only that it was and we did --- drive it home, that is. The one thing I do remember is that the man who sold my dad the jeep told him he couldn't pick it up until the next day because of some longshoreman rule. Like I said, my dad worked in the shipyards on Terminal Island during the war and knowing the ins-and-outs brought two longshoremen with him and the man who sold my dad the jeep gave it to him. The two longshoremen were provided by a longtime old friend of my stepmother named Johnny Roselli. Roselli, who I knew and had met through my Stepmother, but at the time actually knew nothing about, was a man of eminent persuasion and when the person in charge of the jeeps heard about it from the longshoremen I guess he thought letting my dad take the jeep was most likely the most expedient thing to do.
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Below, on the cover of the official publication Willys Truck Unpacking and Assembly of Boxed Vehicle Instructions, no date is given. However, when the instruction manual is related in context, through research, etc., invariably it is associated with or referred to as "Willys MB Military Jeep Assembly Instructions 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 WWII," meaning that from the very start of the war in 1941 through to 1945, the manual was the go to manual when it came to assembling jeeps that came in a box or crate. So, for those who may be a little on the unwilling side to accept the premise that jeeps came in a box, right off the bat, it is pretty much a given that jeeps must have come in a box or a crate, at least sometime or the other, otherwise there would have never been a reason or need to print a manual on how to uncrate, unbox, or assemble one if none of them ever came that way. The problem arises when you try to get one for yourself. That's a whole other situation.
There has been some discrepancy regarding the "Jeep in a Box" or "Jeep in a Crate" graphic at the top of the page. Emailers have been saying that the graphic is a replica and not of real World War II origin because the jeep in the box is shown with a jeep can, i.e., jerrycan. The emailers contest that relative to U.S. use, jeep cans didn't come into service until later in the war. I would argue later in the war than what? Nowhere does a date come up in regards to having a jeep in a box, either early or late in the war. Actually, the whole thrust of what is presented here is about jeeps being or becoming surplus, which would indicate by it's very nature of being surplus would be after the war. So, other than to deflect or weaken the thesis, whether a jeep was in a box early or late in the war is not necessarily part of the equation. Besides, jeep cans only coming into use later in the war by the U.S. isn't correct anyway.
Admittedly the U.S. history on the use of jerrycans is unclear and sketchy at best, with no actual confirmed date. Richard M. Daniel, a retired commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve and a chemical engineer and highly knowledgeable regarding the history of jerrycans, says that in his research a written report he has seen and read states "A sample of the jerrycan was brought to the office of the Quartermaster General in the summer of 1940." However, how quick it was acted on is not known. The original reversed engineered test samples, which introduced a number of other ways of making them than the Germans did, was a total failure. For those who may be so interested, Daniel's complete article "The History of the Jerrycan" is linked below in PDF format.
As for jeep cans, at the bottom of page 4 of the instructions there is a picture of the fully assembled jeep, the picture being labeled Figure 5, ASSEMBLY PROCEDURE. It carries with it a series of numbers, 1 through 6, each pointing to different areas of assembly concern. In the written instructions, marked No. 5, fig 5, reads "Install spare fuel container bracket." Number 5, figure 5 clearly points to and shows where the jerrycan was carried and mounted, an area, that in most traditional circumstances, the jeep can was mounted, as so aptly depicted in the graphic below.
In Middle Tennessee, from June of 1941 starting under George S. Patton through to sometime in 1944 under others, some 800,000 U.S. troops had maneuvers in more than 2.25 million acres and 22 counties. During that period the troops were mostly divided into opposing Red and Blue Armies training in simulated, but realistic battles in preparation for real battles to come. So said, they used the same equipment, material, and vehicles they would use under actual battlefield conditions. In recent years a man by the name of Will Adams has been metal detecting several hundred acres of land that saw action during those Tennessee maneuvers in search of items lost, discarded, or intentionally buried by the military. Over the years Adams has found or discovered numerous items, but the one of interest to us here was an Army “Jerry Can” that he found buried 3 feet beneath the rocky soil.
(for more on Will Adams please click image)
The top left graphic above shows the jerrycan Adams found buried marked with the letters "USA." The top right graphic shows the letters "QMC." The graphic on the bottom shows the can marked with NESCO and the numbers 20-5-41. USA means United States Army, QMC means Quartermaster Corps, NESCO is the name of the can's manufacturer, and 20-5-41 means 20 liters, 5 gallons, and the 41 means the year manufactured, in this case 1941. The U.S. didn't formally enter World War II until December 7, 1941, for all practical purposes being at the end of the year. Apparently they had already been making jerrycans, at least enough so in 1941 one could end up being misplaced, lost, or buried in the major Tennessee maneuver area without concern for it's overall worth or importance. The graphic below is one year later during maneuvers in Louisiana. Seems to be a tidy sum of jerrycans in use at the time there.
REFUELING JERRY CANS, THIRD ARMY MANEUVERS, LOUISIANA, 1942
For the record, this page is not to provide a history of jeep cans or jerrycans, but to offer testimony to the fact of being able to buy a World War II jeep off the docks after the war cheap. Again, my dad did so, and did so for $225.00. I know because I was there and rode home in the jeep right after he bought it. Having done so, what it means is, that buying a jeep off the docks after the war cheap, would not have been a one-off just a sell one jeep only situation involving my dad and my dad only, then leaving all the rest to go. It had to be a thriving enterprise. All the logistics, paper work, infrastructure, and personnel must have been in place in some fashion for it to have happened for any number of people over and over, not just my dad. Remember, for those who may be so interested, "The History of the Jerrycan," in PDF, is linked below.
THE BOY AND HIS JEEP: ADVENTURES IN THE DESERT
THE JEEP, NEVADA, AND THE RED-HAIRED GIANTS
JEEPS IN CRATES: EVERY COLLECTOR'S DREAM
EL REY CLUB: RESORT, CASINO, BROTHEL
WORLD WAR II COMES TO REDONDO
RIDING THE CAB FORWARDS
THE FLYING TIGERS
THE BOY IN THE MAN REMEMBERS THE LEGEND
THE JEEP, SIDDHIS, AND THE SUPERNATURAL
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HISTORY OF THE JERRYCAN
ON THE RAZOR'S
SO, DID THE WANDERLING FLY?
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.
I would be hard pressed to say I hung around docks or wharfs or shipyards a whole lot. I had however, been in and around docks and shipyards on-and-off over a several year period of time at a very young age because my father built and repaired Liberty ships on Terminal Island for the California Shipbuilding Corporation during World War II. Because of his job I was intermixed with docks and wharfs and such in those days. Terminal Island is a small plot of land wedged between San Pedro on the west and the city of Long Beach on the east separated and surrounded by what some people say might even be water. Although nowadays Terminal Island is more or less a smooth running part of the bigger Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach complex, during the war years, not just Terminal Island but the whole area from one end to the other was a smoky, oily, hodge-podge of overlapping docks, piers, barges, wharfs, and buildings, covered from one end to the other with cranes, railroad tracks and ships --- some of them even floating or seaworthy. So too, the cities of San Pedro on the west and Long Beach on the east that bordered up against the ports and shipyards were big time mostly Navy military towns with an almost anything goes attitude, with excessively over-inebriated sailors, G.I.s, and seamen staggering between one bar to the next all day and all night. Stereotype? World War II was a different time and place.
When I reached my early 20s I worked on a marlin boat owned by the multi-millionaire oil heir David Halliburton Sr.. The skipper went to his childhood home located practically right on top of Terminal Island to live out his final days after he found out he had cancer. During that time, even though I was no longer employed under him, nor would he be back, I would go by regularly to see him up until his death. While working on Halliburton's marlin boat the Twin Dolphin, in that the skipper had life-long deep connections in the area and knew the ins-and-outs of the harbor and shipyards intimately, although the boat was moored in Marina Del Rey, when parts were needed such as bilge pumps and such things he used to send me down into the bowels of the L.A. Harbor/Wilmington area to backstreet boat and ship repair shops to retrieve them. Often times the two of us would go together, and when we did it seems we always ended up in some dive of a dump and/or hanging out after hours in some scroungy closed up for the day boat repair shop drinking beer and bullcrapping late into the night. So too, I had gone down to the Federal prison on Terminal Island to visit the aforementioned Johnny Roselli, who had been transferred there just before his release on parole. One of those all night bullcrapping sessions with the skipper and the repair shop guys brought up a story from an old salt about a Japanese midget submarine off the coast of California and an atomic bomb intended for Los Angles. See:
JAPANESE MIDGET SUBMARINES
A-BOMBS, MIDGET SUBS, AND THE CALIFORNIA CHANNEL ISLANDS
Back to my dad working in the shipyards during the war. One day on a rare day off he had some job related business he had to attend too that required a special trip to Terminal Island to deal with it. In those days gas rationing was nationwide and you just didn't go driving around for the heck of it. As a treat to my brothers and me, even though a good part of Terminal Island was under tight security and off limits, my dad tied his work related trip into taking the three of us kids to spend the remaining part of the day and into the night at a huge waterfront amusement park not much farther away in Long Beach called The Pike.
Throughout the war years the Pike was a wide-open Terry and the Pirates boardwalk like place with all kinds of rides, games, and a humungous roller coaster. No sooner had we arrived than my dad, who had been a one-time "carny" or barker, began meeting up with old friends, basically forgetting my brothers and me and why we were there.
Without permission or my dad noticing I slipped away, taking in all the glowing actions of the rides, games, and booths. It wasn't long before I passed a heavily made-up yet strikingly beautiful woman sitting on a stool along the midway who looked all the same as being a Hollywood version of a gypsy. She was basically staring straight ahead not really focusing on any of the goings on. After I passed I turned back to look at her over my shoulder and without moving her head I could see she had followed me with her eyes. As soon as we made eye contact she redirected her gaze. Then a man in well worn oversize brown suit with a vest and the jacket unbuttoned put his hand on my shoulder bending over to my height looking straight into my eyes. I tried to break loose from his grip but he just held tighter. "Like your fortune told, boy," he asked, adding that it would cost twenty five cents. Just then my dad stepped up with a couple of his new found friends and the man let loose, backing away saying he was just trying to make a living.
The woman dressed like a gypsy said to wait. The man looked at my dad to see if was OK to proceed, receiving a nod of approval. The man turned and asked if I had anything of value and I did, at least to me I did, something I carried with me everywhere I went as a kid, a Captain Midnight Code-O-Graph. With his back to the woman he took the decoder into his hand and put it to his forehead and asked a couple of simple questions then turned and handed the decoder to the woman. Before she could answer, as soon as her fingers touched the badge she slumped over and fell off the stool to the ground, the decoder falling to the ground as well, just beyond the reach of her outstretched arm.
The man in the brown suit assured my dad the woman falling off the stool wasn't part of the act as they tried to revive her. With the assist of another man who stepped forward from the crowd the woman was soon back on her stool albeit somewhat disheveled. During the assist the man from the crowd had also picked up the decoder. The woman softly requested the man, who by now was talking to my dad as they seemed to know each other from the shipyards, to hand her the decoder, which he did. While just barely touching her performer-like bright red lips to my forehead in a kiss-like manner the medium placed the decoder in the palm of my hand and gently folded my fingers closed over the top. Then, using each of her hands and fingers from both, she formed little circles putting them to her face around her eyes creating finger goggles, mimicking all the same as those worn by Captain Midnight in photos that came with the badge. Bringing both hands down from her face she put one hand on mine still holding the decoder while using her other hand to place the hand of the man that assisted her on top of them all and, speaking to me, said, "From man to boy to man, your future and past is already marked by what is held together here in our hands."
TIME TRAVEL: MEETING YOURSELF
RESTITCHING THE HOLE IN THE FABRIC OF SPACE-TIME
SCENE FROM THE ORIGINAL TERRY AND THE PIRATES AS DRAWN BY MILTON CANIFF DATED JANUARY 27, 1935.
"Any mention by me of Terry and the Pirates is typically made to draw an analogy to whatever I am writing about and the exotic-like underbelly-type milieu, real or not, that exemplified the Asian atmosphere Terry and his companions, pirates or otherwise, operated in. I have always carried a certain fondness for that type of milieu and because of that fondness have been drawn to such odd-ball fictional characters and stories like Dan Duryea in China Smith and of course Terry and the Pirates as well as real life places such as Rangoon, Burma; Bangkok, Thailand; and Chiang Mai."
TERRY AND THE PIRATES
At the end of the summer of 1953, just as I was about to start the 10th grade or so, the August - September #6 issue of the comic book Mad came out. Inside #6 was a story, drawn by my all time favorite non-animator cartoonist Wallace Wood, that spoofed or satired big-time the long running comic strip Terry and the Pirates, with Wood in his spoofing, calling it Teddy and the Pirates.
Although I had followed Terry and the Pirates a good portion of my life, and knew how Milton Caniff, the artist-cartoonist of the strip, presented Terry's world that he and his so-called Pirates lived in, Wood's top-half opening drawing below, showing his version of an underbelly far east like milieu, real or not, that exemplified the Asian atmosphere along with the rest of the story hit me like a hammer, with me, the teenager that I was, sucking up his version as my version and as my version, the real version. Ten years later, thanks to Uncle Sam and his friendly Selective Service, found me in Rangoon, Saigon, and Chiang Mai, as well as other such places, even meeting Warlords. Those ten years after high school, especially in and where I traveled, having gone from a teenager to an almost mid-twenties GI, my vision not only didn't wane, but was bolstered and grew. Notice the tommy guns, stabbings, hand grenades and exotic women. So too in the second panel, i.e., lower left hand corner, the two crashed P-40 Flying Tigers.
WANDERLING AND THE PIRATES
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CONGO BILL JOINS THE FLYING TIGERS
TERRY AND THE PIRATES
$795 JEEPS. LEGITIMATE AD, ACTUAL PLACE TO SEE PRODUCT
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Even before I reached ten years of age my Stepmother, much to my dad's chagrin, bought a ranch in the Mojave Desert. The ranch, actually the first of two, was located in the high desert of the Mojave, encompassing a whole section of land in size, that is, one square mile, with ten acres set aside in one corner for the ranch house, barn, and horse corrals. No sooner had my stepmother bought the ranch than my brothers and I, basically all city born and raised, moved in, doing all kinds of ranch stuff like ride horses, mend fences like ranch owners were always doing in TV and movies, and shovel horse manure like has to be done in real life.
Nearly as quick as we moved onto the ranch than my dad, who along with my stepmother remained living in the city, started to look around for tractors and all kinds of farming and ranch equipment, causing the local dealers to drool at the mouth over the prospect of a new rube. What they didn't know was that my dad was a long way from being a rube. He was an old time desert hand, knowing what was in it and how to handle it, having in his youth, lived and prospected for gold all over the eastern side of the High Sierras as well as the California, Nevada, and Arizona deserts.
Instead of any traditional farm or ranch equipment to speak of, and as pretty and beautiful and shiny the bright green and yellow John Deere tractors and combines looked on the showroom floor, my dad decided on other things. A hand-operated concrete block making machine and a four wheel drive World War II jeep. My dad went crazy making concrete blocks, he made so many until he tired of it we even had a concrete block outhouse somewhere out on the property. In the meantime, even though none of us kids were old enough to drive the jeep legitimately on any of the paved roads around or near the ranch, on the dirt roads and the scrub brush desert lands surrounding the ranch, as well as on the ranch itself, we drove it constantly all the time all over the place. We also did other really neat important things too like shoot guns and hop freight trains, especially the huge 4-8-8-2 cab forwards that stopped for water at a tower along the tracks near the ranch.
RIDING THE CAB FORWARDS
As I've stated elsewhere my dad actually bought the Jeep after answering an ad similar to the one you clicked through from. I don't recall anything specifically about the logistics of how or what my dad had to do to get the jeep, how long it took, how much paperwork he had to shuffle, or how the jeep was prepared so we could drive it home, only that it was and we did --- drive it home, that is.
One of the things I remember for sure is that during the heat of the summer my dad didn't want to drive down California's central valley on Highway 99 or cross over the Sierras to use the 395, although once to either highway it would have been the most direct to the ranch. Instead he chose to drive down the California coastline on Highway 1 --- and what a trip it was no matter what highway we would have used. A jeep, no top, my dad and three kids, no real back seats and all before seat belt days. At first the jeep wouldn't go over 45 miles an hour. When we stopped for gas for the first time and with my dad complaining, the attendant, who had been in the Army and knew about jeeps said it was because of a "governor," a device or some such thing the Army put on vehicles to ensure they weren't driven too fast. The attendant took a screwdriver, fiddled with a few things, and the next thing we knew the jeep could do over 60! A couple of days later after camping along the way we were back at the ranch.
As far a shooting guns was concerned, although I don't really know why, there were guns all over the place. Some on the wall and above the doors such as a lever action 30-30 Winchester, a shotgun or two, a couple of .22 rifles, and a very rare antique 1847 black powder percussion revolver called a Colt Walker which was usually kept in a case. Every once in a while I would take the 4.5 pound Colt out of the case and run around playing cowboys with it, sometimes even mixing genres by wielding the colt in one hand and a Buck Rogers Disintegrator in the other. In that the Colt was a black powder revolver and since nobody knew how to load it and everybody was afraid to, it was never loaded. In my later teenage years the Colt was sent to a gunsmith for some reason or the other and while there the gunsmith let me fire three rounds through it.
Living on the ranch in the high desert of the Mojave in those days were heady times. With the war finally over almost everything was doing nothing but going upward. All kinds of things were happening, especially in the aircraft and automotive fields and happening in the desert besides. The ranch was located not far from Muroc Dry Lake the same place Edwards Air Force Base was located. So too, the ranch wasn't far from Mirage Dry Lake either. On the ground at Mirage were nothing but numberless hot rods and belly tank lakesters. My uncle would take us out there to watch some of the hopped-up Ford flatheads hitting 150 mph. In the air, flying right over the ranch, were B-36s and flying wings. Higher up they were testing the Bell X-1 and breaking the sound barrier.
For us, we went from a bunch of kids tooling around the ranch to chasing locomotives out across the raw desert land at 90 miles per hour all the while watching B-36s and flying wings and hearing and sometimes feeling the sonic booms from the X-1.
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HOSTESSES, SOUND BARRIERS AND BIG BA-BOOMS
"Prior to heading back to North American to brief the engineers, George telephoned Millie Palmer. Excitedly, Millie related that a terribly loud ba-boom had nearly blown her out of bed. The time was noted and it corresponded to George's dive."
In the late 1940s, and especially so following the end of the war, the U.S. Army Air Force, with no real competition other than themselves, began putting a tremendous amount of extra time, money, and effort into breaking the sound barrier. To accomplish that end they focused all of their time and expenditure on one single pilot, Chuck Yeager, and one single aircraft, the Bell X-1, a rocket-powered supersonic research airplane built by the Bell Aircraft Corporation. At the same time, although the Bell X-1 was a noble craft as was the attempt to break the barrier, there were those who felt that planes that were actually more akin to the fighters being developed, i.e., jets, was where the strength of the efforts should placed. Dropping a plane that couldn't take off on it's own from the belly of a high altitude B-29 and carrying only enough fuel for a three minute flight didn't quite fit the picture for some. Thus entered North American Aviation's jet-powered XP-86, a prototype of the F-86 Sabre and their pilot George S. Welch. Although not officially sanctioned by the powers that be like the Bell X-1, for North American and Welch it didn't matter.
By the time Welch was a test pilot attempting to break the sound barrier he had become a civilian. In the spring of 1944 while still in the service, North American Aviation approached him to be a company test pilot. Welch, a three-times over fighter pilot ace, increasingly concerned with the lingering effects from the malaria he contacted in the South Pacific during the war and how it might adversely impact upward mobility in the military, especially as a pilot, plus with potential peacetime on the horizon, he resigned his commission in the U.S. Army Air Forces and accepted the job.
As a civilian Welch wasn't able to avail himself of the officer's quarters on the base. Instead he stayed at Pancho Barnes' Fly Inn. The Fly Inn, built and owned by Barnes, eventually came to known throughout the latter part of World War II and for several years afterwards as the Happy Bottom Riding Club, a dude ranch built near Muroc Dry Lake right on the edge of Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of the Mojave.
Her place featured a motel with quite a number of rooms and several suites, an abundance of riding horses and thoroughbreds, a restaurant that served up fabulous western-style meals and breakfasts to die for, three landing strips, a dance hall, gambling den, an ever present bevy of hostesses, and a world-famous bar which catered to military personnel from the nearby air base along with all of her Hollywood friends. The ranch became famous for it's all night parties and high-flying lifestyle of her guests.
Welch and the North American team knew that the official National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) equipment was being used to officially track Yeager and the X-1 and them only. There wasn't a chance of getting use of the equipment before Yeager and their crew did their thing and held the official record. Welch was on his own.
Welch had become quite close to, some say even excessively over enamored with, one of Pancho's hostesses who went by the name of Millie Palmer, taking her into his confidence. He told her that on a certain day at a certain time he was going to break the sound barrier and wanted her to go outside and listen for the sound, documenting where she was, what she saw, heard, felt and time, telling her not to mention a word to anybody. Sure enough, just as Welch said would happen and what time it would happen, did. Re the following:
"Prior to heading back to North American to brief the engineers, George telephoned Millie Palmer. Excitedly, Millie related that a terribly loud ba-boom had nearly blown her out of bed. The time was noted and it corresponded to George's dive. 'Pancho,' Millie related, 'is really pissed. You know how she feels about Yeager.' Apparently, Pancho claimed the boom was a result of mining operations going on 30 miles away to the north. Of course, no one had previously heard any mining explosions, nor could that account for rattling windows only on the east facing side of the Fly Inn. Welch chuckled and swore Millie to secrecy."
The following is how Al Blackburn, a test pilot himself, writes about the same scenario in his book ACES HIGH: The Race For Mach 1 (1999). Although a test pilot with North American Aviation like Welch, he wasn't there during the attempts to break the sound barrier not joining the company until 1954, around the same time Welch died. Blackburn writes:
"Such was the aphrodisiacal lore told with a shrug at Pancho's and Patmars' and other watering holes from Hollywood to the beach communities of Los Angeles. So it was with George Welch, frequently constrained to overnight in the the desert to meet an early-morning flight schedule, whiled away the evening at Pancho's. Not given to garrulity, more often than not he sought out the solo company of Millie Palmer, one of the lovelier specimens who found temporary refuge at the Happy Bottom Riding Club. It was Millie that George confided on an early autumn evening that she should be listening for his historic boom, and returned for for a subsequent tete-a-tete to learn that she had indeed been nearly blasted out of her bed by the ba-boom of the sonic shock wave emanating from his supersonic Sabrejet."
As for running off to engage in tete-a-tete's with more lovelier specimens after just breaking the sound barrier for the first time, a few paragraphs later, as found at the same source as the first quote above as sourced for both below, the following shows up:
"(As soon as Welch landed) he was informed that his wife Jan had gone into labor with their first child. Welch flew the company plane up to Los Angeles, but arrived after his son had been born. That evening, Jan phoned her family to announce the birth of Giles, and of course, tell them about George breaking the sound barrier. Years later, Jan's brother Jimmy would recall that he could not determine if Jan was more excited about her new baby, or her husband's supersonic adventure."(source)
Seven years after his attempt to break the sound barrier, on Columbus Day, October 12, 1954, Welch's F-100A-1-NA Super Sabre disintegrated during a 7g pullout at Mach 1.55 over Muroc Dry Lake. He was still in the ejection seat when found. Critically injured, he was evacuated by helicopter to the Air Base hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Welch left a wife and two children. Millie Palmer would be well into her 90's if still alive. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
TAKING OUT THE FIRST MEATBALL
KENNETH TAYLOR, GEORGE WELCH, PEARL HARBOR, AND THE P-40