Years ago as a young man in my mid-twenties or so I began participating in meditation sessions at the Mahasi Meditation Center in Rangoon, Burma. Because of a series of mitigating circumstances beyond my control as found in the Doing Hard Time In A Zen Monastery and unrelated to the meditation center itself, I was only a short ways into the sessions when situations turned such I unable to reach completion of hardly any, let alone all of the full 12 week regimen as offered by the center.
Forty some years later, right after having volunteered with the American Red Cross and being deployed for weeks-and-weeks-and-weeks working four hurricanes (Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike), because of an innate longing for a distinct separation immersed in total quietude mixed in with a certain longing for a long lost Terry and the Pirates milieu of the Asian atmosphere --- without concern by or for others within my support system --- I returned to the Mahasi Meditation Center making it a point, starting from the very beginning, to re-participate in and completing all of the meditation sessions, of which I did.
A few days before I was done with the full 12 weeks, and for all practical purposes, on a countdown in hours to depart, one of the monks, in a highly unusual set of circumstances, came to me and said an American woman had arrived at the office requesting to see me. In that only a very small cadre of people actually knew where I was and what I was doing, thinking someone seeking me must have some importance behind it, I agreed to go back with the monk. When I got to the administrative area the woman was gone, leaving only a $100 dollar poker chip from the Desert Inn casino in Las Vegas to be given to me.
When my time was over and I was unceremonious walking out the main gate, carrying what few belongings I had and dressed in the civilian clothes I arrived in, a man, looking all the same as being Burmese and most likely a local, who had been sitting in a parked car across the way in the shade, got out and began walking toward me. Speaking English the man said he had been asked by an American woman to watch for me, hand me an envelope, then, if I was willing, take me to the hotel where she was staying. The woman, a long time friend of mine, was TV and film actress Phyllis Davis, and I knew it would be because probably next to the last time I saw her she gave me an exact duplicate to the $100 dollar chip I had now in Rangoon, telling me then to go gamble and have a good time. I never used the chip, actually sending it back to her in 2002 when her co-star of the TV series Vega$ Robert Urich died. The poker chip Davis left me at the Meditation Center led to she and going directly to Chiang Mai and the jungles of Thailand.
After Phyllis Davis and I arrived in Thailand, which is fully documented in the above Phyllis Davis link, we went straight about our business ensuring she would end up in a safe situation where she could easily become a frequenter of lonely places. When I departed Thailand that is exactly what her situation was, she staying alone in a remote meditation hut surrounded by the natural sounds and silence of the jungle and a few distant supporters. However, for me, a couple of days prior to my overall departure from Thailand and with Phyllis and I no longer traveling together, I sought out a much more mundane and possibly less spiritual to her pastime: visiting the Tango Squadron Museum at the Air Force Base, Wing 41, situated on the opposite side of the entrance to the Chiang Mai Airport.
THE TANGO SQUADRON MUSEUM IS LOCATED IN THE LOWER LEFT CORNER GROUP OF BUILDINGS
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Why is it I would seek out such a mundane pastime, especially so in an obscure, stuck in the backwash-of-an-airport museum? In this particular case, in that prior to being in Chiang Mai with Davis it had been a very long time since I had been there, plus now traveling alone and not sure if or when I would be returning, I wanted to make sure I saw the remains of a crashed P-40 Flying Tiger that was pulled out of the nearby jungles the museum had on exhibit. It just so happens, that particular P-40, a P-40B Tomahawk with the manufacture number 15452 and tail number P-8115 carrying the fuselage number '69', was being flown at the time it was shot down by an A.V.G. pilot named William McGarry (1916-1990), and of which I met since having been in Chiang Mai last, hence then, a much deeper personal interest. The following few paragraphs, from McGarry's obituary published in the Los Angeles Times dated April 13, 1990, sums it up best:
"On March 24, 1942, flying over Thailand, McGarry's Tomahawk was hit by Japanese machine-gun fire and he bailed out, parachuting into a clearing. It was late October before his family in Los Angeles learned that he was alive and imprisoned by the Japanese in Bangkok. His family said the Chinese government had continued to pay his salary and had deposited $6,000 for the 12 Japanese planes McGarry shot down before his capture.
"McGarry was held for nearly three years, his brother said, before escaping with the help of the Thai (then Siamese) government and the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency.
"He was smuggled out of Bangkok in a coffin by Thais who claimed that he had died in captivity, said a friend from flight-training days, Hector Gonzalez. The escape was the subject of a major article in Collier's magazine."
WILLIAM McGARRY'S FLYING TIGER, A P-40B TOMAHAWK, MANUFACTURE NUMBER
15452, WITH THE TAIL NUMBER P-8115 AND CARRYING THE FUSELAGE NUMBER '69'
As for my meeting with McGarry, the two of us met during a sand storm one day at a gas station while holing up inside a quickie mart in Coachella Valley sometime in the early 1980s. I was returning from a trip exploring around the Anza-Borrego Desert near Agua Caliente Springs in California. I had become privy to what I thought was some possibly relevant information regarding a round wooden shield-like object that had been found in the desert near the thought to be location of the so-called Lost Viking Ship, that at the time I felt was information well worth pursuing. Although the information turned out to be a false lead and quite bogus, the fact that I went to the Anza-Borrego in the first place ended up being quite a little goldmine for me personally in that I happened across McGarry. Except for the sandstorm what could be better, lost Viking ships in the desert and P-40s.
The two of us arranged to meet and did so the next day starting early in the afternoon, talking way into the evening and night at the La Quinta Resort located sort of half way between the Anza-Borrego Desert and where he lived. It was there he regaled me with much of his Flying Tigers adventures, more or less as found in the previous paragraphs from the Times obituary.
For whatever reason, and I still have no clue as to why even to this day other than perhaps an ingrained love of the Flying Tigers I carried with me from childhood, and that McGarry must have sensed in some fashion, he told me that earlier that day he had contacted a fellow A.V.G. pilot named Jim Cross (James D. Cross) who lived only a few minutes away in Palm Desert asking him to join us, and of which he did, adding a third Flying Tiger pilot to my "have met" roster.
Interestingly enough, Jim Cross was one of several Flying Tiger pilots that escorted seventeen Russian made SB-2s flown by Chinese pilots during the first official bombing run against Hanoi involving the A.V.G. Of that attack Cross is quoted as saying "it was a completely screwed up mission," and of which he went on to say, instead of hitting their targets, the Chinese pilots simply jettisoned their bombs and turned back. The Flying Tiger bombing mission against Hanoi that was successful however, was an off the books night raid implemented by a bunch of off the reservation pilots in what has come to be called, after the name of the plane, Fujiyama Foo-Foo. See:
THE FLYING TIGERS BOMB HANOI: 1942
As for McGarry, almost the very second I learned he was a pilot for the Flying Tigers I remembered him right away. When I was a kid one of my favorite books on the American Volunteer Group, or the A.V.G. as the Tigers were known, was written by a woman by the name of Olga Greenlaw, the wife of Harvey Greenlaw, the second in command of the A.V.G. The title of the book, published in 1943, was The Lady and the Tigers. It wasn't long after the war when I read the book for the first time. McGarry was known as Black Mac during the days he flew with the Flying Tigers. Greenlaw wrote in her book something I, as a not yet 10 year old never forgot, and as it turned out it was directly related to McGarry, or Black Mac as she calls him. The following, speaking of Black Mac, is found in The Lady and the Tigers, pages 308-309:
"I wonder what happened to him --- probably a prisoner. But the Chinese scouts found a body in the same location or thereabouts where Black Mac bailed out when Jack Newkirk got killed --- in March.
"The body was unrecognizable, as there was nothing left, the ants had eaten all the flesh, but the uniform the bones were covered with was an A.V.G. flying suit with the insignia still on it."
Prior to Greenlaw's book being published, although it was quite clear Jack Newkirk, also mentioned, was killed, word came through as to McGarry's fate. At the bottom of page 308 the following was inserted: "Since this was written, it has been officially announced that W.D. McGarry is a prisoner of the Japanese." However, you might imagine what I, as a young boy thought of when I first read about the jungle ants gnawing the flesh completely clean right off the pilot's skeleton leaving nothing but bare bones laying inside the flight suit, all the internal organs gone. Some image.
So said, when I was in high school, except possibly for a little extra effort on my part in both art and journalism, I probably wasn't the best student Redondo Union High School ever had. However, I still remember in one of my English classes, although I don't remember which grade, we were assigned to read Carl Stephenson's short story "Leiningen Versus the Ants." The story revolves around an owner of a plantation of some kind out in the middle of the Brazilian jungle who had to do battle with a mile wide hoard of army ants devouring everything in their path, with the hoard headed straight toward his plantation. After reading the story we were to write then give an oral report. I combined what I read in Leiningen with Greenlaw's description of the downed A.V.G. pilot and for the first time ever --- and most likely my last for a high school English assignment --- I got an A.
REMAINS OF McGARRY'S SMASHED P-40 FLYING TIGER AFTER 50 YEARS IN A THAILAND JUNGLE
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In the lower left hand corner of the airport photo, as part of the museum collection, you can just catch a glimpse of a C-47 parked by itself outside in front of the hangers along the tarmac. The photo on the right is close-up of that same C-47 parked at the same location.
PHYLLIS DAVIS CIRCA 1980
P-40: THE OBSOLETE WAR HERO
GHOST AND HAUNTED B-29
P-40 GOOSE SHOOT
PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR
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.
COLONEL HARVEY GREENLAW:
A few years after graduating from high school but before being drafted, a buddy and I went on road trip throughout Mexico. We bought a 1951 Chevy panel truck we fixed up like a camper and drove down the Baja peninsula crossing by ferry to the mainland from Santa Rosalia, eventually going as far as the Yucatan before turning back toward the states. During the trip, which is fully outlined at the link cited after the quote below, I sought out Colonel Greenlaw who was living in Baja Mexico at the time. Even though where he lived was a rather remote area, it was fairly convenient because our route took us almost right past his place. A little detour and we were there. To wit:
"After leaving Ensenada we continued south on some pretty crummy roads eventually turning eastward across the peninsula to the little town of Santa Rosalia, taking a ferry across the Sea of Cortez to Guaymas. On the road south just before it turns more eastward across the peninsula to Santa Rosalia we turned on Highway 18 not far from Guerrero Negro as I wanted to catch up with a man I hoped to meet who was said to live at a place called El Arco. The man was Colonel Harvey Greenlaw, the onetime second in command of the infamous Flying Tigers of World War II fame. I had read his wife's book Lady and the Tigers (1943) and heard somewhere along the way that Greenlaw lived there. Since I was close by and most likely would never be back I made it a point to look him up, spending a couple of days."
THE MAYAN SHAMAN AND CHICXULUB
When I was eight or nine years old I went on an almost all summer long excursion throughout the desert southwest visiting a variety of major and minor historical sites as well as fossil and archaeological sites all across Arizona and New Mexico with my uncle. One of the places we visited after we got to New Mexico was Fort Sumner, stopping there specifically for me to see the gravesite of the infamous western outlaw and bad guy Billy the Kid.
Because of a few highly memorable adventures and people I met during that excursion I created a couple of web pages devoted to it. One of the pages revolves around a post high school teenager I met named Tommy Tyree. Tyree worked on a ranch for a man whose brother, in 1908, shot and killed Sheriff Pat Garrett, the man who had in turn shot Billy Kid in 1881. Because of such Tyree was a minor historian of Billy the Kid. However, his major claim to fame was his stature as a witness to the events surrounding the alleged crash of an object of an unknown nature that came out of the night sky during the summer of 1947 related to what has come to be known as the Roswell UFO. The other page, because of my visit to Billy the Kid's gravesite, I have dedicated it to Billy the Kid. On that page I use a graphic of a fairly famous oil painting done in 1937 of the Kid by a fellow desert southwest artist and friend of my uncle named John W. Hilton, of whom, through my uncle, as a kid I both met and as well, saw the original painting.
BILLY THE KID BY JOHN W. HILTON, 1937
In an article on the net about Col. Harvey Greenlaw said to have appeared in Cabo Life Magazine, reportedly states that the same artist, John W. Hilton, painted a mural on Greenwall's wall a year or two before I visited him --- during the same period Hilton was gathering material for a book he was writing titled "Hardly Any Fences," a book that dealt with his various travels in Baja California from 1933 to 1959. In a chapter or section of that book, published in 1977, titled "South to El Arco," in his own hand, Hilton presents a slightly different version of any attempt at what could possibly be misconstrued as him having painted a full wall mural:
"I took a liking to Harvey Greenlaw at once. His house had a dirt floor but there were murals on all of the walls painted and drawn by artists and would-be artists who had stopped by to visit him. I added some cereus and cactus plants on each side of a painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This gave her a local touch, we thought."
Two years following my road trip with my buddy to visit El Arco and meet Greenlaw I was working as crew on the marlin boat come yacht of the multi-millionaire heir to the Halliburton oil fortune, David J. Halliburton Sr. On the way back from Cabo San Lucas I talked the skipper into pulling into Scammon's Lagoon not far from Guerrero Negro for a quick dirt bike trip over to Greenlaw's place in El Arco. However, except for a housekeeper who didn't know where he was and didn't know when he would be back, the place was empty, my trip to see him too no avail.
Greenlaw, who was born November 14, 1897 in Wisconsin, died January 10, 1982 in Baja California, Mexico after residing in Baja for almost all of his post Flying Tigers life. See:
COL. HARVEY GREENLAW
NOTE: The opening quote at the top of this footnote shows up as well as a footnote in Of Cobras, Scarabs, Maseratis, and Zen except I make reference to some of the conversation between Greenlaw and myself.(see)
SCENE FROM THE ORIGINAL TERRY AND THE PIRATES AS DRAWN BY MILTON CANIFF DATED JANUARY 27, 1935.
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.
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CONGO BILL JOINS THE FLYING TIGERS
The few paragraphs below refer to the Viking shield mentioned previously above. Although not Tango Squadron or P-40 related, it did in fact, because of my interest, put me into a position to meet William McGarry. Interestingly enough, even though the events surrounding the shield did not happen in an exotic far east Terry and the Pirates type milieu or setting that I am always harping on how much I love, you would have never known it as I got not only kidnapped but also shot at by a group of what I call "grave robbers," and barely, except for the sandstorm, escape with my life.
What follows is from Footnote  of the VIKINGS OF THE DESERT SOUTHWEST linked below. The one line quote basically lays the groundwork before moving on regarding my experience of having been caught up in some aspects of there being, no matter how remote, an ancient Viking shield found in the Desert Southwest:
"If any shields could have survived intact in the open desert environment still to be found is questionable, but not totally beyond the realm of possibility."
In many areas of the desert southwest cut wood as well as naturally fallen wood can and does last, even in an unattended state, hundreds if not thousands of years remaining in a basically unchanged or unaltered state. For example, not the oldest by far, but the largest cliff dwelling in North America, Cliff Palace, located in Mesa Verde National Park and said to be built by the ancient ancestors of the present day Puebloans, using tree-ring dating on in-place wood used in it's construction, indicates that construction and refurbishing was continuous approximately from 1190 AD through 1260 AD --- the wood still doing its job in most places nearly as well as the day it was installed. A handmade wooden shield being pushed across a series of rocks and boulders of a steep downhill desert canyon dry-wash from a continuous onslaught of summer monsoon rains over the centuries is of course, another thing.
Although I say in the main text above that the information regarding the shield "turned out to be a false lead and quite bogus," it isn't totally accurate. I just didn't want to get into an undo lengthy explanation about Viking shields in the desert to people who's main interest in in Flying Tigers, P-40s, wrecked or otherwise and what the Tango Squadron Museum offers.
As far as a Viking shield was concerned I was acting as an intermediary for another person, a long time friend of mine who is a buyer of artifacts. For him I was led by a another person to meet with two more-or-less rather scary "grave robber types" in a rather desolated part of Anza-Borrego Desert up in one of the canyons near Agua Caliente Springs, a situation as it unfolded I became somewhat uncomfortable with. I saw a shield alright then taken to the location it was said to have been found, and while the shield itself seemed genuine, something about the location seemed bogus. So too, there was a solid feeling in my gut telling me there was something just not quite right with the two men and the man who led me to them.
The same gut feeling that made me feel the way I did about the men, also gave me a feeling that what I was holding was a genuine Viking shield. It was just that I couldn't get over it may have been stolen and that in the process of that stealing someone may have been hurt, possibly killed.
I may have been reading way too much into the situation, but wanting to get the hell out of there and get away from the men, I told them in that I was just acting as an intermediary I would report back with my assessment. They wanted me to write my assessment, one of the men would deliver it, get any money that had been arranged previously, bring it back, then give me the shield to deliver to the buyer.
When I hedged on the idea they started to get rough demanding I write my assessment. As I was, a sand storm began brewing, so the four of us took refuge in one of the vehicles, heading back down toward the main road. When the driver lost a clear view of the road on a turn because of diminishing visibility the van ran over a berm crashing down into a deep gully. With a couple of the men seemingly hurt or at least stunned the instant I got the chance I bolted out of the van taking the shield with me. When one of them started shooting, and after trying to use the shield as a shield and falling a few times I simply dropped it and disappeared into the sandstorm and rocks. What happened to the men and the shield is a good question. As far as I know the sandstorm and the desert simply swallowed them and the shield up.
Not unlike the jungles in Thailand and those found elsewhere, the desert has a way of doing that you know.
VIKINGS OF THE DESERT SOUTHWEST