Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Call me Colonel

In remembrance of the Confederate Air Force

According to the certificate I found deep in the bowels of a rusty old steamer trunk, that has crossed the Pacific at least twice, I was made a Colonel in the Confederate Air Corps on July 5, 1959.
The hallowed and yellowed document was signed by the Honorable Secretary of the Corps, Thadeus P. --- (the last name was not legible after half a century in my trunk).
I immediately wanted to have the document framed to hang on my study wall.

There being nothing in my diary for July 5,1959 I had no way of finding out just how this honor came my way. I was living in Taiwan’s southern most city, Pingtung, and had a number of Chinese Air Force officers and American military advisor (MAAG) friends. It was probably a joint allied decision to make me a Colonel. (Until then I was only a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.)

After all these years without a record of a discharge from the Confederate Air Corps I felt it my duty to check in with them. That is where the Internet came in handy.

On the Brian Dunaway Archive web pages I found a thumbnail history of the outfit. In the Dunaway account (I suppose he is a CAF officer. His web site of 2004 says he is a chemical engineer and a native Texan.)

Back in 1951 Lloyd Nolen (spelled with an ‘e’ and so not the famous actor Lloyd Nolan) purchased a surplus Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. Nolen was a World War II Army Air Corps flight instructor.
Dunaway writes: “In 1957, Nolen and four friends purchased a P-51 Mustang, each sharing in the $2,500 cost of the aircraft. With the purchase of the Mustang, known as Red Nose, the group was unofficially founded.”

The history continues: “… In 1961, the CAF was chartered as a nonprofit Texas corporation in order to restore and preserve World War II-era combat aircraft. In 1965, the first museum building consisting of 26,000 square feet was completed at old Rebel Field, Mercedes, Texas. The CAF created a new Rebel Field at Harlingen, Texas, when they moved there in 1968, occupying three large buildings. The CAF fleet continued to grow and included medium and heavy bombers such as the B-29, B-25, B-17 and B-24.”

The CAF is comprised of over 11,000 members, several hundred of whom serve as pilots and flight or maintenance crew members committed to preserving World War II American aviation heritage. The CAF is responsible for operating a fleet of more than 140 airplanes known as the Ghost Squadron.
Not long after September 11, 2001, the name of the CAF was changed. It was changed to the “Confederate Commemorative Air Force.” The word “Confederate” was offensive to some and the change made it politically correct. It was a change that was not welcomed by chemical engineer Brian Dunaway.

Mr. Dunaway is not the only Confederate flyer to dislike the “Commemorative” name. Ronald Khol of “Machine Design” is one of those dissidents. “Political correctness has run amok.”
Ronald Khol writes that of the thousands of Boeing B-29 Superfortresses built during World War II only one of them remains in flyable condition. It is owned by the Confederate Air Force. He refuses to call the organization by the new name.

(This an aside I found interesting: The B-29 with its four massive engines and wingspan of 141 feet was discarded after the war. Some went to museums, and others to a Navy gunnery range as targets. Most were chopped to pieces and sold for scrap.)

After learning all this I am much more proud of my Confederate Air Corps document. I still may frame it and hang it on the front porch for all to see I refuse to be politically correct when it comes to being a Colonel in such a grand old outfit.

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