- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2007

Never too late

It took more than 60 years, but nine heroic World War II members of the U.S. Army Air Forces were honored this week in the U.S. Capitol with Distinguished Flying Crosses.

On July 15, 1944, the B-24 Liberator crew assigned to the 779th Bomb Squadron, 464th Bomber Group, 15th Air Force, took off from Pantanella, Italy, to take part in what would become the heaviest day of bombing of oil refineries in Romania.

“En route to the target, the crew encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire, severely damaging the plane and causing the loss of one engine,” Rep. C.W. Bill Young, Florida Republican, noted in a speech this week.

Despite heavy damage to the bomber, he said, the crew held its course, armed each bomb and successfully released the plane’s payload.

“[T]he crew’s plane began losing speed and altitude and lost contact with the rest of their squadron,” Mr. Young said. “Over the Adriatic Sea, radio operator [William A.] Magill was able to successfully dial in the Pantanella base homing signal while engineer [Jay T.] Fish got enough power from the remaining three engines in order for navigator [Theodore D.] Bell and pilots [James E.] Jatho and [George N.] Croft to successfully guide the crew and damaged plane to their base at Pantanella without further damage to the plane or injuries to the crew.”

The very next day, the same crew was shot down during a raid on Austria. Tech. Sgt. Magill was killed, and the others were taken prisoner for the remainder of World War II.

The three surviving crew members were honored this week: 1st Lt. Edward L. McNally of Stone Mountain, Ga.; Sgt. Fish of Englewood, Fla.; and Staff Sgt. Robert D. Speed of Mobile, Ala.

Receiving the medal posthumously were 1st Lt. Jatho, 2nd Lt. Bell, 2nd Lt. Croft, Tech. Sgt. Magill, Staff Sgt. Frank G. Celuck and Staff Sgt. Daniel P. Toomey.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley officiated over the medal ceremony. The general during the past year had reviewed the bombers’ mission after Mr. Young first revealed it to him.

When in Washington

Retired Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers is going Hollywood — or at least he is introducing actor Gary Sinise, aka “Lt. Dan,” for a special screening of “Forrest Gump” at the first Memorial Day weekend “GI Film Festival” at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

The festival will include 22 movie screenings, a kick-off party with comedian Jeff Ross (if you haven’t seen his film documentary “Patriot Act,” pick up the video), a private VIP reception with Mr. Sinise, appearances by Pat Boone and actor/director James McEachin, and given this is the nation’s capital, the customary congressional reception.

Yikes

NASA astronomers have laid down the cosmic equivalent of yellow “caution” tape around super hot stars, “marking the zones where cooler stars are in danger of having their developing planets blasted away.”

NASA reports that its Spitzer Space Telescope enabled scientists to draw the first maps of so-called planetary “danger zones” — areas “where winds and radiation from super hot stars can strip other young, cooler stars like our sun of their planet-forming materials.”

The space agency says cooler stars are safe, “as long as they lie beyond about 1.6 light-years, or nearly 10 trillion miles, of any hot stars. But cooler stars inside the zone are likely to see their potential planets boiled off into space.”

Mud-bugs anyone?

Speaking of boiling, Washington will become a bit more Southern — at least through June 20, the end of crawfish season — as the Louisiana-style Acadiana restaurant on New York Avenue Northwest today starts an every-Friday “mud-bug” boil on its outdoor patio.

Crawfish will be served with potatoes and corn on the cob. Peeling time: 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide