I feel as though the July 4 break finally appeared this weekend. Don’t let my postings from Wednesday fool you. Having the holiday in the middle of the week with no down time from work on the front or back end was a real bummer for me. Not that I needed the next morning to sleep in or anything of that sort but having the additional time with the family would have been nice.
Yesterday we took Saturday off to have that extra day with a trip to Scott Air Force Base to see their annual air show. This year’s show held special value as the Air Force is celebrating its 60th Anniversary and selected St. Louis as one of its big markets to celebrate. The Air Show was a culmination of Air Force activity in the city this past week.
I have to say it was a little emotional for me. For one I love air shows and have missed going since I was a kid. Secondly, the B-25 Mitchell (or modified Navy version known as the “PBJ”) reminded me of my Grandfather who was a sailor in the South Pacific in WWII. If that weren’t enough, the Air Force Heritage flight was not only inspiring but humbling when thinking of all the men and women who have and are serving to protect our values and way of life.
The B-25 flight was special to see and the narrator did a good job of taking the spectators back to another place in time. He told his story about Jimmy Doolittle and the raid on Tokyo over Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman tunes. The raid over Tokyo only lasted for thirty seconds but on the heels of Pearl Harbor it was a psychological blow to the Japanese who thought the boundaries of nature protected them.
Many of the Raiders didn’t make it home. Because the raid had been discovered by a Japanese trawler the planes had to lift off from the Hornet early. Those who made it to the China coast were picked up or killed by the Japanese. Few actually made it to free China before ultimately making it back home to continue the fight. As the old plane rumbled through the sky I could not help but think of those men and all those who fought in that era.
There’s tons of books on the Doolittle Raid. One that I’ve read and would recommend is by Craig Nelson entitled The First Heroes. Talk about having brute leadership and courage, this is a pretty good read.
The heritage flight had a similar effect. An F-15 Eagle was joined by an F-16 Falcon and P-51 Mustang after its demonstration. The three planes were in perfect formation for several fly-bys before separating and buzzing the airfield with high speed passes individually.
The P-51 as you may know is given a lot of credit for helping us win the war in Europe in WWII. Prior to its introduction, American and Allied bombers were virtually unprotected over German controlled airspace. Not to take credit away from many of the other great fighters of the European Theatre and the men who flew them but when the P-51 appeared on the scene it provided fighter cover for the bombers over a much greater area – a significantly greater area. In addition it outperformed its adversaries so drastically that the enemy turned tail and ran. Once the P-51 moved into a search and destroy mission, it was pretty much over for the German air forces. Winning control over the skies cleared the way for Europe’s liberation starting June 6, 1944.
I haven’t read a book solely on the P-51 or its adventures from WWII yet but can recommend a book called Masters of the Air by Donald Miller. The book is about the 8th Air Force in Europe. When you take into account that the 8th Air Force lost more men than the US Marines in WWII, this book bears more context in the story behind the war as a whole.
The old planes fly in stark contrast to the planes of today. The modern planes got all the attention at the air show because of their speed and noise. The F-15 and F-16 are so fast they only are allowed to go a third of their speed over the show line because of the sound barrier. Still at 600+ mph you see them well before you hear them. God forbid you’re having a conversation. Its hard taking pictures of these aircraft because still photos don’t do the planes justice – they can’t show the speed. But they slowed down enough for some photo opps.
(Note: I did post more photos on Flickr.)
After the show we made it to the farmer’s market in Soulard. This is supposed to be the place for fresh produce. We only had an hour to explore and we quickly discovered that we need to arrive earlier in the day because most of the vendors were packing up or were already packed up. Still we managed to buy enough to plan our menus for the next couple of days.
I’m particularly excited about the okra and crowder peas because it’s hard to find these items in abundance and fresh in the market. I roasted six ears of fresh bi-color corn last night. We ate some with dinner and will use the rest in salads this week. The tomatoes have to be about the best tomatoes I’ve eaten in years. As matter of fact that was one of our hang-ups about living where we lived in Virginia. It didn’t seem like we could find a good tomato no matter how hard we searched. I bought a watermelon too but I’m concerned that it may be a little overripe as although it was the most firm of any melon I found, there was no popping inside when I ran it through the “Poo Test” – a little trick my grandfather taught me.
We ended the day with a meal fit for a family who baked in 91 degree heat and sun all afternoon, and walked a couple of miles to and from the car:
– A couple of Angus ribeyes
– Roasted corn (on the grill)
– Roasted potatoes
– Spinach and tomato salad
– Grilled zucchini
Another big Happy 4th of July goes out to all. I hope you’re still working a little holiday into your weekend!