They learned to fly together and each of them flew high!
|Brothers, they signed on:
December 8th, 1941.
Their father, a veteran of WWI,
brought them to the train,
with tears in his eyes
and a heart full of pride.
Different trains propelled them:
one west to California
and then the south Pacific:
my father south and then to a small airfield.
There were no fighter planes
for them to learn to fly.
Five squads across the country
for five Stearman Biplanes;
each a different color:
red, yellow, green, blue, silver.
They all wished for any squadron
except the yellow. They were not.
Five men became the pilots
of the Yellow Squadron.
Nicknames replaced family names.
Toast, Beans, Micky Mouse.
Only two of the buddies would return home.
Brothers, now --
they learned to fly.
To dip and dive,
to roll and crest.
One kissed all the girls,
another drew cartoons,
one could make a meal
from garbage scraps,
one could hide in plain sight
(their pun; not mine),
the last was oft in trouble
hence the nickname Toast.
Brothers they learned to fly,
to have each other's back.
Missions flown out of London
out over the North Atlantic.
One shot down, one flew out of gas
leading the enemy away from base.
The third flew all his missions
only to die in a bomb burst
the day he was flying home.
The two went on; Georgie and Toast,
doing ever more than asked:
far more important than the medals they received.
Both original brothers made it home,
yet the one had changed,
was no longer the same.
The southern Pacific exacted its toll;
the price too high. No awards for seeing
far beyond the pale.
Robert Berndt (as in toast) was my father.
We never made the Georgie-Porgy connection
until the (then) president of our country sent
his personal condolences to the family of his old flying buddy.
Dad had always wondered about that old yellow plane
and yet, never talked about his flying brothers.
Years passed and my husband and I were at Pearl Harbor.
At the Air Museum, I saw an old yellow biplane. Heart
racing, I ran to it. Old logbooks told the tale of
President George Herbert Walker Bush learning to fly.
True, it was there only because a future president had flown it;
but it was my dad's plane too.