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Tale of WW2 Pilot-Bruce Carr
Read about the pilot who went on a mission in a P-51 and drove home in a FW-190.
Toss the chicken:
After carrying it for several days, 20-year-old Bruce Carr still hadn't decided how to cook it without the Germans catching him.  But, as hungry as  he was, he couldn't   bring himself to eat it.  In his mind, no meat was  better than raw meat, so he threw it away. Resigning himself to what  appeared to be his unavoidable fate, he turned in the direction of the  nearest German airfield.  Even POW's get to eat.  Sometimes. And they aren't  constantly dodging from tree to tree, ditch to culvert. And he was  exhausted.
He was tired of trying to find cover where there was none.  Carr hadn't realized that Czechoslovakian forests had no underbrush until, at the edge  of the farm field, struggling out of his parachute he dragged it into the  woods.  During the times he top level in his P-51 "Angels Playmate" the  forests and fields had been nothing more than a green blur behind the  Messerchmitts, Focke-Wulfs, trains and trucks he had in his sights.  He  never expected to find himself a pedestrian far behind enemy lines. The  instant antiaircraft shrapnel ripped into the engine, he knew he was in  trouble. Serious trouble.
Clouds of coolant steam hissing through jagged holes in the cowling told  Carr he was about to ride the silk elevator down to a long walk back to his  squadron.  A very long walk. This had not been part of the mission plan. Several years before, when 18-year-old Bruce Carr enlisted in the Army, in  no way could he have imagined himself taking a walking tour of rural Czechoslovakia with Germans everywhere around him. When he enlisted, all he  had just focused on flying airplanes fighter airplanes. By the time he had  joined the military, Carr already knew how to fly. He had been flying as a  private pilot since 1939, soloing in a $25 Piper Cub his father had bought  from a disgusted pilot who had left it lodged securely in the top of a tree. His instructor had been an Auburn, NY, native by the name of Johnny Bruns. "  In 1942, after I enlisted, " as Bruce Carr remembers it, "we went to meet  our instructors. I  was the last cadet left in the assignment room and was  nervous.  Then the door opened and out stepped the man who was to be my  military flight instructor. It was Johnny Bruns !
We took a Stearman to an outlying field, doing aerobatics all the way; then  he got out and soloed me.  That was my first flight in the military."
" The guy I had in advanced training in the AT-6 had just graduated himself  and didn't know a bit more than I did," Carr can't help but smile, as he  remembers .. which meant neither one of us knew anything. Zilch ! After  three or four hours in the AT-6, they took me and a few others  aside, told  us we were going to fly P-40s and we left for Tipton, Georgia."
" We got to Tipton, and a lieutenant just back from North Africa kneeled on  the P-40's wing, showed me where all the levers were, made sure I knew how  everything worked, then said ' If you can get it started go fly it' . just  like that ! I was 19 years old and thought I knew every thing.  I didn't  know enough to be scared. They didn't tell us what to do.  They just said  'Go fly,' so I buzzed every cow in that part of the state. Nineteen years  old .. and with 1100 horsepower, what did they expect ?  Then we went overseas."
By today's standards, Carr and that first contingent of pilots shipped to  England were painfully short of experience.  They had so little flight time  that today, they would barely have their civilian pilot's license. Flight  training eventually became  more formal, but in those early days, their  training had a hint of fatalistic Darwinism to it: if they learned fast  enough to survive, they were ready to move on to the next step. Including  his 40 hours in the P-40 terrorizing Georgia, Carr had less than 60 hours total flight time when he arrived in England.
His group in England was to be the pioneering group that would take the Mustang into combat, and he clearly remembers his introduction to the airplane. " I thought I was an old P-40 pilot and the P-51B would be no big  deal.  But I was wrong!  I was truly impressed with the airplane. REALLY  impressed!  It flew like an airplane.  I FLEW a P-40, but in the P-51 - I  WAS PART OF the airplane.. and it was part of me. There was a world of  difference. When he first arrived in England, the instructions were, ' This  is a P-51. go fly it. Soon, we'll have to form a unit, so fly.' A lot of  English cows were buzzed. On my first long-range mission, we just kept  climbing, and I'd never had an airplane above about 10,000 feet feet and I  couldn't believe it!  I'd gone to church as a kid, and I knew that's where  the angels were and that's when I named my airplane 'Angels Playmate.' Then  a bunch of Germans roared down through us, and my leader immediately dropped  tanks and turned hard for home.  But I'm not that smart.  I'm 19 years old  and this SOB shoots at me, and I'm not going to let him get away with it. We  went round and round, and I'm really mad because he shot at me. Childish emotions, in retrospect.  He couldn't shake me but I couldn't get on his tail to get any hits either. " Before long, we're right down in the trees. I'm shooting, but I'm not hitting.   I am, however, scaring the hell out of  him. I'm at least as excited as he is.  Then I tell myself to c-a-l-m  d-o-w-n."
" We're roaring around within a few feet of the ground, and he pulls up to  get it down.  The gun barrels burned out  and one bullet . . a tracer came  tumbling out . . and made a great huge arc.  It came down and hit him on the  left wing about where the aileron was. He pulled up, off came the canopy, and he jumped out, but too low for the chute to open and the airplane crashed.  I didn't shoot him down, I scared him to death with one bullet hole in his left wing. My first victory wasn't a kill - it was more of a suicide."
The rest of Carr's 14 victories were much more conclusive. Being red-hot  fighter pilot, however, was absolutely no use to him as he lay shivering in  the Czechoslovakian forest.  He knew he would die if he didn't get some food  and shelter soon.
" I knew where the German field was because I'd flown over it, so I headed  in that direction to surrender. I intended to walk in the main gate, but it  was late afternoon and, for some reason . . I had second thoughts and  decided to wait in the woods until morning."
" While I was lying there, I saw a crew working on an FW 190 right at the  edge of the woods.  When they were done, I assumed, just like you assume in  America, that the thing was all finished.  The cowling's on. The engine has  been run.  The fuel truck has been there.  It's ready to go.  Maybe a dumb  assumption for a young fellow, but I assumed so. " Carr got in the airplane  and spent the night all hunkered down in the cockpit. " Before dawn, it got  light and I started studying the cockpit. I can't read German, so I couldn't  decipher dials and I couldn't find the normal switches like there were in  American airplanes.  I kept looking , and on the right side was a smooth  panel. Under this was a compartment with something I would classify as  circuit breakers. They didn't look like ours, but they weren't regular  switches either."
"I began to think that the Germans were probably no different from the Americans . . that they would turn off all the switches when finished with  the airplane.  I had no earthly idea what those circuit breakers or switches  did . . but I reversed every one of them.  If they were off, that would turn  them on.  When I did that . the gauges showed there was electricity on the  airplane."
"I'd seen this metal T-handle on the right side of the cockpit that had a  word on it   that looked enough like ' starter ' for me to think that's what  it was.  But when I pulled it . . nothing happened. Nothing." But if pulling  doesn't work . . you push.  And when I did, an inertia starter started  winding up I let go for a while, then pulled on the handle and the engine  started.
The sun had yet to make it over the far trees and the air base was just waking up, getting ready to go to war.   The FW 190 was one of many dispersed throughout the woods, and at that time of the morning, the sound  of the engine must have been heard by many Germans not far away on the main  base.  But even if they heard it, there was no reason for alarm.  The last  thing they expected was one of their fighters taxiing out with a weary  Mustang pilot at the controls. Carr, however, wanted to take no chances.
" The taxiway came out of the woods and turned right towards where I knew  the airfield was because I'd watched them land and take off while I was in  the trees. On the left side of the taxiway, there was a shallow ditch and a  space where there had been two hangars.  The slabs were there, but the  hangars were gone, and the area around them had been cleaned of all debris."

" I didn't want to go to the airfield, so I plowed down through the ditch, and when the airplane started up the other side, I shoved the throttle forward and took off right between where the two hangars had been."
At that point, Bruce Carr had no time to look around to see what effect the  sight of a Focke-Wulf ERUPTING FROM THE TREES had on the Germans. Undoubtedly, they were confused, but not unduly concerned.  After all, it  was probably just one of their maverick pilots doing something against the  rules.  They didn't know it was one of   our own maverick pilots doing  something against the rules.
Carr had problems more immediate than a bunch of confused Germans. He had  just pulled off the perfect plane-jacking; but he knew nothing about the  airplane, couldn't read the placards and had 200 miles of enemy territory to  cross.  At home, there would be hundreds of his friends and fellow warriors, all of whom were, at that moment, preparing their guns to shoot at airplanes  marked with swastikas and crosses-airplanes identical to the one Bruce Carr  was at that moment flying. But Carr wasn't thinking that far ahead. First, he had to get there. And that meant learning how to fly the German fighter.
" There were two buttons behind the throttle and three buttons behind those  two.  I wasn't sure what to push . . so I pushed one button and nothing  happened. I pushed the other and the gear started up. As soon as I felt it  coming up and I cleared the fence at the edge of the German field, then I  took it down little lower and headed for home. All I wanted to do was clear  the ground by about six inches.
And there was only one throttle position for me FULL FORWARD !! "
As I headed for home, I pushed one of the other three buttons, and the flaps  came part way down. I pushed the button next to it, and they came up again. So I knew   how to get the flaps down. But that was all I knew.
I can't make heads or tails out of any of the instruments. None. And I can't  even figure how to change the prop pitch.  But I don't sweat that, because  props are full forward when you shut down anyway, and it was running fine.
This time, it was German cows that were buzzed, although, as he streaked  across   fields and through the trees only a few feet off the ground, that  was not his intent. At something over 350 miles an hour below tree-top  level, he was trying to be a difficult target.  However, as he crossed the  lines . . he wasn't difficult enough.
" There was no doubt when I crossed the lines because every SOB and his brother who had a 50-caliber machine gun shot at me.  It was all over the  place, and I had no idea which way to go.  I didn't do much dodging because  I was just as likely to fly into bullets as around them."
When he hopped over the last row of trees and found himself crossing his own  airfield, he pulled up hard to set up for landing. His mind was on flying  the airplane. " I pitched up, pulled the throttle back and punched the  buttons I knew would put the gear and flaps down. I felt the flaps come  down, but the gear wasn't doing anything. I came around and pitched up  again, still punching the button. Nothing was happening and I was really  frustrated ."
He had been so intent on figuring out his airplane problems, he forgot he  was putting on a very tempting show for the ground personnel. " As I started  up the last time, I saw the air defense guys ripping the tarps off the quad  .50s that ringed the field. I hadn't noticed the machine guns before . . but  I was sure noticing them right then."
" I roared around in as tight a pattern as I could fly and chopped the throttle. I slid to a halt on the runway and it was a nice belly job, if I  say so myself."
His antics over the runway had drawn quite a crowd, and the airplane had  barely stopped sliding before there were MPs up on the wings trying to drag  him out of the airplane by his arms. What they didn't realize was that he  was still strapped in.
I started throwing some good Anglo-Saxon swear words at them, and they let  loose while I tried to get the seat belt undone, but my hands wouldn't work  and I couldn't  do it.  Then they started pulling on me again because they  still weren't convinced I was an American.
" I was yelling and hollering; then, suddenly, they let go. A face drops  down into the cockpit in front of mine. It was my Group Commander, George R. Bickel. " Bickel said, ' Carr, where in the hell have you been , and what  have you been doing now?'  Bruce Carr was home and entered the record books  as the only pilot known to leave on a mission flying a Mustang and return  flying a Focke-Wulf.
For several days after the ordeal, he had trouble eating and sleeping, but  when things again fell into place, he took some of the other pilots out to  show them the airplane and how it worked.  One of them pointed out a small  handle under the glare shield that he hadn't noticed before.  When he pulled  it, the landing gear unlocked and fell out. The handle was a separate, mechanical uplock.  At least, he had figured out the really important things.
Carr finished the war with 14 aerial victories after flying 172 missions, which included three bailouts because of ground fire. He stayed in the service, eventually flying 51 missions in Korea in F-86s and 286 in Vietnam, flying F-100s.  That's an amazing 509 combat missions and doesn't include  many others during Viet Nam in other aircraft types.
Bruce Carr continued to actively fly and routinely showed up at air shows in  a P-51D painted up exactly like' Angel's Playmate'. The original ' Angel's  Playmate' was put on display in a museum in Paris, France, right after the  war.
There is no such thing as an ex-fighter pilot.  They never cease being what  they once were, whether they are in the cockpit or not. There is a profile  into which almost every one of the breed fits, and it is the charter within  that profile that makes the pilot a fighter pilot-not the other way around.
And make no mistake about it, Col. Bruce Carr was definitely a fighter pilot.
by Budd Davisson

Creation date: Jul 5, 2007 5:01pm     Last modified date: Oct 8, 2017 7:04pm   Last visit date: Sep 21, 2022 3:36am
1 / 1000 comments
Oct 12, 2017  ( 1 comment )  
Kathy Carr (kathy)

Great story of a young and very brave American pilot!!

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