Monday, 16 January 2012

Two Gun Pete – a.k.a. The Lone Ranger

Farm 1Last night the temperature dropped to minus 25 Celsius – cold by any measurement!  But today it is mostly clear with beautiful blue skies reminiscent of prairie skies, but not the same kind of blue.  I have never seen, in my travels, skies, especially sunrises and sunsets, like those on the prairie – perhaps because the air is pure and the sky is so huge!  After all Alberta is called “big sky country.”

It was about this time of the year back in 1947 that I came to a sad realization.  That is, the anti-aircraft pop gun that was received for Christmas would never suffice in fighting renegades or outlaws alongside Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, Red Ryder, or even the Cisco Kid, unless they were flying airplanes – which they were not.  And I had been deprived of a Red Ryder BB gun and even a measly pop gun rifle.  Therefore I decided that I required more appropriate fire arms to protect our humble homestead and occupants from any roustabouts that might appear.

I perused the Simpsons Sears and Eaton’s catalogues very diligently searching for appropriate side arms being that I could not score a rifle.  Finally, I settled on a two gun holster set that included two silver, faux pearl handled six shooters that would allow one to frighten away any intruders by firing off paper caps – in retrospect a most annoying sound.  I pestered my mom and dad for the set and was told that it could be ordered later on (I guess that money was tight).  I kept the catalogues, or at least the appropriate pages from the catalogues, as the rest of the publications were assigned to other less noble, albeit essential, duties in the out-house.  These pages I stashed near to my bed (actually a fold down couch) so I could study them every night before the lamp was blown out, allowing me to drift off to sleep where I met and teamed up with my cowboy heroes.

Finally the big day arrived when my mom said that she would order the gun set so I accompanied her to the “post office” which was in one of the private houses in Bindloss.  Now, in the 21st century, we complain about the slowness of surface mail, in fact calling it “snail mail.” Remember that back then,  there was no such thing as on-line shopping, the closest thing to a computer being Woo Sam’s abacus, so one had to be prepared to endure a long wait.  I mean a llloooonnnnggg wait!!  For a little boy it seemed like a lifetime, or even several lifetimes, and once more I haunted the post office nearly every day waiting for my order to arrive.  At home, I would practice quick drawing with imaginary pistols until I figured that I could outdraw any desperado who dared to confront me in the streets of Laredo or Tombstone or even Bindloss, for that matter.

Cap Guns 1Finally, the parcel arrived and I ran home with my prize.  When I tore the package open, I was treated to a brightly colored box with a picture of a cowboy armed with two pistols on the cover - the most wonderful thing I had ever seen.  And there in the box was a fake leather holster, that was probably manufactured from some sort of cardboard, and two silver pistols with white plastic handles.  The guns were embossed with wild west themes and I would surely become the envy of all of my cowboy friends.  Running back to town, I was able to purchase a roll of caps that fit into an automatic feeder that was visible upon opening the side of the ammo cylinder.   Now I was a real cowboy and anyone or anything that stood in my way should take cover – which the two cats and dog did when I fired the first noisy shot, the dog leaving an elongated puddle on the floor which left unmistakeable clues as to the whereabouts of his safe hide-out under the bed!

One of the problems I encountered as a gunslinger was confusion of identity – was I Roy or Gene or Hoppy or even Cisco?  Maybe I was Cisco’s faithful sidekick, Pancho – no that wouldn’t do, I needed to be in charge of the team.  I experimented with different characters in my imagination and settled on Roy whom I knew to be a most honourable and courageous gentleman.  Roy, being a singing cowboy, could sing alone or serenade with the Sons of the Pioneers. Besides, I liked Dale, Trigger and Bullet, Roy’s loyal German Shepherd dog and Roy held the title of “King of the Cowboys.”  Now I wouldn’t have to suffer the embarrassment of toting an anti-aircraft gun to venues such the OK Corral or Abilene.  Now I could ride my swift and loyal palomino through the prairie and fend off any outlaw who dared trespass. By the way, my palomino bore a striking resemblance to a broom and could be employed as such, making it more versatile than a real palomino!

roy-rogersSince I was to become a real cowboy gunslinger, I required appropriate apparel.  I managed to cajole my mother into making a Roy Rogers style cowboy shirt for me.  She gave me the difficult choice of having the shirt adorned with fringes or pockets.  I chose pockets, but really was hoping for both.  She embroidered the white with red trim shirt with colorful flowers over the breast – it was absolutely splendid!  However, I don’t think that I would walk into a biker bar wearing the same design today.  I also had a cowboy hat of sorts, but had to settle for running shoes on my feet.  I perhaps did not look altogether like a prototypical cowpoke, but could outrun pretty well all of the others who were encumbered with high heels.  Have you ever tried to run wearing cowboy boots?

I practiced my quick-draw techniques religiously until – horrors - one day one of the pistols slipped from my left hand, striking the floor and resulting in the hammer breaking off.  Certain that my father could fix just about anything, I took the gun to him.  He told me that the weapon was made out of a cheap metal which he explained to me was called zinc and could not be mended.  Because cowboys don’t cry, I had to hold back my tears until safely in the privacy of the out-house as I didn’t have a private boudoir in which my considerable anguish could be vented.

Soon the other six shooter met the same fate and they both crumbled gradually until the parts wouldn’t hold together and I was left with empty holsters that also deteriorated all too rapidly.  I still sported the holsters for awhile and, when asked about the whereabouts of my guns, I would explain that they were stolen by bandits during a hold-up.  So now, I was left with the anti-aircraft gun, hardly cowboy equipment.

Rocking HorsesMany years later, I had my own sons, Olaf Jr. and Graham.  I was determined to not let them suffer the same ignominy as me, so sought out appropriate guns for them.  Some parents would criticize me for giving them cowboy pistols, but little boys would always find something to use as guns.  Besides that, at some point in their lives they would have a real gun in their hands, perhaps belonging to one of their friend’s fathers, and I felt that it was good to learn how to safely handle a weapon, for example checking that it was not loaded and learning to never point it at anyone.

LoneRangerI had to make a business trip to Texas and so I picked up two sets of cowboy pistols and holsters for them at Toys R Us in Houston.  I told them that the Lone Ranger and Tonto had sent them.  They were both impressed with this revelation and very excited about the sets and immediately morphed into real wild west cowpokes.  I even made wooden rocking horses for them which did not resemble a broom even though their tails were made from mops.  Olaf Jr., who was about four at the time, dressed like the Lone Ranger night and day for about a year - even sleeping with his guns stowed beside his pillow!  I informed both of them that the Lone Ranger was a decent, honest man who believed in doing good things, never evil.  I hope that he had a positive influence on the boys like Roy Rogers had on me.  I think that he did.

roy-rogers2Roy always claimed that he was just an ordinary guy who got lucky and was in the right place at the right time.  He never forgot his simple beginnings and the hard work required to become successful.  His legacy will live on through my generation with the music and happiness he gave us.  He was an honourable family man and practiced Christian principles.  Roy and Dale adopted many children and gave them all better lives.

Happy trails, Dale and Roy!!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Airborne!!–From Otter to Hercules

Some folks have asked me about the diary format of the Airborne!! sections.  In fact this is about the only time in my life that I actually kept a journal.  Also, the letter is a summary of an actual letter that I sent to Aunty Jean in 1969.  She commented that the description of the night jump was, to her, beautiful and vivid and that she could imagine the sights and sounds of that night.

AirForceOtterProbably the most uncomfortable jump was number three from the Otter.  By that time, my fear had lessened and I was more aware of the sensations of parachuting.  Because the Otter is relatively slow, you tended to drop about 300 feet before your canopy opened and I began to experience the sensation of falling and forgot about some of the techniques, for example on number four, I landed with my feet apart, resulting in having to do 50 push-ups.  As I had pulled a muscle in my groin during the last PT session, I was in great pain and hoped that I would not land drifting rearwards, which I did on every single jump.  You can’t turn the T-10 so you land in whatever position you had when your chute opened.

Back to my diary:

Sunday, March 30, 1969

Number five, the last Otter jump went well, though there is that constant companion – fear.  As I was drifting rearward, I watched as the other jumpers left the aircraft and observed the rather beautiful spectacle of their parachutes blossoming against the pure blue sky.  I concentrated on keeping my feet together and made a nice gentle landing - if you can say that any landing with the T-10 is gentle!  Landing has been compared to jumping off the top of a van moving at 15 mph, also described as hitting the ground like 10 pounds of manure in a 5 pound sack!  However, the instructors were pleased with my performance and indicated that I could go on to the next stage – the Hercules.

In retrospect, I would comment that the Otter jumps were worthwhile and I felt that I could parachute from anything!  I am still scared of jumping.  The feeling of relief when that big beautiful canopy opens is almost overwhelming.  The biggest thrill was the first jump.  I almost cried like a baby on the way down when the canopy opened.  I guess I’ll never experience that tremendous euphoria again.

Now on to the Hercules.

HerkThe C-130 Hercules (Hercy Bird), purpose built for the military, is commonly in use around the world as a tactical airlift airplane.  It is used in the military to deliver up to 64 paratroops at one time, equipment, or even buildings that are designed to fit in the cargo area.  From a passenger comfort standpoint, it was awful, but being coddled is not the motivation behind the design as far as delivering troops is concerned.  Having terrific short field take-off and landing capabilities, the bird is in common use on civvy street all over the world, especially in areas like Canada’s arctic region or the jungles in Africa or South America.  It is also used in forest fire fighting, search and rescue, meteorological research, air to air refuelling of helicopters, and as a weapons platform.

Herk3From the standpoint of delivering paratroops, it can hold up to 64 fully outfitted paratroopers and exits can be made from the side doors or, less traumatic, from the rear ramp – also utilized for loading and unloading.  The ramp can also be used for airborne delivery of materiel.  One of the units in CFB Rivers was tasked with finding methods of dropping military vehicles on palettes.  The best way was to have the trucks, jeeps, armoured cars and artillery mounted on corrugated cardboard, the corrugations running vertically thereby absorbing the shock.  The joke was that all of the vehicles had very low mileage – but all of the mileage was straight down!

But I digress.

Tuesday, April 01, 1969

Today was our first encounter with the Hercules.  We reported at 0745 but were informed that the plane had returned to Edmonton due to engine problems.  So we played volleyball for a while and I returned to the office to catch up on some paperwork.  After lunch the Herc arrived so we kitted up and embarked on our first Herc jump.  I was number one on the stick, as usual, and we jumped at 1530.  The experience was extremely noisy and very violent because we jumped from the side doors, directly behind the propellers.  You leap into a more than 200 knot wind.  I was spun violently to the left as if struck by some giant’s fist and the chute opened in a flash, within a second or so, in front of me due to the prop blast.  I experienced a wild swing under the chute, though missing part of the spectacle as my steel helmet was thrust down over my eyes.  The landing was pretty good.

After supper we did another side door jump in daylight.  This time I was number 16 on the starboard side, the last man out.  I was, in addition to my rifle and snowshoes, carrying a very large and heavy pannier reaching from the ground to my chin which necessitated waddling like a duck on the way to the Herc.  Remember that paratroopers are always dropped behind enemy lines and have to carry everything that is needed, then securing the DZ (Drop Zone) until the second and third drops carrying heavy equipment and support, such as medical personnel, are able to arrive safely.  The landing was quite gentle this time as I dropped into snow up to my waist.

Then came the night jump already described.

April 02, 1969

IMG_0269Today, we completed our requisite 10 jumps, but not without incident!  Number 9 was ok, but the wind picked up beyond safe velocity (about 15 mph) so we couldn’t drop into Rivers.  After waiting in the J-stage (Jump –stage) hangar we were informed that the wind was more favourable in CFB Shilo, east of Brandon, Manitoba, so we donned our equipment and then headed for the aircraft.  After a relatively short flight to Shilo, we made our jump.  My brother, Graham, who was 17 at the time, was invited to film the exercise with my 35 mm camera, hence the photo of me in the stick.

We departed the aircraft as usual, but Capt. “Buck” Rogers had a parachute malfunction.  Because Graham was snapping photos, the whole incident was caught on film.  Descending at a great rate of speed, Buck undid his reserve chute and tossed it out in front.  However the lines tangled with the main chute risers so he pulled the reserve in and launched it once more, and it tangled again.  So he pulled it in again.  Glancing down, he saw that he was about to hit, so he tucked the chute between his legs and prepared to do a high speed PLF (Parachute Landing Fall).  Fortunately, he landed in about a meter of snow and survived, uninjured.  Also, Buck was a wiry, very fit officer knowing enough to relax, and that helped to save him from serious injury or worse. The worst thing that he had to endure after that jump was field rolling two parachutes instead of just one!

One of the student jumpers experienced one of the most serious things that can happen to a soldier – his rifle came loose from the halyard, not being properly secured, and free fell to the ground.  A soldier should never, ever lose his weapon!!  All of us had to conduct a fairly lengthy search for the rifle but it was never found.  It is probably still buried under the Manitoba prairie on the Shilo DZ!

In the meantime, back in Rivers, Pat was performing her routine chores in the house when there was a knock at the door.  As she approached the door, she saw the silhouette of a military officer in the window.  Knowing that I was jumping into Shilo and that, in the event of a bad accident, the Chaplain would visit the family, she thought the worst had happened.  Fortunately it was just our next door neighbour, an Air Traffic Control officer, and not the Chaplain, so she breathed a sigh of relief.

Para GradThe next day, we proud paratroopers were presented with our airborne wings in a ceremony inside the Airborne hangar.

I made one more jump from the Hercules, a ramp jump, later that year. I completed that jump so that I could collect my thirty dollar per month jump pay.  Buck Rogers and I were the last out of the plane and we both were caught in a thermal so we soared high over the base for much longer than usual.  We watched from our high perches as the plane landed, taxied in and shut down.  We could chat with each other and hear the other jumpers on the ground wondering aloud why we were still up there, probably envying both of us.  As a coincidence, one of our fellow jumpers that day was a US Army Colonel on his way to Viet Nam to take over as Commanding Officer of the famous 82nd Airborne Regiment.  I don’t know whatever became of him.

Buck later became a psychologist, practicing in Calgary.

Courage is doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared."
— Eddie Rickenbacker
World War I hero

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Airborne!! - Training

Monday, March 17, 1969

Dear Diary,
IMG_0285I started airborne training today.  After meeting the other 32 candidates and listening to the briefings given by the commanding officer and the instructors, I realized that this is going to be one heck of a demanding exercise!  The first thing that happened is that we all lost whatever rank we had – I was no longer a captain, but just a f#*#&** grunt.  We are, however, all in the same boat.  There are 4 other officers, another doctor, a pilot and a lieutenant from the Black Watch.  About one third are “blue jobs” (RCAF) and there are a couple of medics amongst us.

We were shown a film about the Yank airborne school which is apparently not much different from ours.  They, too, place a lot of emphasis on physical training (PT) – for example, I had to run a mile in eight minutes in combat gear just to make it onto the course.  I darned near didn’t pass even though I had tried desperately for several weeks to get in shape .

The instructors opened a T-10 chute which is the standard for the airborne.  It is 35 feet in diameter which seems large, but is quite porous in order to hasten the descent and minimize controllability as it is necessary to get on the ground as soon as possible to avoid enemy fire and it is not a good thing to have 60 or so paratroopers bumping into each other in the air as that could have fatal results.  We were then shown how to don the harness and attach our reserve chutes – the harness is darned uncomfortable, particularly on the shoulders and in the crotch.  We will be wearing the harness and reserve a good deal of the time during the course thereby developing a tolerance to pain, or perhaps callouses in vital areas.  Then the instructors ran us through aircraft drill, necessary for having many jumpers exit the airplane in the shortest time possible.

IMG_0273Then, PT.  Man, that was tough!!  A lot of running, push-ups, chin-ups, and sit-ups.  I was pretty bagged at the end of the first session.  However, most of the days will be spent exercising.  We will start the day with a five mile road run at 0630 followed by PT.  We will always move at double time and will do five chin-ups every time we enter the hangar.  Also, if the instructor thinks that you have made any boo-boos, you have to do between 10 to 50 push-ups or perform a crab walk around the hangar.  The day ends with another 5 mile road run and another session of brutal PT.  I am really stiff and sore this evening.
I can’t help questioning why I am here – what did I do to deserve this??  Like many things there are many cause factors, the main one relates to TGIF.  Every Friday after work the various messes have TGIF.  Booze is cheap and spouses are not permitted in the mess.

 CFB Rivers had several activities – 408 Tactical Fighter Squadron, 4FTS (Flying Training School), and the Airborne School and I was stationed there as the Base Medical Officer and Flight Surgeon.  Having bolstered my courage with a couple of drams of the demon rum, I allowed myself to say to one of the airborne officers “I wouldn’t mind trying that.”  Woops!!  The very next day Pat and the kids and I were hiking in the forest in Riding Mountain Provincial Park, when we encountered one of the airborne instructors who stated “I hear you are on the parachute course!!”  Woops again!!  I was always the type of character who liked to try new things so I graciously (well, sort of graciously) accepted the challenge, even taking personal leave to give it a whirl.  So here I am.

Tuesday, March 18, 1969
This morning I was in agony!!  I could hardly move when the alarm went off at 0500.  I had to roll out of bed onto the floor and slowly and painfully claw my way up the wall of the bedroom.  After the road run, I loosened up a bit and reminded myself to pick up some “Heet Liniment” that might ease the stiffness.  I learned that the philosophy of the school was to break us down physically and then build us up. Whoa!!  Never heard of that before.  I am certainly breaking down.

Today we spent the first two of many hours to come on the flight trainer, a.k.a. torture rack.  We hang suspended in our harnesses 20 minutes at a time and perform various drills – today, the points of flight procedures and turns, tangles and operation of the reserve chute as well as drift, oscillations and slipping.  We also spent a few more hours of aircraft drill and learned the six different ways of landing.

The PT was gruelling and after we cleaned up the hangar the bathtub felt good.  Upon retiring, I applied some of the Heet to my back, hips, and shoulders.

Wednesday, March 19, 1969
During the night I must have been sweating a lot as the Heat liniment washed down into some of my naughty parts wakeing me up pronto.  I changed the name of “Heet” to “Inferno” as well as other names that don't bear repeating !!  In the morning I was so exhausted  and my back and neck felt very weak and my shoulders were excruciatingly painful.  However, after the road run, I loosened up considerably.  On the torture racks we learned how to avoid obstacles; area, long and pinpoint.  We also had a workout on the landing swings.

Thursday, March 20, 1969
Today, we spent time on the torture racks with full winter kit including rifle, snowshoes and ruck sack.  Ouch!!  My hands are starting to toughen up.

Friday, March 21, 1969
Well, I’ve survived one week.  It will be nice to have a rest for the weekend.  Monday, we go to the mock tower on which a lot of people chicken out.

Monday, March 24, 1969
The morning road run came early.  I was extremely tired.  We spent the morning reviewing what we had learned and then headed to the mock tower.  In the door you stand 32 feet above the ground, the height where man’s fear of heights is maximum.  Was I scared?  You bet!!  I was number two out of the tower.  My exit was rather poor and I bounced a lot.  You drop about 15 feet  and then the trolley runs down the wire at quite a speed.  The sensation of falling is quite disturbing – like a very fast elevator.  I don’t know how I managed to jump.  I just did.  My last couple of exits were better.  One man chickened out and was whisked off the course and away from the base STAT!!  You weren’t even allowed to mention the word “fear” or you were cleared off the base in record time and were on the way home.

They are really putting the pressure on us now.  The PT was rough and I must have done over 100 push-ups.  Those of us who remain feel pretty smug about having weathered the mock tower.  There is a rumour that we will make our first five jumps out of the Otter rather than the high tower in CFB Shilo as the school is moving to Edmonton and they don’t want to move the towers.

Wednesday, March 26, 1969
We finally finished with that damn tower.  The young lieutenant from the Black Watch washed out.  He was able to overcome his fear and exit the tower but not properly, so they sent him home.  Too bad, as he was the most gung ho soldier on the course, other than the tower, and he even had the guts to exit though his body was paralyzed with fear.  So now I’m number one out of the Otter and Herc.

Friday, March 28, 1969 – The First Jump
Well today was it!!  The dawn was clear and it was about 12 below and OK for parachuting.  I guess that the waiting was the worst part.  We drew our chutes and sat on the J-stage benches after dressing and going through the rigger and jumpmaster checks.  You hear the plane land and taxi up and the jumpmaster tells you to put on your helmet and you walk out to the aircraft wondering what the heck you are doing here.  I was to be number three; Major Cesar, CO of the school was number one and his son, Pvt. Cesar was second in the stick.
Para 1The pilot climbed the airplane to 1200 feet and before we knew it, we were over the DZ, ready to jump.  You sit on the floor with your legs outside of the plane in the slipstream.  My heart was pounding and my stomach was in my mouth.  Time seemed to stop.  Will I be able to get out the door?  Somehow, when the command was given, I went – more of a conditioned reflex than anything else!  I felt myself falling and saw the horizon tilting as I rocked to the left from the prop blast.  I counted to four thousand as drilled into me, probably faster than I should have, and then looked up.  There it was, a beautiful, full, white  canopy - the tears came welling up in my eyes - I was so happy to be alive!  There was no sensation of movement except that the ground appeared to be coming up.  I looked around and spotted four more chutes at different levels, frosty white against the deep blue sky.  I hit the ground hard and was dragged by the wind across the packed snow, having one heck of a time collapsing the canopy in the wind.  Finally the chute cooperated and, after coming to a halt, I field rolled it and made the rather long trek through the snow drifts to the DZ shack where I met the other chaps.  The RCAF corporal who jumped with me finally had color in his face and his eyes regained a more human appearance. 

We were all very euphoric as we had made our first jump and proved to ourselves that each of us had the courage (or stupidity) to actually jump from a perfectly serviceable aircraft!

That was the last jump of the day as the wind had picked up, 15 mph being the limit.  But number one jump was over and I had made it!

Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities... because it is the quality which guarantees all others.

Winston Churchill

Monday, 2 January 2012

Airborne!! - Night Jump

Today is a beautiful day with temperatures below zero and mostly clear skies.  New Year’s celebrations are over and we are having a day of rest and reflection.  I know that I began this blog primarily with descriptions of the early days on the prairie, but there are a series of events that keep coming to mind occurring when I was a new medical officer, a Captain (or Flight Lieutenant), in the Canadian Armed Forces:

Tuesday, April 01, 1969
Dear Aunty Jean,Herk
We made our first night jump this evening.  We had just accomplished two daytime jumps from the C-130 Hercules (remember that we had already made 5 jumps from the Otter aircraft).  After supper, we prepared for the night jump, one more step on the way to receiving our airborne wings!

Para 1The night was clear and cold, about minus 20, as we gathered in the hangar to don our parachutes and deal with our other equipment.  I donned my main and reserve chutes and then attached my rifle, snowshoes and pannier to the lanyard.  The purpose of the 22 foot lanyard was to lower our equipment below us, after having ensured that our canopies had opened properly.  Hopefully there would be a bit of a breeze and we would drift enough to avoid landing on top of our own equipment.  We also checked each other to ensure that every item was properly stowed and secured.  Then, we marched out to the Herc.  I was to be number one out of the plane, a ramp jump out of the back in this case, and I took my position and strapped into the starboard side bench.  As we approached the drop zone (DZ) at  1500 feet,  we prepared for the jump.  The jumpmaster bawled “stand up - hook up - check your equipment - sound off for equipment check – stand in the door!”  I shouted (it is noisy in the Herc with the doors and/or ramp open) “Number 1 OK!” and listened as the others sounded off one by one until everyone was accounted for.  I watched as the jump light turned from red to green, and when the sergeant shouted “Go!”  I found myself flying through the dark night air, swinging down beneath the open canopy which is the first thing that you check.  Then, I lowered my equipment on the lanyard and began to enjoy the view.

IMG_0269It is impossible to properly convey the beauty of a night jump.  The full moon reflected on the snow covered fields below and the parachute canopies lit up like so many white dandelion seeds drifting through the air as we floated silently earthwards.  One could see the lights of Brandon and Rivers and myriads of lights amplified by the smoke and steam from the farms below as well as the canopy of stars glittering from horizon to horizon.  The air was crisp and clear and it felt good to be alive!  (It seems that when one is in danger, adrenaline heightens situational awareness, implanting these images and sensations forever in memory).  Since we jumped from 1500 feet above the ground (AGL), the ride down was longer than usual.  I imagined that the first aviators would have experienced the same feelings that I felt tonight as I drank in the view and felt the excitement welling in my body.  The Herc rapidly flew on and, in the relative silence, I could hear my fellow jumpers chatting as they tried to avoid colliding with each other in the air.  One of the chaps had been issued, unbeknownst to him, a camouflaged chute and it appeared to him at first, because of the dark areas in the canopy, that it was full of holes or had malfunctioned.  But his panic subsided when he ascertained that he was descending at the same rate as the rest of us.

IMG_0306Since depth perception is pretty well gone at night and we were dropping into a snow covered DZ, it was necessary to assume the landing position that was drilled into our heads fairly early on.  After what seemed to be an eternity, I hit the ground  The landing was gentle as I had landed in and was submerged inside a four or five foot snow bank.  At first, I couldn’t see a thing but quickly burrowed out from the drift.  Looking up I could see many moonlit canopies, small at first, but then rapidly growing larger as the next sticks of soldiers gracefully and silently descended amongst us.  One must be vigilant and prepared to move quickly in order to prevent being struck by someone’s equipment, or worse, by another paratrooper.  We field rolled our chutes and made our way through the snow drifts to the DZ shack, happy that our night jump was out of the way.  There were no injuries or other mishaps, much to our collective relief and we rejoiced as our camaraderie grew even deeper after what we had experienced.  That makes eight jumps, so only two more and we will have our wings!!

With love,


I will relate to you later about how I arrived at this particular adventure - the night jump – and other events that occurred later.