By Ed Baranosky
In September 1942 the U.S .had been at war with Germany, Japan and Italy for 10 months. Daring German submarine captains were sinking an average of seven merchant ships a day off our Atlantic coast. In theaters the Saturday movie matinee started with the Movietone news depicting men covered with black diesel fuel being lifted from lifeboats and rafts. There were reports by fishermen of a U-boat surfacing in Long Island Sound off the sub base in New London.
I was a sophomore in high school. In the cafeteria one day I overheard a girl in my class named Cory Irwin talking to her friend about flying her father’s plane on patrols over Long Island sound on the lookout for German U-boats. After class that day I had a chance to talk to Cory about flying. She told me her father taught her to fly a plane when she was 14. She earned her pilot’s license when she was 15 and had been flying ever since.
She heard about the Civil Air Patrol at the airport and volunteered. She told me if I would like to fly a patrol with her she would pick me up Saturday morning at 5 a.m. and we’d go flying.
We got to the airport in Stratford at 5:30. While Cory did a preliminary check of the plane
I unhooked the tie-downs. We got in the plane and she started it up. After a few checks we taxied over to a fuel truck. The truck operator asked Cory for her authorization card. The operator wrote the information on his form and had Cory sign it. The government was paying for the fuel.
In the plane Cory handed me a set of earphones. Cory radioed the control tower and asked for clearance. The controller told her she was cleared to Runway 24. She taxied to the apron of 24. Cory went through a takeoff check list, revved the engine a few times to recheck the gauges. She released the brakes and we were rolling down Runway 24. I heard her calling the controller as we began to lift off the ground.
She asked for clearance to turn left after takeoff so we could fly east over Long Island Sound toward Rhode Island. The controller gave her an OK. Over the sound Cory handed me a pair of binoculars. She told me to read and record boat registration numbers in the log book as we flew over them. We did not see any sign of U-boats on that flight.
The next few months my Saturdays were taken up by flying with Cory. She began giving me bootleg flying lessons. I took ground school classes and earned my pilot’s license.
When WWII was over in 1945 the government was selling factory fresh fighter planes for $100. My regret is not buying a North American P-51 Mustang.