Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Tale of Two Pilots

The stories go roughly like this.

An aircraft carrier is out in enemy waters, locked in a grim do or die battle. Most of its aircraft have been sent out on a patrol when a squadron of enemy bombers is sighted. Only two fighter planes are available to defend the ship, our pilot and his wingman. The wingman's guns jam, and it is just the pilot in between the bombers and the lives of hundreds of sailors. In a desperate battle, he shoots down three of them before running out of ammo, but causes sufficient mayhem that the remaining bombers miss their target. He wins his nation's highest battle honor. He dies in battle a year later.


An airfield in a strategic border location is facing a surprise attack by enemy fighter-bomber jets. Again, it's just our pilot and his wingman who barely manage to take off even as the bombs fall on the runway. It's down to these two to defend an very important airfield. The wingman loses visual contact and is out of the fight for a bit, leaving our pilot in what looks like a hopeless 1 against 4 dogfight. Undaunted, he dives into battle and fights them off to the very end, taking at least two of them before he is shot down. The remaining enemy aircraft head home. The pilot wins his nation's highest battle honor.

The first pilot is Lt. Commander 'Butch' O'Hare, who was awarded the US medal of honor for his action on February 20, 1942, saving the USS Lexington. The O'Hare legend was part of my daughter's elementary school homework. A grateful nation gave his name to Chicago's international airport, among the busiest. and most famous airports in the US and the world. If i recall, you can see a replica of O'Hare's wildcat plane when you walk from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2.

The second pilot is Flying Officer Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon, who was awarded the Param Vir Chakra for his heroism on 14 December, 1971, giving up his life defending the skies of Srinagar. There is no major, possibly even a minor airport in India, named after its most revered air-force hero.

This also tells a tale about the narratives of two nations.

No comments:

Post a Comment