"Old Ed"

It happens every Friday evening, almost without fail, when the sun resembles a giant orange and is starting to dip into the blue ocean. Old Ed comes strolling along the beach to his favorite pier. Clutched in his bony hand is a bucket of shrimp. Ed walks out to the end of the pier, where it seems he almost has the world to himself. The glow of the sun is a golden bronze now. Everybody's  gone, except for a few joggers on the beach. Standing out on the end of the pier, Ed is alone with his thoughts....and his bucket of shrimp. Before long, however, he is no longer alone. Up in the sky a thousand white dots come screeching and squawking, winging their way toward that lanky frame standing there on the end of the pier. Before long, dozens of seagulls have enveloped him, their wings fluttering and flapping wildly. Ed stands there tossing shrimp to the hungry birds. As he does, if you listen closely, you can hear him say with a smile, 'Thank you. Thank you.' In a few short minutes the bucket is empty. But Ed doesn't leave. He stands there lost in thought, as though transported to another time and place. Invariably, one of the gulls lands on his sea-bleached, weather-beaten hat - an old military hat he's been wearing for years When he finally turns around and begins to walk back toward the beach, a few of the birds hop along the pier with him until he gets to the stairs, and then they, too, fly away. And old Ed quietly makes his way down to the end of the beach and on home.
If you were sitting there on the pier with your fishing line in the water, Ed might seem like 'a funny old duck,' as my dad used to say. Or, 'a guy that's a sandwich shy of a picnic,' as my kids might say. To onlookers, he's just another old codger, lost in his own weird world, feeding the seagulls with a bucket full of shrimp. To the onlooker, rituals can look either very strange or very empty. They can seem altogether unimportant....maybe even a lot of nonsense.
Old folks often do strange things, at least in the eyes of Boomers and Busters.  Most of them would probably write Old Ed off, down there in Florida That's too bad. They'd do well to know him better. His full name: Eddie Rickenbacker. He was a famous hero back in World War II. On one of his flying missions across the Pacific, he and his seven-member crew went down. Miraculously, all of the men survived,  crawled out of their plane, and climbed into a life raft. Captain Rickenbacker and his crew floated for days on the rough waters of the Pacific.
They fought the sun. They fought sharks. Most of all, they fought hunger. By the eighth day their rations ran out. No food. No water. They were hundreds of miles from land and no one knew where they were. They needed a  miracle. That afternoon they had a simple devotional service and prayed for a miracle. They tried to nap. Eddie leaned back and pulled his military cap over his nose. Time dragged. All he could hear was the slap of the waves against the raft.
Suddenly, Eddie felt something land on the top of his cap. It was a seagull! Old Ed would later describe how he sat perfectly still, planning his next move. With a flash of his hand and a squawk from the gull, he managed to grab it and wring its neck. He tore the feathers off, and he and his starving crew made a meal - a very slight meal for eight men - of it. Then they used the intestines for bait. With it, they caught fish, which gave them food and more bait......and the cycle continued.
With that simple survival technique, they were able to endure the rigors of the sea until they were found and rescued. (after 24 days at sea...)
Eddie Rickenbacker lived many years beyond that ordeal, but he never forgot the sacrifice of that first lifesaving seagull. And he never stopped saying, 'Thank you.' That's why almost every Friday night he would walk to the end of the pier with a bucket full of shrimp and a heart full of gratitude.
(Max Lucado, In The Eye of the Storm, pp.221, 225-226, and excerpted from the autobiography of Eddie Rickenbacker.)                                                                                  (Back to top of page)
Note - Roy "Snuffy" Johnson passed away on August 17, 2011, age 88

Perhaps many of you weren't aware of some of the extraordinary accomplishments of our own Roy 'Snuffy' Johnson. We all know him as a gregarious attendee at our annual reunions- fun to be with and always happy to meet younger Association members. But below is an article that brings to light many of his contributions to society. He served his country well with the 49th during World War II, and upon returning to civilian life, brought with him the same determination to succeed  as that which brought him through the great European conflict.
Read on, and discover what a gold nugget we have in our midst, and hope that we can muster the same sense of purpose that has driven him through the decades.
Congratulations, 'Snuffy'.

Lifetime Achievement Award:
Roy Johnson

This is our fourth year to present our Lifetime Achievement Award. Virgil Basgall was our first recipient; the second year it was presented to Dan McClenny, and last year Elvin Perkins was awarded. I think you will agree that this year's recipient is just as deserving.
Roy Johnson was discharged from the Air Force in September 1945. He went to work for the Santa Fe Railroad in Emporia in September 1945.
In 1948 he was elected president of the local chapter of the Brotherhood of the Railroad Trainmen. He was president for 8 years.
In August of 1961, he added a part time job with the Farmers Insurance Group. When his insurance business grew, he decided to take an early retirement from the Railroad in February of 1972. He became a full-time insurance agent with the Farmer's Insurance Group. He had his office in the basement of his home until he moved to 1225 West 6th in July of 1972. He retired from the insurance business in 1998, due to his wife's Alzheimer disease.
He attended 27 Toppers Clubs. That is a club honoring the top agents in the company. He attended 13 President's Councils. That is the highest level of achievement for all of the Farmers Insurance agents in the nation. In 1998 he was the top producer in all lines in the United States. He was the top producer of automobile insurance in the United States for 6 different years. There are many people associated with the insurance business that would not have ever heard of Emporia, Kansas, if not for Roy Johnson.
In 1980 he was elected as director of Admire Bank in Emporia. He resigned from that position after 17 years.
He is a dedicated supporter and active member of the First United Methodist Church in Emporia. He has been on numerous committees, and in 1978 was elected to the Board of Trustees.
He has been an active member of the Emporia Kiwanis Club since 1972. He has several offices. He enjoys selling tickets for the annual Kiwanis Pancake Day, even at the age of 87, as many of you know.
He has been on the Board of the Presbyterian Manor for 8 years.
He has been a dedicated supporter of Emporia State University for many years. Roy was a longtime Chamber member with Farmers Insurance Group, and has been an individual Chamber member since March 3 of 1992.                                                                    (Back to top of page)

This page was last updated: November 23, 2013

Look carefully at the B-17 (above) and note how shot up it is - one engine dead, tail, horizontal stabilizer and nose shot up.. It was ready to fall out of the sky. (This is a painting done by an artist from the description of both pilots many years later.) Then realize that there is a German ME-109 fighter flying next to it. Now read the story below. I think you'll be surprised.....

Charlie Brown was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot with the 379th Bomber Group at Kimbolton, England. His B-17 was called 'Ye Old Pub' and was in a terrible state, having been hit by flak and fighters. The compass was damaged and they were flying deeper over enemy territory instead of heading home to Kimbolton.
After flying the B-17 over an enemy airfield, a German pilot named Franz Stigler was ordered to take off and shoot down the B-17. When he got near the B-17, he could not believe his eyes. In his words, he 'had never seen a plane in such a bad state'. The tail and rear section was severely damaged, and the tail gunner wounded. The top gunner was all over the top of the fuselage. The nose was smashed and there were holes everywhere.
Despite having ammunition, Franz flew to the side of the B-17 and looked at Charlie Brown, the pilot. Brown was scared and struggling to control his damaged and blood-stained plane.

                BF-109 pilot Franz Stigler B-17 pilot Charlie Brown (standing)
Aware that they had no idea where they were going, Franz waved at Charlie to turn 180 degrees. Franz escorted and guided the stricken plane to, and slightly over, the North Sea towards England. He then saluted Charlie Brown and turned away, back to Europe. When Franz landed he told the CO that the plane had been shot down over the sea, and never told the truth to anybody. Charlie Brown and the remains of his crew told all at their briefing, but were ordered never to talk about it.
More than 40 years later, Charlie Brown wanted to find the Luftwaffe pilot who saved the crew. After years of research, Franz was found. He had never talked about the incident, not even at post-war reunions.
They met in the USA at a 379th Bomber Group reunion, together with 25 people who are alive now - all because Franz never fired his guns that day.

When asked why he didn't shoot them down, Stigler later said, I didn't have the heart to finish those brave men. I flew beside them for a long time. They were trying desperately to get home and I was going to let them do that. I could not have shot at them. It would have been the same as shooting at a man in a parachute.�
Both men died in 2008.
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This "Bone Yard" was photographed at Tucson , and it shows how we park and store planes as they are replaced each year with newer models!
The Bone Yard near Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson , Arizona.
For those of you that have never seen this, it is something to see.The precision in the way they are parked is impressive.   (Of course, the fact that there is more than a couple of dollars sitting here is impressive also!!! )
It's difficult to comprehend the size of the 'Bone yard' and the number of aircraft stored there.
Of course the important thing to remember is that they are still  capable of being restored and then returned to service if the need ever arises.
The cost of maintaining this place is significant as well.
If you are ever in the Tucson area, tickets for the weekly tour of the bone yard are still given through the Pima County Air Museum , located just south of Davis Monthan AFB.
Both the museum and the bone yard are very popular attractions in the Arizona desert. It is difficult to comprehend the number of military aircraft in dead storage until you see these photographs!
Even if you have seen the above before, look again..

The 3rd largest Air Force in the world is sitting on the ground here. It's the only unit in the U.S. Air Force that actually makes a profit by selling admission tickets for guided tours.
                                                                                                                  (Back to top of page)
    History of the 49th (1941 to today), with the emphasis on the F-86 D/L with pictures from L.G. Hanscom Field.
The history has been reproduced with permission of the author Duncan Curtis

    The history was compiled by Duncan Curtis
while researching the F-86 Sabre for several books Duncan has published.

Note as of June 1, 2013 Duncan Curtis has shut down his F-86 web site.  He may re-open it at a later date.
Franz Stigler
Charlie Brown
(L-R) German Ace Franz Stigler, artist Ernie Boyette, and B-17 pilot Charlie Brown.
Photos courtesy of P. Johnson
The 49th Fighter Squadron Association