VP-91 Alumni Association
Contributed by George B. Winter firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Old Girl
"To most of the world she's the PBY..."
TO MOST OF THE WORLD she's the PBY "Catalina" patrol plane, but her friends know her as "The Cat."
Back in 1941 when the war began there were those who looked at her and smiled wisely and said she was too old and tired and obsolete even then, and that she wouldn't last a month in the give-and-take of air-sea warfare.
Their wise smile grew wiser when in the Philippines the little men with the slant eyes and the buck teeth struck out of nowhere and caught her on the ground before she got her back up. They didn't know then that she had nine lives and that she could live to find her way to Australia and there grow strong and learn the tricks of fighting back.
She showed them she could fight, all right, when they hacked her up into that little corner of the Southwest Pacific and she turned and swished her tail and shot a sharpened claw across the leering, buck-toothed face that cut a gash from Santa Cruz Morotai.
Yes, she showed them she could fight all right, and the story of her victories will shine as long as the archives of World War II lie open. The men of the Cats-- the pilots and the crewmen-- they know the story. They know it but don't say much about it because it's kind of private like a man's home life or his girl. But they know it and think it and feel it just the same.
They've sat behind her yoke and felt her purr as she rubbed against the tall white billowy clouds of the Caribbean.
They've swelled with pride as her cat's-eye reached through the blackness of the South Pacific night to spot her unwary prey a They've laughed laughed with her as she howled at night from the back fences outside of Munda and Rabaul and Paramushiru while the men with the slant eyes hurled their old-shoe ack-ack into the darkness.
They smiled and patted her nose when she donned her Black Cat gar and bad-lucked the path of Japanese supply line to New Guinea.
Yes, her's is a story, all right.
Remember the Bismarck? She found the Bismarck, when the whole Allied world was looking for that scourge of the North Atlantic.
Remember Pearl Harbor? She spotted the sub that was sunk that morning--the first Japanese casualty of World War II.
Remember Corregidor and Wake? She was the last to leave both of those besieged fortresses, taking out people and equipment and information up until just before the enemy arrived.
Remember Midway? She discovered the air and sea fleet on its way to begin that historic battle-- and then stuck at that fleet in the dark in the first night aerial torpedo attack.
Remember the submarine war? She sent that famous message, "Sight sub, sank same." And so it goes. Enemy battleships, carriers, cruisers, destroyer and transports have all felt the sharpness of her claws--claws that have reached out at night to rip a million tons of shipping out of the lifelines of Nippon's Pacific Empire.
But there is another side of the Cat, too. If you want to know about that side ask any of the hundreds of downed-airmen who, floating helplessly on rubber life rafts on every one of the Seven Seas have reached out their arms and cried “Thank God” for the Cat that found and rescued them.
That's how the story of the PBY Catalina goes-- the plane they smiles about and said was too old when the Japs first struck at Pearl Harbor-- the plane that lived to lead triumphant parade back to the Philippines.
That's the story the men of the Cats carry around inside them-- the story they know but don't say much about. It's the story of their airplane, yes, but it's something more than that, too--it's the story of their "Dear Old Girl."/
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