- Historic Sites
When I Landed The War Was Over
A veteran news correspondent recalls his days as a spotter plane pilot
October/november 1981 | Volume 32, Issue 6
There were exceptions, of course: when I landed my L-4 in a field in southern France, after taking off from an LST which had been fitted with a plywood flight deck, I jumped out of the airplane before it stopped rolling and crawled into a clump of bushes. The situation was, as they say, “fluid,” and I didn’t know where the infantry line was located. Lying there, I heard somebody running in my direction and puckered up considerably, expecting to see a German rifleman. Instead it was a French farmer carrying a bottle of red wine and a smeared glass. He filled the glass, handed it to me, and shouted, “Bienvenue! Bienvenue!” I fell in love with La Belle France on the spot and have remained in love with her ever since.
We went on through France, finally crossed the Rhine near Strasbourg, turned southeast through Germany and on into Austria. Taking off one morning from a field outside Imst, I was astonished to find the roads crammed with German vehicles of every description. Paradise for an artillery spotter! But when I began radioing fire directions, the battalion called back, “Wait.” This happened several times, and I got angrier and angrier, until finally the fire direction center radioed, “Cease all forward action.” When I landed, I discovered that meant the war was over. It was a terrible letdown: I had assumed the war would never end, or that I wouldn’t be there when it did. According to my logbook I had flown 368 missions and turned a lot of beautiful German hardware into scrap. Aside from falling in love with the perfect woman, nothing has ever seemed so important or exciting since.