Skip to main content

Flying On Borrowed Time

June 2024
1min read

A bad loan at the Texas Air Guard

In the early 1970s I was the executive officer of the 147th Combat Support Squadron, assigned to the 147th Fighter Interceptor Group, a Texas Air National Guard unit. Our squadron’s mission was to provide all necessary ground support for the group’s other units, including the Fighter Squadron.

Back in those days practically all wristwatches sported stylish expansion bands. These bands adequately attached a watch to the wrist with one exception—when you’re piloting a jet fighter. Under severe gravity forces an expansion-band watch could easily come loose and turn into a deadly missile flying about the cockpit. For this reason, all pilots were required to wear government-issued watches with leather bands when aloft. I myself had an approved watch. I had obtained it while on active duty with the U.S. Air Force.

One day when I was in the Fighter Squadron Operations area I overheard a young pilot express concern that he had put on his expansion-band watch that morning. I could not tell if he was more worried that his commander would discover his transgression or that bad things might happen during his flight. Not wanting to see the young fellow get into trouble, I offered him the use of my watch, which he readily and gratefully accepted. Unfortunately I did not offer to hold his watch until he returned, and for some reason, Lt. George W. Bush never managed to return mine.

Readers are invited to submit their own personal “brushes with history” for publication in American Heritage magazine and on our Web site. We will pay our regular rates for all brushes we use, and assume all rights therein. Unfortunately, we can not promise to correspond about or return submissions.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.

Donate