On Sunday,10th April 2005, I was so pleased to be able to go to The Woodman and meet some of the family of the late John T.Driscoll, pilot with the 602nd Squadron. I met David and his charming Wife Jo-Ann, his lovely Sister Elaine, his younger Brother Tom (flying Med-evac Blackhawks for the Maine Army NG - and just back from a long spell in Iraq) and their good friend Stephanie. See photo below.
John T. Driscoll was one of the original crews to fly over in his B-17G, and they had to throw all their possessions overboard prior to making 'Bluey 1' when they lost power to two engines, but they made it, just made it. John went on to fly his 30 missions successfully and then returned home where he eventually converted to fly B-29's.
We walked all around the quiet remains of 131 and were rewarded by a small herd of wild deer on the edge of Scales Park. Then we saw two ferrets scurrying across the old peri-track and run into Scales Park also. Tom wondered if I had an accomplice in The Woodman, pressing buttons to make it all happen ! You know, OK give them the deer now - it's the ferrets next don't forget.
When the veterans first returned to 131, I was 34 years old, they were mostly in their mid-fifties. Now their children come to see Dad's old base - again in their mid-fifties, except now I am 62, it 'kind of makes me feel old'.
But what an honour to be able to do this. They are such great people and we talked so long about Dad, his base, his experiences. Like most veterans John Driscoll hardly spoke about the 398th period of his life - until that is, the loss of the Space Shuttle some 40 years after his last mission. Even then, he did not say a great deal, but he remembered some great tales to tell his, by now, seven children on the odd occasion when something triggered his memory. The family took him up in a B-17 not long before he passed away - there was a delay in getting airborne and they were able to get him up in the cockpit for a while and make a video of him back in the 'hot-seat'. He slowly moved his hands over the various knobs and switches, very quickly getting right back to 1944, describing how they used to lock the flare pistol into place if necessary and all sorts of other things. What a wonderful day they must have all had together - and what a wonderful day we all had on 10th April 2005.
I am so lucky guys, so very lucky.
Malcolm "Ozzie" Osborn