Tuesday, March 8, 2011

‘Bail out! Bail out!’

Did you live in Kailua, on Oahu in July 8, 1957? Do you know anyone who did? I did.

If you lived in Kailua on …July 8,1957, there is a slight possibility, maybe more so, maybe less so, that you are alive today because of an incident that didn’t happen.

Bill Humphrey, Lt Bill Humphrey, US Marines Pilot was doing a regular maintenance scheduled flight of his, single engine ‘Wildcat’, having taken off at the Kaneohe Marine Air field, angled off to the left. Swept across the bay toward the Koolaus. Continued left parallel with the Koolaus towards Makapuu and approached Kailua town when something went seriously wrong. His engine immediately ahead of the cockpit burst into flames. His ‘Mayday, Mayday’ radio call was received by the tower at the base and Bill informed them of his location and status. ‘Bail out! Bail out!', came the tower response. Bill, turning his plane with the flames flaring over the cockpit windshield and flashing now through the firewall control ports, responded: ‘Negative Sir! Negative! I have to get this plane out over the water!’ The glass windshield in the raging inferno was potting with holes and the flames where roasting the cockpit, as the plane came out over Kailua town, the beach front homes in a smoke trailed fireball and then hitting the water, catapulting and going down in about 20 feet of water.

The medical examiners report would say that Bill was dead before he hit the ocean.

On this July 8, 1957 I was walking home through the ballpark toward my street where I lived on Kuukama. My house was the second from the corner. As I came around the street corner I saw in front of our house several cars. I was thinking that my Mom was having one of her bridge gatherings and then I saw Pat, my sister’s car and thought, humm, she doesn’t play bridge. Then I recognized Claude Details car and started wondering what was going on. Claude DuTeil was the minister of our church of which I was an acolyte. I saw his car every Sunday and he lived at the other end of Kuukama.

As I walked into our yard I heard the un-mistakable crying of someone. Someone balling and crying uncontrollably but I didn’t recognize the voice until I walked in and saw my sister Pat, Pat Humphrey sitting on the couch next to my Mom also crying. Claude behind my Mom with his hand on my Mom’s shoulder. My neighbor, Lynn Wade got up as she saw me and walked over to me and we stepped outside. “Bob, Bill was in a plane crash and is dead.”

Bill would never know his infant son in this life, to make sure that no one else’s life ended because of him, ‘Bailing out!’

You can find Bill’s grave site at Punchbowl, Section G #717.

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