Chip: Just received this email and photo from Llenza. You know the
two great fighter pilots on the left and right ends. In order, from
left to right, are me, the group commander Col. Nido, my assistant
flying training supervisor Jose Bloise, Capt. McCaskill, and your dad.
I can't explain the LIFE magazine logo at the bottom corner of the photo.
Rafael: You, of course, will recognize all of us. Except for that
bastard Nido, all were good guys. Even Nido was fun to drink with and
had a good sense of humor when he was not being a chicken-shit tyrant
because he was insecure in his incompetence and crapping all over
everybody. McCaskill was just a mature nice guy who was not one of the
wild, hard partiers. Jose Bloise was very full of himself, but a good
kid and a lot of fun. Jerry Ellsworth and I had fun keeping Bloise in
line (we called him Hose Blows sometimes). I'm sorry Jerry isn't in
the picture, because without him I couldn't have tolerated four years
under Nido. Plus, Jerry was a great pilot and instructor; without his
skill, I could not have put our ragtag militia squadron into combat
readiness as soon as we did together. Bloise did all right and helped
a lot, considering his lack of experience, but Jerry was tops. I'll
always remember the time that sorry bastard Air Force advisor,
Lt.Col. Broach, came into our Ops. office and asked if one of us wanted
to go up with him and do some dog-fighting. (Most of Broach's flying
was boring holes in the sky alone just to build up flying time.)
Bloise went up with him. When they came down, Jerry and I asked who won.
They said Bloise had pulled lead on Broach a couple of times. Then Broach
said he'd like to go up again and asked if Jerry or I would like to do
combat with him. Jerry, in his inimitable, suave manner, said, "Hell,
Colonel, if Bloise finally pulled lead on you, you wouldn't last through
the first turn against Dad or me."
And of course there was Elliott, a great pilot and utterly
fearless (a trait not found in many in our inexperienced pilot pool).
He was a favorite of everyone in the squadron and group, pilots and
ground crews and staff alike. John Donahue, visiting us years later in
Dallas, explained to my wife: "We all loved Elliott, but he and Earl
were like brothers." I know that you and Pat were also close to Elliott and Peggy.