A rare photo of my dad atop the wing of a P-51 Mustang at Hickam Air Field in Hawaii, during World War II.
The Call of the Mustang
By Richard Mabey Jr.
During the Second World War, my father served in the Seventh Army Air Corps at Hickam Field in Hawaii. One of Dad’s responsibilities was to keep the P-51 Mustangs in top working order. The P-51 Mustang was a single seated fighter plane. It was also used on bombing missions. During World War II, Mustang pilots shot down 4,950 enemy aircraft.
A little known historical fact, that my dad often shared with me, is that during World War II, the Seventh Air Force was always on alert in full preparation that there was a very good chance that there would be a second full blown attack on Hawaii by the Japanese.
My dad joined the Army Air Corps in 1944. He was just 17 years old. His older brother, Edward, was lost at sea at the time. Edward’s ship had been sunk just off the coast of England. Miraculously, Edward was found at sea and rescued by a British naval ship.
I know Dad had a tough time convincing his mom and dad to sign for him, to allow him to join the Army Air Corps at such a young age. My grandfather, while being a deeply patriotic man, had lost his brother Earl in World War I. And now, his son Edward was lost at sea. My grandmother’s grandfather, William Storms, was killed in the Civil War. So, both of my grandparents were fully aware of the high cost of war.
If you knew my father, you know that when he had his mind set on something, nothing was going to veer him from his determined path. I think that is the way it was, even when Dad was 17 years old. I have a sense of the heart and mind of my dear father. His brother, Edward, was lost at sea and something stirred in his heart and soul to avenge the possibility that Edward was not coming home alive.
I don’t know how he did it. I just don’t know how my dad did it. To be in the shadow of the possibility of a full blown attack by the Japanese. To go to sleep each night, not knowing if you were going to see the morning sun. To sit down at the mess hall, to begin eating a meal, and not know if you would live long enough to finish the meal in front of you.
Little is written about the tension that the men of the Seventh Army Air Corps endured in Hawaii during World War II. Little is noted. Very little honor is attributed to their contribution. One thing is certain, their courage, their steadfast dedication, their love for America, and their willingness to be placed in the shadow of the very real possibility of total annihilation cannot be discounted.
From time to time, Dad would look over the pages of his old photo scrapbook of his pictures that he had of his time in service. I miss how he would tell me about the incredible P-51 Mustang, one of the most amazing planes of World War II. How dearly and truly do I miss those cherished moments with Dad.