Here, in these gloriously cluttered backrooms, I come across the faces I’d learned in plastic as a boy: the chubby nose of a DC-3, the sinister eyes of a Messerschmitt Me 410, the blunt snout of a Northrop P-61 Black Widow. Despite the ravages of time and weather and use and neglect, I recognized them immediately.
And this is how so many veteran pilots, regardless of which war they fought in, remember the aircraft of their youths. So says Mautner, who has noticed them touring the warehouses and watched them grow silent at the sight of a banged-up machine, hunkering in bad light. Back in the South Pacific or Korea or “in country,” as the veterans say, this is how our squadron really looked.