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A pilot and gunner inspect the Handley. (Courtesy Tom LeCompte)

The Few, the Brave, the Lucky

To face the enemy in World War I, pilots first had to survive flight training.

Assigned to the 85th Squadron under Canadian air ace Lieutenant Colonel William “Billy” Bishop, Grider flew bomber escort and patrols, helping to neutralize Germany’s new Fokker D.VII. He downed four enemy airplanes before disappearing in a fog behind enemy lines in June 1918. His squadron learned later from a note dropped by a German pilot that Grider had been shot down in a dogfight and was buried somewhere in Armentieres, France. The airfield in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, is dedicated to him.

As for Shaw, after completing his training at Cranwell, learning on BE2cs and Airco DH9s, he was sent to the #1 School of Navigation and Bomb Dropping at Stonehenge. There he learned how to fly the giant Handley Page O-400 twin-engine bomber, and how to conduct night bombing missions. By the time he finished the six-week course and was assigned to 100 Squadron in France, it was the last week of October 1918. Within two weeks, the Armistice was signed and the guns fell silent. Eight months later, Shaw returned to the United States without ever having flown a combat mission. While surviving flight training was lucky in itself, his crash was even luckier: Being out of commission for eight weeks may have saved his life. Back home in Missouri, he married his sweetheart, Dorothy Price, and the two had a daughter, Janet—my mother. His good luck, it turns out, was mine too.

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