Friday, December 7, 2012

The Arizona Dragonslayer

Hey, did you ever see that movie about the guy who stuck to procedure, played by the rules, followed his orders to the letter, and saved the day?

Yeah, I didn't think so.

I "met" Frank Luke, Jr. at the airport in Phoenix during an emergency overnight layover.  A replica of Frank Luke's Spad XIII (well, one of his five Spad XIII's, none of which survived his aerial escapades) hangs suspended over an escalator in one of the terminals at Phoenix Sky Harbor.  Below it is an interactive exhibit about Phoenix's WWI flying ace.  A few months later, I've turned that chance encounter into the latest article on Damn Interesting.com.

In today's military, Lt. Luke wouldn't have needed to worry about the Germans, because after the first or second time he slipped out of formation during a mission, he'd have been back stateside, cooling his heels in Leavenworth - and as Major Winchester of M.A.S.H. so eloquently explained, "Dear God!  That's in Kansas!"

I think it would be interesting, just once, to see a dramatic story about a hero who saves the day and gets the girl (or guy) by following protocol.  On the other hand, General Billy Mitchell (who also plays a role in the Frank Luke's story) shaped the modern Air Force, but he also faced a court martial for insubordination after he criticized top brass for failing to invest in aircraft carriers.  World War II would later prove him right.

Perhaps Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's comment that "Well-behaved women rarely make history" shouldn't be so gender-specific.

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