The poem imortalized John McGee in 1941.
He was born in China, educated in FIVE DIFFERENT COUNTRIES, was trained to fly in Canada with the RCAF, got his wings in April 1941, wrote High Flight while serving with the RCAF in Wales in August and would be killed in a plane accident within months. He had yet to reach his 20th birthday!
Christopher McGee was the Black Sheep Squadron's top ace. He also trained with the RCAF. And he was John's cousin. Another of the famed squadron air aces was Donald Aldrich. He was also trained in Canada. Two other air aces coming to Canada for training were Fred Avery and Henry Miller. All but John were Americans. And there were THOUSANDS of other Americans that came to Canada before the US joined the war effort and got their air training.
As did Texas born John Carey Morgan. Many knew him as "Red" because of his flaming red hair. He'd come north for the training, and served almost 2 years wearing the uniform of the Royal Canadian Air Force. He'd get this training in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario. He would then be shipped off like hundreds of thousands of other sailors and soldiers and airmen and women to serve overseas, (including both of my parents). For many the visions of the famed Halifax Nova Scotia Piere 21, would be their last of North America.
John had an interesting earlier life. He had a passion for flying, to his father's shagrin. He'd sneak out of college to get flying lessons and would take his first solo flight after only 3 1/2 hrs training. A flying license would be his by age 20. But because he was bounced from college to college his father would become more and more angry at his progress. Finally getting fed up, the youth was sent off to the Fiji Islands and a labourer's job in the Pineapple business. He would end up in his 3 yr stint in management of that and local gold mining interests. But he was lonely for America and returned to find labour jobs back in the US. On one of these he was involved in an industrial accident that actually broke his neck. He was luckly he was not killed.
But he mended, and along came the start of WW11. America was late in joining the efforts to stop Hitler. Morgan tried to sign up to serve but the authorities found out about his earlier neck injury and deemed him a 4F, which basically meant that he was ruled unfit for any sort of miltary duty whatsoever.
Undetered he then came to Canada and signed up without any problem. He would later be quoted saying that they never asked him if he ever had a broken neck and of course he never told them!
His warship would take sevearl enemy shells. The first resulted in a loss of oxgen to several parts of the plane. In a 2nd, the co-pilot's window would be blow away. As co-pilot, Morgan was not hurt but shrapnell went past him and blew off part of the back of the scull of the pilot. That officer then grabbed the control column and slumped over it... still somehow maintained conscienceness and refused to let go. The plane went into a steep dive and Morgan managed to partially grab the controls enough to bring the plane back into formation. Falling out of it would have set the plane up as a sitting duck for German attack.
For over 2 hours Morgan tried to get the controls away from the pilot who actually started attacking him and giving him some loose teeth a two black eyes.
When another officer came up front to see what was going on, he managed to help get the pilot out of his seat. But to complicate all of this a turret gunner had also been shot and had an arm all but blown off. Attempts to give morphine could not be made as the needle was bent and so the arm had to be frozen to stop blood. Rushing wind will do that. And so the plan was to toss the fellow out of the plane. The Germans were known to be kind to enemy airmen. So a parachute was fastened to the poor lad but he panicked and opened it while still in the cockpit. They then had to roll it up, stuff it under his arm and push him out the door. They would later hear that he was indeed saved, sent to hospital and later becoming a POW, and still later being released to the allies.
Morgan continued to make the bomb run and ultimately bring the plane back to England. Within 1 1/2 hrs the pilot died... but at least he was back on home soil.
The story gets worse ... but more tomorrow!