Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Strange Appreciation

I'm afraid to die. No question about it. I generally don't want to kill anyone either, although in darker moments I know I would kill given the right (or wrong) circumstances.

And yet I am strangely fascinated with the beauty of certan instruments of death—not electric chairs or cyanide capsules but rather swords, knives, and suchlike. And airplanes.

Granted, not all airplanes are weapons, but among military aircraft there is a certain artistic aesthetic, a form-follows-function construction, that generates an emotional appeal. For me, it might be the P-51 Mustang, or the Vietnam-era F-4 Phantom, or the Cold War-era B-58 Hustler.

I was reminded of this when my nephew sent me a snapshot he had taken at a nearby regional airport.

From a comparison with illustrations from an article about the 70th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in the Daily Mail, it appears these World War II-era B-25 bombers were enroute to Ohio to participate in the ceremony.

Only five of the original eighty raiders are left, all over ninety years of age. We owe them thanks, of course. No doubt they were afraid to die too when they climbed aboard those fragile aircraft, took off from a ship, and headed for Japan knowing they did not have sufficient fuel to reach a safe landing zone.

As for me, I don't think the North American-manufactured B-25 is especially "pretty," at least not in the fashion of the Mustang or the Spitfire, aircraft from the same era, but it does carry as much history as the Kentucky rifle or the Winchester 73.

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