Well, one of my personal hero´s passed away today. Gen Robert L Scott, died this morning. He had a huge impact on my life – something I´m sure he didn´t know. Something I was thinking about just the other day actually.
I´ll never forget how I first got interested in so much – in flight, history, travel, the world. So much of that was because of him. His stories about traveling the world have inspired me to do the same. He followed the old silk road as a young man, through europe and parts of the middle east before the second world war, on a motorcycle. Years later, in the 1980s, he went back to roughly where he´d stopped and followed it the rest of the way to China, and then somehow managed to see most all of the Great Wall of China – something that probably no-one else ever has done.
In between, he was a pilot – a fighter pilot to be exact, though to get into the second world war, to meet Claire Lee Chennault, as he said in The Day I Owned the Sky “I had to lie cheat and surely steal.” What´d he steal? Why a Boeing B-17E, Flying Fortress of course. He flew it across the Atlantic, and North Africa to India – where he, along with the rest of the contingent was held up (originally the were to team up with Dolittle on the raid against Tokyo). There he flew supplies across “The Hump” into China. Eventually he convinced Chennault to give him just one P-40, with which he became “The One-Man Airforce”, accompanying the rest of those flying supplies into China. Later, he became Chennault´s second-in-command, of the 23rd Fighter Group.
Together they helped to keep the Burma Road open, despite the efforts of the Japanese and some of the top-brass of the US Army Air Force – namely old “Vinegar” Joe Stillwell. Eventually they were both forced to leave China, and Chennault was thereby denied the right to stand on the USS Missouri when Japan surrendurred. But their stories live on, and enspire those of us who know them.
Scotty was a hero, and more so for me than most. He took the time to write me back, and to send me The Day I Owned the Sky, along with a poster and a couple of pictures – all of which are still hanging on my wall, along with other posters, and pictures of that time. One of the pictures is of him getting into his P-40 all those years ago, another is him getting into the cockpit of an F-15 Eagle, “About to fly an F-15 at age 89, but that makes me feel 18. Bob Scott” it´s signed. I hope your still flying Scotty. I for one will always remember you.