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  #1  
Old 07-02-2020, 03:32 AM
Scott Chastain's Avatar
Scott Chastain Scott Chastain is online now
 
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Default The Scars of War

In the bookmarks of flight planning, there was once mapped out something that looked like an upside down plow blade. It was a coursework of bearings and destinations plotted and preserved electronically for several months, but weather and timing and the call of Providence delayed its execution.



It was supposed to be a 3-hour flight through a part of history that had left its scars behind in such a way as to be seen with a shudder of solemnity. Like a hardened and somewhat sickened soldier proving himself the awful agony of his own past, the flight would peel back a few layers of clothing to suddenly and auspiciously reveal those scars. To the scorn and unbelief of a world berating him after a mere 75 years, it was apparent those old wounds had been forgotten by a generation loathe to remember such history. For a country that was about to celebrate a tiny 244-year life of independence, the brevity of such remembrance was astonishing.

It was no wonder, then, that such history was about to repeat itself. The scars of war, lost to the blinding flash of modern combat, finally bore themselves out one day. It was time to execute the mission.
On June 30, 2020, we blasted out of Merced, CA (MCE) and flew under the glow of sunrise over the great San Joaquin Valley.





The windless cool of the early morning air pushed the smoke of an agricultural burn like a blade to the west toward Highway 99.





The southeasterly leg leveled off at 5,500-feet and took us over the city of Fresno as its downtown buildings burst in the morning light below.



After clearing the Fresno Class Charlie, we began our descent and soon were swept into the pattern of history as we prepared to land at Sequoia Field (D86), formerly used during World War II by the US Army Air Forces as a training base.





After landing, we taxied onto the ramp and shut down. The old control tower, lit up in the light of morning, commanded several acres of weed-ravaged tarmac now defunct and vacated to the ages of victory once produced there.



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RV-8 N898W Descending Dove
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  #2  
Old 07-02-2020, 03:33 AM
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Scott Chastain Scott Chastain is online now
 
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Default The Scars of War

After shutting down, an approach to the old WWII hangars was met by a gathering of Tulare County Sheriff's Deputies who were awaiting an inbound chopper flight from the National Guard. An early-morning search for illegal marijuana crops would soon commence.



The pilots lounge was completely bereft of people, as was the rest of the airfield.



A close examination of the south hangar and control tower revealed a complete abandonment to the elements, and nearly 8 decades of decay enshrined the building with dust, droppings, and the intricate entwining of webwork with the rays of sunlight pouring into the flightline command center.









A view just below the control tower offered an eerie perspective on the transience that once marched proudly below. The squadrons of Ryan PT-22s that gallantly graced the tarmac were now cast into oblivion. There remained that morning only the RV-8, Descending Dove, and a power glider whose pilot quickly stowed his parachute after just having touched down.





The next leg of the journey awaited. The Dove already had her nose pointed properly eastward, into the ever-rising sun and toward the massive teeth of granite that gnawed and beckoned to be crossed. And so we bade farewell to Sequoia Field and let the imprint of her scars remain forever fixed in the heart, guiding us heavenward toward the next destination with Old Glory waving us on.



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Last edited by Scott Chastain : 07-16-2020 at 07:57 PM.
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  #3  
Old 07-02-2020, 03:34 AM
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Default The Scars of War

Departing Sequoia Field, we trimmed for our best rate-of-climb and followed a course due east from the valley toward Mt. Whitney. The air was cool and calm and smooth that morning, and vaguely a ripple unsettled our path as we crossed the Sierra Nevada just south of contiguous America’s highest peak.









As Mt. Whitney passed to the port side, the Owens Valley opened up before us where we descended gently in a series of slow, spiraling turns. The majesty of the eastern Sierra Nevada range was bathed in the pour of early morning sunshine.











Over Lone Pine (O26), also a former USAAF auxiliary training base during WWII, we continued our slow spiraling descent to behold an array of other war scars nearby.

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Last edited by Scott Chastain : 07-02-2020 at 04:14 AM.
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  #4  
Old 07-02-2020, 03:35 AM
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Default The Scars of War

Looking south, the flora spawning along the sinuous path of the Owens River traversed the decline of the valley like a verdant artery giving life to whatever it touched.



Just 11 miles north of Lone Pine, there appeared on the valley floor the remains of the Manzanar Army Air Field, another training facility used during the war.



Just west of the airfield, the scars of Japanese-American internment---under Executive Order 9066---gridded the ground in typical military fashion.







Departing Manzanar and climbing north, we beheld the town of Independence and another former USAAF auxiliary air base (2O7). Nearing Bishop (BIH), we veered to the northeast into the Nevada desert.





A crazy congregation of irrigation circles and semicircles lay along the floor of Fish Lake Valley and drifted past the port side as we ventured near the infamous Nevada Testing Range.





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  #5  
Old 07-02-2020, 03:36 AM
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Default The Scars of War

The little town of Tonopah, NV soon came into view. Home to one of Nevada's largest military bases during WWII, the high desert training facility proved to be one of America's most important. It bore the scars to prove it. We circled the airfield in a descent and landed.











We were marshaled to the fuel pumps where we met up with Mark, the airport manager. Mark gave us a brief history of the Tonopah Army Air Field, including its use of the Curtiss P-40 Warhawks, the Bell P-39 Aircobras, and the B-24 Liberator. There were 110 men who died in training accidents at Tonopah during its operations between 1942-1945.



Mark gave us the use of a pickup to explore the last two standing hangars on the field. After using the facilities in the office and meeting Amelia, the cat Mark rescued out of the desert, we took the truck for a quick drive to explore the last remaining scars of war at Tonopah.







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  #6  
Old 07-02-2020, 03:37 AM
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Default The Scars of War

At the south end of the airfield stood a hangar where, at the height of the war, some of the most top secret mission plans and designs were carried out. An embodiment of military planning, and monumental in its stalwart stance in the desert, the golden brown bones of the hangar made a skeletal impression against a perfect eternity of blue sky.









In the base of the chimney there swarmed a countless throng of winged ants that took leisure while feasting on guano from the many bats living within its confines.



Where once there was erected another hangar of comparable size arose from the foundation another chimney, a stolid remnant of brick against the elemental forces of time and nature.



Near the airport office stood the second remaining hangar from World War II. Unlike the first, its interior had not been so fully stripped of its original design. A set of wings hung in repose against the west wall.







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  #7  
Old 07-02-2020, 03:38 AM
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Default The Scars of War

Prior to departing Tonopah, Mark directed my attention to a small memorial dedicated to a B-24 crew who died in a training accident. An actual engine and propeller from the crash site were recovered and placed over their names.









After thanking Mark for his hospitality, we pre-flighted and climbed aboard the Dove for the flight home. We were thankful to have been able to feel firsthand the scars of war at Tonopah and to witness the last stand of two remaining structures there.



Following startup, we taxied out, took off, and circled the airfield for one last glimpse of the remnants of war. Below, foundations of old base housing and command center units were clearly cut into the soil, and flying over the city of Tonopah itself, we waved our farewell and flew west in a steady ascent.









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  #8  
Old 07-02-2020, 03:39 AM
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Default The Scars of War

It was 103 nautical miles to meet up again with the Sierra Nevada, and we made an easy climb up to 12,500 feet after departing Tonopah. A large solar array glared brightly to starboard.



At Mono Lake, the air became turbulent enough to make a quick climb to 14,500 where, once again, the smoothness returned as we headed for Tioga Pass and beyond.











Over Tuolumne Meadows, the snowpack had yet to recede beyond the reaches of high granite to the south.





Near Yosemite Valley, with Half Dome dominating the foreground, we began our slow descent back into the San Joaquin Valley. Soon, we were back home in time for a late breakfast, and back home in time to remember how the scars of war frame the future: They frame it without fear.

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Last edited by Scott Chastain : 07-02-2020 at 04:02 AM.
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  #9  
Old 07-02-2020, 08:03 AM
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As usual, Scott, superb photos and write up of an interesting and informative trip. Thank you for taking us along on the flight.
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  #10  
Old 07-02-2020, 09:33 AM
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Default Riding Along

Vicariously, until my project?s airborne...

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