A Romance of War Birds

A Romance of War Birds

Whenever I hear war era swing I always hear just behind my ears the low rumble of a B-17G‘s four radial Wright R-1820-97 Cyclones or the high pitched keening roar of a diving P-51D‘s 12 cylinder Rolls Royce Merlin V-1650-7, or the old nemesis of every bomber crew, that characteristic dull throb of an an ME-109 G-10’s DB 605 as it comes in from the sun. While we do not forget these were—at the time—state of the art weapons of war, for us who came long after these aircraft carry a certain romance. I strongly recommend listening to them as well as the music. Their sleek lines, the subtle upward pitch of their wings bristling with guns, their flight characteristics, the kill tally (sortee count for the bombers) and nose art, not to mention the men who flew them, for us are things of legend.

The same goes for the music of the period, and for mine I have chosen Tuxedo Junction by Glenn Miller and his orchestra. These songs were written for—and in many cases—by the soldiers and pilots who spent their youth in battle, because it was a rough time to be alive, considering all that was going at the same time. From the war in the Pacific to the war in Europe, the Soviet Union finding its might, the Holocaust, to the invention of nuclear weapons, it must’ve seemed like the world was ending. It is no wonder there is a specific whimsy to be found in the music of the time. It was a welcome escape.

When I hear Tuxedo Junction I imagine a smoke filled hangar with a radio tucked into a corner, and a pilot and mechanic with cigarettes hanging out of their lips casually patching bullet holes as if just a few hours before he wasn’t being shot at.

That’s good enough for government work.

3 thoughts on “A Romance of War Birds

  1. Eloquently written.
    I have had the good fortune to see a B17G fly overhead.
    A P51 used to live and fly out of the local airport.
    And I live on the flight path to Oshkosh Wisconsin for the many warbirds that fly to the annual EAA Fly-in every August except this one.
    There is nothing like that throaty sound of a radial. When I was young I was in Civil Air Patrol and our Wing had a De Havilland Beaver from WWII era. That sound is unmistakable.
    As is the clarinet of Benny Goodman or the trombone of Tommy Dorsey, and the unmistakeable sounds of Glenn Miller’s Airmen of Note playing In The Mood. Dancing to or playing that music always makes me smile.
    I may be two generations from those who fought or lived through that war but their legacy and the resiliency of that time lives on.
    Thanks for the memories.

  2. This is not an era that I really know much of the music from but I really enjoyed reading about the memories and associations you have with the music. Thanks for sharing 😊

  3. When I was a kid I lived on base, and there was a certain music to the Huey helicopters that my dad flew. Even today, when I feel one coming, it takes me back to his hangar…the pool table…the jukebox they had.

    I like the angle you took with this post.

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