Veteran Stories:
Gerald Sheldon McCaughey

Navy

  • Pilot Gerald McCaughey (right) and friend with popular British bandleader and actor Ray Noble (centre) in New York City, 1944.

    Gerald McCaughey
  • Clowning around with friends.

    Gerald McCaughey
  • A Grumman F4F Wildcat. "When landing," Gerald McCaughey recalls, "the wheels had to be handcranked in. And If you didn't have wheels down, you'd explode because the fuel was on the 'fat bottom' of the plane."

    Gerald McCaughey
  • Canadian naval officer Gerald McCaughey (centre) with British naval officers in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1944.

    Gerald McCaughey
  • A picture Gerald McCaughey took of during his time in Inital Training school with the Royal Canadian Air Force. The white band on the mens' caps indicate they were aircrew trainees.

    Gerald McCaughey
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"I was flying a Corsair. Corsair was a super plane. Oh, you’ll try and whack the Zeros, knock out their fighters."

Transcript

At Elementary [Flying Training] School, one of the guys in the group said to me – it was in the middle of winter and we were training and once they would start the engines in the morning they never shut them down because they wanted to jump on and keep them going – and the guy said to me, “Lend me your leather gloves.” We had a system that you’d have silk, wool and then leather. We just wanted the leather at the top. And then he went, and instead of whatever he was supposed to do, he flew under a bridge and hit a tree and died. His name was, Pidgeon was his name. We were saying, “Bloody idiot! He hit the only tree in Saskatchewan. You never see any trees!” Then I had to say to my instructor, “I loaned him my leather gloves. I need to do something about it.” He said, “Oh, go up to the hospital and they will give them to you.” It was a pretty grim thing that the medical guys play on you – there were still hands in them! These are the kinds of things that you don’t ever forget.

I was flying a [Chance Vought F4U] Corsair. Corsair was a super plane. Oh, you’ll try and whack the [A6M] Zeros, knock out their fighters [Japanese aircraft]. We would go for them and then we would go after their bombers too, if they were around. In the Royal Navy, without that kind of plane, they transferred the [Supermarine] Spitfire into a naval thing [the Supermarine Seafire], just changed it a lot. A very good airplane, but it was no damned good for a carrier because they put wings that folded up and then you could put it in a hangar. The problem for the Spitfire was that it was very delicate for landing and its best thing was, number one, it doesn’t have a very strong undercarriage because you would just come in and land on a field, and that’s good. If you could hit a deck on a carrier, it’s quite probable you might drop from like six or eight feet, you break it. You hit the barrier if you don’t catch a wire and stuff like that. The Corsair, all of the ones they made in the U.S. they made for the navy, they made sure that you could drop it from 20 feet up if you wanted and it won’t break. Very, very good for that.

I was in the Pacific in the Royal Navy [Fleet Air Arm] and they were sending their men home after the bombs had dropped, you know, the atom bombs. By the way, right outside September [1945] we there right near Hong Kong and the fleet and the British admiral in charge, he said, “Look at these guys coming out with their torpedo boats. They don’t believe the war is over. Get up there and sink them.” And we did. But that’s what it was, they didn’t believe that the Emperor of Japan had quit. He had swallowed it all. They didn’t believe it.

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