By John Worman: I asked Mel Taylor to come up with some anecdotes with respect to) the dozens of stories about Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker and 2) Col. Pappy Lewis's command of the 98th Combat Wing, the first B-26 bomber outfit to be stationed in France. Mel is a retired Martin tech rep living in Titusville, Florida who spent 13 years in field service, training Air force pilots and ground crews in the operation and maintence of B-26 aircraft systems, followed by the same for airline 202/404 personnel and the AM-1 dive bomber with the navy. He retired in 1984. The classrooms for airline and navy personnel were in the Navy barracks building next to A building at the Middle River plant. Airline senior and instructor pilots were checked out in the 202/404 transports by either Pat Tibbs or Gorge Rodney flying from Martin airport.
In Mel's words, Rickenbacker was a tough old bird who took a liking to him. He frequently stopped by Mel's office, which was in the Eastern airlines hangar at the Miami municipal airport. Usually it was nighttime when Rickenbacker made his rounds of the 404 and maintenance and service shops. Rickenbacker treated Mel as though he were one of his staff. He was invited to annual station manager meetings which usually were held at big hotels along the ocean from of Miami beach. When Martin called Mel back for new assignment, he was offered an attractive position to keep him at EAL.
The best story Mel tells on himself concerns what happened on the way to his tech rep assignment in France. In his words, he took his English car with him which was loaded aboard an LST for the channel crossing. They would go ashore at Omaha Beach (one month after the D-Day invasion). The car was stowed in the bow and would be the first off the ship. Unfortunately the car, wet from salt spray that came through the clamshell doors, refused to start. Troops pushed the car down the ramp so steep it got stuck in the sand. Dug out, the car was hooked by chain to the rear of the an Army tank on shore. The bumper was yanked off. Pressed for time before the tide came in, the troops were busy unloading their equipment and supplies. They were going to abandon Mel's car, but he succeeded in persuading the tank crew to hook the anchor-size chain to the car axle and continue towing up the beach until the car started. To Mel it was a sight, this big cannon-bearing tank pulling his small English car behind it. Mel joined the convoy on the highway and headed to the B-26 bomber base in Lessay.
By Mel Taylor: John, I guess I didn't realize that the article you were putting together was about me. Where did you get the info on my arrival in France with the 98th combat wing? Just to clarify a few things, I was a Tech Rep for GLM on the B-26 1941-1945, the AM-1 1947-1948, 202/404 1949-1952. In 1953-1954 I was in the engineering test crew at Pt. Mugu on the Oriole Program. From 1954 to retirement, I was in management on the Bullpup in Baltimore and then the Titan in Denver. On each of those programs as a tech rep, 1941-1952, I started out teaching classes on the systems operation and maintenance to both pilots and ground crews. After the classes I went to the field as a Tech Rep. You didn't ask for information on Pappy Lewis, but I can give you some. He was a great guy and I give him credit for helping save the B-26 when Truman was trying to get rid of it. He was CO of the 38th Bomb Group at Wright Patterson when I first met him. He developed the technique for a high approach landing, like diving down to land in lieu of the low drag in approach. This technique gave pilots a chance to recover if anything happened on the approach. He was well respected by his pilots as well as his ground crews. He was sent to Barksdale, Shreveport, LA as CO of the 335th Replacement Training Unit. He requested GLM to send me there as a Tech Rep. That was in 1942, and in 1943 he was sent to the UK with the 9th Bomber Command and again he requested that I be sent to UK. The same when he was made CO of 98th Combat wing. That is how I got to France with my little English car. Incidentally, his brother was the radio news reporter Fulton Lewis Jr., and, he sounded just like him, if you remember his voice.
By John Worman: On examining Mel Taylor's e-mail, I see
no changes in my text concerning his anecdotes. If you would like
to include some clarification as to who Col. Pappy Lewis was, with respect
to Glenn L. Martin Company and the B-26 bomber, it would be useful.
Actually, it was Gen. Jimmy Doolittle who was primarily responsible for
saving the B-26 program in the face of loss of pilots and A/C at the beginning
of their use (B-26). Gen. Hap Arnold directed Doolittle to visit
the various bases, demonstrating the way the bomber should be flown.
Col. Lewis also deserves credit. There must have been other supporters
doing their part. Glenn Martin ordered that President Harry Truman
should be refused at the gate when the president expressed interest in
visiting the factory. Martin considered Truman a threat to the B-26
contract. It was known Truman intended to cancel the program.