The book's author , Dr. Samuel T. Moore
, was then a 30-year-old flight surgeon from Oklahoma City , who was keeping a daily diary even though it was against regulations.That diary is the heart of Moore's memoir , Flight Surgeon : With the 81st Fighter Group in World War II ( Macedon Publishing Co.
, 1999 ).
Now 88 , the retired orthopedic surgeon who still lives in Oklahoma City sent me the book after he
ran across my column , recognized my last name and tracked down my address.
It's rare these days for the children of World War II veterans to hear firsthand recollections about their fathers from their combat buddies.I'd already heard some stories from pilots who flew with Dad in the 92nd Fighter Squadron , but visiting with Dr. Moore
by telephone added rich details to the portrait of a young man I never knew.
Bart Bartimus was a prankster who bartered successfully for ice in the desert , who once liberateda goat for a barbecue , who landed his
fighter in shifting sands to save a stranded friend.As the Americans fought their way through Tunisia , El Guettar and Kasserine Pass , I could see the past through Moore's eyes :.
Your dad had a rugged frame and large hands.He
had well-tanned skin , and he
grinned a lot.The guys liked him ; he
was popular among the pilots.He
was rated as one of the better pilots in the outfit.
Thanks in part to Moore
, my dad didn't die in that Sicilian olive grove on Dec. 26 , 1943 , when his
engine quit on landing after a mission.Moore
wrote that Dad jettisoned his
belly tank and made a dead-stick landing in the best place available.He
tore three trees to pieces and damaged 15 others , plus tearing up a stone wall.The plane cartwheeled and landed on its back.
The lives of Bartimus and Moore
intersected for a brief , crucial time.
Thanks to Moore
, I got a glimpse of him then , too.
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at P.O. Box 728 , Puunene , HI 96784.
Tuesday , June 26 , 2001