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Spitfire Wingman

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Episode No. 90: Spitfire Wingman

Date: January 15, 2010

Notes:  Conversations about World War II fighter pilot Colonel James R. Haun.

James Robert Haun was born to a struggling Memphis, Tennessee lawyer and his wife Sept. 21, 1911, the first of three children, their only son.  Because his mother died five days before his ninth birthday, young James -- while being swapped among assorted mid-South relatives -- early learned self-reliance.  Gifted with adventurous energy, by age 22 he had progressed from Eagle Scout to Western Union bike messenger, to working his way to Europe via hopped-freight and tramp steamer, to becoming a pilot and building his own airplane -- powered by a motorcycle engine!

His remarkably varied aviation career literally covered the globe, including personal encounters with Patton, Vandenberg, Truman, and Nixon.  He flew fighters, bombers, and transports -- rising to become Chief Pilot of MATS and Commander of the Presidential Squadron in Washington.  After retirement in 1965 he built an EAA biplane in his garage, wowed audiences at local air shows in a Snoopy outfit, and instructed hundreds of students (many now piloting airliners).

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