The Dauntless SBD
"Sir Cedric" we called him, though this called for overlooking a battery of conflicting traits.
He's recalled as being from somewhere in the mid-west and of Polish descent.
Why then a British sobriquet?
Because, though small, he had a walrus-type moustache and usually, as a joke, he affected an English accent.
Also, his Christian name was Cecil, which shares alliteration with "Cedric".
He was tremendously well-liked and had a sense of humor that never stopped.
He was a master of the one-liner, and these were often ad-lib utterances, offered apropos of the passing scene.
Lieut. (j.g.) Cecil Drodz, USNR he was officially, a dive-bomber pilot in out unit, Scouting Squadron Six.
We were mainly attached to Air Group Three in the U.S.S. SARATOGA, but were also sporadically shore-based at various facilities in Hawaii, the Fiji Islands, New Caledonia and Guadalcanal.
This was in a somewhat latent phase in the Pacific War.
Most of our time was spent working out of New Caledonia, and most of our activity was in defensive sorties out of Noumea when the Japanese Naval forces made a move out of Truk.
We each sailed back and forth 500 or so miles apart, and kept this up 'til the Imperial forces returned to anchorage.
It was sort of like "shadow-boxing".
The US carrier forces then were our ship and the U.S.S. ENTERPRISE operating out of the New Hebrides, each the focus of its own small task force and both doing much the same thing.
It was as if the adversaries were each leery of confronting one another in a decisive action.
We were flying the SBD Douglass Dauntless scout-bomber, a wonderfully tough and reliable aircraft, though slow even for that time, and carrying a small load.
One of the safety features we enjoyed in the SBD was a loud klaxon deployed just behind the pilot's seat at head-level.
This horn had a sound volume comparable to a city fire alarm so that it could be heard above the engine noise.
It was provided as an attempt to fore-stall "wheels-up" landings.
It sounded only when the landing gear was retracted and the throttle was retarded completely as in preparing to land.
The idea was to alert the pilot he was about to touch down without having his landing gear extended.
One day "Sir Cedric" landed on his belly with his wheels up.
After the dust settled, he was told by his mates that the control tower had been shouting at him over the radio that his wheels weren't down.
He replied with his usual aplomb:
"How could I hear anything with that damned horn blowing in my ear?"
July 10, 1996
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