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The Hard Way Home

  Flight Magazine, Summer, 1996


  There was no doubt when I crossed the lines because every SOB and his brother who had a .50-caliber machine gun shot at me. It was all over the place, and I had no idea which way to go. I didn't do much dodging because I was just as likely to fly into bullets as around them."

When he hopped over the last row of trees and found himself crossing his own airfield, he pulled up hard to set up for landing. His mind was on flying the airplane.

"I pitched up, pulled the throttle back and punched the buttons I knew would put the gear and flaps down. I felt the flaps come down, but the gear wasn't doing anything.

"I came around and pitched up again, still punching the button. Nothing was happening and I was really frustrated."

He had been so intent on figuring out his airplane problems, he forgot he was putting on a very tempting show for the ground crew.

"As I started up the last time, I saw the air defense guys ripping the tarps off the quad .50s that ringed the field. I hadn't noticed the machine guns before, but I was sure noticing them right then.

"I roared around in as tight a pattern as I could fly and chopped the throttle. I slid to a halt on the runway and it was a nice belly job, if I say so myself"

His antics over the runway had drawn quite a crowd, and the airplane had barely stopped sliding before there were MPs up on the wings trying to drag him out of the airplane by his arms. They didn't realize he was still strapped in.

"I started throwing some good Anglo-Saxon swear words at them, and they let loose while I tried to get the seat belt undone, but my hands wouldn't work and I couldn't do it. Then they started pulling on me again because they still weren't convinced I was an American.

"I was yelling and hollering; then, suddenly, they let go, and a face drops down into the cockpit in front of mine. It was my Group Commander, George R. Bickel.

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FW 190
The FW 190 in which Bruce Carr made his way home.

"Bickel said, 'Carr, where in the hell have you been , and what have you been doing now?" Bruce Carr was home and entered the record books as the only pilot known to leave on a mission flying a Mustang and return flying a Focke-Wulf. For several days after the ordeal, he had trouble eating and sleeping, but when things again fell into place, he took some of the other pilots out to show them the airplane and how it worked.

One of them pointed out a small handle under the glare shield that he hadn't noticed before. When he pulled it, the landing gear unlocked and fell out. The handle was a separate, mechanical uplock. At least, he had figured out the important things. Carr finished the war with 14 aerial victories after flying 172 missions, which included three bailouts because of ground fire. He stayed in the service, eventually flying 51 missions in Korea in F-86s and 286 in Vietnam, flying F-100s. That's an amazing 509 combat missions and doesn't include many others during Viet Nam in other aircraft types.

What makes a fitting ending to this story is that there is no ending. Bruce Carr is still actively flying and routinely shows up at air shows in a P-51D painted up exactly like Angel's Playmate. The last original Angel's Playmate was put on display in a museum in Paris, France, right after the war.

There is no such thing as an ex-fighter pilot. They never cease being what they once were, whether they are in the cockpit or not. There is a profile into which almost every one of the breed fits, and it is the charter within that profile that makes the pilot a fighter pilot-not the other way around. And make no mistake about it, Col. Bruce Carr is definitely a fighter pilot.

Sad to say that Bruce Carr passed away in April of 1998 at the age of 74. We are proud to have known this true American hero and fighter pilot. .

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