4-27-2005 Urban No in ‘07


Wilkes-Barre, Pa. - Steve Barrouk quickly learned just how devoted fans would become for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League.

Barrouk, president of the Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce, and most of the 8,500 fans who packed the new Northeastern Pennsylvania Civic Arena knew little about hockey at the club's first regular-season game in 1999.

"Most of us didn't know even when to cheer," Barrouk said.

When Pens forward Dennis Bonvie tangled in a third-period fight, prompting his ejection, his new fans stood and cheered. The other player, meanwhile, received a beer shower as he exited for the locker room.

AHL president Dave Andrews sat next to Barrouk, who turned to apologize for the fans' unruly behavior.

Andrews just laughed: "This is going to be a great hockey town."--I found that at Des Moines Register.com

The likelihood is that it’s all coming down.--Tom Leighton all but announcing that our canopy system is histoire.

I knew it. I fargin' knew it. I bitched. I threatened urban planners with cream pies attacks still in the offing. But yet, our unique canopies are to be no more.

I find it interesting that nearly every lean-to, converted barn and dog coop in this town is said to have some historic value worth saving. But when it comes to the canopy...

Maybe I should get a petition going. Maybe I should threaten to picket the mayor’s kitchen. Maybe I should call WBRE and rave like a loonie bird. Maybe I should call my local council (gender neutral) thingie and talk them into using this issue as a career saver, or a stepping off point to the city’s top spot. Then again, maybe I should realize that while you may win some, you may lose some, too.

Bummer. When the lightning catches up to Gage and I faster than we thought possible while well south on the elongated bike, where are we gonna ditch at and wait out the storms? I know. As a form of protest, we’ll pile into the mayor’s garage. Or Larry Newman’s.

Somebody get either Christine Katsock, Walter Griffith, or Carl Romanelli on the blower and ask 'em how much money we'll save after relentlessly attacking our city council for a damn near a decade now?

From KeystonePolitics.com

City Council members will soon join the ranks of those in Philadelphia's public-sector elite who earn a six-figure salary.

Come June, Council members will receive a cost-of-living increase of 4.38 percent, the second time in as many years that they will get a bump in pay. That adjustment will raise the annual pay for most members from $ 98,000 to $ 102,292.40, making them among the most handsomely compensated council members in the country.

Leaders of the 17-member Council will make out even better. President Anna C. Verna, who makes $ 123,000, will take in $ 128,387.40; Majority Leader Jannie Blackwell, who is paid $ 105,000, will make $ 109,599; Minority Leader Brian J. O'Neill and Majority Whip Marian Tasco, who both take in $ 103,000, will make $ 107,511.40; and Minority Whip Frank Rizzo, who makes $ 100,000, will be paid $ 104,380.

There's obviously no shortage of professional critics in these parts. The thing is, I can't figure out what they bring any professionalism to?

From the e-mail inbox Mark,
$10,000,000 plus is only the debt that had to be paid immediately. As much as we would like to forget, but as responsible people can't, the City still owes the precast company as well as the Architect for the famous HOLE. In addition, let's not forget that little item, THE CALL CENTER. Those few extras should come in around $18,000,000 to 20,000,000 additional dollars. But hey,what's a couple of bucks when you are asked to make a quote to a newspaper.

You are a lucky man to have the family I continue to watch grow up thru the photos on your site.

Hope all is well and you know where to contact me if there is anything I can do to help.
Best regards,
YOUR FRIEND

You know, you're right. McGroarty had so many unpaid debts scattered so completely far and wide...it's next to impossible to recall them all without hiring someone to plow through my filing cabinets. And I totally forgot about those precast boys being the most patient bunch ever to deal with the City of Wilkes-Barre, aka, McTommy's World. We can't forget about the call center only because we get twice-a-year reminders about it when the city is forced to cut yet another huge check for McTommy's less than stupendous albatross.

For the life of me, I'll never understand why the local reporters always run to Ms. Katsock for a quick, but inaccurate sh*t-eating quote every single time Tom Leighton sneezes or something. Doesn't she ever get sick of the taste of his ankles? What say you there, prez of the vocal under-achievers? "Well, Tom McGroarty never raised fees or taxes." How f**king stupid is that? " Tom Mcgroarty was always dedicated to increasing services.

And consider the title of this Times Leader supplement in the first place.

Changing for the Future-Lessons from the past

Why is it that Lane Filler felt the need to keep the ideas of one of our harshest mayor's critics in the mix for this special feature? Spin through it once. It's filled with upbeat pieces about every community in this county. But nary a consenting opinion except whereas Wilkes-Barre is concerned. Why is that? Does Lane Filler look for chances to remind people that Wilkes-Barre has had it's share of problems? I didn't read anything coming from Lou Barletta's ankle biters? Nothing at all about how Mike Lombardo is doing it all wrong. Nope. County-wide, everybody is holding hands and singing Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy! while oodles of money and free Big Mac coupons float down from the skies above.

Shickshinny? Ah, Folks love their little town" reports the Leader staff. White Haven? The splendor of small town living. Wilkes-Barre Township? ...a regional retail mecca. And Wilkes-Barre?

Well, different story all of a sudden. Wilkes-Barre is A city under construction and we must have a bit of political point/counterpoint minus the original point with Katsock keeps her ideas in mix. Thanks, Lane. If I was the mayor, you'd be scraping yourself off of the tarmac. That is, so long as no one was looking. Or did Corbett teach you some of that voodoo fighting of his that‘s supposed to frighten people away without much success?

Ideas? What ideas? McGroarty never raised fees and taxes while being dedicated to increasing services??? Yeah, we got that part. Trust me, we were already painfully aware of that. And you're playing to the same inept voters, Ms. Little Know-it-All. Invest in the city's future? Nah, nah, nah. We want monthly clutter cleanups, daily garbage pick-ups, and extra visits from the plow trucks in exchange for some homemade pierogies. (true story with the potato & dough thingies) Gee, those seniors loved their McTommy. And their curbline. And their tree lawn. And their new commingled bins. And their frumpy asshole-of-the-state city.

Wifey took Zack on a tour of the downtown area today and heard some grumpy, old lottery addict biching about the results of the street sweeping on his street and saying we need to dump this mayor. If memory serves, our street sweepers were completely AWOL during both 2002 and 2003. That's one of your voters, Christine. He cares about nothing other than the twenty linear feet in front of his house, his daily stroll to Turkey Hill for $50 worth of lottery tickets and his next jaunt to Atlantic City. Play to the old folks like McGroarty did with your "ideas" and then watch the last of the city's future, the younger folks, laugh at you and your pitiful ideas from the more bucolic reaches of the county.

And a big middle finger goes to one Lane Filler for making sure that Wilkes-Barre can get absolutely no break whereas the f**king press is concerned. This is a city under construction, but...but we're doing it all wrong. You might be better served by learning some lessons about our likely future, while changing from the defeatist and always negative past.


The leader of the amalgamated stealth party has spoken again.

Unfortunately.

Wilkes-Barre is always walking around with an empty tin cup looking for others to help pay their bills because of poor fiscal management by the mayor and council.--Soon to be former minority county commissioner, and current Taxpayer Party ‘07 campaign manager, Steve Urban

Listen to him! What does his job entail? Criticizing everyone and everything without once adding anything substitive to any debate of note. He’s the Vote No Kid. He’s just along for the ride. He derides everything anyone has to offer. And when things don’t go as planned, he’s quick to point out that he voted against whatever it was that went south. As if we’re not already keenly aware of his rubber stamp voting record. What say you, Vote No kid?

No.

In one week alone, he’s on record as saying our former city police chief “has no respect for the law.” And now, according to his less than exhaustive research, Wilkes-Barre is the biggest beggar in the county thanks to our mayor and council.

I would have to ask our boorish naysayer why it is exactly that 50%-plus of Wilkes-Barre’s properties are tax-exempt. Remember that county seat thing? Two hospitals. One of which is growing faster than the Vote No Kid’s already longish nose. A growing college. A flourishing university. A county building on practically every corner. A county property in the middle of every other block. A courthouse. A courthouse annex. A federal courthouse. The YMCA. The CYC. Four high schools. Five elementary schools. An L.I.U. unit. The Salvation Army and scores upon scores of other relief agencies scattered far and wide across the city. Lots of less than fruitful KOZ properties that seemed like such a great idea to the boys Steve used to run with.

I’ve already gone on the record as saying I’m none too excited about the ‘07 election cycle. Whoopee! Two less council members. That matters not. New gerrymandered voting districts? Yawn. Maybe I’ll volunteer to work at my local polling place down on Willow Street. So what’s on the Corning plate for ‘07? Making sure Tom Leighton isn’t totally disillusioned by all of the negativism and rarin’ to go for a second term. Making sure none of those activists idiots in Lane Filler‘s rolodex ever see the light of any elected day. And seeing to it that Steve Urban is sent packing to whatever intellectual backwater they found him at.

Make checks payable to:

Urban No in ‘07


Check your dates! Check your dates!

Posted on Thu, May. 29, 2003

Inflatable dam would pose environmental, health risks, say federal agencies

By JENNIFER LEARN-ANDES

'I'm still cautiously optimistic.' U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski

On inflatable dam project

WILKES-BARRE - Additional study of an inflatable dam across the Susquehanna River has brought more concern about the potential for raw sewage pooling behind the dam.

Two federal agencies have weighed in with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, expressing serious reservations about the project's environmental impact.

Sewage discharges pose a health threat not only to the public, but also to fish and wildlife, department supervisor Jared Brandwein of the U.S. Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service wrote in an April letter to the Corps.

Such discharges would impair the dam's recreational opportunities and economic development by creating "unpleasant odors, unsightly algae blooms and deposits of suspended wastes within the pool," according to the letter.

U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski, who has spent nearly a decade pushing for the dam to create a recreational lake on the Susquehanna, is undeterred.

"I'm still cautiously optimistic," the Democrat from Nanticoke said Wednesday afternoon. He was interviewed during an unrelated tour of the expansion of the Catholic Youth Center in Wilkes-Barre.

He said he continues to meet with the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority and community leaders "up and down the river" to estimate how much it will cost to prevent untreated sewage from reaching the river.

His "back of the envelope" estimates show it would cost $12 million to $25 million to stop 85 percent of the sewage outflow. It would cost at least that much and maybe more to prevent the remaining 15 percent from leaking into the river.

Some have ventured it would cost $1 billion or more to fix the sewage mess.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlined its points to the Corps in a March letter, saying it's "very concerned that there are significant environmental constraints that must be overcome before the proposed project can be implemented."

Topping its list is untreated sewage that flows into the Susquehanna River when combined sewage/storm water pipes are overburdened during heavy downpours, an occurrence that Kanjorski has said happens up to 38 times per year.

"We are extremely concerned that impoundment of poor quality river water may pose significant risks to human health from exposure to bacterial pathogens," the EPA said in its letter.

The proposed project could also have adverse environmental effects on wetlands, fish, aquatic life and migratory water-dependent birds, the letter continues.

The agency says the path of migratory fish may be compromised by dam construction, even though the project is supposed to include a fish passage structure.

EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program has put "significant effort" into removing dam structures that prevent fish passage, the letter says.

"Based on the foregoing concerns, we encourage the applicant to consider a range of alternatives that would have less human health and environmental impacts than the proposed project," the letter said, advising that a full environmental impact assessment be done before the project is approved by any government entity.

In an April letter, Corps district engineer Charles J. Fiala Jr. told Kanjorski it is "critical" he find out what level of water quality or combined sewer clean-up is necessary to get a "water quality certificate" from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, a prerequisite to building the dam.

The information is needed to calculate an estimated price tag on correcting the sewage problem, Fiala said.

Kanjorski said the $14 million earmarked for the dam is safe, although he has indicated in the past that the money might be in jeopardy if the county's Flood Protection Authority didn't commit to the project.

Kanjorski said Wednesday that he hopes to get additional earmarks to fund much of the sewage work with local and state matches.

"I'm certainly very optimistic with the new nominated county commissioner candidates. I think all of them have a desire to see progress for not only the Wyoming Valley but all of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and I think they're going to go in with a new attitude toward getting these things done in a timely fashion," Kanjorski said, stressing that he is referring to both Democrat and Republican candidates.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Contact: Gretchen M. Wintermantel 202.225.6511

Congressman Kanjorski Welcomes National Attention To Susquehanna River

Announces an additional $350,000 to address the combined sewer overflow problem in the Wyoming Valley, which brings the total to $4.1 million in federal funding

WASHINGTON – Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (PA-11) today welcomed the national attention that a newly released report has focused on the Susquehanna River. He also reiterated his support for increasing the federal investment in programs that will help the river cleanup and address the combined sewer overflow (CSO) problems in the Wyoming Valley. CSOs cause the discharge of untreated sewage into the Susquehanna River approximately 37 times each year when sewers designed to collect rainwater and sewage in the same pipeline overflow because of heavy rainfall or snow.

In a report released today, the conservation group American Rivers designated the Susquehanna River as the nation’s Most Endangered River for 2005. The organization’s report cited the CSO problem as one of the most pressing problems facing the Susquehanna, which provides half of the Chesapeake Bay’s freshwater.

“Although today’s report is not good news for the Susquehanna River, it sheds light on a problem that I, along with other state and local officials, have been working to address for several years. The annual report of America’s Most Endangered Rivers is an important tool to draw the attention of our nation to a serious problem. Because the Susquehanna River contributes half of the freshwater that flows into the Chesapeake Bay, the impact of its cleanup is extensive and affects a large geographical area. I am committed to doing everything possible for the comprehensive cleanup of the Susquehanna River. To that end, I will continue to seek the maximum level of federal funding to offset the costs of eliminating the CSOs,” Congressman Kanjorski said. “I will also continue to work with local and state officials and sewage treatment authorities such as the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority to fix this problem in an effective and efficient manner.”

On the state level, Congressman Kanjorski supports a bill for a $1 billion bond referendum proposed by State Sen. Ray Musto (D-Pittston) that would create a CSO Grant Program and Governor Rendell’s proposal to issue $800 million in bonds for water and sewage system improvements.

Because of the environmental degradation caused by the continued presence of CSOs, Congressman Kanjorski has successfully secured $4.1 million in federal funding in recent years to correct CSO problems in the Susquehanna River, most recently obtaining $350,000 in the 2005 budget cycle.

When heavy rainfall occurs, the pipes in the system normally direct wastewater to sewage treatment plants, but the systems overflow into the Susquehanna River when the volume exceeds what the pipes can hold. American Rivers identified 123 large sewage discharges just in the Pennsylvania portion of the Susquehanna River, including 70 in Scranton and 65 in Harrisburg.

Improving the water quality of the Susquehanna River has been made more difficult by deep cuts in federal funding for environmental restoration and protection initiatives. In fact, the Bush Administration proposed 2006 budget would cut the Environmental Protection Agency budget by $450 million. Congressman Kanjorski strongly supports restoring the funding for environmental cleanup eliminated from President Bush’s 2006 budget.

“The Susquehanna River is nationally significant and deserves national assistance. The long-term elimination of CSOs requires substantial resources from communities already struggling from other federal budget cuts. We all deserve clean water, and we need to reaffirm the commitment the federal government made more than 30 years ago to ensure clean water for our citizens,” Congressman Kanjorski said.

Addressing the CSO problem in the Wyoming Valley is an essential element of a comprehensive effort to beautify the Susquehanna riverfront in Wilkes-Barre, the centerpiece of which is the construction of an inflatable dam. The inflatable dam would create a 450-acre lake at a depth of about six feet when inflated during low-flow warm weather periods about nine months each year. By stabilizing the water level on the Susquehanna, the dam will enhance recreational uses of the river and ensure a certain riverbank for the amenities such as the fishing pier and marina that are planned for the Riverfront.

Luzerne County is in the process of evaluating the environmental impact of a proposed inflatable dam, and the county’s study is expected to be completed sometime this year.

The initial award winning Gannett-Fleming study issued in the spring of 2000 indicated that a dam is economically feasible and found no insurmountable reason why the dam should not be environmentally feasible as well. That study projected that the dam will be a tremendous financial asset to the Wyoming Valley, attracting between 200,000 and 400,000 visitors a year and generating annual revenues of as much as $70 million in economic activity along the Riverfront.

The Gannett-Fleming study also recommended that a plan be developed to eliminate combined sewer overflows (CSOs) into the Susquehanna. That recommendation has served as a basis for action in recent years.

“One of the reasons I have been such a strong proponent for the construction of an inflatable dam is because I wanted to refocus our attention on the Susquehanna River and the need for its comprehensive cleanup,” Congressman Kanjorski said. “The presence of the dam and the recreational opportunities that it will ultimately offer has helped strengthen our community’s appreciation of the Susquehanna as a regional asset. As a result, we now have an incentive to improve the river’s water quality.”


There… I said it again. Well, somebody other than myself finally got around to it.

From the Citizen’s Voice:

Councilman Phil Latinski said he believes the current 911 system is "not as efficient as the system we had before."

DING! We have ourselves a winner!!! Give that man a prize provided that Walter Griffith promises not to call the auditor general, or anything else equally moronic.

Is it me, or are these council people becoming very, very vocal as of late? I think the election honeymoon has all but come to an end with a mighty, mighty thud. We shall see.

How ‘bout this gem from the Leader?

Firehouses were again a hot topic, with Latinski arguing that a proposed station near Hollenback Park could face traffic problems and Kane and Councilman Jim McCarthy demanding a Heights fire station solution, as they have at every meeting for months.

The two also took time away from arguing with Leighton to squabble with each other about what Kane saw as McCarthy’s self-aggrandizing behavior at a recent Heights firehouse meeting.

“It’s a team effort,” Kane said. “You should talk about what we’re doing, not just ‘I.’ There is no ‘I’ in team.”

Classic. It’s all politics, right?

I remember when my boss pulled that ‘I’ bullsh*t on me. He overheard me bitching about what I perceived to be a total lack of support while in the field. (I was correct) And he thought he was so friggin’ clever when he repeated that ultra stupid line I had heard from a Cornell graduate assistant for the first time as a 17 year-old college student. This Cornell geek couldn’t get himself laid to save his entire family’s life, but he could tell me how to run the entire world by remembering a few gimmicky lines he learned while at a Chess team practice. Is it any wonder an associates degree was less attractive to me than burning a VC village to the ground with my Zippo? Back to my boss.

“There’s no ‘I’ in teamwork,” he practically grinned me to death with.

“Yeah,” I quickly fired back at him, “and there’s no f**king ‘We’ in termite!”

BANG!!!

You really gotta watch how utterly cute you get with that silly sort of stuff. Some of us can think on our feet. How ‘bout this one?

There is no ‘we’ in mayor.

Heyna?

Or no?

Bummer, Phils fans. Can you say Smoltz, Hampton, Hudson, Thomson and Ramirez without denting the front of the fridge-a-matic on purpose?

I kinda doubt it.

Def Leppard tickets go on sale Saturday. Anybody up to having their ears ringing for a day or two? C,mon. Who wants to rock at, as Sue Henry always sez, the Waaahhhhh-covia Arena?

Lemme know.



Piggyback Hero

by Ralph Kinney Bennett

Tomorrow morning they'll lay the remains of Glenn Rojohn to rest in the Peace Lutheran Cemetery in the little town of Greenock, Pa., just southeast of Pittsburgh. He was 81, and had been in the air conditioning and plumbing business in nearby McKeesport. If you had seen him on the street he would probably have looked to you like so many other graying, bespectacled old World War II veterans whose names appear so often now on obituary pages.

But like so many of them, though he seldom talked about it, he could have told you one hell of a story. He won the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart all in one fell swoop in the skies over Germany on December 31, 1944.

Fell swoop indeed. Capt. Glenn Rojohn, of the 8th Air Force's 100th Bomb Group, was flying his B-17G Flying Fortress bomber on a raid over Hamburg. His formation had braved heavy flak to drop their bombs, then turned 180 degrees to head out over the North Sea.

They had finally turned northwest, headed back to England, when they were jumped by German fighters at 22,000 feet. The Messerschmitt Me-109s > pressed their attack so closely that Capt. Rojohn could see the faces of the German pilots.

He and other pilots fought to remain in formation so they could use each other's guns to defend the group. Rojohn saw a B-17 ahead of him burst into flames and slide sickeningly toward the earth. He gunned his ship forward to fill in the gap.

He felt a huge impact. The big bomber shuddered, felt suddenly very heavy and began losing altitude. Rojohn grasped almost immediately that he had collided with another plane. A B-17 below him, piloted by Lt. William G. McNab, had slammed the top of its fuselage into the bottom of Rojohn's. The top turret gun of McNab's plane was now locked in the belly of Rojohn's plane and the ball turret in the belly of Rojohn's had smashed through the top of McNab's. The two bombers were almost perfectly aligned - the tail of the lower plane was slightly to the left of Rojohn's tailpiece. They were stuck together, as a crewman later recalled, "like mating dragon flies."

No one will ever know exactly how it happened. Perhaps both pilots had moved instinctively to fill the same gap in formation. Perhaps McNab's plane had hit an air pocket.

Three of the engines on the bottom plane were still running, as were all four of Rojohn's. The fourth engine on the lower bomber was on fire and the flames were spreading to the rest of the aircraft. The two were losing altitude quickly. Rojohn tried several times to gun his engines and break free of the other plane. The two were inextricably locked together. Fearing a fire, Rojohn cuts his engines and rang the bailout bell. If his crew had any chance of parachuting, he had to keep the plane under control somehow.

The ball turret, hanging below the belly of the B-17, was considered by many to be a death trap - the worst station on the bomber. In this case, both ball turrets figured in a swift and terrible drama of life and death. Staff Sgt. Edward L. Woodall, Jr., in the ball turret of the lower bomber, had felt the impact of the collision above him and saw shards of metal drop past him. Worse, he realized both electrical and hydraulic power was gone.

Remembering escape drills, he grabbed the handcrank, released the clutch and cranked the turret and its guns until they were straight down, then turned and climbed out the back of the turret up into the fuselage.

Once inside the plane's belly Woodall saw a chilling sight, the ball turret of the other bomber protruding through the top of the fuselage. In that turret, hopelessly trapped, was Staff Sgt. Joseph Russo. Several crewmembers on Rojohn's plane tried frantically to crank Russo's turret around so he could escape. But, jammed into the fuselage of the lower plane, the turret would not budge. > > Aware of his plight, but possibly unaware that his voice was going out over the intercom of his plane, Sgt. Russo began reciting his Hail Marys.

Up in the cockpit, Capt. Rojohn and his co-pilot, 2nd Lt. William G. Leek, Jr., had propped their feet against the instrument panel so they could pull back on their controls with all their strength, trying to prevent their plane from going into a spinning dive that would prevent the crew from jumping out.

Capt. Rojohn motioned left and the two managed to wheel the grotesque, collision-born hybrid of a plane back toward the German coast. Leek felt like he was intruding on Sgt. Russo as his prayers crackled over the radio, so he pulled off his flying helmet with its earphones.

Rojohn, immediately grasping that crew could not exit from the bottom of his plane, ordered his top turret gunner and his radio operator, Tech Sgts. Orville Elkin and Edward G. Neuhaus, to make their way to the back of the fuselage and out the waist door behind the left wing.

Then he got his navigator, 2nd Lt. Robert Washington, and his bombardier, Sgt. James Shirley to follow them. As Rojohn and Leek somehow held the plane steady, these four men, as well as waist gunner Sgt. Roy Little and tail gunner Staff Sgt. Francis Chase were able to bail out.

Now the plane locked below them was aflame. Fire poured over Rojohn's left wing. He could feel the heat from the plane below and hear the sound of .50 caliber machinegun ammunition "cooking off" in the flames.

Capt. Rojohn ordered Lieut. Leek to bail out. Leek knew that without him helping keep the controls back, the plane would drop in a flaming spiral and the centrifugal force would prevent Rojohn from bailing. He refused the order.

Meanwhile, German soldiers and civilians on the ground that afternoon looked up in wonder. Some of them thought they were seeing a new Allied secret weapon - a strange eight-engined double bomber. But anti-aircraft gunners on the North Sea coastal island of Wangerooge had seen the collision. A German battery captain wrote in his logbook at 12:47 p.m.: "Two fortresses collided in a formation in the NE. The planes flew hooked together and flew 20 miles south. The two planes were unable to fight anymore. The crash could be awaited so I stopped the firing at these two planes."

Suspended in his parachute in the cold December sky, Bob Washington watched with deadly fascination as the mated bombers, trailing black smoke, fell to earth about three miles away, their downward trip ending in an ugly boiling blossom of fire.

In the cockpit Rojohn and Leek held grimly to the controls trying to ride a falling rock. Leek tersely recalled, "The ground came up faster and faster. Praying was allowed. We gave it one last effort and slammed into the ground."

The McNab plane on the bottom exploded, vaulting the other B-17 upward and forward. It hit the ground and slid along until its left wing slammed through a wooden building and the smoldering mass of aluminum came to a stop. Rojohn and Leek were still seated in their cockpit. The nose of the plane was relatively intact, but everything from the B-17's massive wings back was destroyed. They looked at each other incredulously. Neither was badly injured. Movies have nothing on reality. Still perhaps in shock, Leek crawled out through a huge hole behind the cockpit, felt for the familiar pack in his uniform pocket and pulled out a cigarette. He placed it in his mouth and was about to light it. Then he noticed a young German soldier pointing a rifle at him. The soldier looked scared and annoyed. He grabbed the cigarette out of Leek's mouth and pointed down to the gasoline pouring out over the wing from a ruptured fuel tank.

Two of the six men who parachuted from Rojohn's plane did not survive the jump. But the other four and, amazingly, four men from the other bomber, including ball turret gunner Woodall, survived. All were taken prisoner. Several of them were interrogated at length by the Germans until they were satisfied that what had crashed was not a new American secret weapon.

Rojohn, typically, didn't talk much about his Distinguished Flying Cross. Of Leek, he said, "In all fairness to my co-pilot, he's the reason I'm alive today."

Like so many veterans, Rojohn got back to life unsentimentally after the war, marrying and raising a son and daughter. For many years, though, he tried to link back up with Leek, going through government records to try to track him down. It took him 40 years, but in 1986, he found the number of Leek's mother, in Washington State. Yes, her son Bill was visiting from California. Would Rojohn like to speak with him? Two old men on a phone line, trying to pick up some familiar timbre of youth in each other's voice. One can imagine that first conversation between the two men who had shared that wild ride in the cockpit of a B-17.

A year later, the two were re-united at a reunion of the 100th Bomb Group in Long Beach, Calif. Bill Leek died the following year. Glenn Rojohn was the last survivor of the remarkable piggyback flight. He was like thousands upon thousands of men -- soda jerks and lumberjacks, teachers and dentists, students and lawyers and service station attendants and store clerks and farm boys -- who in the prime of their lives went to war in World War II. They sometimes did incredible things, endured awful things, and for the most part most of them pretty much kept it to themselves and just faded back into the fabric of civilian life.

Capt. Glenn Rojohn, AAF, died last Saturday after a long siege of illness. But he apparently faced that final battle with the same grim aplomb he displayed that remarkable day over Germany so long ago. Let us be thankful for such men. - - - - A great story. I wonder how many more stories like this one are lost each day as members of the Greatest Generation pass on.


Nite, nite




Make your own free website on Tripod.com