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Features

  • Note: I would like to express again my appreciation to Wendy Noble, younger sister of Spitfire pilots Jerry and Rod Smith, who has provided advice and copies of her trove of documents concerning her brothers’ lives. In doing so I would like to quote from The Spitfire Smiths by Rod Smith, with Christopher Shores. In his Introduction, Shores writes: “Throughout I have been greatly assisted by Wendy Noble without whose efforts I certainly could not have completed this account...”

  • Author’s Note: This is my 200th column in a series “History Researched and Recalled,” published in The Sentinel-News since 2007.

    [I continue to depart from My Marine Corps Journal temporarily to describe the hazardous missions of a spitfire pilot.]

    Selected entries in Jerry Smith’s Diary:

  • Sculptor Jenny Hager-Vickery is proud of her latest creation.

    At 20 feet tall, Gypsy the Giraffe, a life-sized sculpture she created for the Jacksonville Zoo, is the largest she has ever done.

    “My husband actually worked on it with me as well; it was a daunting task – the largest I had made up to now was fifteen feet tall,” she said. “I call her Gyspy – that's her pet name – I name things with alliteration, so she got a ‘G’ name.”

  • May 3, 1942

    Yesterday, we unmoored and stood down the Clyde, anchoring in Greenock. The weather was perfect and the green hills were very tempting. I went ashore for a few hours in that famous old shipbuilding town, drank a couple of beers, walked miles, and noticed some ruins from last year’s air raids. It’s amazing the difficulty one has in buying whiskey in Scotland. Underway at 0530 this morn.

    May 7, 1942

  • April 22, 1942

    The Wasp’s second “campaign” is nearly over – the “Battle of the Mediterranean,” the first having been our “conquest” of Martinique. [An attempt at jest]

    The morning of 19th we passed through the Straits of Gibraltar on my mid watch. The lights of Tangier and Ceuta were illuminating the African shore, but the Gibraltar side was blacked out except for navigational lights.

  • As he gave a haircut and a shave to a customer, Robert Marshall talked about how the thriving African American business community on Henry Clay Street has all but disappeared since he opened his barbershop there in 1960.

    “We’re were just discussing that at the Martin Luther King service a few weeks ago, the way it was, compared to how it is now,” he said, expertly using a comb to shape the customer’s new do.

  • April 6, 1942

    Yesterday afternoon and evening I was the guest of Captain Bell, R. M. [Royal Marines] on the Duke of York, most recently- commissioned British battleship. I made a complete tour of the ship and noticed that she is not a clean ship, but a happy one. I had previously met Bell in Norfolk and it seemed very strange to meet him again, here, 3,000 miles away.

  • Caught up in a whirlwind of festivities from balls to parades to concerts to the swearing in of the 45th president of the United States on the West Lawn of the Capitol, some Shelby Countians who attended the 58th Presidential Inauguration in Washington D.C. over the weekend expressed awe and pride at having seen history in the making.

    For some, such as the Justice family, being there was a matter of pride in a military background, said Selina Stratton, who attended with her parents, James and LaGeni Justice and her brother, Jacob Justice.

  • March 20, 1942

    [Message to Wasp, dated March 20, from Headquarters, Marine Corps, ]

    YOU ARE AUTHORIZED TO MODIFY ORDERS CAPT R R VAN STOCKUM TO DETACH HIM PRIOR TO REPORTING HIS RELIEF CAPT BUTTERFIELD PROVIDED YOU SO DESIRE

    [I had written across this message in long hand “So near and yet so far.”]

    March 22, 1942

  • A Reminder: I have included only significant quotations from my journals and these appear in plain text. My current comments and explanations are in bold type between brackets.

    Create a nuisance by attempting escape

    January 22, 1942

    The item attached is rather amusing to me. I can see myself in a German prison camp with a guard to every hundred yards of barb wire fence, attempting to escape in order to create a nuisance.

    [Here I pasted an item apparently clipped from the Wasp’s Plan of the Day:

  • December 8, 1941 (Continued)

  • Editor’s note: This column was originally published on May 1, 2009, and is being republished because of the recent death of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

    General David M. Shoup, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, a friend of mine, had more serious challenges to face in 1962. Before that year was out, a crisis of the greatest magnitude had developed.

    Soviet missile bases in Cuba

  • “AIR RAID ON PEARL HARBOR X THIS IS NOT DRILL HOSTILITIES WITH JAPAN COMMENCED WITH AIR RAID ON PEARL” – ALNAV (Naval Message sent to all U S. Navy ships and stations)

    Sept 23, 1941

  • July 24, 1941

    This morning we have been taking on Army pursuit planes (P-40). My guess is that we will transport them to within flying distance of Iceland, head into the wind, launch them with their own pilots, and then turn around and run back to the States.

    July 28, 1941

    Fire at any Periscope Sighted

  • April 28, 1941

    At sea – two days East of Norfolk. Today at Tactical school Capt. Reeves [Wasp’s Commanding Officer] told us our mission, the first word we have had of our destination. We are to patrol the area between Bermuda and the Azores from latitude twenty to forty, taking a triangular course lasting fourteen days and then spending five days in Bermuda – and then doing the same thing all over again. We are to scout with our planes and report any German warships or suspected raiders in the area.

  • With the anticipation of costumes, parties, tricks and treats building in their hearts, kids across the nation are counting down the days until Halloween on Monday.  But kids – and kids at heart – in Shelby County don’t have to wait another five days for the fun to start.  Some Halloween related activities and events have already kicked off the holiday in the region and many are offered tonight and throughout the week leading up to the grand finale of Trick-or-Treating across the county on October 31.

  • Two Shelby County men are still reflecting upon a week they spent in Alaska last month – not on vacation, but as part of a volunteer effort to build a church there.

    This was the third time that Bob Walters and Bob Perkins have participated in a project with Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization that provides spiritual and physical aid to people around the world.

    The experience was much more than just helping to construct a building and parsonage for the Moravian Church in Togiak, Alaska, they both agreed.

  • March 12, 1941

  • Norma Bailey is celebrating more than her birthday today – she’s celebrating life. 

    Two years after having a double mastectomy, she has bounced back stronger than ever, but says she couldn’t have done it without her awesome support system of her husband and six kids, four of which are adopted.  She knew something was wrong in the spring of 2014, she said, when she felt a burning pain in her chest that wouldn’t go away, and when she went to have it checked out, she got the news that every women fear: breast cancer. 

  • September 17, 1939