Nicaragua II

As some of you know, I am writing my mom and dad’s memoirs. The excerpt (below) is taken from the work in progress, Flight to Freedom.

(My father starts by reminiscing over his personal experience flying a wide variety of disparate aircrafts over a seven year period, from 1963 to 1970, in the Nicaraguan air force.)

“I flew a North American T-6 Texan, North American T-28 Trojan, North American F-51 Mustang, Douglas C-47 Skytrain, F-47 Thunderbolt, and a B-26 Bomber.[1] In 1971, out of all the B-26 pilots, the air force commander chose me, along with one other person, to mount an airshow using real ammunition in order to destroy a maritime target in Lake Managua via request from Nicaraguan president, Anastasio Somoza, who had the president of Panama, Omar Torrijos, as his guest.

“This happened on February 1, which is known as ‘Nicaraguan Air Force Day.’ This also happened to be the day that I received my new rank as Captain. T-33As and B-26s were used for this self-promoting aerial rally. As I said before, I flew the latter. T-33s led the demonstration by taking off on the runway with B-26s following closely behind. In the air, we immediately got into war formation circling the target strapped with six steel drums, which contained fifty-five gallons of fuel each. The T-33s hit the target but didn’t succeed in blowing it up. But by the time the B-26s would arrive, a tremendous explosion was inevitable.

“There were two B-26s. Our orders were to first use our machine guns to hit the target and then individually release one, two hundred and fifty pound bomb to destroy any remains of the target. We succeeded in our mission to say the least. In the eyes of Somoza, who was sitting with other political dignitaries about one mile from the target, the aftermath was nothing short of spectacular. In all honesty, the effects of the bomb were overkill, which caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in collateral damage, which meant replacing shattered windows from the shock waves of the explosion that reached up to one mile from the target.

“From the excitement that naturally ensued, I asked my co-pilot, Alvaro Lola, if he would humor me by performing a dangerous acrobatic maneuver known as a “barrel roll” at a very low altitude above the runway. (Such a heavy plane was not designed for acrobatics.) He agreed, I believe, reluctantly. When we landed, Lola’s concern was abated. We were received with applause from our fellow pilots, political luminaries, and the president.”

1964 Nicaragua. At Casino Militar. First lieutenant.

[1] Sadly, during these three years I watched many of my fellow air force pilots die during routine maneuvering acrobatics. My heartfelt condolences to their families.

Chester Delagneau

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