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Flying low and slow over Japanese lines

Low and Slow Low and Slow: A Personal History of a Liaison Pilot in World War II by Don Moore. San Antonio Heights Publishing Co., 1999. 234 pp. (paperback).

The title comes from the mother who urged: "Son, be careful; fly low and slow." Low and slow is where a pilot doesn't want to be, but it's where a U.S. Army Artillery spotter had to spend his time. Moore is quick to point out that the hazards of flying 800 feet above the Philippines paled in comparison to combat on the ground: war is hell, but his war was "more funky than demonic."

Moore once had a dogfight with a Zero: two cannon and two machineguns vs. a Piper Cub armed only with a carbine. As long as the planes were closely entwined, Moore had the upper hand, since he could turn inside the Japanese fighter. Then the Zero moved off, setting up for a fast attack that the 65 hp Cub couldn't have dodged. Moore dove for home, and he and his rear-seat "gunner" were out of the Cub and into a trench before the Zero passed over.

More terrifying, actually, was the time he was sucked into a cloud. Anti-aircraft guns were popping off beneath him, U.S. bombers roaring through the cloud beside, and Moore had to fly IFR with only a compass, tachometer, airspeed indicator, and altimeter. Against all logic, he made it home that time as well. Still, as his commander warned him, the odds didn't favor a liaison pilot: "All you have to do is fly one of these things long enough, and it will get you."

When Moore doesn't remember the details, he says so. The effect is like a favorite uncle, yarning to his nephews about a 55-year-old adventure so extraordinary that he still can't quite believe that he took part in it. A delightful book.