PAUL CRAWFORD – US Army Air Force, 14th Air Force Flying Tigers
“When I recall my time in WW-II, I always start by saying, I was not a hero! I was just there! That is not false modesty because it is the way I have always felt.”
These are the words of 1Lt Paul Crawford who flew a P-51 Mustang for 29 missions over Japanese-controlled territory in China. This humble modest attitude to their service is recognizable in most of the veterans of this horrific conflict who we have so much to thank for.
From an interview with Mr Crawford published on Lenbrook website he recollects how he ends up as a fighter pilot rather than than a bomber pilot;
Next I was sent to Greenville, Miss. for basic flight school with the BT-13. Night flying, cross country, formations. Big cockpit. Had to have a seat cushion to reach the pedals. My instructor said, “Okay Crawford, get your parachute. I’ll carry your d**n cushion for you.” He later showed up in China with me. After basic flight school, you requested your choice of advanced school — fighters or bombers. The instructor told me, “Crawford, you are going to fly fighters. You can’t reach the pedals in a bomber.”Mr Crawford on how he ended up becoming a fighter pilot.
Mr Crawford view on the P-51 Mustang is as articulate as it is significant for the era; “The Mustang was a pilot’s airplane, a dream — quick, fast, agile and fun to fly. I always say, “You shouldn’t turn a toy like this over to a 19 or 20 year old to fly. But I’m glad they did.”
With about 100 hours on the P-51 Mustang and 250-275 hours total Mr Crawford was sent off to Chengtu, China assigned to the 311th Fighter Group, 529th Fighter Squadron protecting the B-29 bases. As these B-29s transferred to the Pacific Theater his Squadron was transferred to Hsian headed for combat, at the time Mr Crawford estimates to have only accumulated another 60 hours of flying time which would be considered as very little as combat.
On his 29th mission Mr Crawford is shot down by ground fire while strafing a small railroad facility, after getting hit he bails out and was picked up by Chinese Communist guerilla soldiers. A few days earlier one of his house mates had been shot down and captured by the Japanese who cur his head off and put it up on a gate post. After a 200 mile long walk, chased by the Japanese a couple of times, evading capture Mr Crawford ends up at a compound owned by a wealthy Chinese man who was married to an American girl after going to college in America. A few miles from the compound was an air strip where the OSS (U.S. Office of Strategic Services) brought downed airmen out.
Mr Crawford honored The Log Book with his signature on August 1st 2019. Mr Moreno Aguiari, marketing officer at the Commemorative Air Force Dixie Wing in Peachtree City GA, was instrumental in facilitating this signature. It is the kindness and willingness of ordinary folks like Mr. Aguiari, or Post Office employee Cindy Wallace Avant or Wethersfield Airfield Museum curator Ross Stewart or Meghan Mongroo and Nikolai or Isao Arai or Simonne Devaux Quiros, Esther Hogan, Loretta Simonet or so many more who have helped make this project the success it has become.
In December 2015 Mr Crawford once again took to the skies – this time in the P-51 Mustang “Red Nose” of the Commemorative Air Force Dixie Wing.