It was 1943, I was ten years old. The war in the desert was over! I read the head lines of the victory in the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch. Below that, another headline written in smaller caps announced a glider event at Lambert Field the following Sunday. The significant part of the event would be the finale where a pilot would land an army glider on a dime. The dime would then be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
That Sunday, there were at least two thousand people standing along the fence near the Mc Donnell aircraft Corporation buildings. Everybody watched the Emcee place the dime on the runway. A large bomber taxied into position and a tow cable was attached to the lone glider sitting silently near the end of the concrete strip. Finally, the bomber, towing the glider, roared down the runway.
Several minutes went by before the Emcee announced that the glider had been disconnected from the bomber. Shortly, both aircraft came into view. The glider soared down near the runway and held that position for several hundred feet. Suddenly it plopped down at what appeared to be right on top of the dime. The Emcee went running over to the spot where the wheels had touched down. He was very excited about the fact that the glider had actually made contact with the dime. Everybody at the event cheered.
The Emcee gave a short patriotic talk about how well our pilots were trained. He said that the Jerries and the Japs didn’t have a chance against our well trained pilots. Then he introduced an auctioneer to the viewers, the auction began. In about one minute the dime was sold for ten thousand dollars. Afterwards, many viewers purchased war bonds to help the Allied cause.
Nine years later, in 1952, I purchased an airplane from a Mr. Omar Midyett at the Lakeside Airport in Lakeside, Ill. Mr. Midyett was the owner of the flying service and the field. After signing the papers for transfer of ownership, we sat in the office and talked. It was a proverbial “Cold windy day in February” with weather far too bad for flying. Several local pilots were hanger flying near the wood burning stove. I listened in to the conversation and discovered that Mr. Midyett had been a test pilot for the Mc Donnell Aircraft Corporation during WW2. He had also been the glider pilot for the war fund raising event at Lambert field in 1943!
When I discovered that, I had to ask, “Did you actually land the glider on a dime or was there a trick?” He said that it was easy to land the glider so close to the dime that the spectators way over by the fence couldn’t tell the difference. If it was necessary to palm the dime the Emcee would have very little trouble doing it. I asked if the dime was actually palmed. Mr. Midyett smiled and said, “I think so!” Everybody around the fire laughed!
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