BLACK SHEEP’S DEN – L’ANTRE DES TÊTES BRÛLÉES

There are some really nice aviator pubs and restaurants throughout the world, in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, New-York, in London, Farnborough, Gloucestershire, Paris, Le Bourget. Some only bear the name ‘aviator’ or another one relating to aviation.

AVIATORS BAR
Bar LES TETES BRULEES, 20 Rue Verdière, La Rochelle

While strolling down a street during the summer holidays, I stumbled upon a bar totally dedicated to pilots and aircraft in La Rochelle, France last summer. It was a bit busy on a sunny Saturday afternoon when I saw this sign « LES TÊTES BRÛLÉES » and a shield over the street corner on which I could make out a black sheep. Just above was an inverted-gull-shaped aircraft outline. The picture of a bull terrier on the awning could ring a bell too. This one wore sunglasses – there must be some fun in there, I mused. « Might it be Pappy Boyington’s den? » I wondered.

Some customers let us in and we were standing engrossed with the aviation world as if it were a dream. Flight suits and flight uniforms were hanging over tables. The bar – where laughter, grins and giggles are the norm – was surrounded with badges, aviation artifacts, aircraft and pilots photos up on the walls. There were aircraft models in a showcase, and several of them hanging all over the place. Some souvenirs were dedicated to naval aviation. It looked like a small – though dense – aviation hall of fame. There was a black sign above the bar featuring a short text in white letters, which said:

IN   WORLD   WAR  II ,

MARINE   CORPS   MAJOR

GREG   « PAPPY »   BOYINGTON

COMMANDED   A   SQUADRON

OF   FIGHTER   PILOTS ,   THEY

WERE   A   COLLECTION   OF

MISFITS   AND  SCREWBALLS

WHO   BECAME   THE   TERRORS

OF   THE   SOUTH   PACIFIC .

THEY   WERE   KNOWN   AS   THE

BLACK   SHEEP .

Sure, it rings a bell! This is the introductory text to the famous series « Baa Baa Black Sheep » about the brave VMA-214 pilots who operated from the Solomon Islands during the WW2, in the Pacific War. I could have heard the theme song from « The Whiffenpoof Song » turned into a drunk-voice, exhausted-though-happy chorus:

WE ARE POOR LITTLE LAMBS,

WHO HAVE LOST OUR WAY.

BAA! BAA! BAA!

Click off and listen:

AVIATORS PUBThe black sheep shield outside, the F4U Corsairs inside and this sign you cannot miss when you enter the pub make you breathe aviation history. Everything, even the lavatory walls covered with aviation slang graffiti, are very well in unison with the local atmosphere. Each conversation is focused on flying, pilots, aircraft, and of course fun!

There is a sort of an alcove in the back room made up of genuine airplane seats, artifacts, stickers and photos. You can even drink aviation. Even though Les Têtes Brûlées is not a POL depot you can be served a Kerosene, a great cocktail always served with a grin from the waiters. Jérôme, the boss, seem to be widely known in the aviation community, far beyond La Rochelle. Whoever they are. Pilots, flight attendants, crew members, engineers, aerospace lovers, they all know the Black Sheep’s den. Aviation geeks, this is a place where you have got to go for you can expect a nice welcome.

Click HERE to go to « Bar Les Têtes Brûlées »

Why Vought F4U Corsair « WHISTLING DEATH »?

EN FRANÇAIS:

Il y a dans le monde un bon nombre de bars et restaurants consacrés à l’aviation et quelquefois à l’aérospatiale: en Alabama, Géorgie, Caroline du Nord, New-York, à Londres, Farnborough, dans le Gloucestershire, à Paris, Le Bourget. Il y en a qui ne portent que le nom « aviateur » ou d’autres qui rappellent l’aviation ou l’espace.

Alors que je flânais dans une rue pendant les vacances d’été à la Rochelle, je suis tombé tout à fait par hasard sur un bar entièrement dédié aux pilotes et aux avions. C’était assez animé en ce samedi après-midi ensoleillé lorsque je vis l’enseigne « LES TÊTES BRÛLÉES » surplombant le coin de la rue, sur laquelle on pouvait distinguer un mouton noir.  Juste au dessus, la silhouette d’un avion aux ailes en W. L’image d’un chien bull-terrier sur l’auvent en terrasse me rappelait déjà quelque chose… Ce chien portait des lunettes de soleil – on doit bien s’amuser là dedans, songeai-je. Et voici ce que je me demandais soudain: « Se pourrait-il que cette échoppe soit une des antres de Pappy Boyington? »

Des clients devant le bar nous firent entrer et nous sommes restés un moment debouts, captivés par cet univers de l’aviation, comme si c’était en rêve. Des combinaisons de vol et uniformes de personnels navigants étaient suspendus au-dessus des tables. Le bar, où fou-rires, sourires et ricanements semblent de rigueur, était décorés d’insignes, de pièces de collection d’aviation, de photos d’avions et de pilotes qui tapissaient les murs. Il y avait des maquettes d’avion dans une vitrine, et plusieurs qui pendaient un peu partout. Des souvenirs évoquaient l’Aéronavale. Cela ressemblait à un petit, quoique dense, temple de l’aviation. Pour l’accueil, au dessus du bar est affiché un panneau noir rappelant une célèbre séries TV américaine en lettres capitales blanches, traduites de l’anglais:

PENDANT LA DEUXIEME GUERRE MONDIALE,

LE COMMANDANT DES MARINES

GREG « PAPPY » BOYINGTON ÉTAIT

À LA TÊTE D’UNE ESCADRILLE

DE PILOTES DE CHASSE. CELLE-CI

ÉTAIT COMPOSÉE DE MARGINAUX

ET D’AVENTURIERS QUI DEVINRENT

LES TERREURS DU PACIFIQUE SUD

ON LES CONNAISSAIT SOUS LE NOM

DE « BLACK SHEEP » (MOUTON(S) NOIR(S))

Bien sûr que cela vous dit quelque chose! Il s’agit du générique de la célèbre série « Les Têtes Brûlées » qui retraçait la saga des courageux pilotes de chasse de l’escadron VMA-214 qui opéraient depuis les Îles Salomon pendant la seconde guerre mondiale. J’aurais pu même entendre la mélodie tirée de « The Whiffenpoof Song » transformée en un refrain à l’eau de vie entonné par des voix de soiffards épuisés:

NOUS SOMMES DE PAUVRES PETITS AGNEAUX,

QUI SE SONT ÉGARÉS.

BÊÊ! BÊÊ! BÊÊ!

Le mouton noir et cet insigne à l’extérieur qu’on ne peut pas manquer et les Chance Vought F4U Corsairs à l’intérieur, font que cet endroit, dès qu’on y met les pieds, respire l’histoire de l’aviation pour votre bonheur. Tout, même les murs des toilettes, est couvert de graffitis du jargon de l’aéronautique à l’unisson avec l’atmosphère des lieux. Chaque bribe de conversation est tournée vers le vol, les pilotes et les avions et bien sûr on s’y amuse beaucoup!

Il y a un genre d’alcôve dans l’arrière-salle faite d’authentiques sièges d’avions récupérés, de pièces de collection, d’autocollants et de photos. On peut même boire aviation. Même si les Têtes Brûlées n’est pas un dépôt des essences, on peut très bien vous y servir un « KEROSÈNE », un super cocktail toujours accompagné d’un grand sourire du personnel de la maison. Il semble que Jérôme, le patron, soit très connu dans la communauté aéronautique et bien au-delà de La Rochelle. Quels qu’ils soient, pilotes, PNC, membres d’équipage, mécaniciens, passionnés de l’aérospatiale, tous connaissent « l’antre du mouton noir ». Passionnés d’aviation, il faut absolument que vous vous y rendiez parce que vous pouvez être certains qu’on va vous y réserver un très bon accueil.

Cliquez ICI pour vous rendre au bar Les Têtes Brûlées.

PILOT’S HEROIC, TRAGIC FATE

 

Florian Rochat's book cover - The legend of Little Eagle
Book Cover

THE LEGEND OF LITTLE EAGLE

« The Legend of Little Eagle » is a novel about destinies that intersect. It is based on a true story which involved an actual American pilot – Lieutenant LeRoy Lutz – whose warplane was hit by anti-aircraft fire while strafing a German train. He then made the decision of purposefully crashing into a clear area instead of dashing into a French village called Mardeuil in Champagne, in June 1944. He did not survive to his feat, but the villagers did.

LeRoy Lutz has been turned into « John Philippe Garreau », and LeRoy Lutz flew a P-38 Lightning whereas Garreau is on a P-51 Mustang for the novel.

Here is further information about this book from a post written by Florian Rochat – the book’s author – published in French on January 24th, 2012:

In 1999, while I was in Montana researching my novel « Cougar corridor », I discovered a letter mailed from France in 1947. It said how a pilot of the US Army Air Force, Lieutenant LeRoy Lutz, had avoided a tragedy by staying on his damaged plane in order not to fall on a small village of Champagne, Mardeuil. It was in June 1944. Having renounced the bail out option while still able to do so, Lutz (picture below) had paid with his life this heroic act. His Lightning P-38 crashed in a field.

I told in a previous article of this blog how this letter led me to write my latest novel, The Legend of Little Eagle.

But now I have found its author. His name is André Mathy and he lives in Epernay, France…

…Time passes by, History is forgotten, but for the old inhabitants of Mardeuil LeRoy Lutz is always a hero whose sacrifice helped avoid civilian casualties in their village. « This story keeps coming to my mind, » said André Mathy.

I have been able to find him, which moves me. For this endpoint in the long story that was the writing of The Legend of Little Eagle highlights a surprising phenomenon on which I return repeatedly – over the reconstruction of the life of my hero who experienced a similar fate to LeRoy Lutz – in this story in which the notion of fate is perhaps the theme: the meaning and weight of stories, as explained in several books by William Kittredge, one of the great writers of Montana. According to him, our lives are ceaselessly intertwined with narrative, with the stories that we tell or hear told, those that we dream or imagine or would like to tell, all of which are reworked in that story of our own lives that we narrate to ourselves in an episodic, somewhat semiconscious, but virtually uninterrupted monologue. We live immersed in narrative (have you noticed?) These stories allow us, according to him, to situate ourselves in the world, and find meaning in our existence in the chaos of life. « We live in stories. We are stories, »  he asserts.

“We tell stories to talk out the trouble in our lives, trouble otherwise so often so unspeakable. It is one of our main ways of making our lives sensible. Trying to live without stories can make us crazy. They help us recognize what we believe to be most valuable in the world, and help us identify what we hold demonic,” Kittredge adds.

Seventeen years ago, when he finally learned about his father’s display of courage, Richard Lutz, LeRoy’s son, declared: « I was twelve years old when my mother told me that my father had died in France. I always thought he was the bravest pilot on earth. But now I know. »

 This book has already had 4.7 stars out of 13 customer reviews on Amazon.fr. It is a breath-taking novel according to them. The readers did love Florian Rochat’s talent and style. The synopsis made them believe that it was a book on aviation. It is, with many scenes of air combat during John Philip Garreau’s missions over Germany and France. But there is more to it. As mentioned above, it mainly deals with puzzling questions on destiny and fates bound within a same tragic event. However, these readers loved reading this unbelievable story. Air combat is not swept out of sight as the act of gallantry when LeRoy Lutz veered away from the village to save lives is well highlighted. Moreover, the hero amazingly meets with a famous WWII aviator.

Many reviews, and articles have been posted about this book, especially in French since it was first written in French. Here are two of them:

https://baugelitt.eu/florian-rochat-la-legende-de-little-eagle-le-passe-tenace/

You can read Florian Rochat’s biography on Xavier Cotton’s blog « Passion pour l’Aviation« . Special thanks to Xavier who passed the information on.

« The Legend of Little Eagle » is on sale as an ebook on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.UK, Amazon.ca, and Amazon.com.au, Smashwords and other digital platforms, and as a paperback on all Amazon bookstores. Author’s website: http://www.florianrochat.com

PEARL HARBOR ATTACK & WWII

The Pearl Harbor Attack(called Hawaii Operation or Operation AI by the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters – Operation Z in planning – and the Battle of Pearl Harbor) happened on Sunday December 7, 1941 ie 70 years ago. Here is a video of remembrance of the infamous day which dragged the United States of America into World War II:

 

Pearl Harbor: A Landmark in History, part 5 from Pacific Historic Parks on Vimeo.

WWI REMEMBRANCE DAY

WW1 remembrance flanders book
Flanders Fields Poem, John McCrae - Photo © Wikipedia user: Lx_121

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John Alexander McCrae (1872-1918) – Ypres battlefield 1915. Photo: Lx 121Wikipedia courtesy

The WWI armistice came into effect at the eleventh hour (Paris time) of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The War to End All Wars left 37,000,000 casualties – 16 million deaths and 21 million wounded. The Allies lost 5.7 million soldiers. May their souls rest in peace

A MUST in chivalry history – When Guynemer spared Udet after strafing through his wing

Here is a tribute to CPT Georges GUYNEMER who was killed in action on September 11th, 1917. Three months earlier, he fought with Ernst Udet, the ace who came up 2nd after the Red Baron. You can watch hereafter how this dogfight reportedly happened, and how these fighter pilots had the gut to keep honor above all:


Georges Guynemer, French Air Force pilot and WWI ace
Georges Guynemer by "Lucien" - Jebulon https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Jebulon

Remember Guynemer’s mottos: FAIRE FACE (face up to it) was then adopted by the French Air Force Academy (FAFA) as their motto. A few words that well expresses the French pilots’ bravery.

The WWI French ace Georges Guynemer used to say:

– « Il y a une limite à toute chose, et il faut toujours la dépasser. « Everything has a limit which has always got to be surpassed. »
– « Lorsque l’on n’a pas tout donné, on n’a rien donné. » « As long as you have not given your all, you have given nothing »

Loyal to these principles, the French ace took part in several hundreds of aerial combats, crediting 53 victories. He was shot down seven times, and he was admired for he always survived, but that September 11, Ninety-three years ago. The hero took off once again. Outnumbered by German warplanes in a last dogfighting over Belgium. Then, he fell.

Since then, the French Air Force aviators have worn a black tie in sign of mourning.

RIP