This story is by Des Dixon and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Trent Brady was the teenage son of Elmer and Esther Brady, who worked a small dirt-farm just outside Hogs Back, Alabama. He became fascinated with flying when his kindergarten teacher, Pansy Peony, read a library book. The story was about pilots Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart and their world-record record flights. That day he knew he would also be a pilot.
Trent knew his parents couldn’t pay for flying lessons, so he decided to build an aircraft and teach himself. Trent’s job was to tend the chickens and was paid an allowance out of the egg money. He spent every penny at Crocker’s Hardware s where he bought parts to construct his plane.
“Hey, son, what are you doing with that blazing welding torch in your hand?”
“I’m welding these aluminum pipes together to build my airplane, Dad.”
” But I told you, Trent, that your Mom doesn’t want you to go up in no airplane.”
” Ya, I know Dad, so, tell her I’m just welding pipes, not going nowhere.”
“Ya, never thought of that, son, so you’re just welding pipes, ain’t you?”
“Ya, Daddy, and tell Mom, I won’t fly today cause I ain’t got no airplane.”
That conversation between Trent and his father took place eight years ago, and Trent made multiple attempts at building an aircraft, but none of them flew. Finally, he decided to educate himself on building aircraft and was often seen at the local library.
Trent finally finished building his plane, then installed a small car engine and a propeller, then it was ready to fly.
Trent didn’t want his Mom to get upset, so he got up early one morning while his parents slept. He started up the farm tractor, fastened a rope to the tail wheel, then towed the plane to a pasture. He started the aircraft’s engine and revved it up to get it warm.
His mother heard the noise and alerted his Dad, who ran from the house in his pajamas and waved at Trent to come back.
Trent pretended not to see his Dad, pushed the throttle forward. His plane leaped ahead, gained speed, then was airborne. He looked down at the farm and knew it wouldn’t be part of that life. He was free at last, and flying would be his destiny.
“I’m going to be like Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart,” he shouted.
His engine began to sputter then noticed the fuel gauge was near empty, so he headed for home. Trent circled the farm, and his parents waved as they stood outside and waited for his return. He buzzed the house, waggled his wings, then made a perfect landing.
Trent became a legend in the 1930s as a stunt pilot and was in demand at every County Fair. He earned enough money to buy a new aircraft and a modern farm for his parents.
His mind became troubled when WW2 began. America remained neutral, but Trent would soon be at war. He decided to enlist in the United States Army Air Corps to become a military pilot.
“You don’t qualify, son, as I see by your application, you don’t have enough education” The recruiting officer felt bad as Trent was so eager to join up.
“What’s education got to do with flying? I don’t need no schoolin’ to fly my plane.”
It was the lowest time in his young life. But things would soon change for him.
Trent heard that Canada had been at war and the Royal Canadian Air Force needed experienced pilots. The RCAF opened recruiting centers across America to compliment their250,000 force. It was against America’s neutrality laws to have a foreign nation hire their people for military service. Still, American sympathies were with Canada, and they just looked the other way at the infringement of their laws.
Canada needed pilots, and Trent was now a member of the RCAF with the rank of Sergeant Pilot. He volunteered to be a combat pilot and joined 412 RCAF Spitfire Squadron on its way to England. He phoned his parents to say he was on his way overseas and to say goodbye.
“Hey, Mom and Dad, I’m having the time of my life, and they gave me a Spitfire fighter plane and a boat ride to England free of charge!”
“That’s good, son, but your Mom, is cryin’ now and says to call back later.”
“Okay, Dad, I’ll call her before I get on the ship, and tell her that I love her.”
Trent arrived in England just as the French army’s resistance collapsed, leaving their allies trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk. Trent’s Spitfire was in a dogfight, and he shot down two Nazi planes struck by enemy bullets then caught on fire. He landed his Spitfire aircraft in enemy territory but was severely injured.
“Dammit, there were ten Nazi fighters for every one of ours; they weren’t fair!” He was embarrassed at being shot down as he knew he was a better pilot.
He lay there, helpless in enemy territory, then took o his belt, applied a tourniquet. Buck was taken prisoner and placed in a military hospital.
The Nazi’s respected the gallant, outnumbered, pilot. Medics had to amputate his leg below the knee because of infection. A German Fighter pilot and high-ranking office respected all fighter pilots and arranged for a local doctor to make a prosthesis for Trent. Shortly after receiving his artificial leg, He escaped in a delivery truck. With the aid of a French Resistance group. He found his way now backpack to his squadron in England.
Trent had just settled in when he received an order to appear at the office of Group Captain Larry Brown. “Welcome back, Sergeant, I’ve got good news for you! You are now the Squadron Leader, and I have recommended you for the Distinguished Flying Cross.”
“I ain’t no distinguished guy, cause I got shot down, and that ain’t no good!”
” Trent, you deserve the honor, and I promoted you because you have the respect of the whole squadron and can lead them by your example.”
” Well, thanks, Sir, I will do my best.”
After conquering France, the Nazis were ready to invade England, and Hitler planned the invasion himself. He sent the Luftwa e to bomb London, and when. He knew the Allied squadrons in England would try to defend the City, and then the Luftwa e would destroy them and invade England.
That was the beginning of the Battle of Britain! Hitler had experienced quick victory in the past. But this time, he had underestimated the strength and tenacity of the Allied pilots.
After Trent’s promotion, his squadron shot down thirty enemy aircraft, and Buck accounted for three of them and earned another Distinguished Flying Cross.
When the battle for England ended in the fall of 1940, the Nazis had lost over 2500 aircraft. They also lost their air superiority, and they never again dominated the skies.
Winston Churchill, Britain’s wartime Prime Minister, paid tribute to the victorious fighter pilots who turned the tide in Battle Of Britain. He stood up in the British Parliament and gave this great tribute, “Never have so many owed so much to so few.”
The war in Europe was suddenly over, and Trent went home to a hero’s welcome when the village of Hogs Back had a parade in his honor. He sat atop a fire truck and threw candies down to the kids and afterward was feasted at the fire hall and given a painting of himself sitting in his Spitfire fighter plane.
The Pacific war still raged against Japan, and Trent enlisted as a pilot in the American Army Air Force. This time, he was accepted but given the rank of Major as he had led his RCAF squadron in combat operations and was a seasoned veteran and proven leader.
Before Trent embarked on a ship to the Pacific theatre of operations, two atomic bombs dropped on Japan, and the Pacific war abruptly ended. Trent loved his life as a pilot and officer in the American Air Force and made it his career. He married Rose O’Gradyand they had three children who were very proud of their hero, Trent Brady.
Cathy Ryan says
What a brave man. This kind of heroism is truly remarkable. Thank you for sharing his story.