Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Legend of the Red Hot Chili Buzz

ATSF 2926 under estoration by the
New Mexico Steam Locomotive and Railroad Historical Society

For a couple of bucks TSgt Rangel had done a pretty nice job of painting the girl of 1Lt Tom Parson’s dreams on the nose of the new A-26 Invader recently built at the Douglas plant in Tulsa with serial number 44-35643.  “Lil Twister” featured a raven haired beauty holding a bomb and a lightning bolt overhead while an Oklahoma tornado was rising up from below where it would soon have its way with that black negligee. She was sweet and fast and agile – the airplane that is.  

Tom would not fly that particular hot machine for long.  In May 1945 he had orders to fly her to McClellan Field near Sacramento. It would go to the The 319th Bomb Group and probably the invasion of Japan. That ferry job would at least be a cross country adventure. The tracks of the AT&SF Railway made navigation easy.  Flying the iron compass of the Belen cutoff would get him to Albuquerque once he left Texas.  Out in the middle of nowhere he might even find a train to buzz.  Oklahoma was his comfortable home but this jaunt could be fun.  He would divide the trip into two days and spend the night in transient quarters at Kirtland Army Airfield. He would be hungry when he got there.  He did not like eating while flying.


El Modelo did not look like much but the guy from Operations with the ’32 Ford coupe that dropped him off there at 2nd and Bridge St. told him it had authentic New Mexican food.  When in New Mexico eat as the New Mexicans do he figured.  Maria and Salvador waved him in a welcome and suggested he try the tamales.  For 75 cents he got that unfamiliar order in one hand, a soda in the other and found an empty spot at a rough outdoor table where an engine crew sat.  
“Howdy, The name’s Tom.” he said.
 “Have a seat, sir.  I’m Glen Powers and this here is my fireman Ed Bukove.  Where ya from?”
“Oklahoma City born and raised” said Tom proudly. “I’m flying an A-26 to California.” “You boys run trains out of here?”
“Yep.  Got us a troop train leaving for California in the morning.  Gonna have one of those new 2900s to run.” said hogger Glen proudly.
“Y’all ever get buzzed by the Army Air Corps?”
“Naw.  That never happens” said Ed. “The pilot would get in big trouble.”
“You mean as if he buzzed some hot chili?” said Glen watching the wild eyed expression on Tom’s face as he chewed on his first bite of tamale.  The table shook as Glen and Ed whooped it up and pounded with their fists. 
“Damn! What is that stuff?” croaked Tom with new sweat covering his face.
“That’s Maria’s fine red hot New Mexico Red chili sauce. Hotter than a firebox. They grow it here special.” said Glen.
“Maria! Got any milk?” cried Ed, “we got us a flyboy in big trouble!”


Both Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp 18 cylinder radials had warmed up nicely as Tom waited for takeoff clearance from the tower.  He gained a few thousand feet after out over the so called Rio Grande and swung south looking for the tracks that would take him across Arizona to San Bernadino, California where he’d head north for Sacramento.  And there it was!  What luck!  ‘ATSF 2926’ was painted in silver Railroad Roman on the side of the tender.  An engineer waived back at him as the locomotive picked up speed down the valley.  That had to be Glen.  By reflex Tom nudged the throttles and pushed the yoke forward with airspeed sneaking up toward 250 knots.  In a long shallow dive he corrected right to intersect with the cab just above the smoke and any telephone poles that might be around.  As he pulled back hard and started an aileron roll to the right for a better look at Ed’s side of the locomotive he yelled, “Red Chili”. 
A-26 Invader under restoration by the
Sierra Hotel Group, commemorative Air Force

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Holocaust and Intolerance Museum of New Mexico

The Holocaust and Intolerance Museum of New Mexico, founded in 1998 and opened in 2001, is dedicated to combating hate and intolerance and promoting understanding through education. The exhibits illustrate the history of the cruelty of mankind caused by prejudice and hate on a global, national and local level, culminating in the most unspeakable of horrors, the Holocaust. 
Former German officers’ quarters

Unique in North America, we include exhibits not only on the Holocaust, but also the Native American cultural genocide; Armenian, Greek, and Rwandan genocides, and slavery in America. Artifacts, memorabilia, pictures, artwork, and documents are on display. A lending and research library, now in the developmental stages, soon will be available to educators and students. In addition to a speakers’ bureau, our knowledgeable docents address thousands of school students who visit the museum each year. 

A generous grant from the McCune Foundation funds transportation costs for these field trips. We have sponsored a number of events designed to build bridges of friendship and understanding across diverse cultural groups. Also, once a month, on the third Sunday afternoon at 2, museum volunteers conduct a discussion group called Courage to Confront. There is no charge for admission to the museum; donations are appreciated.

The Flossenbürg Flag
Most folks know of the Navajo code talkers and also the heroism of New Mexicans in the Bataan Death March during World War II, but only those who have visited the Holocaust and Intolerance Museum of New Mexico have seen the Flossenbürg Flag. There is only one in the entire world, and it is proudly unfurled at 616 Central Avenue SW, Albuquerque.

This likeness of the United States Flag (with 48 stars, as is pointed out to school children) amazingly was created by prisoners of the Nazis in the Flossenbürg work camp, in Germany, where inmates labored in a stone quarry and in the manufacture of munitions and arms. The flag’s background and stars and stripes most likely were painted over what was once a German flag.
Flossenbürg Castle in background            

The war’s end was rumored, and inmates, not knowing who would liberate them, created three flags: a Russian, a British, and an American. It was the Americans who marched into the camp on April 23, 1945. Horrified, General Patton ordered town residents to clean up the makeshift graves left by the Nazis rather than making his soldiers do it.

In May of that year, a Medical Collecting Company, Third Army, entered the camp. Roy Shaffer, whose life journey eventually took him to Albuquerque, noticed that no one had claimed the flag, so he was allowed to remove it and bring it back to the United States. He displayed it often on July 4th to make sure all who passed by would never forget the horrors of World War II. He donated it to the Holocaust & Intolerance Museum soon after it opened in 2001. The following is an excerpt from a draft of Roy Shaffer’s memoirs:
Roy Shaffer: My Jeep, named for my fiancée.

“The inmates at Flossenbürg must have had some intimation of the approach of US troops. In secret they fashioned three flags, one each for US, UK and Russia. Then when the German guards left (by flight or by fight; I never found out), the flags were draped on the barbed wire perimeter fence to welcome the liberators. The flags were made mainly of red Nazi banners (minus the swastika) with white and blue colors superimposed in appropriate pattern. In those days at Flossenbürg everything was in turmoil, so I cannot recall how the US flag fell into my possession. But I donated it to the Holocaust & Intolerance Museum of New Mexico in Albuquerque where it is on display.”
Dr. Roy D. Shaffer in front of the Flossenbürg Flag