Posts Tagged ‘WW2’

Joe & Kay Regan – B-17 gunner shot down in WW2, POW in Germany, Married 65 years

September 29, 2009
Joe Regan with his wife Kay, and Director RJ McHatton

Joe Regan with his wife Kay, and Director RJ McHatton

Joe Regan shows us the spoon he made from a tin can and shared with  all the POWs shared

Joe Regan shows us the spoon he made from a tin can and shared with all the POWs

Joe Regan

Joe Regan

It was a glorious day in the Northwest.  I drove along the lake and the sky was perfect blue.  I was there to pickup Joe and Kay Regan.  My goal was to interview Joe for a video biography interview.  Joe served as a B-17 belly gunner and his aircraft was shot down over Germany.  Joe was captured by the Germans and became a POW of Stalag 7a with thousands of roommates.  Joe told some incredible stories about his experiences over there.  It was a very emotional time for both of us.  Luckily Joe’s beautiful wife Kay was there to calm us down.  Joe and Kay have been married 65 years.  I feel blessed to have met Kay and Joe.   They are most proud of raising five children and then another five foster kids, too.  After the war Joe didn’t do much flying but he was able in recent years to fly in a B-17 a couple of times.  Sometimes its real hard for Joe to think about those days as a POW.  He remembers the hunger, the joy he realized when his POW camp was liberated, and the times he met Patton and Eisenhower.   He also remembers the spoon he made out of a tin can, and how he shared that spoon with so many other POWs in the Stalag.


Paul Thayer – Friend of Johnny Myers “The Flying Man”

July 13, 2009

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Paul Thayer watching a video of his good friend Johnny Myers

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RJ McHatton with Paul Thayer

We drove to Southern California to interview Paul Thayer about his friend Johnny Myers for our documentary “The Flying Man.”  Paul is a great guy.  He sat down with me and we talked about how he met Johnny Myers.  Paul was a Fighter Pilot during World War II.  He served in the North Africa campaign and then was quickly sent over to Guadacanal.  After the war Paul worked at an airline where he met his wife Margery.   Paul eventually got a job as an insurance sales man.  Then one day Margery saw an advertisement that a company was looking for Test Pilots.  Over 1800 people applied for the job but Paul Thayer got the job.  That is where Paul met John Myers.  Thayer worked under John at Northrop.  Paul talked about how great a man Johnny Myers was.  He said that Myers was a man of integrity.  Paul told me some great stories about how he and Johnny Myers flew a P-61 Black Widow one time.  He talked about how John Myers nearly died during the testing period of the Flying Wing.  Paul told some great stories about how he and Johnny Myers and Jack Northrop worked together.  We talked about how in later years John Myers became a successful businessman.  He talked about some of the clubs they both belonged to over the years.  Paul told me how much John loved his wife Lucia and how painful it was to lose Lucia.

Everytime our discussion went to stories of flying, Paul’s eyes would light up.  I could tell that Paul loved aviation.  He talked about Johnny Myers love for fast cars and fast boats.  He also talked about John’s love for his dogs.  I was really impressed by my interview with Paul Thayer.  He is a very nice man.  I have learned that Paul once was Under-Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan.  I asked him about Ronald Reagan.  He said that Reagan and John Myers were similar in many ways.  I asked him if Johnny Myers was a good guy.  He said that he was more than a good guy.  He was a remarkable man.  Thank you, Paul Thayer, for letting me interview you for our documentary.

Janice Merriweather – Interview for our documentary “The Flying Man, Life and Times of Johnny Myers”

July 12, 2009

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Janice Merriweather

Janice Merriweather worked for Johnny Myers for over 26 years.  We drove down to the Long Beach Airport to the former office of Johnny Myers to interview Janice for our new documentary “The Flying Man” about the life and times of Johnny Myers.  John Myers was a legendary test pilot who did “First Flight” testing on the famous Black Widow P-61 and the Flying Wing.   In later years Myers was a successful businessman in the aviation industry.

Janice showed us John Myers’ office which has the best view of an airport I have ever seen.  As you walk into his office you can see a fantastic array of models of several different kinds of airplanes from WWII to jets.  Janice told us that John Myers these were some of the aircraft that Mr. Myers flew in his career.

Janice did a wonderful interview, telling fantastic stories about her years working with Mr. Myers.  She told me about the integrity and character of Mr. Myers.  He was a rare person.  A man with values.

We really appreciate Janice Merriweather’s help with our documentary.

Harold Knudsen – B-24 pilot in WW2 and Master Piano Player

July 12, 2009

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Harold Knudsen and his daughter Michelle

It was a beautiful sunny day as we drove down the Oregon Coast. We were headed south to Lincoln City to interview Harold Knudsen for a video biography project. His daughter Michelle commissioned us to do a video biography of her father. Harold told me his story about learning how to play the piano at the age of five. He talked about how music influenced every part of his life. During World War II Harold became a pilot of B-24s flying from England and dropping bombs all over Germany and France. Harold flew 40 missions during the War. He said that he was fortunate to be able to play the piano in the evenings even during the war. During his time in England Harold played with Glenn Miller. After World War II, Harold sold real estate in Portland, then tried his hand at selling cars. All the while, Harold played his piano and then organs. He eventually sold organs and pianos over the years. Always Hal would play his favorite Glenn Miller music.

Alice Tsukuno – Video Biography

June 29, 2009

Alice Tsukuno – Video Biography

RJ with Alice Tsukuno and her son Steve

It was really a special day for me to meet Alice Tsukuno and her son Steve. We drove over to meet Alice at her new home in Seattle to record her video biography. Her son Steve had purchased the Video Biography for his mother at an auction benefiting the Eastside Domestic Violence fundraiser.

Alice did a super interview. I learned so much about how life was in Seattle in the years prior to World War II. Then Alice told me how she and her family were evacuated to camps during the War. Her parents lived in Seattle so they were sent to camps in Puyallup and then to Idaho. Alice got married to Junior whose family lived out of town, so she and Junior were sent to camps down near Fresno. Then she and Junior went to live in Chicago until the end of the war, working for a family for $45 per month.

After the war, Alice and Junior came back to Seattle and opened up a grocery store, which they had for over 28 years.

I was very inspired by my interview with Alice. She is a kind and articulate person who lived a wonderful life during some interesting times. She has no regrets and just appreciates her time spending with her children and grandchildren.

Ron Gift – Torpedo Squadron Leader from WW2

June 29, 2009

Ron Gift – Torpedo Squadron Leader from WWII

Captain Ron Gift.
Here is a famous picture of Ron Gift from Life Magazine during World War II.
I drove over the bridge to do an interview with Ron Gift for the Veterans History Project for the Library of Congress. Ron Gift served as a torpedo squadron leader in the South Pacific during WWII. I interviewed Ron at his home at Covenant Shores in Mercer Island, WA. Ron is a great guy. His son recently wrote a great book about the life and times of Ronald Gift. Ron served as a pilot in the US Navy in the South Pacific during World War II as a torpedo squadron leader. Ron earned the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross. After the war Ron served all over the world in the Navy, including Commander of a Jet Squadron, Staff at NORAD, and teaching others about flying. Ron told me some incredible stories of how his squadron landed back on the carriers at night with only a few gallons of fuel left and hardly any way to see what they were doing.
Ron’s interview was so interesting, so compelling, that I wish everyone could see it. We have volunteered to shoot 100 free interviews of Veterans from World War II for the Veterans History Project for the Library of Congress. To learn more about the Veterans History Project, go to

Joe Denver – B-17 Pilot in WW2

June 29, 2009

Joe Denver – Veterans History Project – B-17 Pilot

B-17 “Flying Fortress”

I drove over to Ardmore, Pennsylvania to interview veteran Joe Denver. Joe was a B-17 pilot during World War II. I was met by his two sons. They were very excited to have me interview their father. The home was like a museum, with lots of great memorabilia from World War II. I also noticed they had a wall full of Civil War stuff. Since I had just visited the Gettysburg battleground, I was instantly moved to their Civil War area. The Denver family had a long tradition of serving in the US military. One of the Denvers served in the Civil War. They had his original gun, hat, and the bullet that killed him. I sat down with Joe with my HD video camera, set up a light and microphone, and then we talked. Joe was mostly blind, so I couldn’t use my cue cards with my specialized 124 questions. So we just talked and I went through the questions one by one. Joe did a super job talking about the way things were during his lifetime, growing up in the Depression, serving as a B-17 pilot during WWII, and his life after the war. Joe is a super guy and a real character. He has strong values and as terrific memory for details. He has a great sense of humor, too.

Bob Hoover – Legend of Aviation

June 29, 2009