This short account is little story which I am including as another corner stone of my aviation experiences.
This incident happened in the late summer of 1944, at about the time that the military was just realizing
that they were going to have to understand how to predict and deal with what we now know as high altitude "con-trails".
In WWII, military high altitude bombing operations had to deal with the long lasting "con-trails" which
marked exactly where they were located and where they were going and the size and type of planes in the force.
Every plane had it's own "con-trail" signature or fingerprint, which could be identified by the skilled
While our squadron, VF-6, was reforming and retraining at Santa Rosa, north of San Francisco, there
was an aircraft maintenance routine observed in our squadron for doing a slow time run in flight of several hours
for a new engine. I was working with our maintenance office, Cliff Seaver and engine specialist, Chief, Buzzy Baur
who insisted on the run-in routine for new engines be observed to the letter.
It was not only a necessary bit of flying, but I also like to do those flights. The maintenance people
dictated the time and altitude for the plane to be flown at various power settings.
I recall that in the later part of the run-in schedule, the plane was to be at high altitudes using
both hi and low blowers where it was necessary for the pilot to use oxygen. Most pilots did not like to do that
if they could avoid it, (for one thing, they could not smoke). I did not mind it a bit so it was easy for me to
get the job.
It was left up to the test pilot to decide where he wanted to go during the run-in flight. This let
me range out in all directions and become well acquainted with the whole general area north and east of Santa Rosa
and the San Francisco bay area.
One day I was cruising around in hi-blower on the engine and had worked my way at slow air speed,
up to an altitude of 35,000 feet or more. I was out to the north west of San Francisco, where I encountered a thin
layer of high cirrus clouds, in which my plane was making a heavy trail of fine crystals which streamed out behind
me as if I was a "sky-writer" of such. By experimenting a little, I found that layer was very thin so
that I was leaving a trail only when I was in it. When I was either above or below it there was no trail.
As a kid before joining the Navy, I was always fascinated by the early day "sky-writers"
who used a specially configured light aircraft which would leave a trail of smoke when desired. With this capability
they would make designs or words for people to see from the ground. I had seen them doing things like this high
over a football stadium or the State fair grounds in my home state, where there were a lot of people gathered.
This gave me an idea so I set about making some words which might be seen from the ground and which
drifted slowly to the South-east over the city of San Francisco and the bay area before it defused and became unreadable.
The words were patriotic for the times as I made it to read BUY BONDS.
I could only imagine that the many people who saw it just charged it off to the memory of some old
early day "sky- writer" who was up trying to do his patriotic duty to help with the national campaign
to raise money for the war effort.
I did not tell anyone in the squadron or admit to any one that I was using a Navy F6F-3 with a new
engine to play around up over the congested area of SFO.
The photo below is me, Hersch Pahl, standing on the wing of an F6F-3 at Santa Rosa, CA.
Lt (jg) Hersch Pahl on one of the F6F-3 aircraft used at Santa
Rosa for training purposes during the summer of 1944. The squadron deployed for second tour of combat duty in November
of 1944. They were looking forward to flying the new F6F-5 when they went aboard their assigned carrier,
USS Hancock (CV-19)
- Hersch Pahl