DOGFIGHT at 20,000 FEET


By Lori Gottula    
    Heroes are generally those who save other people’s lives. But sometimes, the term “hero” refers to a man or woman who has overcome incredible circumstances. Such was the case with WWII hero, Sam Logan, a real American serviceman who was the subject of a John Falter painting commissioned by Esquire magazine during World War II.          A Kansas boy, Logan was a captain in the Marine Corps, and a fighter pilot. On June 7th, 1943, he was forced into the battle of his life.
    According to an article written by Paul Gallico, (an article that accompanied the painting), Logan “was part of a flight sent up to intercept 50 (Japanese) Zeros and bombers over the Russell Islands. It was his second combat mission.” (The Russell Islands are located in the Solomon Islands, less than 50 miles north of Guadalcanal.)
    Logan and the Zeros engaged in a dogfight 20,000 feet above the ground. The American hero struck a few planes mid-air, but his own vessel became a torpedo headed for the ground when his tail surfaces started peeling away from the framework. He climbed out of his wounded plane with his chute, jumped, and pulled the cord.
    That’s when Logan had to find a fortitude that he never knew existed. The Japanese Zero that had disabled his plane dove at him like a hawk zeroing in on its prey, its blood-thirsty claws bared. Logan did trapeze-style stunts mid-air to avoid the hissing bullets, and by the third pass, realized that the Japanese fighter pilot was out of ammunition. Still, the Zero kept coming. Quickly calculating the distance and angle, Logan determined then that the enemy intended to use his metal propeller blade to disembowel his target. And Logan had no intention of letting that happen.
    Logan quickly lifted his feet as the Zero whizzed by. He felt a bump and surge of pain, looked down, and saw blood spewing like a fountain, from the place where his foot used to be.
    Just then, American fortitude showed up.  And so did an Army P-40. Logan watched as the good guy chased off the bad, filling the air with raw vengeance and blazing bullets.
    Blood still spurting from his ankle, Logan floated to the water, dipped in, and dyed the jade waters blood-red. He then summoned everything he had to save himself. Sinking into the sand on his one remaining foot, he quickly inflated his boat pack, climbed on, and rolled over onto his back to gather his energy and thoughts. Wasting not a second more, he formed a tourniquet, and cut the fountain off at the knee. He found sulpha and morphine tablets in his emergency kit, and took them. Then, he waited. Moments later, an American Army Air Force plane circled overhead.Logan knew then that this battle was not his last.
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    This is just a summary of the Sam Logan story. The tale was told in palpitating detail in the 1943 Christmas edition of Esquire magazine. The article and accompanying painting by John Falter will hang in the Stalder Art Gallery of the Falls City Library and Arts Center from Nov. 11, 2014 through Dec. 31, 2014.  Both will be joined by six other Falter paintings, and the articles written by Gallico, in a show titled, “Heroes.”
    The opening will be held on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2014. The gallery will open at 6 p.m., with a gallery talk by renowned WWII expert Dr. Adrian Lewis, at 7. The event is sponsored by the Richardson County Arts and Humanities Council. For more information, contact Christina Wertenberger at (402) 245-6034.

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