The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #56335   Message #880482
Posted By: catspaw49
02-Feb-03 - 12:15 AM
Thread Name: 2003 Obit: 7 Space Shuttle Columbia Astronauts
Subject: RE: Obit: 7 Space Shuttle Columbia Astronauts
As several of us have brought up "High Flight" on both threads, here's just a bit more on young John Magee, the author.

"Born of an American father and English mother, John Gillespie Magee gave up studies at Yale University to join the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940. An American serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force, he was born in Shanghai, China in 1922, the son of missionary parents, Reverend and Mrs. John Gillespie Magee; his father was an American and his mother was originally a British citizen.
He came to the U.S. in 1939 and earned a scholarship to Yale, but in September 1940 he enlisted in the RCAF and was graduated as a pilot. He was sent to England for combat duty in July 1941. He was qualified on and flew the Supermarine Spitfire.

He was stationed at RAF Wellingore, a satellite station of RAF Digby, with 412 Squadron RCAF when he wrote "High Flight". The poem encompasses his thoughts and feelings of the freedom of flight, and in particular, the exhilaration he felt after a flying in the Spitfire.

Flying fighter sweeps over France and air defence over England against the German Luftwaffe, he rose to the rank of Pilot Officer. At the time, German bombers were crossing the English Channel with great regularity to attack Britain's cities and factories. Although the dark days of the Battle of Britain were over, the Luftwaffe was still on the job of keeping up the pressure on British industry and the country.   On September 3, 1941, Magee flew a high altitude (30,000 feet) test flight in a newer model of the Spitfire V. As he orbited and climbed upward, he was struck with the inspiration of a poem -- "To touch the face of God."

Once back on the ground, he wrote a letter to his parents. In it he commented, "I am enclosing a verse I wrote the other day. It started at 30,000 feet, and was finished soon after I landed." On the back of the letter, he jotted down his poem, "High Flight".

Just three months later, on December 11, 1941 (and only three days after the US entered the war), Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., was killed. The Spitfire V he was flying, VZ-H, collided with an Oxford Trainer from Cranwell Airfield while over Tangmere, England. The two planes were flying in the clouds and neither saw the other. He was just 19 years old.

He is buried, along with other RCAF colleagues, in the graveyard in Scopwick village, 2 miles from RAF Digby, where, each year on Remembrance Sunday, personnel from RAF Digby join the members of Scopwick village church in remembering these airmen who died so far from home.