Articles

WAR IS MY BUSINESS

JAMES W. PEARS October 1 1949
Articles

WAR IS MY BUSINESS

JAMES W. PEARS October 1 1949

WAR IS MY BUSINESS

Articles

JAMES W. PEARS

John Clare

Chapter Member Local 88 Mercenaries Inc.

James W. Pears Soldier of Fortune

Planes Flown All Types Night and Day Wars Fought Reasonable Rates

I'M NOT WORKING at my trade as I write this having just returned from a job in Israel where 30 Canadian and American pilots formed Mercenaries Inc. while we were fighting for the Jews against the Arabs. (The Local 88 is just a gag; we’re the only chapter.)

I was in Israel from November of last year until this June, eight months. I was paid $600 a month and expenses, $150 of it on the job and the rest deposited to my account in Toronto.

Most of us in Mercenaries Inc. are veterans of World War II. I was a pilot in the RCAF and logged 2,000 hours during the war and another 500 in Israel. I flew combat with 98 Squadron of the RAF in Mitchells for 2nd T.A.F. and later was sent to Transport Command flying from U. K. to Ceylon. On one trip we carried Lady Mountbatten.

All of us who fought in Israel, except two pilots who stayed to train Israeli fliers, are back in Canada or the U. S. waiting for our next flying and fighting assignment. Our manager (I guess you’d call him that), Chalmers (“Slick”) Goodlin, is working on a deal now. We’re asking $1,500 a month and work for the whole crew. We’ll fight, bomb, instruct, haul freight—in fact we offer a complete service.

I don’t know whether the government with which we are dickering will go for it or not. If we talked about it now they certainly wouldn’t so I can’t say too much. I will say this though. We won’t fight for any Communists and we would never fight against our recent employers and our friends the Jews. They treated us fine. They lived up to the letter of their agreement with us, even to the dots on the “i’s.”

My money was paid in my hometown, Toronto, promptly on the fifth or sixth of every month in Canadian dollars by the same organization that signed me up and had me flying from Canada to Israel almost as soon as our deal was completed. They gave us each $10,000 insurance in case we got humped off. Two of the mercenaries were killed while I was there.

In Israel the boss, however, sometimes had a little trouble raising the pay roll. When the war was on we never did anything about it but beef when the money was late. But later, when the fighting was over, we once went on strike for three days to get our dough.

That’s the kind of an air force we are. War is our business; we fight for cash. Someone has called us cash-andcarry killers. This isn’t exactly correct. We’re not hired assassins. We’re not romantics. We’re ordinary guys, a little restless perhaps, who are trying to make a stake at the only trade we know and like.

We took a look at a deal in China. An outfit in the States was offering $500 a month to fight the Reds. Living conditions are too tough in China, the money isn’t good enough and, besides, who wants to work for a firm which has just been declared bankrupt by its biggest backer. The U. S. Government only the other day wrote off the Nationalist chances in China.

So I’m waiting for word from Slick, watching the newspapers to see if any likely clients show up. If something doesn’t happen soon I may have to turn to some other kind of work. But this soldier of fortune stuff is for me when I can get it.

Where else can you get as much dough as quickly and as honestly? I’ve found you can’t do it here in peacetime Canada. Besides, the life is good. Great bunch of guys, some of them clowns sure, but all of them good at their business and lots of fun to knock around the world with.

Take our operations chief Slick Goodlin. He was in the RCAF, later transferred to the U. S. Air Corps, and when he got out he went to work for Bell Aircraft Corporation in Buffalo testing its hot jet job, the XS-1. It was Slick’s job to bring it along until it jusc bunted the sonic wall.

When they were close Slick said he wanted dough, big dough paid in advance before he took it through. Bell said it was never its intention to fly the XS-1 through the wall, it was leaving that to the Army; a service pilot eventually did the big test for the Army. Slick quit Bell and came out to Israel where he became the

mercenaries’ manager. He gets no extra pay.

Slick says he was the first man to fly through the sonic wall, although his name doesn’t appear on the official records. He said he was through for about 20 seconds with the XS-1.

Slick shot down four enemy aircraft in Israel. Altogether the Israeli Air Force shot down 60 enemy planes, mostly Egyptian Spitfires bought from the British. Iraq was supposed to have a hot air force, complete with Vampire jets, but we never saw them. I heard they were short of pilots.

Where Did the Spits Come From?

I guess our fighter squadron was one of the hottest ever assembled. It was made up of Jewish patriots, many of them from South Africa and some from England, and us Canadian and American mercenaries.

Our team included Jack Doyle, of Toronto, who was in the RCAF; Lee Sinclair, a Canadian with the RAF; and Danny Wilson, of Hamilton.

Doyle destroyed about 10 enemy planes.

The fighter force was made up of 12 Messerschmitt 109’s (made in Czechoslovakia and not as good as the real thing the Luftwaffe used), ten Mustangs, one Beaufighter and about a dozen Spit 19’s. It was these Spitfires, among the latest models, which shot down the five RAF planes near the Egyptian border in the celebrated incident that made everyone so nervous they decided it was time to call this war off.

No, I can’t tell you where the Jews got those Spits but I can tell you how they smuggled 10 Beaufighters out of England when the Government had slapped down an export ban on any aircraft destined for Israel.

The Israeli organization in England had bought these war surplus Beaus, a two-engine, two-place aircraft used as a night fighter and intruder, but couldn’t get them out of the country. The boys in charge set up a dummy movie company and got permission to make a war film. They even had a camera. The big scene took place on an airfield with a dozen models dressed as WAAF’s standing by the tarmac waving farewell to the pilots as they prepared to take off against the Nazis. The camera ground away and the Beaus took off, and kept right on going.

Remember that B-17 that was playing tag with the RCAF and the U. S. authorities along the Nova Scotia coast last year? Well, it eventually reached its illegal destination and carried bombs to Gaza on one of the many raids on that Arab stronghold.

Our bombing force was not nearly as impressive on paper (or in the air) as the fighter squadron. I did a few bombing raids myself soon after I arrived and I did them with a Cub, a small trainer with room for two people. The ones we had didn’t even have turn and bank indicators. The bombardier had to pull the pins out of the 25 kilo bombs and just let them drop out the door. The trick was to keep the bomb from hitting a strut and blowing the plane up.

While the Frenchmen Wined

We had some C-46’s (Commandos) and C-47's (Dakotas) which were used as bombers, too. The bombing technique here was to toss the bombs out the door the way the RAF did with Bombays in the early days of the war on the Western Desert.

The bombardier was usually a native Palestinian boy, a cadet in training as a pilot. He stood at the open cargo door with a rope tied around his waist so that he wouldn’t go out with his bombs. The bombs were passed along to him, he pulled the pin and tossed them out. I understand we scared the devil out of the Arabs.

The rest of our bomber command was made up of some Norsemen, the well-known bushplane of the Canadian North (it was a Norseman George Beurling was flying to Israel when he crashed and died in Rome); three C-54’s, or Skymasters, which were the backbone of our transport command; three Flying Fortresses, including the one which sneaked over from Nova Scotia; and eight Bonanzas, a strictly unwarlike kite made by the Beech people.

The best bombing story of the war came from the days when some scheduled airlines were still flying into Israel. An Air France Dakota lobbed in late one evening and the crew was whisked away to Tel Aviv and what passed for bright lights in that crowded town which was harboring half a mil-

lion people in a space meant for no more than half that number. The French pilots were wined and dined (let’s face it, they got drunk as newts) and were poured into bed by their Israeli hosts.

When they went out to the field the next morning to take off they failed to notice their aircraft had been used. I don’t think they know yet their plane had been out all night bombing the Arabs.

When I got to Israel late in November the second phase of the war was about to begin. The great need was for pilots and while I was needed on the striking force I was also needed on the training side. Before long I was sidling up an elementary flying training school. The idea was to follow the British Empire plan, under which I was trained at Belleville, St. Eugene and Brantford in 1940.

This was fine but someone tried to impose U. S. training methods on RAF procedure. Finally we got a U. S. Navy veteran who wanted to teach everyone to slow fly as though they would be doing carrier landings the rest of their lives.

There was considerable confusion and it was a long time before we got things straightened out. As a matter of fact, when we got there we soon saw there were some guys we were going to have to get rid of. Most of the mercenaries were good men, fine pilots and real guys. Others were as phony as some of the Americans who came up to join the RCAF early in the war.

Look, Ma! No Hands!

The high command of the Israeli Air Force (there were about 10,000 all ranks in the force now) didn’t have too much operational experience. The operations chief was a navigator. Who ever heard of a navigator running an air force?

The native Palestinians who run the force have lots of confidence and lots of guts but they’re inclined to be cocky. Even the kids I was teaching to fly would be telling me what to do after the fourth lesson. The truth is they weren’t too good as fliers. This is easy to understand when you realize that most of them had little to do with machines and most of those coming along for flying instruction couldn’t even drive a car.

I remember one student I had by

the ñaihe of Rabinovitch. He was a bright kid but he couldn’t fly and couldn’t land. He just arrived. And if you were in the same kite with him you held your breath until you were down and then shook hands with yourself in congratulation.

He had shown a particular lack of skill in getting out of spins. He would take his hands off the controls and close his eyes in this situation. I was faced with the necessity of washing him out but before I did this I wanted to give him one more chance.

I took him up to 4,000 feet and put the Cub into a spin and told him to get it out. We spun down and down. I looked at Rabinovitch and he had not only taken his hands off the controls and was hanging onto the crossbar but had taken his feet off as well.

We were down to 1,500 feet. He would never learn to come out of spins I swiftly decided and brought it out myself. When we had landed he gave me a friendly grin and said, “Well, how did you like that?”

When I first got to the country we were stationed at St. Jean’s, a former RAF refit drome. We lived in a hotel there and we lived well. We were later moved to Hertseliya, north of Tel Aviv, where we were billeted in DP houses and the food was terrible. My weight dropped from 270 to 230 pounds. It was my weight, incidentally, that prevented me from getting back into the RCAF when I saw them a year ago. My weight, and, I suppose, the fact that I am now 37.

We lived a fairly simple life. We didn’t have enough money to live any other way. Our idea of relaxation was to go down to a hotel and get a couple of bottles of brandy and sit around.

There was a club called the Fish Pond where we used to go. In the middle of the place was a pool full of ornamental fish. The mercenaries had a habit of taking off their shoes and socks as the evening progressed and wading in pursuit of the fish. This always puzzled the Israelis who sometimes thought we were crazy. Maybe they were right.

Christmas Eve they gave us a big party and in the morning sent a bus around to take us to mass. The mercenaries went to mass in a body although only three were Catholics. There was a lot of drinking and horseplay in the bus but everyone behaved in church.

After the service the Israelis threw

a big Christmas dinner for us. They had the works. No turkey, but chicken —a real treat in a country where food was scarce.

There were more drinks and the party begun the night before continued. As the proceedings drew to a close it was decided that it would be a nice thing if one of our boys said a few words of appreciation to our hosts. We cast around looking for someone who was in fairly good shape and chose, unwisely as it turned out, a fighter pilot from Cleveland.

Stanley Got the Brushoff

He rose to his feet and balancing himself with his finger tips gently placed on the tablecloth gravely addressed our hosts, “Mr. Chairman . . He

paused. “Would you be so kind as to direct me to the men’s washroom.” Best speech I ever heard.

I liked Israel and I liked the people. They are doing a wonderful job under tremendous difficulties. They are sticking to their policy of letting all Jews in. This is a wonderful thing to see but it creates big problems. Many of these people are sick and almost childish from so many years spent in concentration camps that they are not much use to the state. They need labor there, too.

I remember there was a lot of talk about whether the Israelis would allow Sidney Stanley, who figured in the Belcher graft probe in England, into the country. We were talking about it in a bar one night when Stanley himself came up and offered to buy us mercenaries a drink. We told him to drop dead.

The boys who are the power in the drive to build the country are the native Palestinians. I have already described them as cocky and independent. They are hard working and smart, too. If they can keep their country out of war I think they have good chance for success.

I could go back to Israel any time I want to, they said. But it would have to be on a long-term contract to work on their training program. I’d rather wait and see what Slick lines up for Mercenaries Inc.

There are ten Mitchells down in Mexico we could get cheap. They’re fast, you don’t need a platoon to fly them, just four men, and they carry 4,000 pounds of bombs. We could use them in our business.