WW II fighter ace Scott dies at 97
Flying Tiger wrote 'God is My Co-Pilot"
WARNER ROBINS, Georgia (AP) -- Retired Brig. Gen. Robert L. Scott, the
World War II flying ace who told of his exploits in the
China-Burma-India theater in his book "God is My Co-Pilot," died
Monday. He was 97.
His death was announced by Paul Hibbitts, director of the Museum of
Aviation at Robins Air Force Base, where Scott worked in recent years.
The Georgia-born Scott rose to nationwide prominence during World War
II as a fighter ace in the skies over Asia, then with his best-selling
1943 book, made into a 1945 movie starring Dennis Morgan as Scott.
Among his other books were "The Day I Owned the Sky" and "Flying Tiger:
Chennault of China."
Scott, who retired from the Air Force as a brigadier general, won three
Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Silver Stars and five Air Medals
before he was called home to travel the country giving speeches for the
He shot down 22 enemy planes with his P-40 Warhawk, though he recalled
some were listed as "probable" kills.
"You had to have two witnesses in the formation, or you needed a gun
camera to take a picture," he once said. "Only we didn't have gun
cameras in China. I actually had 22 aerial victims, but I only had
proof of 13."
He worked with the Flying Tigers, Gen. Claire Chennault's famed
volunteer force of pilots who fought in China, but he was not one of
its original members in mid-1941. With the Flying Tigers, he earned
five of his aerial kills in May 1942 when he flew more than 200 hours
Making of a legend
Scott's story is the stuff of aviation legend: He flew a homemade
glider off the roof of a three-story house at age 12 and crash landed
on a spiky rose bush.
At 33, Scott was considered too old for combat and was still at a
training job in California when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and
the United States entered the war in December of that year.
But then came a phone call.
"One night about 3 a.m., the phone rang. A man asked `did you ever fly
a B-17,' Scott said in a 1996 interview. "So I said yes, I have flown a
B-17. But I never had. I got my airplane and went to work."
After he got the call to serve in combat, he was assigned to a mission
to bomb Tokyo from China. When that plan was scrubbed, he flew gasoline
and ammunition over Japanese-held territory to the Flying Tigers. When
the Tigers were formally incorporated into the Army as the 23rd Fighter
Group of the China Air Task Force, Scott was asked to be its commander.
In the years just after the war, Scott was one of the proponents of
making the Air Force into a separate service.
"They just plain couldn't see why we wanted a special service," Scott
said in 1997, at the time the Air Force was marking its 50th
anniversary as an independent service. "They all wanted their own Air
Force. We were fighting against public opinion."
New life at museum
air base's aviation museum.
Scott, who had more than 33,000 flying hours during his 60 years of
flying, credited the museum with giving him a new lease on life,
Despite his age, he remained active until a few years ago, carrying the
Olympic torch in 1996, piloting an F-15 fighter jet on his 88th
birthday and flying a B-1 bomber on his 89th birthday, Hibbitts said.
"He's been our resident hero, cheerleader and biggest fan," said Pat
Bartness, museum foundation president and chief operating officer.
"He's been the biggest drawing card we've had."
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.
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