By Jennifer Martin - email
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - "I started flying when I was in high school. Then I went to Mississippi State in the summer of 1941. I was in the civilian pilot training program and got my license there."
But it wasn't until Cary Salter was 21 years-old and working at a Nashville shipyard, that he put his flying skills to work for the military. He signed up for the Army Air Corp. He trained in Florida and then Meridian.
"I had a friend there. His name was Rush H. Limbaugh, Jr. Our current day Rush's father. He was my squad operations officer."
He would stay on in Meridian for an additional 6 months as an instructor.
"It was real late in the war when I got overseas. Salter went first to a replacement depot in England, then to Paris. He was with the 354th Fighter Group.
"Mainly, we'd go out on search and destroy. Sometimes they'd have a target assigned to us, but other times we'd go looking for enemy aircraft. He flew P47's and eventually moved to P51's."
In April, he moved on to Germany. There he would see more action in one day on a weather reconnaissance mission than in all the months he had already been in service.
"We went up into Germany. My job was to watch behind us. I really wasn't watching where we were going. He says look, there's two 190's. He said you take the one on the left. I'll get the one on the right. We went roaring down and I was going too fast but I started shooting and I could see I was hitting him. I could hear Richie saying 'good going Salty.' I got mine. We turned around. He said 'look at the 190's' and I look through a small opening in the clouds and I saw four. It wasn't 4, it was 8 and right behind them was 8 more. When I got down there, I could see row after row after row. I said 'look out Richie, it's the whole damn Luftwaffe'."
He was never shot down, although he did have one close call with some German aircraft.
"One of his 20mm hit my wing. I lost some of my flying speed with that hole and it ripped a seam loose in the wing too and that just flipped me over and turned me straight down. I pulled back on my stick and the thing just shuddered. My airplane was shaking and I guess I was shaking."
He wasn't injured until after the war ended.
"They asked me to go back to France to pick up an officer. I went over there in that 2 seater to pick him up and on the way back that canopy came loose and hit me in the head. It blew off and the side window left the airplane too. It hit this eye. I couldn't see out of it. It's difficult to fly with one eye and I had to fly 20-30 minutes on base and land the aircraft."
Salter would spend 10 days in the hospital. He hitched a ride on a B17 back to England and then sailed back to the US. He spent a few months working on military bases stateside before he was put on a surplus list.
He went to Pharmacy School at Ole Miss and stayed in the reserves for the next 20 years.
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