Friday, October 6, 2023

The Solo Flight

Lambert Field, MO, November 14, 1942 

 [NOTE TO READERS: This is one of a series of short stories about my dad’s experiences in WW2, based on his letters, his diary, his pilot’s log book, and the many documents he saved from his time in the Navy, and other historical records. Individual conversations and scenes I have invented, though they are informed by the records in my possession.]

I had to fly with one hand and blow my nose with the other. Depending on how fast your nose is running, that can be quite a trick, especially when it’s time to land. It was my very first solo flight—I could not have picked a worse time to get a bad cold. More on that in a minute. But first, the back story on how I wound up in the cockpit of that N3N-3 on November 14, 1942, at Lambert Field, Missouri.

Photo Credit: Alan Wilson, Creative Commons License

I have wanted to fly since my very first airplane ride. It was 1928 and I was five years old. The Curtis JN-4 “Jenny” was a two-seater biplane, with controls at both places. Daddy put me in the front seat where he could keep an eye on me as he flew. I was bundled up and wearing goggles that were way too big for me. I probably looked like I had bug eyes. After buckling me in and giving me stern instructions, “Don’t touch anything!”, dad started that throaty Hispano-Suiza 8 engine. Being a boy, I wasn’t scared by the noise—I loved it. The noisier the better! As soon as the ship lifted off the ground, I was hooked. Whatever it took, whatever I had to do, someday my future was going to include a cockpit.

In 1928, dad (D. K. as he was known to his friends) was fully invested in the fledgling aviation industry. He had been a sophomore engineering major at Georgia Tech when the Great War interrupted his academic plans. He enlisted in the US Naval Reserve Force (USNRF) in June of 1918, when World War 1 was creating a lot of widows. Fortunately the war ended before he got to Europe.

Naval budgetary issues produced a massive drawdown of the military when the war ended, and dad was squeezed by it like everyone else. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in September of 1921.

As the years rolled and the Depression set in, work for most people became difficult to find. Thankfully, dad’s rare aviation skills kept him employed at one job or another. He was a certified flight instructor, a commercial-rated pilot, a certified aircraft mechanic, and a ground school instructor. For a time, dad was a salesman dealing with Aeromarine-Klemm aircraft and Salmson and LeBlond aircraft engines. I suppose dad could lay claim to being the first “equal-opportunity” instructor, because he taught both men and women to fly.


So, there I am at Georgia Institute of Technology in my sophomore year, studying mechanical engineering. Late at night on December 7, 1941, my roommate and I were in the dorm studying for semester finals when we heard a news flash that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. We looked at each other across the room, snapped our books shut, and said, “Let’s get with it!”

He enlisted right away in the Army Air Corps. Unfortunately, I had to wait until May of ‘42, when I was old enough to enter the Navy Reserves in the aviation program. It did not occur to me at the time, but my dad had virtually the same experience at Georgia Tech in 1918. Same school and course of study, same navy, same intention to fly. Different war.


“Greetings, gentlemen. You people can set your bags on the ground, right there,” said the grinning man as we got off the bus. We had pulled up to a building that looked a lot like a barracks. We were in Athens at the University of Georgia, where we would get pre-flight ground school instruction as well as physical training for strength conditioning. We were all a little anxious, not quite sure what to expect. Had it not been for that nervousness, I probably would have detected the malicious gleam in the man’s eye.

“No one will disturb them. Very well. Now, line up here behind me, gentlemen. Very good. Follow me, please.”

That was the last time he was polite to us for the next three months. As it turned out, he was our physical training (PT) drill instructor. We didn’t know that at the time, however. He simply had ambushed us as soon as we disembarked from the bus.

He took off running at a good clip. We all looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. We’re in street shoes and traveling clothes. The man jogged about 20 yards, looked back and saw no one following.

“LADIES,” he barked, “I SAID, FOLLOW ME! NOW!” He turned and began running even faster. 

Oh, boy, I thought. What have I gotten myself in to? There was a reason I chose naval aviation and not the army. I’d had enough of ground pounders in Army ROTC at Georgia Tech. I wanted to be a pilot, not a grunt! I didn’t think running or marching would be part of the package! Boy, was I wrong!

We began chasing after him in our street shoes and traveling duds. As he ran, he shouted at us, “You are in Company H, Platoon 2. Remember that, because when we post the training schedules, you will be responsible to be in the right place at the right time, dressed appropriately. Nobody here is your mama or poppa. You want to fly for the Navy? Well then, you will learn to be responsible starting right now. You WILL be on time for every event on your schedule. If you are even one second late to ANYTHING, I will bless you with an extra three mile run.”

He was merciful that day, if you count stopping short of killing us as merciful. We ran (at a near sprint) only two miles before he led us back to our luggage and the barracks that would be our home for the next three months. Some of the guys puked, and we all had blisters from running in our street shoes. It didn’t really bother me, because I was in pretty decent shape as a runner. At least, I thought I was. As it turned out, the PT did challenge me at times.

The physical requirements necessary to graduate out of ground school included a provision to swim twenty laps—one thousand meters—in under a certain amount of time. The pool was fifty meters long with ten lanes. There were enough of us taking the swimming test that they split the pool into two five-lane sections. One section had the swimmers being tested, the other side was reserved for warm-ups for the next cadre. They would alternate, side to side, in order to run the groups of swimmers through the tests faster.

Okay, I’m ashamed to admit this next part. As it happened, I was climbing out of the pool in lane six after having done a two-lap warmup at the same time as the cadre in lanes one through five was emerging from the pool at the end of their thousand-meter test. It wasn’t anything I had planned—it just happened. In all the noise and confusion, the ensign monitoring the swimming test marked me down as having completed the twenty laps. I never said a word.

We had to pick a sport to participate in during the three months, and frankly that was a good idea, as it gave us cadets a chance to let off some steam. Although soccer was tempting, I decided that boxing sounded like fun. I’ve never been much of a scrapper, and I figured I’d learn some useful moves and combinations in the manly art of fisticuffs. My enthusiasm for the sport lasted until my second sparring session. My partner was quite a bit more experienced than me and was teaching me how to block punches. Only I missed and he didn’t, resulting in a broken nose and blood all over the floor.

I was really good at math and physics which helped a lot in ground school. As a cadet whose dad had been a pilot practically since the beginning of flight, ground school was a piece of cake for me. I pretty much aced the classes. However, we didn’t do any actual flying in ground school so I was really glad when this phase of training came to an end.

On October 13, 1942, I graduated from Pre-Flight School and was ordered to Primary Flight School at Lambert Field in Missouri. That is where my actual flight training would begin.


I arrived at Lambert two days before I had to report. I wanted to get the lay of the land and find my way around the base. It was unusually cold for late October, so one of my first stops was the commissary. I wanted to draw my issued gear before the next class of cadets arrived. I’d heard a few stories that the Navy was ramping up the training programs so quickly that the commissaries were running out of stock; some of the guys had to wait a week or two to get their stuff.

“What can I do you out of,” the civilian clerk asked with a lazy midwestern drawl. He looked a little older than me, maybe twenty four, twenty five.


“Whaddayah here for?” the clerk asked with a tone that spoke of weary exasperation.

“Primary Flight Training,” I answered with some degree of pride. “I want to pick up my gear.”

“ID,” he said, holding his hand out. He checked my name against a list and nodded. “Gotcha right here, Cobb. You’re a little early, ain’tcha?”

I shrugged and nodded. As he disappeared into the aisles of shelves behind him to collect my gear, I noticed that he was limping.

“Didja hear that Ghormley’s out, Halsey’s in?” he called from somewhere back in the store room.

“What? Umm, no. I’ve heard of Admiral Halsey, but who is Ghormley?”

He walked back to the counter and set my gear down, pushing a requisition chit at me to sign. “Yeah,” he said, “happened a week or so ago. Ghormley was commanding in the south Pacific. Guess the brass didn’t like how he performed at Guadalcanal, so they turned the operation over to Halsey. Halsey will kick those Jap butts, for sure.”

He stared at me for a moment and shook his head.

“What?” I asked.

“Make the most of this, buddy. I’d love to be in your shoes right now. It’s a great opportunity to learn to fly and to serve the country. Count yourself fortunate. I tried to sign up—no one will take me. Club foot,” he explained. “So figured I could at least serve by clerking here at Lambert, keep ‘em from wasting some Navy puke on stuff a civie can do.”

“Thanks,” I nodded. “I’ll do my best.”


“Cobb!” the flight instructor barked. “You’re with me. I’m Lieutenant Virnig. Let’s get you up in the air. Got your logbook?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Any air time yet?” he asked as we walked across the tarmac towards a bright yellow N3N-1 biplane. I’d heard dad chuckle about these airships, calling them the “Yellow Peril.” The “Peril” part wasn’t about the airplane—it was a solid ship that handled well—the peril part had to do with the fact that it was mostly used as a trainer, and student pilots weren’t the safest of fliers.

“Nine hours, sir, with my dad. He’s a flight instructor and former naval aviator.”

“What ship?”

“A Curtis Jenny. War surplus.”

“I’m impressed,” Virnig said. “The Jenny is a good airplane. Did your dad teach you anything about flying?”

“Ground school stuff only, sir. He said he didn’t want to teach me anything that the Navy might want me to unlearn. So those nine hours were just as a passenger.”

“You got a smart daddy, son. Did you log your nine hours?”

“No, sir.”

“Well, then, we’re starting from scratch.”

Virnig took the rear seat and put me in the front. We strapped in and took off with Virnig at the controls. We flew for about ninety minutes, during which he had me get the feel of the controls. I took the stick, tried the rudder pedals, and learned how to adjust the throttle. I was grinning the whole time.

Later that day we flew again, this time in an N3N-3. The N3N-3 was a slightly upgraded model from the N3N-1 and used the 240 horsepower Wright J-6-7 radial engine. The N3N-1 had the J-5, which only produced 220 horsepower. The N3N-3’s vertical stabilizer was a little different, too, and there were a few other minor changes.

On this hop Virnig began giving me basic instructions about recovering from stalls and spins. It’s a little nerve wracking when the airplane starts dropping like a brick. I was really glad Virnig had his hands on the controls. What he was teaching me is that, if you keep your cool, and know what to do, you can recover from these kinds of problems. It’s when you panic that stalls and spins become deadly. Toward the end of this flight, Virnig stalled the aircraft and turned the controls over to me to recover it. Well, I’m still alive, so I must have gotten something right. Virnig landed the ship, for which I was secretly thankful.

After we climbed out of the cockpit, he said, “You did okay today, Cobb. After the first couple of screw-ups, you got the hang of it.”

“Thanks, sir. It just kind of gives me the willies when we’re a thousand feet up, and the ship starts behaving like a cinder block.”

“Hey, if that doesn’t give you a shot of adrenalin, you’re not human. But you learn to master your fear and think your way out of the situation, pushing the nose down, applying the proper rudder. But if you lose your head, a stall or a spin will kill you. That’s why we always practice at altitude—the ground comes up awful fast and you need time to recover.”

I looked back at the aircraft as we walked toward the hangar. “So who makes these beauties, anyway, sir? Boeing? Martin? Grumman?”

“No, not the N3Ns. We do,” Virnig said. “We, meaning the Navy. There’s a factory in Philly that pumps ‘em out for us. Navy owns it—lock, stock, and barrel.”

“The Navy has its own factory? That’s odd. How did that happen?”

We stopped and turned, looking at the flight line of trainers parked on the tarmac. Virnig pulled out a Lucky Strike and his Zippo and lit up. After he exhaled a cloud of smoke, he looked at me. “It was WW1, Cobb. The Army soaked up all the private manufacturing capacity, so the Navy built it’s own factory. Things have changed since then. Now everyone is building for us: Grumman, Boeing, Douglass. Nuts, even outfits like Ford have turned their production lines from cars to bombers.”

“I reckon war changes everything. It sure changed my direction,” I said.

He nodded. “I reckon so. See you here tomorrow, 0900.”


I could feel Virnig pushing the stick forward, even as I heard him shouting at me through the speaking tube. “Doggone it, Cobb! Push the stick forward. Otherwise you’ll never get the airspeed to lift off. It’s like you’re stalling the aircraft, even though we’re still on the ground!”

The N3N was wallowing down the runway, nose too high. Virnig took over before we ran out of runway. Once we got in the air, he gave the controls back to me.

“Remember your basics from ground school, son,” he said to me, noticeably calmer, as I started a climbing turn. “You need to achieve takeoff speed before the aircraft will lift off. When the plane’s nose is too high, it creates greater air resistance, and the airplane can’t achieve takeoff speed. The solution is to keep your nose low until you have plenty of airspeed to rotate.”

I nodded, showing that I’d heard him. This was my second takeoff today, and I’d made the same mistake on both of them. I was angry with myself and rattled.

Virnig could tell I was upset. “Take it around, land, then taxi back to the beginning of the runway, and let’s try again.”

I nodded again, checked the traffic around me, and got into the landing pattern. My landing was nothing to write home about, but it wasn’t terrible either. I taxied back to the beginning of the runway and stopped short, to let two students take off ahead of me. When it was my turn, I did a visual check for incoming traffic, and was rewarded with a “Good boy.” Jamming the throttle forward, I started rolling. Although it went against my natural inclination, I forced myself to push the stick forward, and held it there as the ship gained speed.

“Good, good, son. Not yet… not yet… okay now, ease the stick back a little. There! See how easy that was,” Virnig said through the voice tube.

I was grinning again. It was a much better takeoff, and I noticed how much more responsive to the controls the N3N was at the higher speed.

After another ninety minute hop and an acceptable landing, I taxied the N3N back to the flight line and shut her down. We both disembarked from the airplane, and I stood waiting, as Virnig wrote up the evaluation.

“You’re doing okay, Cobb, and you’re improving. We’ve got a lot to work on, but you catch on fast.”

“Yes, sir,” I responded, secretly disappointed. I’d thought that I’d be further along by now, but it was all turning out to be more complicated than I had ever imagined. It gave me a renewed appreciation for how skilled dad was in his Jenny. I was really wrestling with simple maneuvers like banking the airplane in a turn. But it wasn’t simple! When you bank, the airplane loses altitude unless you goose the throttle slightly or pull back on the stick. And if you don’t coordinate your pedal movements with your stick movement on turns, you wind up skidding instead of banking. When you level off, you have to retard the throttle or you’ll pick up speed, which causes the airplane to climb. Will I ever master this?

“Okay, son, you’re flying again on Tuesday. Meet me here at 0900.”

“Yes, sir.”


Over the next two weeks, I cringed as I saw Virnig’s comments on my evaluation sheets.

On November 4: “Always fails to throttle back after leveling off. Can’t remember to push stick forward on takeoff.”

On November 11: “Always takes off with left wing low. Breaks glide OK but doesn’t continue to bring stick back for a landing.”

This discouraging remark was on November 12: “Has trouble keeping plane straight and wings level on takeoff. Tries hard but forgets to do the right thing at the right time.”

I’ll tell you whose tail was dragging, and it wasn’t the N3N’s. It was mine. I was beginning to think I’d never be ready to solo. I even wondered if Virnig was going to wash me out of the program.

I got up on Friday morning and didn’t feel too spunky. I wondered if maybe I was coming down with something. I went for an early morning run, showered, geared up, and went to the cadets’ mess hall. Sat with a couple of my buddies, and we were all pretty down in the mouth about the instructor evaluations we were receiving. That actually cheered me up a little, knowing I wasn’t the only guy with my tail between my legs.

“You know what today is, guys?” Johnson asked mournfully. I’d finished breakfast and was about to head for the flight line. I was meeting Virnig at 0900 for today’s hop.

“Friday, genius. Why do you ask?” Carpenter answered.

“Yeah, but it’s Friday the 13th,” Johnson replied. “I don’t know about you guys, but I sure don’t need anymore bad luck in the cockpit.”

“That goes for me, too, Johnson,” I said. “I’ve had enough problems flying, I don’t need any new ones.”

Carpenter looked at me and said, “Buck up, Cobb. My dad used to say, ‘Son, any hop you can walk away from was a good hop.’”

I chuckled. “Think my daddy said the same thing to me.” I checked my watch. “Anyway, if you boys are scheduled at 0900, we’d better get a wiggle on.”

Virnig was waiting for me at our aircraft. “You ready, Cobb?”

“Yes, sir. Ready and rarin’.” I didn’t feel good, but I wasn’t about to tell him that.

“That’s the spirit. Show me some good stuff today, boy.”

He put me through my paces, and about the best thing I can say is that I didn’t crash the airplane. After we’d been up for just shy of an hour, he called to me through the speaking tube and told me to land and taxi to the flight line. I felt crushed, because he was ending our ninety minute session half an hour early. I wondered what I’d done wrong.

My landing was actually pretty good and so was my taxiing. When I cut the engine we both got out of the plane, and he marked his evaluation sheet.

“Want to know how you did, Cobb?” Virnig asked.

“Yes, sir,” I said. I was already feeling worse physically, so I braced myself for what I was about to read. There were only three words: “Safe for solo.” I whooped loud enough to turn heads all the way down the line.
Photo: Cobb family collection

Virnig grinned at me. “Go hit the head if you need to. Come back here immediately and wait for your check pilot. It’s going to be Lieutenant Rothchild. You’ll take him up for a check ride. He’ll have the final say as to whether you are ready to solo.”

I couldn’t believe it, but my check ride was nearly flawless. So much for bad luck on Friday the 13th. Rothchild approved me for solo and gave me an upcheck, meaning that he graduated me from Stage A flight training into the Stage B training.

Although I was riding on cloud nine, I felt awful physically. As soon as I could get away from the flight line I went to sick bay. The doctor checked me over and pronounced, “No flying for you until you’ve got this cold under control.”

“But sir, I’m supposed to solo tomorrow.”

“Yes, and I’m supposed to make admiral tomorrow, but that won’t happen either. It’s life, son, get used to it.”

I looked at him, then saw the captain’s bars on his coat on the hall tree. “Captain, sir, are you really about to be promoted?”

He rolled his eyes. “It was a joke, son, a little bit of sarcasm. You’re not going to fly tomorrow. If you think you’ve got a headache now, just wait till you’re at 3000 feet or so. It will hurt so bad you’ll probably black out, and that could really ruin your day.”

He gave me medicine, and I went straight back to the barracks and straight to bed.


“Look, Doc, I’m feeling much, much better this morning. Headache is completely gone, and I have a lot more energy than I did yesterday.”

He looked at me, unimpressed. “Care for a kleenex, son? Your nose is dripping.”

I sneezed and blew my nose. “Doc, now it’s just a runny nose. You’ve got to let me fly.”

He just looked at me.

“Please, sir.”

The man must be a good poker player, because he just stared at me without answering, his face giving away nothing. He pointed to the kleenex box, and I blew my nose again.

“Listen, Doc, I… I’ll, um… Ah! I promise I won’t go any higher than 1500 feet. I’ll stay below that.”

He sighed. “You promise?”

“Yes, sir, scout’s honor.” It sounded dumb as I said it, but I was desperate.

“You’re in the Navy, son, not the Boy Scouts, and you’ve been entrusted with some very expensive equipment—only the good Lord knows why.

“If you break your promise, Cobb, I’ll throw you in the brig. Understood?”

“Yes, sir, absolutely.”

“Okay. You’re cleared to fly. But if you’re gonna crash, don’t run into anything important.”

“Got it, sir. And thank you.”

He just raised his eyebrows and shook his head.

Grinning, I turned to go.

“Hold up, Cobb.”

I turned around, “Sir?”

He pointed at the box of Kleenex. “Take it with you.”

And that is why I was flying with one hand and blowing my nose with the other for my first solo flight. I kept my promise to the doctor, and I graduated to the next stage of Primary Flight Training.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Book Review: The Toxic War on Masculinity

Nancy Pearcey is one of the premier Christian thinkers of the modern age. At one time a student of Francis Schaeffer, she has extended and elucidated the thought of Schaeffer into the current cultural morass, particularly Schaeffer’s analysis of the secular idea of upper- versus lower-story truth. Also like Schaeffer, she does an excellent job of tracing the evolution of cultural trends through history, providing numerous footnotes—no less than 775 in The Toxic War on Masculinity. This excellent volume demonstrates that she does not shrink back from confronting both secular and Christian cultures with the sharp edge of her intellect.

Pearcey begins with full disclosure as to why she wrote the book. Her father lived two different lives: in public a respected university professor and in private an angry, abusive father. After initially rejecting Christianity because of her father’s hypocrisy, a sojourn at L’Abri showed her what true Christianity looks like, resulting in her conversion to genuine Christianity. The book serves as her way of tracing the cultural and psychological factors that produced an abusive man like her father and the current broad-brushed societal tendency to attribute such bad behavior to all men.

Chapter one is devoted to exploring where the modern culture is with regard to its view of men. Pearcey brings forward a contrast she’ll use in the rest of the book: “real men” versus “good men.” So-called real men kowtow to twisted cultural expectations of men (such as the expectation and encouragement of bad behavior), whereas good men pursue the best and most noble aspects of masculinity.

Exploding the myths begins in the second chapter, in which she quotes suprising statistics regarding men and abuse and divorce. Pearcey examines the studies more closely and reveals that while nominal Christian men score in the highest category of abuse—which is what is usually reported in the media—committed evangelical Christian men actually score in the lowest (which you will never see in the media).

In the third chapter, Pearcey unfolds what a truly biblical marriage looks like, along with biblical concepts of headship and submission. She demonstrates that it doesn’t look anything like the slanderous stereotypes of the secular culture.

The second part of the book (nine chapters) traces “how the secular script turned toxic.” In these lavishly-documented chapters, Pearcey follows the progression—and destruction—of family life from the original agricultural model of every family member working together at home, through the Industrial Revolution that took men out of the home, thus weakening or eliminating the father’s beneficial influence. The absence of fathers (who were now working long hours in the factories) meant that they were not home to teach their sons skills and moral discipline and to mold them into responsible men. Absence from home and hearth left men open to temptations (particularly illicit sex and alcoholism) that before had been under better control. Men began behaving badly with the result that, comparatively, women were placed on a moral pedestal of righteousness. Men behaving badly, i.e. “real men,” became the expectation and somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Men lost interest in attending church, with the result that most of the attenders in the average church were women.

Pearcey points out that one of the consequences of this terrible trajectory is that Christianity came to be seen as a religion of women. Men wanted nothing to do with it because it seemed feminized. The image of the “real man” became stamped in the culture; the “good man” was something no self-respecting man wanted to be part of.

In chapter ten, Pearcey examines the reaction against feminized Christianity that developed in some quarters. A so-called “muscular Christianity” was promoted in order to redeem “manliness.” Churches began to host events of interest to men (fight clubs, gun giveaways, etc.) in an attempt to draw men back into the sanctuary. Fundamentalism got involved, with macho preachers engaging in violent antics on stage to assert that Christianity was for real men. Just as a pendulum that swings in one direction soon returns to the other, this began a backlash against women. Whereas in the 19th century women were thought of as superior, in the 20th century they began to be thought of as inferior—weak creatures whose primary responsibilities were bearing children and being subservient to their husbands.

Secular culture rejected the polarizing fundamentalism. In chapter eleven, Pearcey unfolds the path that led to men (dads in particular) being presented by Hollywood as dimwits. Feminists poured gasoline on the fire: “men are unnecessary,” they claimed. Out of the resentment that developed on the male side came the playboy and pornography culture.

It’s easy to critique culture—but advocating solutions is harder. Nancy Pearcey does a great job on the solution side in chapter twelve, entitled “Bringing Fathers Back: Fix the Workplace, Fix Your Family.” She gives many creative ways to bring the unity of the home, father and mother together, back to the fore.

The third section of the book is basic triage: how to fix the problems that develop when “Christian Men Absorb the Secular Script.” Two excellent chapters are devoted to fixing broken marriages and dealing with abuse in Christian homes.

Pearcey is the real deal: a Christian and biblical thinker, a scholar, and one who has suffered under an abusive father. She brings her intellect, her scholarship, her faith, and her experience to the table and shares it with the reader. The book includes a study guide at the end, suitable for individuals or groups. Nancy Pearcey’s The Toxic War on Masculinity is an outstanding book and well worth your time. 

Five stars—highly recommended.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Why Christians and parents should vote YES ON ISSUE #1 IN AUGUST and NO IN NOVEMBER

Ohioans have two opportunities to protect parental rights in the next four months. In August, we must decide on Issue #1, an amendment that will protect the Ohio Constitution from being too easily tampered with. Issue #1 accomplishes that protection by raising the bar for the passage of an amendment ballot initiative from fifty percent to sixty. This helps to protect our Constitution from being crowbarred by special interests and the progressive movement. I have already exposed the deceptive claims of those opposing Issue #1 and have written on why you should vote YES on Issue #1 in AUGUST. You can read that article here.

In November, the ballot will contain another proposal to amend the Ohio State Constitution. This amendment is entitled, The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety. I’m urging Ohioans to VOTE NO to this amendment initiative IN NOVEMBER. This amendment would be a disaster to parents and children if it should pass.

A brief examination of the actual text of the proposed amendment will easily show why this amendment is a really, really bad idea. Here’s the first paragraph:

  1. Every individual has a right to make and carry out one's own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on:

    1. contraception;

    2. fertility treatment;

    3. continuing one's own pregnancy;

    4. miscarriage care; and

    5. abortion.

Let’s examine it part by part:

  • Notice that while there are five specific areas of “reproductive decisions” identified, the explicit language opens it up to other not-identified areas of “reproductive decisions” when it says “including but not limited to”. What might those other areas include? Gender transition is one obvious answer.

  • Notice that there is no definition of the age of the individual covered by this amendment. It simply says, “every individual.” According to this amendment, a minor, a child of any age, has the right to “make and carry out” their own reproductive decisions. This means your twelve-year-old daughter has a right to an abortion, no matter what you as a parent might say or do. You are out of the picture. It means your seven-year-old son has a right to decide to transition as a girl—no matter what you as a parent might say or do.

    Am I manipulating you with a scare tactic? No, indeed. Haven’t you been reading the news about what is ALREADY HAPPENING? Anyone who follows the news knows that the progressive movement has been successful in erasing parent’s rights in the matter of abortions, gender identity, and gender transitions of their children, aided and abetted by progressive school boards. School districts are hiding from parents their children’s attempts to transition. Parents are being accused of child abuse if they refuse to allow their children to transition, or if they even use the “wrong” pronoun.

    No, this isn’t a scare tactic—it’s a warning that in November, this erosion of parental rights will become part of the Ohio Constitution. Unfortunately, this is a matter in which past performance DOES guarantee future results. Parents have no rights in this amendment. And because this is an amendment to the Constitution and not simply normal legislation, if it passes, a court can rule that the amendment invalidates any prior legislation recognizing your rights as a parent in these areas.

  • By the same token, this amendment makes abortion wide open for any and every reason, at any and every point in pregnancy: Every individual has a right to make and carry out one's own reproductive decisions. The restriction placed on abortion in the case of fetal viability, found later in paragraph B, is elastic: if the treating physician believes the mother’s “health” is at stake, abortion is permitted at any point of gestation. The expression, the mother’s “health,” has not in recent years been restricted to her physiological health but has been expanded to her mental and emotional health. This suddenly becomes a “right” to abortion at any point simply if the mother doesn’t want the child.

What about paragraph B? Here’s a portion of the actual text:

  1. The State shall not, directly or indirectly, burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with, or discriminate against either:

    1. An individual's voluntary exercise of this right or

    2. A person or entity that assists an individual exercising this right,

unless the State demonstrates that it is using the least restrictive means to advance the individual's health in accordance with widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care.

  • This means a school teacher, guidance counselor, or anyone else, even a boyfriend, could assist your teenage daughter to get an abortion without your knowledge and without your consent—even over your opposition. It means some third party could seek to convince and then assist your minor son or daughter to secretly attempt a gender transition, without your permission and without your knowledge They would face no legal consequences for it.

 You might argue that these are extreme slippery-slope possibilities, and that reasonable people would not interpret the law in this wild-west fashion. You’re wrong about that, and I can easily prove it.

Think about this: when it was originally passed, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 was intended to provide women the same opportunity to participate in sports that men had. Those who passed the law knew what a woman was. They never intended the law to enable biological males to compete against women, use women’s locker rooms and showers, etc. And look where we are now, precisely because the progressives HAVE taken the language of the law to an unimaginable extreme.

Regarding the slippery-slope, what sane individual of twenty years ago could have imagined “Drag Queen Story Hour,” or “men chest-feeding babies,” or “pregnant people,” or custom-taylored personal pronouns? Do you really think the progressive moment will stop short of pressing the vague language of this bill all the way to the breaking point? I don’t. They have ALREADY demonstrated they will take the inches given to them and turn them into miles.

For the sake of parents and children, this amendment must be defeated. It will be easier to defeat if you VOTE YES ON ISSUE #1.



Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Don't be fooled about Issue #1!

 There is a great deal of confusion circulating in Darke County regarding Issue #1. There’s also a great deal of deception about it, but more on that in a moment.

The progressives are playing a two-step game with the Ohio Constitution: one step in AUGUST (defeating Issue #1), and one step in NOVEMBER (passing the The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety amendment to the Ohio Constitution).

Let’s talk about the second step first, the NOVEMBER step.

The progressives are proposing an amendment to the Ohio Constitution that will put children and the unborn at risk. This amendment has the very real potential of taking a child’s gender identity, medical gender transition decisions, and abortion decisions, out of the hands of the parents. The language of the amendment is intentionally very vague, and open to wide-ranging interpretation. This amendment will be voted on in NOVEMBER.

I will write a second article in a few days explaining why this terrible “Reproductive Freedom” amendment is an unmitigated disaster for parents and children, and must be defeated. As things stand now, all that is necessary for that terrible amendment to become enshrined in the Ohio Constitution is a simple majority vote (fifty percent plus one vote) in NOVEMBER.

Which brings us to the first step. The progressives want to defeat Issue #1 in AUGUST. They want you to vote NO to Issue #1. Why?

Because Issue #1 raises the bar for amending the Ohio Constitution. In other words, if Issue #1 passes in AUGUST, it will make it harder to pass the Reproductive Freedom amendment in November.

I’ll expose the efforts to mislead the voters practiced by these people in just a moment, but first I will state the matter simply:

YES on Issue #1 in AUGUST will make it harder for the progressives to win in NOVEMBER.

NO on Issue #1 in AUGUST will make it much easier for the progressives to win in NOVEMBER.

Issue #1 is about making it more difficult for special interests groups to trample on the rights of the rest of us. At the present time, a mere majority vote (fifty percent plus 1 vote) is all that is required to permanently amend the Ohio Constitution. Issue #1 would have two principal effects: it would raise the bar to sixty percent. It would also make it more difficult to get a proposed amendment initiative on the ballot, by requiring the signatures of at least five percent of the voters in every county in the state (five percent based on the total number of votes in the last gubernatorial election in each particular county).

Before we expose the basic dishonesty of the ad campaigns that the progressives are publishing, let’s take a moment to understand the relationship of the Ohio Constitution to legislative acts. The Constitution is the citizen’s first line of defense against unwise, unfair, or unconstitutional legislation. When a legal case is brought that challenges a state law, the state judiciary uses the text and words of the Constitution to determine whether the law in question should be upheld, or struck down in whole or in part.

If citizens believe that the Constitution is not adequately protecting their rights, or believe that laws have been passed that are unjust, they can attempt to gather enough signatures to put a constitutional amendment initiative on the ballot to correct the problem. Once the amendment is on the ballot, if a sufficient number of citizens vote for it, it becomes part of the Constitution, providing boundaries around what the Legislature may and may not enact.

A well-written Constitution protects the rights of the citizens, including the helpless and vulnerable, against powerful individuals or special interests whose priorities collide with those of the citizens. Consequently, the Constitution is not a document that should be easily tinkered with. It should be protected by making it harder to amend.

What about my charges of deception?

#1. The League of Women voters is posting an advertisement entitled, “Protect Ohio’s Constitution, Vote No on Issue 1.” It is true that the current Constitution can be amended by simple majority. Issue #1 would change that, raising the bar from 50% to 60%. The higher requirement does a better job of protecting the Constitution from powerful special interest groups. At the very least, League’s claim is misleading. Voting down Issue #1 does not protect the Constitution, but leaves it in its current state of vulnerability to powerful, well-heeled special interest groups, like Planned Parenthood and other sexual revolutionaries.

#2. That same ad claims that passage of Issue #1 eliminates majority rule in Ohio. It does not. Another ad claims that Issue #1 would allow 40% of voters to “make decisions for the rest of us.” Totally false. Normal legislative acts in Columbus would continue to pass with a simple majority, as they do now. Issue #1 would not change that at all.

If the progressives want laws that favor their ideology, they can propose and pass them in the Legislature with a simple majority vote. Issue #1 will not change that! But they should not be allowed to tinker with the Constitution on the basis of a simple majority. By the way, ask yourself, why do the bylaws of the League of Women Voters require a two-thirds vote to change them, when that same organization wants a State Constitution protecting the rights of millions to be changed at the whim of a simple majority? What happened to “one person, one vote”?

And as long as we’re talking about majority rule, ask yourself: has there ever been a time in America where a majority oppressed a minority? How did that turn out? Not good at all. Do you really think it’s a good thing to enshrine that possibility of oppression in the Ohio State Constitution? I don’t.

#3. That same ad claims that Issue #1’s passage “will render the ability to present a voter-led petition virtually impossible.” That’s a totally false claim. Issue #1 only raises the bar regarding petitions that propose to amend the Constitution—but not for other petitions. The text of Issue #1 is explicit: “Require that any initiative petition filed on or after January 1, 2024 with the Secretary of State proposing to amend the Constitution of the State of Ohio be signed by at least five percent of the electors of each county based on the total vote in the county for governor in the last preceding election.

The problem for the progressives is the requirement in Issue #1 that sufficient signatures be collected from ALL of Ohio’s counties. Issue #1 does in fact require that, but it only applies to initiatives to amend the Constitution, not to other ballot initiatives. I believe this portion of the Issue #1 language would actually benefit all Ohioans, not just those in large cities. Ask yourself: does it often wind up being the case that the voters in Columbus or Cincinnati or even Dayton have a very different set of values from the voters in Darke County? Do you want a few large cities to be able to crowbar the state Constitution in liberal, progressive directions? Wouldn’t it be more fair if ALL the counties of the state had a voice as to whether or not an amendment initiative to the Constitution was placed on the ballot? This is what Issue #1 would accomplish.

I’m voting YES for Issue #1, and so should you.

In my next piece, I will explain the disaster that will face Ohio parents in November if Issue #1 does not pass.



Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Need a great beach book?

 Wondering what to read this summer? 

How about some action-packed page-turners, exciting stories from a Christian worldview? Both adults and teens will find these tales fascinating. You won’t have to wash your brains out after reading one of these exciting novels—but you will find it hard to put them down. Of his novels Cobb says, “If I don’t make you miss your bedtime, I’m not doing my job.” All titles are available locally (Greenville, OH) at the Bread of Life Bookstore, or on Amazon in print and Kindle format. You can find Cobb at

Falcon Down

(military/espionage thriller, book one of four)

Sometimes what you don’t know can hurt you!

The chief test pilot for a highly classified F-16 weapons-development project, Major Jacob “Falcon” Kelly is shot down and captured by the Soviet Union in a hi-tech kidnapping during the Cold War. They intend to interrogate him to learn the secrets of the new weapon. His captors have detained him at a secret GRU facility in Siberia. Holding on to him might prove difficult, however, because Kelly has some skills of which they are unaware . . .

Kirkus Reviews: “Cobb has clearly done his research on multiple counts and, like Tom Clancy or Dale Brown, masterly intertwines military technology and behavior into a tightly plotted narrative in which every development follows logically and smoothly from what came before. This deft touch extends to the characters . . .”

The Candidate

(political thriller)

It began as a blog. It became a political firestorm.

Henry Marshall is a principled Christian conservative blogger who is convinced that both major parties have abandoned the Constitution. His intention is to be nothing more than a political gadfly, but his friends won’t allow him to stay on the sidelines, and his enemies don’t intend to allow him to live.

Journalist/author TJ Martinell: “Penned before the 2016 election cycle . . . , The Candidate is a political thriller that unwittingly earns a place within the alternative history genre for its exploration of how far a man can go armed only with a message – and how far those within the establishment will go to stop him. . . . [M]any of the aspects of the plot seem prophetic, rather than slightly fanciful.

A pastor by trade, Cobb’s writing reflects extensive background knowledge of mainstream media, political strategy, the military, and of course constitutional history; . . . . The technical preciseness gives vital story subplots a sense of authenticity and realism.”

Outlander Chronicles: Phoenix

(post-apocalyptic action/adventure, book one of three)

From the ashes of a world past . . .

Eighty years after a smallpox pandemic has reduced the global population to eight million, a young man (Jacen Chester) experiences the tragic deaths of his entire family and community. Wrestling with grief and anger, he commits himself to establishing a new community (Phoenix) that will advance beyond merely subsisting on the remains of the former world.

He meets a mysterious wanderer who decides to help him accomplish his dream. Together the two gather a small community and set their sights on the empty interior of the continent—1800 miles away—where they can escape the murderous gangs of the east and pursue their project in peace.

But hatred and bitterness from within and lethal attacks from without threaten to destroy the growing Phoenix community. A painful lesson in forgiveness and tolerance is required to save Phoenix from itself.

Captivated Reading Book Blog: “With two incredibly strong main characters, Phoenix tells a story of a world lost and people who are desperate . . . I was completely enthralled in this story from beginning to end.”

Amazon Reader Review:I loved reading this book and I can't wait for more of the story! It gave me so much to think about, which I love in a book, and it was an exciting read, too! It raised ideas I had never thought about before, as well as presenting familiar ones in a new way. Cobb is very effective at evoking a world that is both radically different from our own, and also not so distant in possibility. . . . Although I disagree with most of Cobb's views as I ascertain them from the story, I really enjoyed the debates and discussions the characters have, which I think says a lot about Cobb's talent as a writer as well as his even-handedness as a thinker. . . . Bring out a sequel, please!!!”

A Prayer of Moses: A Devotional Commentary of Psalm 90


The Church has rendered God safe.

His wrath is a matter relegated to days of antiquity. It seems rare that we connect the brevity and frailty of this existence with His overflowing anger at sin. Unfortunately, having dispensed with His wrath we’ve also diminished His holiness and His majesty, and made the Cross less necessary.

This study invites the reader to take a second look at God and His wrath—and His Christ—through the eyes of Moses. Suitable for individuals or groups.

John L. Marshall, Ph.D, Christian Studies/History Department, Eastern University: Pastor Cobb's exposition of Psalm 90 combines two sets of ingredients that make it a joy to read: on the one hand, exegetical precision together with the sweep of redemptive history; on the other, technical mastery with warm, personal application. There are Scriptural studies in which the author maintains a safe distance from the reader. Pastor Cobb allows us to get to know him along with the text he is expounding. This, in my opinion, is the best way to do pastoral theology.”

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Review of Matthew Barrett's Simply Trinity

Review of Simply Trinity:The Unmanipulated Father, Son, and Spirit, by Matthew Barrett.

This is a hard book to review. The author is attacking the view that Jesus Christ is, functionally, eternally subordinate to the Father even while being ontologically equal with Him. This view is known as eternal functional subordination (EFS). Barrett’s tone at the beginning was so unnecessarily off-putting to me that I had to get over my irritation before I was ready to fairly assess his argument. Eventually he was able to convince me.

As far as the positives go, Barrett is clearly an accomplished expert on the church fathers, both pre- and post- Nicene. His arguments are firmly grounded in logic, philosophy, and the historical development of the theology of the Trinity. The vast bulk of his assertions come from these quarters, less so from Scripture (though he handles the Scripture well). Unfortunately, Barrett dismisses opposing arguments that rise from Scripture by perjoratively labeling his opponents as “biblicist,” as though they were unaware of the context and larger narrative of Scripture.

Barrett’s main argument is that the only distinctions between the persons within the ontological Trinity (ad intra) are “eternal relations of origin:” the Father is unbegotten, the Father eternally begets (generates) the Son (meaning the Father eternally communicates to the Son His own essence and nature), and the Father and the Son spirate, or send forth, the Holy Spirit. Barrett admits to additional distinctions in the outward operations (ad extra) of the economic Trinity.

In chapter three, Barrett does a good job in tracing modern liberalism’s illegitimate reconstruction of the Trinity to fit their own agenda for society. But in my opinion, he wrongly accuses conservative, biblical theologians of doing the same thing: starting with their desired construct of social relations and then imposing that construct on the Trinity. This seems to me to be a grossly uncharitable charge: is it not possible that those theologians derive their view of the Trinity (even though incorrect) from their honest understanding of Scripture and then see analogs in human relationships? Barrett gets in the way of his own message repeatedly with accusations like this. Another example is found on page 36 where he throws out the accusation that sola scriptura has been interpreted as “me and my Bible alone.” This is unfortunate: Barrett’s debate is with theologians, not the average believer in the pew. Does he really think any credible theologian would hold such a silly view?

Occasionally Barrett appears to overstate his point. On page 104 we find this statement:

For the first-century believer, to become a Christian was to embrace the salvation given and accomplished by none other than the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…. For these early Christians, to believe the gospel was to believe that the one God of Israel was triune. Anything less was simply not Christian. A gospel that was not trinitarian was no gospel at all.
Well, yes. And, no. While belief that Jesus is the divine Son of God was (and is) crucial to salvation, there was still much confusion, even among believers, as to exactly how that truth was to be reconciled with the historic monotheism of the Jews. Barrett’s confident assertion flies in the face of 400 years of church history, in which godly men were seeking to untangle the mystery of the Trinity. Barrett seems to claim that the first century Christians had it all figured out. But does not the early history of the church record their debates, disagreements, and difficulty in fitting the pieces together?

On the other hand, there are places in which Barrett is able to condense his argument to a single, brilliant statement, and this constitutes a large part of the value of his book. For example, on page 123 Barrett states: “[Christ’s] eternal relation to the Father constitutes his redemptive mission to the world, but not vice versa. Get that order right, and we see the gospel in proper trinitarian perspective; get that order wrong, and we misuse the gospel to redefine the Trinity in eternity.”

In my view, Barrett makes his strongest argument against EFS on pages 138-9. He builds a case that to be one in essence but manifested in three persons, means of necessity that there cannot be three different wills. Because the three (persons) are one in essence, there can only be one unified (simple) will. The one shared will of the Trinity rises out of the one shared divine nature of the Trinity. The problem with EFS is this: if Christ is eternally submitted to the Father’s will (rather than sharing the one and same will), it implies that there are two different wills—the Father’s, and Christ’s—which would then argue for two different natures. This creates an untenable division in the ontological Trinity; such a thing cannot be.

Barrett makes another powerful argument on page 239:
But EFS is asking the wrong question. The right question is this: is submission ad intra or ad extra; is it intrinsic to the immanent Trinity, or is it something that occurs in the economy (in the context of salvation history)? Biblical Christian orthodoxy has always acknowledged that the economy of salvation involves the incarnate Son submitting to the mission his Father has given to him for the purpose of salvation.
Barrett goes on to flesh out the thought. I think this is the point in which I finally allowed Barrett to sharpen my understanding, by understanding the Son’s submission to the Father to be connected to his redemptive mission but not to his eternal relation to the Father. Barrett deals with 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 on page 243, stating that it applies not to the Son in the form of God, but to the Son in the form of a servant: “The context is not the immanent Trinity but the economy, the redemptive mission of the incarnate Son.”

Like Barrett’s book, this review has already gone on too long. In conclusion I believe Barrett makes his principal point, demolishing EFS and asserting that the distinctions in the immanent Trinity have to do with eternal relations of origin. It is unfortunate that Barrett occasionally gets in his own way by unnecessary and uncharitable characterizations of people on the other side of the fence. For his excellent command of the early church fathers, Barrett gets five stars. For his at-times-uncharitable tone and the excessive length of the book and the sense of repetition, three stars. For the fact that he did ultimately convince me that my former position (EFS) on the Trinity was wrong, we’ll settle with four stars. Recommended.

If you don’t have the time to read Barrett’s book, read Mike Riccardi’s excellent five-page blog post entitled, “EFS Redux: Aiming for Closure on the Trinity Debate.” Google it. Riccardi gets right to the point (in five short pages), and his logic is unassailable.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Book Review: The Myth of Voter Suppression

Fred Lucas has the deep journalistic experience that qualifies him to write this book; his expertise is evident on every page. The Myth of Voter Suppression is an exhaustively documented treatment of the burning political question of the day: how can we ensure that each vote in an election has been cast by a legitimate, qualified voter without making the voting process so onerous that it keeps people from the polls? What becomes clear in the book is that not everyone has the same desire for fair and accurate elections. Kevin Roberts, the president of the Heritage Foundation, puts a real zinger in the foreword on page xiii: “That’s the Left’s real fear here: not that election integrity laws are evil, but that they are effective.”

The need to secure the vote in a day of bitter political divisions is crucial. Some on the Left allege that any implementation of effective voter identification laws is actually a surreptitious attempt to suppress the vote of the poor, the under-privileged, and minorities. Such a charge deserves to be examined carefully and closely: Lucas does just that. His treatment of the subject is open handed in one respect: he exposes cheating on both the Democrat and Republican sides. It is the practice of the Left (which I must admit is generally Democrat) to oppose any attempt to secure the integrity of elections, calling such attempts “voter suppression.” Lucas coins a rather clumsy term he uses repeatedly to label these opponents: the “voter suppression hysteria industrial complex.”

The book is written in two parts. Part 1 provides a history of the ways and means of fraud in elections, as well as legislative attempts to secure the vote. Lucas’ statement in the Introduction sets the tone and direction of the book:
“A war is being fought in this country. The battlefields are Congress, in state legislative chambers, and in the courts. At stake are American democracy and the integrity of elections. The two warring narratives overlap—voter fraud vs. voter suppression—and both have historical legitimacies. But regarding the current times, only one narrative has facts to support it. The other has only emotion and inflammatory rhetoric” [xxii].
Chapter 1 explores the historical linkage between fraud and suppression. As he does repeatedly, Lucas demonstrates that legislative attempts to secure the vote since the bipartisan Voting Rights Act of 1965 have generally resulted in higher, not lower, turnouts—even among minorities.

In Chapter 2, Lucas walks through the data and statistics from Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Texas, exposing the lies that have been spun about “voter suppression” in those states. During President Biden’s January 2022 trip to Atlanta, Biden made the claim that Georgia’s efforts to put protections on the integrity of the vote were actually efforts to suppress the vote. Biden claimed, “It’s no longer about who gets to vote; it’s about making it harder to vote… It’s not hyperbole; this is a fact.” Lucas responds firmly, supplying data to back up his response to Biden’s claim: “It’s neither hyperbole nor fact. It’s demonstrably false” [31].

The author examines the data, in Chapter 3, regarding the historical voting practices of minorities to demonstrate that state-level voter ID laws have not negatively affected minority groups. Chapter 4 reveals the political forces arrayed against such common-sense efforts as purging the voter registration roles of people who have died or who have moved into a different district. Part 1 concludes with Chapter 5 detailing historical examples of the methods and attempts that have been aimed at tampering with an election.

Part 2 studies various aspects of the 2020 election. Lucas does not necessarily believe the election was stolen. On page 94 he says,
“Although the full story of the 2020 election hasn’t been told, subsequent investigations have provided noteworthy discoveries. Trump has overplayed the significance of each new discovery as absolute proof that he was the real winner—which the discoveries don’t prove.”
The anomalies of the 2020 election are explored in Chapter 6. Chapter 7 details various Democratic legislative attempts at the federal level that would make election fraud easier to commit. Chapter 8 exposes President Biden’s attempts to wrest the regulation of elections from the states to the federal government (whereas Article I, Section 4, Clause 1 of the US Constitution grants that power to the states).

Lucas examines Stacy Abrams in Chapter 9, and her multitudinous claims to the effect that the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election was stolen from her. Lucas shows that she has enjoyed a rather lucrative career making such claims. “Follow the money” is the essence of Chapter 10, as Lucas uncovers the various organizations funding the opposition to voter identification and election integrity laws. Spoiler alert: they are all on the Left.

The threads Lucas has traced in the book find their summary in the Conclusion, entitled “Stopping Tammany Hall 2.0.” He argues that legislative reform must happen at the level of individual states, and he explores several efforts that are underway.

My copy of The Myth of Voter Suppression has 453 endnotes, each providing documentation enabling the reader to go back to the original sources to substantiate the factual claims presented in the book. Lucas concludes with this thought:
“History shows there have always been demagogues resisting changes to bring more integrity to elections. It’s important the public arm itself with the facts—both historical and contemporary. This is the only way to combat the lies of the new political machine” [178].
For the citizen who wants to arm himself or herself with the facts, The Myth of Voter Suppression is a good place to start. Five stars, highly recommended.

[Full disclosure: I received a free PDF copy of the book from the author for the purposes of review. I was not compensated in any way for this review.]

Thursday, March 9, 2023

The Hollandia Combat Air Patrol: Epilogue

The Hollandia Combat Air Patrol Epilogue

What was fiction, what was fact?

Lewis and Helen Cobb
Lewis M. Cobb is my father, Helen is my mom. They were married in July of 45. Dad retired in 1966 as a Commander in the regular navy, having survived many, many carrier landings (his planes normally survived his landings, as well!). He served in combat in WW2, Korea, and Vietnam, on several different carriers. He passed away in 2011 after serving his country and his church with honor.

Theater Map, showing movements of USS Yorktown in 1944
The principal activity in the Hollandia Strike story is historical. On April 19, 1944, the carriers of Task Force 58 were softening up the defenses of Hollandia in preparation for landing the marines. 

All the data pertaining to aircraft (American and Japanese) are factual, including the positions of switches and controls. All the names in the entire story with the exception of Ray Wilson (whom I invented) are factual, including their positions and ranks in VF-5 on April 19, 1944. All of the dialog in the story is a product of my imagination but is based on research.

I hope it is not too far off from how these pilots would have communicated at the time. My dad’s use of the word “swell” is quite accurate—it appears in his diary many times!

My apologies to actual pilots in case I managed to scramble some of the details. I’ll welcome your corrections.

In Chapter 1:

The visit to the Udvar-Hazy Center with my brother, L. M. Cobb, Jr., was real, complete with the Yorktown Hellcat hanging from the ceiling, The flashback was not real. I invented it as a means of launching us into dad’s world on April 19, 1944.

The Combat Air Patrol (CAP) in which my dad was launched is factual, and as near as I can tell from records the flyers named were actually flying with him. Several inbound bogies had been detected on radar. All the information on deck and launching operations is factual, to the best of my ability to research it.

In Chapter 2:

The early-morning loss of the TBF by collision with a cruiser is actual, but according to dad's diary it  happened on 4/22/44. I conflated it into the tale.

Dad’s initial concerns about Lieutenant Jones, followed by his tremendous respect for the man, are true, and are taken from various entries in dad’s diary. The entire story about Ray Watson is a fabrication, intended to make the historical point that naval doctrine was slow to shift from large surface engagements dominated by battleships to a carrier-based air war. This constituted a major shift in both budget and priority during WW2. I added this piece also to help the reader get the sense of urgency regarding finding the snooper before it found the carrier, which in fact would be a huge concern at the time.

The detection and shootdown of the Betty (two of them, actually) did occur on 4/19, but was accomplished by a different CAP, not dad’s. My tale of dad’s engagement with the Betty on his CAP was pure fiction. However, it is true that dad’s CAP was launched because of radar-detected bogies, they just did not locate them. Consequently, there was no damage on dad’s plane when he landed on the carrier.

In Chapter 3:

As can be seen in the photograph of the upside-down Hellcat, dad did not jettison his drop tank—probably because everyone was anticipating a normal landing.

The story of dad creaming a Hellcat a week before is factual (it occurred on 4/14/44), and I might turn it into another short story. The description of the weather during that event came from his diary.

It is very likely that there were several photo-recon TBFs launched on 4/19/22. I have an original copy of the Yorktown’s Air Group Plan of the Day for 4/21, showing such launches. Whether the TBFs actually interfered with the landing of dad’s CAP, I do not know. The photo-recon guys did have both landing and launch priority, however, as the Task Force needed reliable info to plan the next strike. Whether or not the carrier would have communicated to BLUE FLIGHT the way it did I don’t know. They very likely would have been using an early form of IFF (Identification Friend or Foe).

The various descriptions of operations in the Task Group (ditching, recovery of pilots, Bosun Chair, etc.) are pretty accurate, based on my research and discussions with dad.

And that brings us to The Crash. First—it actually happened. The photos are authentic. The Bureau Number of the upside-down Hellcat is stamped on the backside of the large official photo. It matches the Bureau Number in Dad’s pilot log for the 4/19/44 CAP. How or why the crash happened—I don’t know. My description of the crash is what I envisioned might happen on a hard, tail-first landing if the hook did not catch.

Lewis Cobb's diary entry for April 19, written on April 21, 1944

Dad says his hook skipped the #5 and 6 wires, and the Hellcat tore through the first two barriers. He sustained several injuries and was taken out of the flight rotation during his recovery. The aircraft was pushed over the side.

A big thanks to my brother Lou for encouraging me to write the tale and for helping me sift through the records that dad kept. Lou and I typed up dad’s diaries from his ‘44 tour on the Yorktown, and his ‘45 tour on the Belleau Wood. It was an honor and a privilege.