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Memoirs of a P-47 fighter-bomber pilot in WWII

EDITOR’S NOTE: Phillip (Van) Hatton Slayden, a 24-year-old from rural Tennessee, joined the Army Air Corps in 1937 as Hitler rattled his sabers in Nazi Germany. Like so many of his era, he stepped up to be part of the Greatest Generation and helped define America as a superpower.

As a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter-bomber pilot and commander of the 36th Fighter Group, he fought his way across Europe: Bastogne, St. Vith, the Rhineland, Bridgehead at Remagen, and Operation Varsity. On March 24, 1945, he faced the devastation of one of his pilot’s mistakenly downing a friendly aircraft.


I graduated from Oklahoma City University in 1936 on a baseball scholarship as the South Paw Pitcher for the state champion Goldbugs smack dab in the middle of the biggest depression in our country’s history. Jobs were scarce —nonexistent in my hometown of Waverly, Tennessee, a rural town off the beaten path, population 500.

Army Air Corps flight training and experience.

My uncle, Major George Hatton Weems, a West Point graduate, was a strong advocate for his nephews to become Infantry officers and soon, from the sounds of Hitler across the Atlantic.

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