Identical Generals

I didn’t realize that while attending Oshkosh this year, I missed one of the great stories of Airventure.  Bill Patillo and Buck Patillo , both retired army general officers, were reunited with their WWII airplanes at Airventure. For Buck, it was the first time he had seen his airplane in 64 years.

When he arrived at the airplane, a silence came over the crowd and everyone backed away to give him time and space. He was very quiet, and at first would touch just the wing and the drop tank…I encouraged Buck to stand up next to the nose of his airplane and touch it. He did that, and when he turned back to face the crowd, the cameras and flash bulbs came alive. It was a special moment.

 Bill and Buck are twins. Both are highly decorated with combat tours in WWII and Vietnam. Bill was actually shot down flying a P-51 and became a POW until the end of the war. During  the Vietnam conflict Bill flew the 230 combat missions in the F-100 and Buck completed 120  in the F-104.  As if this wasn’t enough, they helped organize the United States Air Force Aerial Demonstration Team, which eventually became the “Thunderbirds”.  The photos and story are here. (Thanks go out to Chance for a great write up) . Remarkable men who helped define the greatest generation.



Take it from me. Identical twin pilots are cool.

(h/t to FlyboyTom).

5 responses to “Identical Generals

  1. This is a very cool post and story.

    It always amazes me when I see these WWII guys next to a Mustang or Spitfire or whatever. Aeroplanes that I would consider ‘hot,’ high powered and hairy chested, unergonomic, designed with safety as a lesser priority. Yet there they stand with smiles on there faces, non-plussed. They have some guts, these guys.

    • Couldn’t agree more Chris. Training and procedures were no where near today’s military standards and the accident rate was high. They could easily get killed before entering combat. My Dad was a young lad that ended up in the 1st Marine division in some of the worst fighting of the Pacific- Peleliu and Okinawa. Most of those we descibe as the “greatest Generation” accepted the rigors and privations of WWII expecting they might not return. I admire them all.

  2. virgil xenophon

    Very few dual cockpit trainers in those days for front-line aircraft like the P-51, P-47, etc. Getting checked out in the aircraft usually meant reading the ops manual, a few hours cockpit familiarization and ground instruction, follower by the IP crouched on the wing beside the cockpit giving handling & take-off tips as the student taxied a few times up and down the runway at various speeds–then it was on your own. Another time, another world.

    • VX: I think the investment in aircraft and pilots has become so staggering that the armed services does everything to improve the odds or at least prevent a disaster.

      P.S. Had you heard of the Patillo brothers and their role in the T-Birds? (You as our resident Zoomie and all?)

  3. virgil xenophon

    No, Wilco, I didn’t–although I never was a student of the T-Birds for some reason. Funny, I was temp assigned for a short time to a sister Squadron when I first arrived in the UK from SEA and I was the back-seater of one of their Flt commanders (A Sr Maj.) who had been in the T-Birds as a young Capt. Was a smooth stick alright, just as one might expect. But I never really picked his brain much about his experience in the T-Birds, perhaps due to the fact we only crewed together for a little over 6-7 wks before I was transferred to our twin-base–also as he was a Flt commander and married, between his command duties and his marital ones, I really didn’t “pal around” with him much even in the squadron or flight-room as a 1/Lt other than show up for briefings and fly. And no late night drinking/war stories in that deal.. 🙂 (Not that he was overly aloof–tho he was somewhat by dint of personality–but mainly by way things played out)

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