Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at places and events of interest in Bulloch County history.
Almost everybody has heard of the “Flying Tigers,” the American pilots who were fighting the Japanese, but few people know of its Bulloch County connection.
Their commander, Gen. Robert Lee Scott Jr., or “Scotty” as he was called when he was young, was born in Waynesboro on April 12, 1908. He spent much of his childhood with his grandfather, B.H. Scott, who lived in Bulloch County.
His parents, Robert L. Scott Sr. and Ola Burkhalter, moved from Waynesboro to Macon. There, his mother took him to see daredevil pilot Eugene Ely perform in his plane.
Although Ely was killed when he crashed his plane right in front of young Scotty, he decided he wanted to be a pilot himself. Scott built a home-made glider with some canvas he found.
He climbed up on the roof of the tallest house around, Mrs. Napier’s three-story house, and took off. After 1 minute alight, he then crashed into Mrs. Napier’s beloved Cherokee rose bushes.
Scott graduated from both the West Point Preparatory School of the United States Military Academy and the Army Flying Center at (Captain William) Randolph Field in Universal City, Texas.
After President Roosevelt cancelled the civilian contracts to carry U.S. Airmail across the country, Scott was detailed to fly the “hell” of the Allegheny Mountains. Pilots on this run were said to have joined “The Suicide Club.”
After the United States formally declared war on Japan, Scott was assigned to the top-secret “Task Force Aquila.”
His mission? Bomb Japan proper from secret bases in China with B-17 Flying Fortresses. After Japanese forces captured the bases from which the Americans were to refuel, the mission was scrubbed.
Scott was next was assigned to the Assam-Burma-China Ferry Command. Here, he flew C-47 Gooney Birds over the Himalayan “Hump” to resupply Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek’s forces fighting the troops of the Japanese Imperial Army.
Then, in October 1944, Scott was given command of a force of planes equipped with special rocket engines. Their mission? Attack Japanese railroad lines in Eastern China and Japanese ships supplying their forces on Okinawa.
Scott, during his career was awarded two Silver Stars and three Distinguished Flying Crosses. He retired from the Air Force with the rank of brigadier general.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.