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thedrifter
10-27-09, 02:26 PM
World War II pilot's tale is 'living history'

Stranded on a tiny raft in the Pacific Ocean, the young Marine pilot waited for rescue with his two crewman.

It was World War II. Their plane had been shot down by the Japanese, and now, the trio watched as sharks circled.

"I remember the sharks' big, brown, shiny eyes," said Huntley Johnson, a retired Marine major. "But I told the kids with me, 'We aren't gonna die.' Three times in two days, we shot at those sharks and scared them off."

Johnson, who joined the Marine Corps in 1942, had plenty of colorful anecdotes to tell during his presentation, "Once a Marine, Always a Marine" on Saturday at the National Naval Aviation Museum.

The sprightly museum volunteer spoke to a crowd of about 40 at the "Discovery Saturday" program, sharing his experiences of serving as a torpedo pilot, and life in the service.

"I flew some incredible planes," Johnson said. "And I flew with some real hotdogs — just dynamite pilots."

Johnson, who joined the Marines after hearing about the bombing in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, served five years of active duty. He flew several famous World War II-era aircraft, including the TBF Avenger and the F4U Corsair.

On Saturday, he used a laser pointer to call the audience's attention to similar planes in the museum.

"Talk about power," he said of the Corsair, swooping his hands through the air. "It could put you back in your seat."

Johnson also joked about his romantic misadventures as a young pilot.

"All our mail was censored, but the censors were my friends," he said. "I was writing to three young ladies at the time, and those guys mixed up two of the letters. I was an unpopular bird after that."

Audience member Hank Reeves of Pensacola said he enjoyed Johnson's war stories.

"It's just a thrill to hear them from someone who was there," he said. "We always enjoy the museum's Saturday programs."

His 14-year-old daughter, Mary-Grace, echoed her father's sentiments.

"I love listening to these American heroes," she said. "They're like our living history."

Ellie