RFT 100: History of Flown West/Nickel On The Grass

July 7, 2017

Flown West

I hope there’s a place, way up in the sky,
Where pilots can go, when they have to die-
A place where a guy can go and buy a cold beer
For a friend and comrade, whose memory is dear;
A place where no doctor or lawyer can tread,
Nor management type would ere be caught dead;
Just a quaint little place, kinda dark and full of smoke,
Where they like to sing loud, and love a good joke;
The kind of place where a lady could go
And feel safe and protected, by the men she would know.

There must be a place where old pilots go,
When their paining is finished, and their airspeed gets low,
Where the whiskey is old, and the women are young,
And the songs about flying and dying are sung,
Where you’d see all the fellows who’d flown west before.
And they’d call out your name, as you came through the door;
Who would buy you a drink if your thirst should be bad,
And relate to the others, “He was quite a good lad!”

And then through the mist, you’d spot an old guy
You had not seen for years, though he taught you how to fly.
He’d nod his old head, and grin ear to ear,
And say, “Welcome, my son, I’m pleased that you’re here.
“For this is the place where true flyers come,
“When the journey is over, and the war has been won
“They’ve come here to at last to be safe and alone
From the government clerk and the management clone,
“Politicians and lawyers, the Feds and the noise
Where the hours are happy, and these good ol’boys
“Can relax with a cool one, and a well-deserved rest;
“This is Heaven, my son — you’ve passed your last test!”

The tradition of throwing a nickel onto the grave of a fighter pilot started a long time ago. About a hundred years ago, the Salvation Army would beat a drum to collect money to help alcoholics. A song cam about with the chorus “throw a nickel on the drum, save another drunken bum”.

During the Korean War, an F-86 pilot named William Starr modified the song: “Throw a nickel on the grass, save a fighter pilot’s ass”. Oscar Brand recorded it along with numerous other Air Force songs in 1959 in his album The Wild Blue Yonder.

Nickel on the Grass

Chorus

Oh, Halleliua, Halleliua

Throw a nickel on the grass–Save a fighter pilot’s ass.

Oh, Halleliua, Oh, Halleliua

Throw a nickel on the grass and you’ll be saved.

 

I was cruising down the Yalu, doing six and twenty per

When a call came from the Major, Oh won ‘t you save me sir?

Got three flak holes in my wing tips, and my tanks ain’t got no gas.

Mayday, mayday, mayday, I got six MIGS on my ass.

 

I shot my traffic pattern, and to me it looked all right,

The airspeed read one-thirty, I really racked it tight!

Then the airframe gave a shudder, the engine gave a wheeze,

Mayday, mayday, mayday, spin instructions please.

 

It was split S on my Bomb run, and I got too God Damn low

But I pressed that bloody button, and I let those babies go

Sucked the stick back fast as blazes, when I hit a hight speed stall

I won’t see my mother when the work all done next fall.

 

They sent me down to Pyongyang, the brief said “no ack ack”

by the time that I arrived there, my wings was mostly flak.

Then my engine coughed and sputtered, it was too cut up to fly

Mayday, mayday, mayday, I’m too young to die.

 

I bailed out from the Sabre, and the landing came out fine

With my E and E equipment, I made for our front line.

When I opened up ration, to see what was in it,

The God damn quartermaster why he filled the tin with grit.

You can hear Dick Jonas singing the song below and can visit his website here.

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