The Citadel

The Military College of South Carolina

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Interview of Earl Irish by Frank Resch

November 9, 2014


Portrait
Feature Article

During the height of World War II, the United States Army needed pilots to fly the fast and powerful P51 Mustang-D. With a remodeled Rolls Royce engine harnessing 2,000-horse power, the P51 could reach a maximum speed of 400 miles per hour. However, finding pilots to fight the Japanese Empire proved difficult. The Army was looking for men like Earl Irish.

Mr. Irish was born in Albany, New York, to parents Raymond and Della Irish. He joined the Army Air Corps at 18 with intentions of becoming a fighter pilot. He knew how intense the training was, so he prepared himself physically. However, his greatest struggle would be convincing his superiors that he would be able to successfully pass the rigorous exams for flight school. Earl Irish was competing against college graduates; he had attended only through the tenth grade. But Mr. Irish proved himself worthy of the challenge. When he finished flight school at 19, Mr. Irish was qualified to fly four aircraft during the war: The C-64 was a plane capable of taking off or landing in the water; the L-5, nicknamed the “Flying Jeep,” was used to provide supplies to the frontlines and evacuate wounded soldiers; the C-47 was a transport aircraft; and the P51 Mustang-D was a fighter. In this interview, Mr. Irish tells of many missions during his service, from transporting wounded soldiers to shooting down 12 enemy aircraft.

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