But Brings Back Memories To Original WWII Pilot
That's gotta hurt. Modelmaker Greg
Zola crashed his flying replica of a WWII P-38, a project
three-years in the making, on its first landing in California
Sunday morning at the Woodward Reservoir airstrip in eastern San
"It was pilot error," lamented Zola, who built a one-fifth scale
replica of the San Joaquin Siren, a World War II-era P-38 once
piloted by Stockton's Bill Behrns.
Zola contacted Behrns, now 87, and asked permission to construct
the radio-controlled replica and said when he finished he would
drive it to Stockton and show it.
"I didn't think he needed my permission, but it sure was an
honor," Behrns said.
Behrns flew 104 combat and six weather missions during World War
II, mostly stationed in Chittagong, Burma, now the country of
Myanmar. Behrns is the last of the 32 original pilots assigned to
that special squadron of which only four survived.
"There are so few of us at my age still alive, to have this dead
ringer of my plane built after all these years," Behrns said,
"well, it's pretty special."
The Stockton native was shot down once, but belly-landed his
plane on the Burma Road short of Mandalay.
Behrns let a friend borrow the San Joaquin Siren to procure
rations from a Chinese airbase in October 1944, but the friend
crashed the plane on his way back and was killed in the
After spending two and half hours readying the P-38 replica for
flight, Zola was eager to fly. The fighter circled the airfield
three times, making a lower pass each time so spectators could get
a better look, according to The Stockton Record.
Just as Zola had the plane lined up on final, a crosswind caught
the plane -- which drifted to the right before slamming its left
wing onto the tarmac. The wing shattered, and the plane reportedly
tumbled to a stop.
"I slowed the aircraft too much for the crosswinds blowing,"
A fellow RC pilot and bystander commented of the event.
"The slow approach and the crosswinds is what got 'em," said
Modesto resident Randy Sanders, an experienced model airplane
pilot. "It was a combination of both."