Mrs. Engel Offers Her Chimney To The War Effort
By Aero-News Senior Correspondent Kevin R.C. "Hognose" O'Brien
and Mrs. Ruth Engel
As a degreed but non-practicing historian, and a practicing but
non-degreed aviator, I have come to admire and love much about the
history of aviation. One of the most interesting aspects is
discovering that there is indeed, as it says in Ecclesiastes,
nothing new under the sun. Thanks to the US Navy's generous
postings of the back numbers of Naval Aviation News (formerly BuAer
News Letter) in Adobe Acrobat format, I discovered that even in the
throes of World War Two, there were noise complaints.
I came of age during a period when the war was cold, the
airplanes were threshold-of-pain loud, and a lot of good, decent
people didn't see why we needed all that racket. Fortunately for
the hundreds of millions freed at the end of the Cold War, a lot of
other people did see why. Nevertheless, even in the dark days of
1942, someone who signed himself NORTH SHORE wrote a letter to a
Chicago paper about the noise of naval air training, which he saw
as an infernal nuisance, not as "the sound of freedom," as we would
term jet noise in the sixties.
His letter inspired Mrs. Ruth Engel of Palatine (IL) to write
her own letter of complaint. It is reproduced as it came to my
attention, with spelling and capitalization, presumably, as Mrs.
Engel wrote the letter, or some Naval yeoman copied it; in any
event, as it appeared in the BuAer News Letter of 15 February 1943,
62 years ago.
The Chicago Tribune
Voice of the People Column
In answer to the party that signs themselves NORTH SHORE in
your column, THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE, in regards to allowing planes
to fly so low over the houses along the GOLD COAST, please allow me
to register a complaint of these planes also.
I am a housewife living in a small three room house situated
about two blocks from an auxiliary landing field known as Buffalo
Grove Field, where those pilots practice landings during the day,
particularly when the wind blows from the south. These planes fly
over our home about 150 feet high (my guess of course) and I want
to say this to the Commander and the student pilots at Glenview,
that this is too high to suit me. If in their training it will help
them, they are welcome to see f they can knock a few bricks off our
chimney or roll their wheels along the roof if they so desire, of
course with utmost safety to themselves. As you see, I have come to
realize what an excellent symphony the roar of motors is becoming
as they grow in numbers over my home every day. And these, mind
you, are our own planes and our own pilots, who without a second
thought would chase a ZERO or MESSERSCHMITT away from my home to
protect it, even at the cost of their lives if necessary -- and no
questions asked afterward.
These young men who pilot our planes were once owned by a
good father and mother, who unselfishly have given them to selfish
people such as this NORTH SHORE resident, who even wants to deny
them the air over their so called homes because they might hurt a
roof or so. It might be in good order now to direct such letters as
they write to the Japs or the Nazi countries, who might honor such
a request; who in that respect honor all requests as scraps of
So my complaint, to the Commander at Glenview, is to suggest that
he pull all the planes from the North Shore and fly them from
Buffalo Grove auxiliary landing field, over my house, even if the
wind don't blow from the south. And if they land and want to stop
in for a good cup of scarce coffee and a sandwich they are welcome.
If any of our neighbors ever complain of the noise and danger from
these planes, insults from me will be in good order. For purposes
of identification our home is painted cream color.
/s/ Mrs. Ruth Engel
P.O. Box 236, RFD #1
The tragedy of history is to hold such a letter in one's hands,
and not be able to reach across the years and tell the feisty Mrs.
Engel what I thought of her letter. She sent a copy of this letter
to the CO of NAS Glenview, and he had it printed in the base
newsletter, with the admonition that "Cadets who read this will of
course realize that Mrs. Engel's invitation to 'knock off a few
bricks from the chimney or roll their wheels along the roof,' must
not be taken literally, and that prescribed regulations regarding
low flying must be strictly adhered [to] at all times."
Mrs. Engel, the CO, and those irrepressible cadets! Tom Brokaw
was indeed right in his formulation. They were the greatest