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Thu, Jun 02, 2005

WWII Vet Gets An Unexpected Message

'Guess Where Your Old Plane Is'

It's a story that popped up in Lew Griswold's Fresno Bee column Wednesday -- the story of a World War II veteran reunited with his one-time love and constant companion. The veteran is 86-year old Ray Melikian of Visalia, CA. The long-lost love is his Curtis P-40 (file photo of type, below).

"Guess where your old plane is?" read a note Melikian received from war-buddy John Miller of Pomona. "Practically in your back yard (sort of, anyway)."

As it turns out, the P-40 is being restored at Vintage Aircraft Co. in Sonoma, CA.

Vintage owner Chris Prevost called Melikian three months ago, according to Griswold's column, and offered to fly the P-40 to Visalia when he was done. Melikian appeared nonplussed. "God help you," he told Prevost. Such a kidder!

Melikian wasn't an ace, but he had three Japanese kills to his credit and has a war chest full of stories about narrow escapes and barely cheating death. It's nice to have a prop to go with the stories, right?

The P-40 was found in an aviation junkyard in Australia 31-years ago. It was twice sold before ending up at Pacific Aircraft in New Zealand, where the fuselage was restored. Prevost obtained the Curtis last year.

This isn't the first time Melikian has caught up with one of his old rides. In 1969, the wreckage of an aircraft with his name stenciled under the canopy turned up in New Guinea. He'd loaned it to another pilot whose skeletal remains were found in the wreckage. That was in 1942.

FMI: www.vintageaircraft.com

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