Profile Photo
Tom Cleaver
922 articles

75 years ago today

August 17, 2016 · in Aviation · 10 · 1.8K

75 years ago today, RCAF Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee landed from his first flight in a Spitfire. He went to his barracks and wrote "High Flight," the greatest poem of flight ever written.

When I was in 8th grade, I had to recite a poem in my English Class. Get up in front of everyone and speak. I was terrified. I found "High Flight" in our poetry book. The kid whose first word ever was "O-Pane" when a P-38 flew over the park my mother and I were in, related. I memorized it, got up and recited it. And was met with dead silence. Which was the worst possible reaction until my best friend from those days told me 5 years ago that everyone was terrified, because they were going to have to equal what I had done. Childhood is amazing.

The photo above is my own "high flight" 40 years ago, dawn over Sacramento. I'm in the near Stearman.

40 years ago in America, before 24/7 television, TV stations would sign off around 2:00am, and many of them used this:

Here's the full story of how the poem was written.

Reader reactions:
2  Awesome

10 responses

  1. What a beautiful post, in all respects. Great story, image, video, and evocative poetry. Thank you for posting

  2. When I was in grade school, living at Craig AFB near Selma, AL (1968-1970), my dad was an IP in the T-38, and I remember on weekends (when parents would go to bed and allow me to stay up as late as I wanted) watching this occasionally. Thought it was really cool then! Still an evocative rendition of the poem!

  3. SUPERB post Tom! Thanks for posting it!

  4. Tom, here's the TV signoff I remember from the early 60's. Our stations would go off air about 10:30 after the local news, so this and the national anthem were the last things to see before the test patterns came on. Those could occasionally be interrupted by the B-52's or KC-135's taking off from nearby Biggs AFB. I love F-104's to this day because of this:

  5. Very cool post Tom!

  6. I thought that river and patchwork land looked familiar. I remember often staying up late enough to see the "High Flight" film on KCRA TV, ch. 3. The first one I remember had an F-104 going through the sky. It was later replaced by the one above. I liked the F-104 version better, lol.

  7. Wow! Just had a flashback, had forgotten that one.

  8. Gives meaning to only the good die young. Called home to his maker way too soon.

  9. This brings back fond memories, as a child. Particularly the F-104 Starfighter version. Then later in our squadron, we had a particular pilot that would have us stand in front of the helo in a circle, hold hands, pray Psalms 91, and then he would recite the poem High Flight, wink at us and then would say "lets mount up boys, into the hands of God we go!". I tell you every time I flew with him I never felt safer. I still watch the video from time to time when I get sentimental. Before hitting the sack.

Leave a Reply