In Memory of Jerry Billing
I won't say rest in peace, Jer. That's so not you.
Show the angels how it's done.

Okay, here's Mom at the USO and Dad on leave.

They hadn't met yet.

Dad served at Guadalcanal.


And here is my favorite ace, Werner Moelders.

Dead wrong side of the war.

Black and white photo is his plane in 1940, its tail peppered with kill badges.

Color photo is 1990 in Berlin with the swaztika and kill badges edited out.

The period Messerschmitt is an E4 with Galland hood.

The one in the Deutsches Museum is an earlier E3 without the Galland hood.

The filled chevron and vertical bar forward of the Balkankreuz indicate he's a Kommodore.

The buzzard head in the circle indicates his unit is Jagdgeschwader (JG) 51.

Why Moelders?

This may have something to do with my growing up during the Viet Nam war. I opposed the war and married a vet. I had cousins on both sides of World War II. I'm a sucker for a good soldier on the wrong side.

It's a theme that appears in my novels from time to time -- Alihahd in JERUSALEM FIRE, Race Rachelson and Penetanguishine in THE QUEEN'S SQUADRON.

Werner Moelders lost his father in World War I, when Werner was 3 years old. He told his mother then that he wanted to be a soldier. He was a Catholic, godfather to his brother's child.

He was a brilliant tactician. He broke up those tight airshow triad formations in favor of the fighter/wingman practice which has been used ever since. He got airsick. Flew anyway. He was the first ace to beat Baron von Richtofen's record, and was the leading ace at the time of his death in 1941 -- in a plane crash (he wasn't piloting) rushing to a funeral. My alternate history story Vati in Harry Turtledove's ALTERNATE GENERALS I anthology explores what might have happened if Moelders had taken off to Berlin a day early and not gone down in that snowstorm.

This is me in Cliff Robertson's Spitfire (he has since sold it). The dashing gentleman at my wing there is Jerry Billing, a Canadian ace who flew Spitfires with the RAF. Has more hours on Spitfires than any man. Ever. Period.

How did I get in the Spitfire?

While I was researching my yet unpublished Battle of Britain novel, EAGLES OF SEPTEMBER, a Liberator crewman told me about Jerry.

I'd been sitting on Jerry's phone number for over a year. I hadn't the nerve to call him. Why should a Spitfire ace talk to me? How do I introduce myself?

Time passes. It's January 1990. I'm in Detroit at a science fiction convention (Confusion), with my husband. And it occurs to me -- I have the phone number of a Spitfire pilot who lives right across the river.

I call Jerry. A cold, cold voice answers the phone. Grudgingly let's me come over for an interview.

It's snowing like hell. We slither over to Canada onto the darkest roads I've ever tried to see. Jim gets us there intact.

We get a chilly reception from Jerry. I start asking my questions. When I dropped the fact that the second prototype of the ME109 flew with a Rolls Royce Kestrel engine, you could feel the room warm up. That's how you get a Spitfire pilot to talk to you. The frost melts. Jerry becomes animated. His beautiful wife makes us dinner. We are talking into skinny hours of the night.

And by the end of it, I've got the job of editing Jerry's memoirs.

I also got to start up the Spit. Didn't get to taxi it. Props are 5K a pop.

Photo below is (was) a mural on the side of a building in Essex, Ontario. Jerry posed for this picture, which was also released as a limited edition art print entitled "Endangered Species." Artist is Ronald Suchiu.

That's me and Jerry's son in front.

Unbelievably, the building was torn down this year.

Not sure how this ties in with World War II, except for the Robert Taylor print of ME262's in the background.

This is my ghostwriter, FurFace.

And this is just cool gargoyle Jim shot in Munich.