John Mollison: Old Guys & Their Airplanes



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This is a story about a man who as a young boy inherited his father’s interest for World War II aircraft and crews who would develop a penchant for drawing that would begin a life-long journey of aviation artistry.

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between 1939 and 1945 the combatants in World War two built over eight hundred and sixty thousand aircraft well over half of all the aircraft that had ever been produced about seventy percent of those produced or combat aircraft such as fighters and bombers the Allies would win air supremacy in the Pacific in 1943 and in Europe in 1944 allowing Allied supplies and reinforcements to get through to the Battlefront but not the enemies ultimately it meant the Allies would concentrate their strike forces wherever they please and overwhelm the enemy with the preponderance of firepower this was the basic Allied strategy and it worked aircraft of world war two exhibited great speed agility and power their pilots and crews demonstrated some of the wars most courageous and valiant efforts it's no wonder that a young boy with a penchant for drawing who inherited his father's interest for World War two aircraft and crews would begin a lifelong journey of aviation artistry that would not only teach him about history but more importantly how to be a better man a father and citizen his name is John Mollison and this is his story you I literally can't describe it because it's not about just simply sitting down and talking to an old guy and drawn his hair playmates about understanding American history it's about understanding culture it's about understanding myself and I guess the fulcrum the end result is is I get to draw an airplane but it's more than it's more than just the drawing it's more than then the piece of paper or the work of art that is such a tiny facet it's the excuse though my mom she was a stay-at-home mom and she had this little boy and keep me occupied she you know kind of dumped the crayons out on the table and I she'd get a box and some instructions and she'd say okay draw the next next thing and while other kids had football players or baseball or whatever I had fighter pilots as bomber pilots as my heroes and that got me started in drawing airplanes and I think my college and high school grades reflect the fact that I never stopped drawing your friends this day it's hard to describe but I you know became probably you know little doodles and things like that it's my way of thinking I think I probably are not the fact that I still today in business or something will continue to doodle I don't maybe some shrink and say I'm trying to connect to the heroic or I'm trying to find leadership and inspiration subconsciously I don't know developed into something else about nineteen nineteen ninety-seven and as a lark in my profession as I went on I'd always have had a interest in technology the interest in technology that I had I started working for one of the first internet ezines so I got to write about technology that had to do with flight simulators one day my I got a call from my step-grandfather who asked me says you want to play hooky today he said I'll tell you why I got an old friend of my house we gotta meet him his name is Morris Jeppson and Morris Jeppson was one of the men on the Enola Gay the b-29 that dropped the drop the bomb on hiroshima in august of 1945 I went out to visit him and while we were talking it occurred to me i need to interview this guy so I had my paper out and I started interviewing him and asking all kinds of questions well when I got home on my way home from from meeting Morris I talked to my editor and I said look I got this story I spent the afternoon it was a big part of the day with the guy who built the fusing mechanism for the atomic bomb let's publish the story so we did in my readership went crazy he said Jonna would you be interested in interviewing the guy by name of Clarence Anderson wine who Clarence Anderson was because this is a little boy I drew his p-51 Mustang and I read about his stories and I read about his combat he was a triple ace and he flew a very distinctive p-51 that had Old Crow written on the nose and it was like the Clarence I Anderson they call him bud and my editor said yeah that's the guy and here's his phone number and I called but up and interviewed him for the magazine and just as a lark I said look I can I draw your airplane and I'll make four or five copies and I'll send them to you would you sign them and give them back to me because I you know other history buff friends interest in world war two isn't is it is pretty common area well I sent out the drawings and bud sent him back autographed but it was missing one and there's a little note on it that I kept that said John you did a pretty good job i think was pretty good Chuck drawing my airplane hope you don't mind that I kept one gosh I mean I can't believe it you know here's a guy i read about as a kid keeping one of my drawings was and it really i did a terrible job it was awful I don't can't even look at it but I still have that the work you know anyway still have the first drawing I did but I gotta say that the interviews switched definitely took a tone changed tone a couple years later when I was working for a company and this probably gets more into why I continue to interview old men and draw their airplanes and I remember coming home one day from one of those useless business meetings where you know a president company didn't have any control and i was looking at us underlings thinking I'd fire all of us and I remember going home thinking I might drive home I was thinking you know bud Anderson at age 24 or 23 22 could lead men into battle I wonder what he would what advice you give me I called him up and I thought to myself he's gonna think I'm nuts because here I am basically calling him about you know leadership issues and management issues and he said this he said John I remember you and I'm awfully glad you called because I recognize that a lot of guys in your boat need some help and now I think this is going to come to be an exact quote but he said as long as you ask those types of questions all open I'll give you all the names of the fighter pilots who you are and that's when I cooked up the idea i love if they'll let me interview I'll draw their airplane I'll pay for it being printed and that's really how it started is not just finding out about the history but finding out about life so when you ask the question what do i do I said well I interview old guys and draw their airplanes but it's bigger than that it's about learning about America it's about learning about life it's a learning about aging it's learning about it's about getting good advice it's about getting good coaching it's about self-improvement it's about trial it's about success I'm just not in it just for them you know there i was at 30,000 feet you know shooting things down that's a it's teeny when we're talking to somebody who's twice your age and combat has been just a part of their experience you learn a lot I think the things that are in common in common with any of the pilots that have truly impacted me personally and there are a lot of them they have an intense desire to see other people succeed and they want that and it's authentic and true that's left an impact on me how these guys have been very paternal and very strong it's helped me be a better father certainly a better citizen you know what every American is a keeper and manager of their legacy and I'm one of them I maybe get to do it a little differently and I got this great point of entry and that i can draw World War two airplanes and people have an interest in that but history is we all are a collective we all have an impact we are all keepers of the legacy and I think America is going to be great when we preach that when we teach that I know that when I talked to pilots from World War two they talked about growing up as a kid they had that virtue instilled into them that they're a part of America they're a part of a wonderful wonderful place to live and they got to do their part generations connect to other generations and I think when I draw my airplanes I'm I know I'm cognizant of that fact that i'm recording a moment in time in 1943 but I'm also writing about the guy who flew that airplane and his children and his wife and his grandchildren and how they're all connected because that b-17 or that p-51 or that Kingfisher is not only connected to that thing you know aerodynamically but it's a story it's a story of America it's a story of the lives that make up our country and why we do the things that we do and how we lead and move forward the obligation I've got is to do more than just record history I've got to inspire but you can't inspire without bias and my bias is I love this country people have the greatest chance with our system and if I can be a part of that and inspire people to continue that because I draw World War two airplanes and interview old guys I've done my job you

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