Miller’s Might

Miller was a tall, broad, outdoorsman.  His father wanted him to become a doctor.  His mother wanted him to become a cellist.  Miller, however, wanted a life filled with adventure.  He served in both World Wars and was an avid sportsman.  Some of his favorite sports included watching bull fights, deep sea fishing, and hunting in remote locations around the world.

In the Winter of 1953-54, Miller and his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, enjoyed a vacation in Africa.  They spent the second week of January, 1954, at Amboselli National Park, whose main feature is Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain on the African continent.  As a late Christmas present to his wife, Miller chartered a 600-mile flightseeing trip from Nairobi, capital city of Kenya, over Lake Victoria and Lake Albert, with the main attraction being the breath-taking 400-foot Murchison Falls on the Victoria Nile River in Uganda.  Due to the length of the trip, a distance of over 1,000 miles, they planned to land at the halfway point, Masindi, to refuel the Cessna.

On Saturday, January 23, 1954, Miller and Mary met pilot Roy Marsh, a former Royal Air Force pilot, at the airport in Nairobi.  After stowing their luggage in the small, single-engine silver and blue Cessna, Roy, Miller, and Mary set out on the beginning of what turned out to be an unforgettable, yet exciting, adventure.  The trio took in the beautiful scenery as they flew over 500 miles toward Murchison Falls.  They flew over some of the most inaccessible spots in Uganda.  From the safety of their airplane, they gazed at crocodiles, elephants, buffaloes, lions, and a plethora of other wild game in their natural habitat.

Within three miles of Murchison Falls, they ran into trouble.  Without warning, a flock of Ibises, large black and white jungle birds with long, down-curved bills, descended toward the Cessna.  Flying through the flock was not an option.  Just one of the birds was large enough to crash the plane.  Roy flew lower to try to avoid the birds, but they descended as well.  Roy quickly looked in every direction but the plane was surrounded by the large birds.  As they neared treetop level, Roy realized they would have to land the plane.  Roy had to choose between landing on a small sandbar which was teeming with crocodiles or on an area covered by thick shrubs surrounded by a herd of elephants.  Roy chose the better of the two bad choices, the elephant herd.

Roy flew just over the shrubs and slowed the engine to just above stall speed.  Just before the tires on the Cessna touched the shrubs, Roy pulled back on the controls, which forced the front of the airplane into the air, and they struck the ground on the underside of the plane.  The Cessna sustained only minor damage, and Roy, Miller, and Mary were unharmed.  Their adventure had just begun as dusk approached.

The crash survivors assessed their situation.  They were unable to call for help because the Cessna was not equipped with a radio.  They knew it would be hours before anyone realized their plane was missing.  They had emergency supplies but no water.  They set up a campsite, and Roy and Miller took turns going to the river for water.  Elephants trumpeted warnings to Roy and Miller as they walked to the river bank, which was crowded with hippos and crocodiles.  That night, they built a fire for warmth and to keep predators away.  Several times during the night, wild animals ventured near their campsite.  Miller, being an avid outdoorsman, used a trick he had learned years earlier on one of his many jungle safaris.  He howled like a wild dog, which all other animals detested.  Each time he howled, the other animals answered and gave away their positions.

Searchers began looking for the missing plane when they failed to land at Masindi for refueling.  A police boat left Butiaba, a small town on Lake Albert about sixty miles from Murchison Falls, but it would take several hours for it to reach the search area.  When the Cessna failed to return to Nairobi, the East African Airways ordered search planes from Entebbe to join the search on the following morning.  There was little anyone could do.

The next morning, search planes scoured the hills and forests around Murchison Falls for the downed aircraft.  British Overseas Airways Captain R.C. Jude diverted his airplane off course and joined the search.  He began his search at Murchison Falls and made larger and larger spirals until he located the downed Cessna.  He radioed in the location of the crash and notified them that he saw no signs of life.  He pointed out that the plane had sustained only minimal damage and reported that he suspected that the trio had survived.

Miller, Mary, and Roy did not wait around to be rescued.  After a weary night in the jungle, they walked to the river and saw a tourist boat heading back from Murchison Falls.  They yelled and waived to the boat and the captain sped to their location.  They explained their predicament and they joined the tourists for the remainder of their return trip to Butiaba.

Miller jokingly told reporters at Butiaba that his wife’s snoring attracted elephants to their campsite.  “We held our breaths about two hours while an elephant 12 paces away was silhouetted in the moonlight, listening to my wife’s snores.”  Mary retorted, “I never snore.  You’ve got a fixation about it.”  To which Miller replied with a sly grin, “So has that elephant.”

As Miller’s adventure seemed at an end, another adventure was beginning.  At about dusk, Miller and Mary boarded a DeHavilland Rapide, a twin-engine bi-wing airplane piloted by T.R. Cartwright enroute to Entebbe, a town about 175 miles to the southeast.  The pilot taxied the plane to the runway and increased its speed for takeoff.  As they sped down the runway the airplane hit a bump, bounced, hit another bump, and veered off of the runway where it rolled over and burst into flames.  Miller forced the rear door of the airplane open and he, Mary, and T.R. scrambled from the burning plane.  Miller sustained cuts, burns, and bruises.  Mary suffered two cracked ribs, an injured leg, and multiple bruises.  T.R. was uninjured.  Miller and Mary went to a local doctor, who bandaged the cuts and burns on Miller’s head.  The doctor suggested they X-ray his injured arm, but Miller just shrugged him off because he thought the injury was minor.

Through his entire weekend’s adventures, surviving two airplane crashes in two days, Miller kept his sense of humor.   Clutching a bunch of bananas in one hand and a bottle of gin in the other, Miller remarked with a smile, “My luck—she is running very good.”  Not wanting to test his luck further, he declined an offer for another airplane ride out of the jungle.

Miller was one of only a handful of people who were able to read their own obituary.  Many newspapers around the world got the news that Miller was missing and assumed he had perished in the first crash.  They compared Miller’s might to those of the characters in his books “From Whom the Bell Tolls,” “A Farewell to Arms,” and his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Old Man and the Sea.”  Miller was the middle name of…Ernest Hemingway.




  1. Honolulu Star-Bulletin, January 24, 1954, p.1.
  2. Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, Pennsylvania), January 25, 1954, p.1.
  3. The Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania), January 25, 1954, p.1.
  4. The Shreveport Times, January 26, 1954, p.1.
  5. The Cincinnati Enquirer, January 27, 1954, p.4.
  6. Corsicana Daily Sun, January 27, 1954, p.4.


Magnificent Mayor Stubbs

Magnificent Mayor Stubbs

Listen to the podcast version by clicking here.

Just over one hundred miles north of Anchorage, Alaska, sits the small, picturesque, historic town of Talkeetna.  It is a small town with a population of about 900 residents.  Talkeetna is the last stop for tourists and climbers destined for North America’s tallest peak, Mount McKinley.  Much of the village’s income comes from tourist who visit for hiking, mountain biking, camping, fishing, hunting, rafting, and flightseeing.  Local artists, craftsmen, and musicians sell the products of their crafts in shops throughout the town.

The candidates for the 1997 Talkeetna mayoral race were not popular with the villagers.  They longed for a good, honest candidate.  One of the villagers suggested they nominate a well-liked villager nicknamed Stubbs.  Secretly, the residents spread the word that on election day they would write in their vote for their preferred candidate.  Stubbs made no political speeches, never asked the people to vote for him, nor did he do anything other than his normal day-to-day routine.  One supporter proudly told anyone who would listen that “He’s everybody’s guy.”  Without so much as a handshake to gain a vote, Stubbs became mayor.

Stubbs spent most of his time, not in a stuffy office away from the public, but in Nagley’s General Store where he mingled with locals and tourists alike.  Well-wishers who were unable to find Mayor Stubbs at the General Store only had to look next door at the West Rib Pub and Cafe where he always had his choice of seats and drank water from a wine or margarita glass.  Mayor Stubbs never drank alcohol.  Mayor Stubbs loved socializing with tourists and hammed it up for cameras.  Everyone who met him said “He’s got a great personality.”

Shortly after becoming mayor, word spread beyond Talkeetna of his charisma and charm.  His popularity grew into fame when newspapers around the nation reported on his vibrant personality.  People flocked to the town to meet Mayor Stubbs and have their picture taken with him.  Mayor Stubbs was always happy to oblige them.

Mayor Stubbs always oversaw but never participated in the yearly Wilderness Woman and Bachelor Auction and Ball.  During this charity event, local bachelors were auctioned off to the highest bidders and spent an evening with the winning bidders.  Not to be left out of the festivities, they held a wilderness woman contest which consisted of several tests of strength and endurance “to show these bachelors what women are made of…Alaskan grit!”  As always, Mayor Stubbs socialized with everyone present.  Local residents could not have been happier with Mayor Stubbs.  When a reporter asked Geoff Pfeiffer, waiter at the West Rib Pub and Café, how he liked the mayor, Geoff replied, “We all love him.”  He explained that he and his coworkers vied for their chance to wait on the mayor.

On the night of September 7, 2013, a vicious dog attacked Mayor Stubbs as he was taking an evening stroll through town.  After what must have seemed like an eternity, Mayor Stubbs escaped from the dog’s clutches.  Mayor Stubbs suffered a punctured lung, a long deep gash on his side, and several bruises.  Bleeding and weak, a local resident loaded Mayor Stubbs into his vehicle and drove an hour to the nearest hospital.  Staff at the hospital were afraid that Mayor Stubbs would not survive what turned out to be a three-hour surgery.  Word quickly spread of the vicious attack on Mayor Stubbs.  People from all over the world wished him a speedy recovery on his Facebook and Twitter pages.  Many of them sent donations to help pay his exorbitant hospital bills.  The residents of Talkeetna did their part as well.  Mayor Stubbs’s donation jar at the general store soon overflowed with coins and folding money.  To their relief, Mayor Stubbs made a full recovery.

As soon as his health returned, Mayor Stubbs resumed his position in Talkeetna.  Once again, he spent most of his time making pleasantries with locals and tourists.  Mayor Stubbs held the office of mayor until he died in his sleep on July 22, 2017.  People all over the world mourned his death and posted letters of condolence on his Facebook page.  Mourners also shared pictures of themselves with the beloved mayor.  They noted that for him to have been mayor at all was an amazing achievement.  Normally, a candidate had to be eighteen years of age to run for office, but the overwhelming support for Stubbs made officials take drastic action.  You see, Mayor Stubbs was elected when he was just sixteen years old.  Mayor Stubbs was also…a cat.


  1. Decatur Herald and Review, September 4, 2013, p.22.
  2. The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) September 7,
    2013, p.2.

Maitland Made a Difference

Maitland's B24


During World War II, most Americans felt it was their duty to help the war effort according to their individual talents.  Factory workers retooled their machines and made a large variety of instruments of war such as airplanes, tanks, ships, and bombs, just to name a few.  School children led scrap metal drives to aid in the recycling and remanufacturing processes.  Actors sold war bonds to raise money for munitions.  Everyone, it seemed, had some special talent that could aid in the war effort.

Maitland had his own talent.  As a child, Maitland daydreamed about flying airplanes.  He had read newspaper accounts of Charles Lindbergh’s flying career as a U.S. Air Mail pilot and of his first solo transatlantic flight from New York to Paris in the Spirit of St. Louis.  His father, however, had other plans.  Following high school, he wanted Maitland to attend Princeton University and to return home to take over the family’s hardware business.  When he graduated in 1932, rather than return to the family business, Maitland moved to New York and began a different career.

War loomed on the horizon.  Maitland earned enough money from various jobs and he became a licensed pilot.  All of the hours he had spent daydreaming about flying had come true.  In November, 1940, Maitland tried to enlist in the United States Army Air Corps., predecessor for the Air Force.  The Army rejected him because, at 32-years-old, he was over the maximum age requirement for cadet training and his weight was lower than their minimum requirement.  Maitland’s father had fought in the Spanish-America War and World War I, and both of his grandfathers had fought in the Civil War.  Maitland was determined to do his part in the conflict.

Maitland was not one to give up easily.  In February, 1941, he tried to enlist again.  The Army needed pilots, and Maitland was a college graduate and, more importantly, a licensed pilot.  The Army ignored his age and low body weight, and on March 22, 1941, enlisted Maitland as a private.  In January, 1942, less than a month after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the Army promoted Maitland to second lieutenant and sent him to train cadets at Kirtland Army Airfield in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  While stationed at Kirtland, Maitland was one of many soldiers who appeared in a recruitment film for the Army.  “Winning Your Wings” played in theaters across America, and the Army estimated that the film was responsible for an estimated 150,000 new recruits.

Maitland trained pilots for nearly two years but he felt his talents could be of better use as a combat pilot.  In November, 1943, Maitland appealed to his superiors to be sent to active duty.  He had proven his worth as a flying instructor but the Army had many other good pilots who could train the new recruits.  His commanding officer reluctantly granted Maitland’s request and transferred him to England to join the 445th Bombardment Group as a B-24 Liberator pilot.

On January 7, 1944, Maitland led the 445th Bombardment Group on a bombing mission to Ludwigshafen, Germany.  Maitland and the 445th joined up with the 389th Bombardment Group.  After bombing their targets, the two groups turned to join up with the main formation for their return to bases.  Maitland realized that they were flying thirty degrees off course, which meant that they were flying toward an area of German occupation and away from the protection of the main formation.  He radioed the leader of the 389th and told him of the error.  The leader of the 389th disagreed with his calculation and said he would continue on his heading.  Maitland had a tough decision to make.  He could make the thirty-degree correction and, if his calculations were correct, lead his men to the safety of the main formation.  His other option was to stay with the 389th and face the German fighter planes.  Maitland realized that if he and his men abandoned the 389th, they would have almost no chance of survival against the German Luftwaffe.  Maitland stayed the incorrect course.

Within minutes, German radar operators noticed that the two groups of bombers had become separated from the larger formation and scrambled fighter planes to intercept them.  When the men of the 389th and 445th saw the German planes, they tightened their formation.  The German fighters began firing at the American bombers and the B24 gunners returned fire.  Maitland could see most of the bombers of the 389th in front of him.  He watched helplessly as German fighters destroyed the lead plane of the 389th.  The pilot of the downed bomber was the officer who disregarded Maitland’s course correction.  Maitland took command of what remained of the 389th and made the course correction he had suggested earlier.  Maitland was right.  Within a short time, they rendezvoused with the main formation.  Seeing the vast number of bombers and fighter escorts, the German fighters retired from the fight.  The 389th lost seventeen airplanes and their crews.  The 445th group, Maitland’s men, suffered no casualties.

Maitland’s actions, his superiors concluded, had saved the 389th from what would have been total annihilation.  Maitland was promoted to major and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the French Croix de Guerre, and the Air Medal.  A year and a half later, Maitland earned the rank of full colonel and became one of only a few soldiers who rose from private to colonel in four years.

On May 8, 1945, Germany surrendered unconditionally and the war in Europe ended.  On August 15, 1945, Japan surrendered following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  World War II, the deadliest conflict in human history, was over.  In the Fall of 1945, Maitland returned to the United States and to his pre-war career.  He continued to be an active member of the Army Air Forces Reserve.  On July 23, 1959, Maitland earned the rank of brigadier general.  In February, 1966, he flew as an observer in a B-52 on a bombing mission in Vietnam.  On May 31, 1968, Maitland retired from the Air Force when he reached the mandatory retirement age of sixty.  For his service, he received the Distinguished Service Medal.

You probably know Maitland more for his non-military career.  Maitland became the highest-ranking actor in American military history with a career which spanned more than fifty-five years.  He starred in more than eighty films including such titles as “The Philadelphia Story,” “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,” “Vertigo,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “Rear Window,” and the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Many airmen owe their lives, and we, Americans, owe our freedom in part to Maitland.  You see Maitland was the middle name of … Jimmy Stewart.



Matzen, Robert. Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: GoodKnight Books, 2016.

McGowan, Sam. “Jimmy Stewart’s Rise from Private to Colonel.” Accessed July 10, 2020. “’Winning Your Wings’ – A USAAF Recruiting Film With James Stewart.” Accessed July 10, 2020.

Nurse Crawford’s House Call

At about 5:00 p.m. on December 6, 1933, just before sunset, Nurse Hattie Crawford walked out of her apartment in Miami, Oklahoma.  A man approached her and asked if she could tell him where Nurse Crawford lived in the apartment building.  She told the stranger that she was Nurse Crawford.  The stranger told her that a friend of his had been injured and needed help pretty quickly.  It was in Nurse Crawford’s nature to help anyone in need.  She sensed no danger and saw that the stranger seemed panic-stricken.  She agreed to go without hesitation.  Rather than taking her himself, the stranger gave Nurse Crawford instructions.  He told her to take the bus to Afton, Oklahoma, about fifteen miles southwest of Miami, which she did.  Within half an hour, Nurse Crawford disembarked from the bus at Afton not knowing exactly what to expect.  The stranger was there waiting for her in a car with another man she did not know.  She entered the sedan and they drove to Vinita, Oklahoma, about fifteen miles southwest of Afton.

The stranger and his companion drove Nurse Crawford to a dark, seemingly abandoned house on the outskirts of town.  The sun had set and the car’s headlights were the only illumination.  As they approached the porch, a woman opened the door of the house.  Nurse Crawford immediately recognized the woman as someone she knew but had not seen in seven or eight years.  They spoke only for a second or two before the woman led Nurse Crawford to a bedroom by flashlight, the only light in the house.  In the bedroom, a man lay in bed with a gunshot wound on his left leg and similar wounds on his left arm.  Nurse Crawford knew better than to ask how he received the gunshot wounds.  She asked for bandages and rubbing alcohol.  The woman gave Nurse Crawford the rubbing alcohol and tore a bed sheet into strips to use as bandages.  Nurse Crawford cleaned and bandaged the injured man’s wounds as good as she could by the dim glow of a single flashlight.  Nurse Crawford gave the woman instructions on how to clean and dress the wound.

As soon as she had finished treating the patient, the two men ushered Nurse Crawford out of the house and drove her back to Miami.  Unlike the earlier trip, they drove Nurse Crawford all the way back to her apartment building.  During the return drive, the two men asked if she could return with them the following night to check on the injured man’s condition.  She quickly agreed.  They gave Nurse Crawford the hefty sum of $5.00 for treating the injured man, which, adjusted for inflation, would be just under $100 in today’s money.  They warned Nurse Crawford not to tell anyone of the incident, or else.

Nurse Crawford’s initial plan was to immediately notify the police of the incident, but she took their warning seriously.  She was paranoid that someone was watching her.  She feared what would happen if she reported the incident.  On the following day, Nurse Crawford waited for the two men to pick her up and deliver her once again to the injured man.  Five o’clock came and went.  Then six o’clock, then seven o’clock, but the men never returned.  Eight days later, on December 14, 1933, Nurse Crawford finally gained enough courage to report the incident to the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office.

Nurse Crawford told a deputy about her providing aid to the injured man.  The secretive nature of the whole incident got the attention of Craig County Sheriff John York and FBI agent H.E. Hollis.   Nurse Crawford described to them the location of the house, described the house itself, along with the furniture within.  She explained that she saw the outside of the house only by the headlights of the car and the inside of the house by flashlight.  Nurse Crawford said she did not know the men who escorted her to the house, nor was she certain of the identity of the injured man.  She was certain, however, of the identity of the woman, whom she was acquainted with several years earlier.

Sheriff York immediately recognized the place Nurse Crawford described as being the home of Mrs. Jane Hall.  Mrs. Hall had not lived at the home for several years and left the house in the care of custodian Bob Hill.  Bob told investigators that he had no knowledge of and had not given consent to anyone to occupy the house.  He granted the investigators permission to search the house.
At daylight on December 15, 1933, Sheriff York, Ottawa County Sheriff Dee Waters, several deputies, and Agent Hollis surrounded the home of Mrs. Jane Hall, but found it to be unoccupied.  While searching the home, officers found bloodstained bandages and rags in a bathroom cabinet.  They also found a bloody undershirt in another room.  Once they were certain the house was unoccupied, one of the deputies drove Nurse Crawford to the home.  She immediately recognized it as the place where she had treated the injured man on the night of December 6, 1933.  Sheriff York made arrangements and had the home kept under constant surveillance.  For several days, deputies kept watch at Mrs. Hall’s home to no avail.

As had happened many times before, law enforcements officers had missed their chance.  The woman who allowed Nurse Crawford into the seemingly abandoned home and the injured man whom she had helped were…Bonnie and Clyde.



United States Bureau of Investigation, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, File Number 26-3779, December 23, 1933, Report by Special Agent H.E. Hollis.