Another one of those adventures that I thought could never have happened… (Basher Five-Two)
From the time that he was three years old, Shane Osborn wanted to be a pilot. His goal – dream, really – was to fly missions with the U.S. Navy. For years he labored towards that goal, attending multiple flight schools. Eventually he was assigned to the ‘World Watchers’ Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron One. His job was to fly in international airspace gathering whatever data he could.
On April 1, 2001, Lt. Osborn and his crew were sent on a standard mission in international airspace near the island of Hainan. Suddenly, a Chinese J-8IIM fighter jet began tailing his EP-3E. This was not the first time that Lt. Osborn had been treated this way, so he was not especially worried until the fighter jet began to come dangerously close. Still, all might have been well, but the pilot’s reckless flying sent his jet too near the EP-3E’s propellers and his jet was cut in half. Before dropping into the ocean, the jet’s nose rammed into Osborn’s plane, tearing off the radome. As different parts of his plane begin to malfunction, Osborn prepared for an emergency landing in Communist China.
He was able to pilot the plane to a nearby airstrip where he performed an emergency, unauthorized landing. Osborn and his crew were then taken to the Chinese military barracks where they were grilled and cross-examined as the Chinese officials sought to blame the Americans for the tragedy. They steadfastly refused to change their story, and after ten days of interrogation, were released to return home.
After returning to America, Lt. Osborn was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his courageous conduct, distinguished airmanship, and for saving the lives of his crew.
I’m sure Lt. Osborn reduced the aviation lingo to the barest minimal, but because I’m not much of a physics/mechanics/engineer – y person myself, much of it went over my head. I still enjoyed the story, absolutely, but I think that had I been interested in aviation I would have enjoyed it much more.
When Shane was little, his parents owned several businesses which kept them busy. He was cared for mostly by a neighbor and his sister, who became his substitute mom, “disciplined me if I misbehaved, and protected me from any kind of danger” [pg. 10]. When he was five, his parents got a divorce. Later, when he was in his twenties, Shane says, “My parents’ divorce was still unsettling to me, and I wanted my marriage to be as rock solid as possible.” [pg. 67] After the divorce, Shane’s mom remained hectically busy, and when she discovered that he had engaged in illegal activity, she tells him,
“I trust you and Lynette, and I trust your judgment. I don’t have the time to be looking over your shoulder. All I’m asking is for you to be responsible, do well in school, and stay out of trouble.” [pg. 16]
Not very active discipleship, eh? I was actually surprised that Lt. Osborn turned out so well, considering that his parents did not invest their time in him. However, he was not without mentors.
One of my favorite weekend activities was visiting the men in the Veterans Administration home where Mom worked. Most of the residents were in their sixties and seventies and had served in World War II, but some were even older and had fought in World War I. I understood a little about what my dad had gone through in Vietnam, but our country’s earlier wars were a mystery to me. My imagination was fired by the vets’ stories about German airplanes and World War II battles in Europe and in the Pacific. Some of the men made models of planes and wanted me to have them. I was flattered by their kindness. Back home, I hung all of these models from my ceiling with fishing wire to create a floating battlefield complete with aerial support.
One of the residents named Bill made me a model of the battleship U.S.S. Arizona. He told me how it sank at a place called Pearl Harbor and thousands of men drowned inside the battleship. This was how I began to learn about World War II and what it meant to be a veteran as well as a patriot. War had never been a game for these vets. They had risked their lives to serve their country, and many others had died for it. Now hardly anybody came to visit them. I made up my mind then that I would stop by the VA home as often as possible. It was the least I could do to honor their service. [pgs. 16-17]
Shane later writes, “I considered it an honor just to be in their company.” [p. 18]
When Shane was about twelve, his mother’s boyfriend moved in with them. He says of him, “He was friendly but strict, and I respected his authority at a time when I needed a father figure in my life.” [pg. 17]
Shane has two different girlfriends in the course of this book. It would seem that the first one lived with him for a while. (Nothing remotely suggestive is mentioned.)
Shane alternately credits God and luck with their survival.
Shane calls flying “pure magic”.
Shane mentions that his mother tended the bar at the country club.
‘Heck’ is used twice while God’s name is used twice just after the plane is mutilated.
Conclusion. A solid tale that will be enjoyed by any children interested in aviation or warfare. Born to Fly and Basher Five-Two would make a great survival adventure duo.
Review © 2013 Laura Verret