“[Movie producer Mike Todd, third of Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands] had rented a twin-engine Lockheed Lodestar and renamed it the Lucky Liz, which Elizabeth had decorated for him….
“In March 1958 Mike was to be roasted by the New York Friars Club…. Sammy Cahn had written risque lyrics to ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ that I planned to sing at the dinner. Mike wanted me to fly with him to New York on the Lucky Liz, but I had to go to Greensboro, North Carolina, to film a commercial for Chesterfield….
“I was watching television…. when it was announced that Mike’s plane had crashed into the mountains of New Mexico.”
— From “Been There, Done That” by Eddie Fisher [fourth of Taylor’s husbands] with David Fisher (1999)
North Carolina Public Radio this morning featured a report on efforts to get veteran status for Tar Heels who ferried supplies along the East Coast during World War II. Merchant marines and small boat captains dodged German U-boats in an area off of Cape Hatteras that came to be known as Torpedo Junction. During the first four months of 1942, nearly 70 US naval and merchant ships were sunk by German U-Boat attacks.
The radio report got us digging around in the North Carolina Collection for materials on Torpedo Junction and the battles that took place there. We came across a poem, supposedly written by U-boat commander Johann “Jochen” Mohr as he reported to his superiors yet another sinking of an American vessel.
The new-moon night is black as ink
Off Hatteras the tankers sink
While sadly Roosevelt counts the score –
Some fifty thousand tons – by
Mohr and the crew of U-124 are credited with sinking four ships off the North Carolina coast on May 12, 1942. He and his crew were killed 11 months later when a British naval vessel sank U-124 off the coast of Portugal.
We’ll leave it to others to figure out why Mohr’s poem rhymes so well in English when we suspect he wrote his dispatch in German.
“Someone from Dayton, Ohio… visited the towns around eastern North Carolina and handed out flyers with a kindly request asking, ‘Please return whatever parts of the plane you still have, and I [Orville Wright] will send each of you a letter of thanks and a small sliver of wood from the actual plane that made the first flight, now on display at the Smithsonian.’ ”
The headline “An incredible piece of aviation history” may be a bit hyperbolic (Amelia’s logbook, that would be incredible), but Palmer Wood does unfold a fascinating story.