Saturday, September 15, 2007

Drop of The Wop

Quick question - Who killed the Red Baron? (No Red Baron isn't a Hip Hop band nor a brand of Vodka...Looky here if you don't know who he is )

The answer isn't clear or simple, since few (or none at all) who were there are still with us this day, and it all happened too fast and in confusion anyway. There is a much simpler answer to the question Who was RESPONSIBLE for his death. And that, my friends, is Wop May.

I was jumping on my seat like a puppy for a danish slipped under the table when I heard about movieland FINALLY addressing one of my greatest heroes. Of course movieland had to cut my sugar-fuelled jumping short. The man who brought Baron Manfred Von Richtofen to his doom isn't even mentioned in the new biographical movie.

Let me put it in context for you. A Canadian bush pilot of many quasi-legendary accomplishments, Wilfrid Reid May cut his flying teeth when joining England's newly formed RAF during the Great War in 1918. Recruited by and for his school friend Roy Brown's 209th Squadron, May flew on patrol where he was simply to "watch and learn" should a fight erupt. One quickly did on April 21st, as the 209th engaged a group of Fokker Triplanes. Wilfrid did stay outside the skirmish as told, but so did one triplane flown by an equally inexperienced pilot. Oh what the heck, thought May, and went right for his counterpart. Said opponent happened to be the young cousin of Baron Von Richtofen, who after spotting the dogfight applied is usual strategy - waited for Wop to appear in trouble before chasing after him for a quick kill. The Canuck didn't need convincing to tuck tail and run, followed by the Baron and...Roy Brown. So adamant was the German legend to save his cousin's honor that he never saw Brown behind, nor the heavy Australian anti-aircraft crew standing nearby on a too-close-for-comfort ground where is "prey" had led him. Whether or not he did realize the set up, the bullets never gave him time to run. The Red Baron, days before begged by his superiors to retire in full glory, had finally become a casualty.

Credit for the money shot was and still is disputed between Brown and the Aussie crew, while Wop never sought any of it. He relinquished his commission from the RAF a year later, as a decorated Captain, and came back to Canada, where history was waiting for him to be made repeatedly.

I dare you to tell me this isn't major Box-Office material. Yet no Canadian TV series, movie or feature-lenght documentary has even tried to touch this mythical ace. The Baron, however, is once more being given the whole nine yards by his homeland, in a movie due out early next year.

SO when I read that not only is Captain Brown depicted as an evil jerk-off of a killer (played even more insultingly by a Brit, Joseph Fiennes), but Wop wasn't even deemed remotely important, I got into one of my fits that only a fresh batch of Lasagna can calm me down from. WHAT THE HELL DID WE DO TO MERIT THE SILVER SCREEN'S COMPLETE DISRESPECT AGAIN AND AGAIN?

The uncle of a former flame was kidnapped by rebels in a small African republic some years ago, while on a mission of mercy. Of his own account, the faces of his captors became tortured with shame once they realized they hadn't gotten themselves an American as intended, but a Canadian. We are known in many-many parts of the world as a peaceful, generous and respectful nation. So why are we more and more the butt of the jokes in American Sitcoms and movies, and completely discarded in European screen arts?

Because we don't go after credit, or honor, or glory. Because we laugh at a joke, even when at our expense. Because our sensibility isn't keenly tied to our hypocrisy. Because we turn the other cheek too easily. Is all of that reason enough to spit on one of of the greatest bush pilots to ever grace the air of his skills? If he had worn a cookskin cap and died while killing hundreds of Mexicans, would his memory be treated better?

Let me at least forgive the Yanks a bit, with NASA's touching homage - naming a rock on Mars' Endurance Crater after my hero, in 2006.

Got curious? Learn more about Wilfrid Reid "Wop" May HERE

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