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Off Beat Vancouver aces flight jacket now in World War II museum

first_imgClayton Kelly Gross’s jacket seemed to have a swagger of its own, even when he wasn’t wearing it.It wasn’t just the rich brown leather. There was also the faded white block lettering across the back reading “Live Bait,” recalling when he was ordered to fly low and maybe attract German fighters.In the center was the painted image of a P-51 Mustang. That was one of the aircraft Gross flew as a member of the 354th Fighter Group when he became a World War II fighter ace, with 6 1/2 kills in the skies over Europe. (It took five to become an ace.)Now the jacket is an artifact in one of America’s most popular historical showcases. Before his death in 2016, the former Vancouver resident donated it to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.That jacket showed up a few times in the pages of The Columbian after reporters and photographers visited Gross, former president of the American Fighter Aces Association, over the years.Another keepsake was a reminder of the only time he was shot down. It was the rip-cord handle from his parachute. Gross literally couldn’t let go. After he was picked up by a couple of G.I.’s, one of them offered the pilot a cigarette.last_img read more

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