CORONA DEL MAR — Corona del Mar High School students on Wednesday were led in the Pledge of Allegiance by an 88-year-old World War II veteran whose mission was to crash-land glider planes filled with thousands of pounds of ammunition, infantry, howitzers and small tractors in the European theater.
Ret. Army Air Corps Capt. Bob Meyer, an Orange resident, then used his time on the school's address system to urge students to collect used DVDs in the coming weeks and send them to the American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It's a drive Meyer's been conducting for six years, having successfully sent thousands of videos to the troops.
"Let me tell you about a day in the life of a soldier," Meyer told the students. "They have eight hours of sleep, they have eight hours of sheer terror, and they have eight hours of boredom. Let's do something to help them out during their times of boredom."
Hannah Walker and Emelie Frojen, tenth-graders who belong to the student body government, said they were inspired by Meyer's talk and would
try and dig up some action or comedy flicks for the soldiers.
"They do so much for us," said Walker. "It's the least we can do in return."
They said they might even write a letter or two to show appreciation.
Speaking later to a small group of students, Meyer then launched into what it was like to be a wartime glider pilot. He mesmerized dozens of students delving into intricate detail on the mechanics behind his plane, which had a wingspan of 86 feet and was 48 feet long.
Known as the Waco CG-4A, the planes were an obscure piece of aircraft built in Michigan during World War II. Weighing 3,500 pounds, the plane was capable of carrying 4,060 pounds of cargo.
It had no motor. It had no armor on the outside. There were no parachutes. Often the pilots were on what was considered a one-way mission.
They were supposed to find their own transportation back to base. They were even deleted from a special list containing the names of all Army personnel once airborne.
Their tasks were considered suicide missions, Meyer said.
And there was Meyer in the cockpit, flying over Normandy, France, in the early-morning hours of June 6, 1944.
Looking down, he said he could see the thousands of boats crossing the English Channel en route for the invasion of Nazi Germany's Fortress Europe.
"It's true, like they say," he added, "you could have leaped-frogged over them one by one if you had to."
Thousands of men, of course, died on the invasion beaches that June day.
But Meyer survived his mission. He crash-landed his plane 15 miles inland, emptying the bowels of its troops through the plane's massive nose. He then scattered across the countryside, disrupting the enemy telecommunications by tearing down the telephone wires, he said.
They also secured small bridges with anti-tank artillery.
Meyer was only 19 at the time.
"For many of you seniors, that's an age that you're just months away from being," noted Gary Almquist, the high school's activities director to the class.