Uncover the Heroic Tale of Bazooka Charlie at Museum Speaker Series

Jim Busha, the co-author of Bazooka Charlie: The Unbelievable Story of Major Charles Carpenter and Rosie the Rocketer is the next speaker in EAA’s Aviation Adventure Speaker Series. Jim will share the heroic true tale of a high school teacher sent to war who made headlines when he strapped six bazookas to a Piper L-4, and more revelations from Carpenter’s own letters and journals, in his presentation at the EAA Aviation Museum on Thursday, June 20, at 7 p.m.

Jim, EAA’s vice president of publications, marketing, membership, and retail, and editor in chief, has been enamored by aviation since he was a young boy, checking out the same book over and over on the 8th Air Force when his mom brought him to the library. “I was supposed to read other things, but I always gravitated to World War II aviation. I looked upon those guys as my heroes,” he said.

For more than 20 years, Jim has been interviewing and preserving the stories of hundreds of veterans. He published his first veteran story when he was still working on the Oshkosh police force, and “cranky editor” Budd Davisson of Flight Journal magazine asked for more, so Jim went “on a crusade of preserving history for future generations.”

For years at the top of his interview wish list was the famed Maj. Charles Carpenter. This couldn’t happen, though, as Carpenter had died in 1966 after a long-fought battle with cancer.

You can imagine Jim’s delighted shock when he received a call in 2016 from Carol Apacki, Carpenter’s daughter, looking to set the record straight after seeing comments on an online forum doubting her father’s story. “[Carpenter] is an urban legend, and there wasn’t a lot written about him. And some of the stuff that was written is not true; it’s been embellished or it’s just totally wrong,” Jim said.

Through scouring hundreds of letters, journal entries, and photographs spanning from the 1920s to ‘60s – Carpenter’s wife, Elda, saved everything – Jim, with help from Carol, was able to piece together the true story of Bazooka Charlie and Rosie the Rocketer, discovering new things about Carpenter that even Carol didn’t know.

“It’s not a typical war story; it actually touches a lot of different genres,” Jim explained. During his presentation, Jim will dive into the daring missions of Carpenter using an 800-pound, tube-and-fabric airplane to take out German tanks, but he’ll also tell of Carpenter’s personal creed and drive that forged him into the man, the father, the teacher, the soldier, and, ultimately, the hero he was.

“Writing these stories, it’s not about me. It’s [the veterans’] stories. I don’t want the world to forget how brave they were during the darkest time of our history, and to ensure that no one ever forgets the sacrifices made,” Jim said. “If we aren’t scholars of history, we are doomed to repeat it. And that’s what’s happening. So, more and more people need to embrace history, whatever the subject is.”

Thursday’s presentation is free for EAA members and youths, and just $5 for nonmembers. A book signing will be available to attendees after the presentation.

If you’re unable to attend, all Aviation Adventure Speaker Series presentations are recorded and will be available to members to watch here at a later date.

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