War may be central to our cultural consciousness these days, but for Montecito resident Bill Davis, it’s more than a concept-it’s a vivid memory. Along with his friend and fellow vet, comedian Jonathan Winters, Davis will be at Borders Books on Thursday, June 21, from 7-9 p.m., to introduce his memoir, Sinking the Rising Sun: Dog Fighting and Dive Bombing in World War II.
1) His best story? The biggest story is that as a Navy fighter pilot I was part of the fleet that attacked the Japanese in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. I ended up going in alone initially, and I figured out later there were 320 anti-aircraft guns going at me. I knew there was no way I could go through it and live, but I went in anyway, dropped the bomb, and blacked out from the G forces, and when I came to, I was clipping the waves. Another few feet and it would have been all over.
2) Why Jonathan Winters? When we first moved up here, I often saw him at Tom’s Pharmacy. One day he had on a jacket with RAF wings, and so I went up to him and said, “Jonathan, you’ve been many things, but you’ve never been an RAF pilot.” He said, “No, but what I really wanted was to be a Navy carrier base fighter pilot,” and I said, “I was,” and with that, he picked up his whole meal and came over and joined me. He’s the closest friend I’ve ever had.
3) The “greatest generation”? Well, I guess so. There’s been far, far more interest in WWII recently than there has been in 50 years. When it was over, everyone had been in it, and nobody talked about it.