Americans have always loved their real-life Horatio Alger characters. They fired our imagination as children and were worthy of emulating. I hate to see many of those who were an inspiration to me disappear from our histories.
A perfect example is Kenneth Ambrose Walsh.
Ken Walsh was born in 1916 in Brooklyn, New York. His grandparents were Irish immigrants. His dad was an electrician. Walsh was a good athlete and excelled in track. In 1933, just three weeks past his 17th birthday, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. Three months later he graduated from boot camp at Parris Island. After several months more of training, he became an aircraft mechanic. He was still not 18. Serving as a mechanic on the flight line whetted his appetite for flying, and he applied for flight school. Meeting all the requirements and passing all the tests, he entered flight class 89-E at Pensacola Naval Air Station in March 1936.
Though not having flown as a civilian and having left high school at 16, Walsh excelled in flight school and was awarded his wings in April 1937. He was only 20 and only Private Walsh—a private with wings of gold! The Corps promoted him to corporal, but he was still the lowest-ranking and youngest pilot in the Marines.
His first duty station was Brown Field at Quantico. For several years he flew with Marine Scouting...