By Bill Busse:
Perhaps at one time or another we all have wondered why we were singled out. Why had Dave and Russ and Jesse and Bud, and many others, died such an early death, while we had been blessed with some seventy-five years of existence. Now we are planning to attend the Thirtieth West Coast Reunion of the Flying Midshipmen Association and, obviously and sadly, they will not be among us. When you consider the almost bizarre events that put our friends in harms way, you wonder how the cards are dealt. Why were WE [by the Grace of God] given the gift of such a long life and they were not?
DAVE COBB was very special in my life. During the late thirties and early forties we had been friends in the small mountain town of Prescott, Arizona. Dave's dad was a doctor at Fort Whipple, the veterans' hospital on the West Side of town. Dr. Cobb had a strange sense of humor when you consider the way he had nicknamed his sons. Dave was "Nubbins" Cobb to his buddies in Prescott. I didn't find out until much later that a nubbin was a runt ear of corn, as in "corn on the Cobb", His younger brothers were "Shuckie" and "Kernel", We should have guessed that Nubbins was pilot material the day he was riding horseback with roller skates on, was thrown off and broke a leg,
The Cobb family moved when Dr. Cobb was transferred to Saugus Veterans' Hospital in Los Angeles during Dave's sophomore year in high School.
The first day Jim Hendrix, who was also from Prescott, and I arrived at our V-5 unit, Arizona State College in Flagstaff, we were ushered into the auditorium for the indoctrination lecture by the Commanding Officer. We were a bit late and took the first empty seats next to a tall red headed future classmate. What a surprise to see none other than Nubbins Cobb!
What made Dave special in my life occurred when we were roommates in Elizabeth von Kleinschmidt Hall at USC, the next stop on our V-5 tour. Dave had told me about the cute blond he had met in English Composition class and asked if I wanted to meet her. Being deep in the books I was a bit reluctant, but curiosity got the better of me, and off we went to Doheney Library on one of the most important journeys of my life. That meeting turned into a relationship that has lasted through 53 years of marriage, three children and three and 1/2 grandchildren. (We are deeply grateful, Dave. We wanted you to be best man at our wedding, but it wasn't to be.)
Sometime, not long after we had moved from Corpus Christi to Pensacola, Dave, Gene Mayer, Bob Jasinski, my roommate at the time, and another Aviation Midshipman whose name I don't recall, decide to make a return trip to Corpus Christi to visit "the girls left behind.” It was to be a fateful decision for all of them. I believe Gene had the private pilot's license and was probably at the controls. Their light plane was found in a Louisiana bayou. There were no survivors. The desire to make it to Corpus under bad weather conditions and little experience with instrument flying had led to their early deaths.
For their buddies it was the loss of some very outstanding friends. (I'm reminded of the words above the assignment board at N.A.S. Los Alamitos, "Flying is not inherently dangerous, just unforgiving of human carelessness.”
I don't know if Dave had originated the idea or if he was taking the place of someone who couldn't make it at the last minute, but it was a decision that ended his life and our special relationship. We miss you, Nubbins!