Dick Cole Co-pilot

As a child in Dayton, Ohio, Cole would ride his bicycle a few miles to the Army Air Corps test base at McCook Field to watch the pilots, including the legendary Jimmy Doolittle — and, of course, decided he wanted to be one too. He also read about pilots, and pasted stories in a scrapbook: … Read more

From This is True for 14 April 2019

Joe Bertony Engineer

Born on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, during World War II Bertony joined the French navy to study naval engineering at Saint-Tropez, and was recruited there into another job: spy. He was twice captured by the Nazis, but escaped both times, once by jumping off the train taking him to a concentration camp. General Charles … Read more

From This is True for 7 April 2019

Ed Westcott Secret photographer

A photographer, Westcott spent most of his career working for one particular employer: the U.S. Government. His most notable assignment: he was the only employee allowed to have a camera within the tightly controlled town of Oak Ridge, Tenn., during the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb during World War II. They thought of … Read more

From This is True for 31 March 2019

Peter B. Kaplan Photographer

A photographer, Kaplan specialized in wildlife until something else caught his attention: the construction of the twin World Trade Center towers in New York City. Despite being afraid of heights as a youngster, in 1979 he accepted the challenge of going to the top of the north tower to photograph the installation of its 447-foot … Read more

From This is True for 24 March 2019

Johnny Thompson Magician’s Magician

As a boy, Thompson saw a movie about a riverboat gambler, and decided he wanted to be a cardsharp and started working on his skills. But “the truth began to dawn that no one wanted to play poker with a 12-year-old cardsharp,” he said later. But he already had developed some skills — especially palming … Read more

From This is True for 17 March 2019

Jerry Merryman The calculating

As a boy, Merryman was interested in electronics, and by age 11 was working in an appliance store, repairing radios. The store had a copy of Frederick Terman’s book Radio Engineering,, which he referred to for 75 years. (Terman taught engineering at Stanford University, and, with William Shockley, is considered the “father” of Silicon Valley.) His … Read more

From This is True for 10 March 2019

Carrie Ann Lucas Champion of the disabled

Diagnosed with central core myopathy, a form of muscular dystrophy that is a progressive neuromuscular disease, Lucas slowly lost most of her sight and hearing — but she didn’t lose her intelligence, or her determination to fight. After college, she obtained her Master’s of Divinity from the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colo., and … Read more

From This is True for 3 March 2019

Fred Foster Record producer

After leaving home for the Big City — Washington D.C. — to be a songwriter, Foster also worked in a record store, and started recording local acts. That led to a job at Mercury Records, and in 1955, he tried to get his boss to sign a new act Foster thought had great potential. His … Read more

From This is True for 24 February 2019

Dick Churchill Escapee

Born in Crediton, Devon, England, in World War II Churchill was the pilot of a Handley Page HP.52 Hampden bomber in the Royal Air Force’s No. 144 Squadron — and, in September 1940, was shot down by fighter planes. He parachuted into the Netherlands, was captured, and sent to Stalag Luft III, a Luftwaffe-run prisoner … Read more

From This is True for 17 February 2019

Ron Hutchinson Film historian

While Hutchinson had a day job as a chemical engineer who worked in environmental health and safety, he’s much better known for his side hobby. In the 1920s and 1930s, Hollywood studios were making the switch from silent films to “talkies” — films with soundtracks. Led by Warner Bros., the predominant technology to have sound … Read more

From This is True for 10 February 2019