A. Wissler - El Comodoro en el TrenThursday, May 19, 2016
Nora and I, after a wonderful afternoon at the Recoleta Cemetery, boarded our train of the Línea Ferrocarril San Martín at Retiro Station. We found a seat and this is a rare situation as the train is usually quite full. In front of us was a man in uniform. He was very serious and perhaps more so because of his moustache. I spotted a little wing button on his dark blue jacket. I mulled this in my mind.
As soon as we were underway I decided to satisfy my curiosity and ask him a few questions. My first one was “What rank are you?” I was most surprised when he answered, “Soy comodoro,” as this is equivalent to Colonel. I had never seen such a high ranking officer on a train before.
Since the 70s with all the terrible military governments that “disappeared” people into oblivion, and the mess that the Falklands war was for the country, the military presence on the street is just about invisible. Between 1985 and 1995 President Carlos Menem abolished conscription so you do not see uniformed sailors or soldiers anywhere.
My guess is that the Commodore was headed for the station of El Palomar outside Buenos Aires, in the Province of Buenos Aires. There is a Argentine Air Force Base there.
After my questions Commodore A. Wissler smiled at me and said, “¡Un Comodoro en el tren!” From that point we chatted for close to 40 minutes. We talked about the Argentine Air Force. He told me he had been a young boy in a poor family in the state of Jujuy. The only way he could get a good education was to join the armed forces. He told me he was an electronic engineer based downtown but that he had purchased a little house not far from the Palomar Air Base.
We talked about the beautiful (obsolete, still the principal fighter of the Argentine Airforce, but with advanced avionics installed in Texas) of the A4Ar ( Lockheed Martin A-4AR Fightinghawk). This peaked my interest.
In the mid 60s when I was a conscript of the Argentine Navy but seconded to the office of the Senior US Naval Advisor, Captain USN Onofrio Salvia, I had to translate from English into Spanish the maintenance and operating manuals of recently purchased A-4 Sykhawks. I became most familiar as I was given a tour of the then almost new airplanes and shown the cockpit so I could translate stuff.
During the Falklands War I remember watching on TV here in Vancouver a horizon in which an A-4 (of the Argentine Air Force as both the navy and the airforce had the same plane) was streaking from left to right. In the middle of the screen it puffed and exploded. I was most upset (and I have to admit not too much so about the professional air force pilot in control) about the loss of an airplane that I considered mine!
Such was the intricacy and intimacy of our conversation that other passengers contributed and the whole rail car was listening.
When he got off at El Palomar I realized how quickly the time had run and soon after Nora Patrich and I arrived at the Bella Vista Station.