Del City’s Ron Mars likes talking about his fighter pilot father a lot.
“He was very proud of his service,” said Mars.
Larry Mars had been a high school valedictorian when he dropped out of college to enlist in the Army Air Corp, two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Ron Mars also brags about the aircraft his father became a decorated fighter pilot in during World War II: the P-38.
“I’d tell people, and they’d say ‘I didn’t know it could do that,'” said Ron Mars.
Ron Mars loves to talk about the capabilities of the two engine fighter aircraft dubbed the Fork Tailed Devil.
Turns out, the military didn’t know all the P-38 could do until pilots like Capt. Larry Mars got into the cockpit.
In 1944, with one engine shot out over Bucharest, Romania, Capt. Larry Mars took out a German fighter plane and flew to safety more than 500 miles away.
“That's one that was significant. Engaging in combat on one engine and the distance he did on one engine was quite remarkable,” said Ron Mars.
The mission earned Larry Mars distinguished medals.
Ron Mars knows the details of many of his dad's 50+ combat missions thanks to a diary his father kept during his time overseas.
“It’s a piece of history. That had to leave an emotional scare of some kind,” said Ron Mars.
The diary, which his dad had almost forgotten about, was rediscovered in the 1970s and Ron Mars was blown away.
“When we were little and thought I was having a bad day, he'd say ‘it could always be worse.' As a kid, you think ‘what does he know?’ but after reading that diary, I thought he knows a bad day,” Ron Mars said.
Admittedly, Ron Mars has some long shot ideas on what the words in the small spiral notebook could become. He’s written to directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.
The Del City man also hopes the diary can one day become a book.
“In the event I don't finish it, I want somebody to pick up the ball and run with it. To me, it’s a treasure,” said Ron Mars.