For Veterans Day, Silverthorne resident and WWII fighter pilot Boot Gordon recalls his service to his country
November 10, 2018
Tell Stuart "Boot" Gordon to slow down. We dare you.
The 95-year-old Silverthorne resident and World War II veteran is still at it. He is planning expansions to his famous "Foam Dome" castle on the Blue River in Silverthorne, writing books, creating entirely new systems of art, architecture, government, social structures and economy. Within the nonagenarian's aging body, an ever-hungry and restless mind will never stop racing forward.
It's that ceaseless drive that made Boot a great fighter pilot. He flew every fighter in the American World War II arsenal while in the Pacific theater — the P-38 Lightning, the P-39 Airacobra, the P-47 Thunderbolt, the legendary P-51 Mustang and his favorite, the P-63 Kingcobra. Boot has models of all the planes sitting on a display in his cornerless seven-bedroom foam home that he built back in 1971.
Boot got his name from his first near-death experience in the war while training in a PT-19 in Sikeston, Missouri. He was practicing spins when the training plane went into an unrecoverable flat spin, 5,000 feet above hard dirt and farmland. What's more, he was upside down.
Back in those days, airplanes did not have fancy ejection systems — just a glass canopy and a leather harness separated Boot from the plummet below. Boot opened the canopy, unbuckled the belts keeping him strapped in … and fell out.
In a freefall, Boot waited to get clear of the plane as it continued spinning to the ground. When the time seemed right, Boot pulled the ripcord on his parachute, but nothing happened. He waited, and pulled, and waited, and pulled, but nothing was happening. That's when Boot said he found some divine inspiration.
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"I don't know if God was my copilot, but a little voice told me right away to pull it, and to pull it hard," Boot said. "And then 'Boom!,' it opened."
But because of the velocity Boot had reached by the time the parachute opened, the chute whiplash yanked him so hard that both of his boots flew off. When he landed, he was barefoot and managed to make his way back to camp. A farmer working the fields under his plane retrieved the boots back for him, and from then on his squadmates called him "Boots." Nowadays, though, he just goes by Boot, to avoid confusion.
By the time Boot joined his squadron — the 70th squadron in the Thirteenth Air Force — it was 1945 and the Allies were trying to push the Japanese back onto the mainland and off the Pacific islands they could have used to invade Australia. Before he arrived, the 70th had become famous for being the squad that shot down the plane carrying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, imperial Japan's commander in chief who was the mastermind behind Pearl Harbor.
Taking part in MacArthur's New Guinea campaign at the end of the war, Boot was part of the support ensuring skies were clear of enemy bogies and the ground clear of enemy nests. Boot and his squadron took part in long missions that took them on round trips from the Philippines to Borneo. Boot said it was easy work compared to what the infantry on the ground would be facing had the islands not been cleared of the enemy, who had dug in and built tunnels and hidden bunkers up and down the island chain.
"The Japanese fought to the very last man," Boot said. "A lot of people died over there, taking those islands."
When Japan signed its unconditional surrender after atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Boot's World War II campaign ended.
However, nine years, a wife and three kids later, the country called for him to serve again in the Korean War. But Boot had put in his time and decided someone else should do the fighting. He stayed behind, protecting the homefront in Minneapolis as part of the Air Defense Command. After being discharged, Boot got his master's degree in education and taught English and history as a school teacher.
After decades hopping around the country and the world, during which time he also worked as a ski instructor and in construction, Boot decided to build his literal dream home in Silverthorne. Boot said he has "3D vision," meaning his spatial awareness is so vast he can create entire structures in his mind before setting it down on paper. Every detail of the Foam Dome he lives in was meticulously planned in his head long before he got around to building it. It was constructed out of rebar, polyurethane and concrete, and he has implemented his architectural ideas on homes elsewhere.
Boot still plans to make a few new additions to his sprawling estate, including a new multi-level building with a single apartment on top he can live in while the tenants he rents his bedrooms out to stay in the main building.
As far as what Veterans Day means to him, Boot said it's important to remember their sacrifice, but doesn't want people to forget the reasons for it.
"When people say 'thank you for your service,' I thank them as well, but also tell them to stop having all these wars," Boot said. "All these young men keep dying for contrived, unnecessary wars."
Boot said he's grown unhappy with the military and the government after decades of wars meant to enrich the military industrial complex, but is still hopeful about the future, which he sees to be much brighter thanks to cosmic forces most of us fail to understand.
"The good news is that I think the world is changing for the better, and it's maybe not so much because of us, but because of vibrations from the center of the galaxy, high vibrations bringing love to the world," Boot said. "In a few years, I see a whole world where we cooperate and harmonize and love, and not a world of lies and wars."