Monday, May 29, 2017


I'm giving the name "Merrillians" to those women of Toobworld who were played by Dina Merrill and whom I claim all looked alike because they were part of a massive family tree that could trace its lineage to the Mayflower.  And even as the family expanded over the centuries, it could be said that they inspired the future of eugenics with their determination to maintain the highest standards in their selective breeding.  This cabal of aristocratic blue bloods kept a tight control on who could join the greater family to the point that by the early 1920s, there were at least twenty baby girls born who would grow up to look almost exactly alike.

But not all of those "Stepford women" were of the same generation.  Tele-genealogy research has uncovered other "Merrillians" in earlier eras.  There were several back in the late 1800s and even one in the country's colonial period (although she was definitely on the side of the British).

Today we're focusing on a member of what Tom Brokaw dubbed "The Greatest Generation - Patricia Bates.

12 O'Clock High
- Which Way the Wind Blows

Capt. Patricia Bates
Weather plays havoc with the 918th in their attempts to disrupt German naval operations based in Hamburg, forcing multiple aborts and reducing accuracy even when they can glimpse the target through overcast skies. Badly needed help arrives in the form of a meteorologist from the States with the expertise to more accurately predict weather conditions at the target. As it turns out, the meteorologist turns out to be a rather attractive woman. The combination of Gallagher's views of the weather as an enemy, his sexist condescension to her despite her abilities, and his overactive libido, threaten to undermine her efforts. Her panicked reaction to air combat doesn't help matters much either.

Captain Bates looked younger than she really was, but she had the years behind her expertise.  Patricia Bates was born around the turn of the 20th Century and she had risen in her profession to become a professor of meteorological studies at UIT.  When the war broke out, she volunteered her expertise as the patriotic thing to do.  After all, a mastery of weather prognostication was vital for plotting out the aerial attacks from Archbury and then over the Channel and into Germany.

But in her first combat experience, Captain Bates panicked when her assistant was shot and the plane had to make a belly landing when the wheels failed to lower.  And even though her assistant was expected to survive, Patricia Bates made a half-hearted attempt at going AWOL.  However, once she learned that Colonel Gallagher had tried to keep her from going up again on another weather reconnoitering mission, she screwed up her courage and told him off because she knew the lives of the men depended on her.

So she went up on the mission using a plane that wasn't equipped for her experiments.  Even so, she asked her pilot to fly right into the storm cloud that they were studying.  The turmoil within that cloud was so turbulent it almost caused them to crash but they came out unharmed on the other side.  However, they had to put down in the ocean and escape on two life rafts because they had gone far beyond the point of no return.

Once they were rescued, Captain Bates transferred to a desk job in London where she could continue her research in order to help the war effort.  And it is assumed that she carried out a torrid relationship with Joe Gallagher through the end of the war.  (One of the biggest complaints I've seen about the episode has been the Colonel's inappropriate behavior with regards to a junior officer, even if they were reciprocated.

As she was in her forties, Patricia Bates was old enough to have been the mother of any of those other "Merrillians" but it is unknown from that episode if she had ever been married before (not that it would have been necessary of course) or if she had ever given birth.  Who knows?  Maybe her affair with Gallagher might have led to an unexpected "troop deployment".

At any rate, we salute the memory of Patricia Bates, university professor and captain in the Air Force.  I can't say with certainty that she survived the war nor what happened to her afterwards, but I think she must have passed away by the mid-1990s.

Because of her service to her country, I hope her life in Toobworld was happy......

My televersion would have thanked her for her service.  And here in the real world, I'm thankful for all the men and women who served in their own ways to protect our way of life.

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