Just Me

Just Me
Look,I'm just sayin'

Friday, August 26, 2016

Old men and young memories

 So I went to the reunion yesterday and it was great. I met some wonderful, like minded people. The greatest thrill to me was shaking the hands of those veterans that had been in the war with my dad. There were four of them in attendance. A Mr. Jim Eide was sitting at the same table as I. That man was a nose gunner and flew in the same squadron as my father, the 65th, which he assured me was the best one ! The other vets were in the same Bombardment group, the 43rd. All were in the fifth Army. In case you don't know the air force was still a part of the army back then. The Army Air Corp as it was called. The rest of us were children and grandchildren.
 I did get a chance to speak with the other veterans . We must remember these men are all in their nineties now. The looked at my pictures with much interest. I did notice how they too stared at those images, those unnamed faces I had hoped to identify. Sadly, they recalled none of them. I could see in their eyes that spark of memory that never dies, the memory of a bond. Strangely when I got home I looked at an old group photograph of my graduating class from Machinists Mate " A " school. Taken at Great Lakes Ill in February of 1972 I could not put a name to a single face, except my own. I looked at it closely, I did remember some of the faces but no names. For some I got a sense of the person, whether I liked or disliked that person. It is a strange feeling. Of course, we were just going to school , not engaged in war.
 I was asked to send my pictures and other memorabilia to George Mason University for scanning. This university has an extremely high resolution scanner and is documenting everything associated with the war in the Pacific. It is a mission. When we think of world war two we just naturally associate it with the European campaigns. Nazi Germany and all that. The documentation of the Pacific campaigns are much fewer and contain much less information. Also in 1947 there was a fire that destroyed the service records of many of these veterans. George Mason is also collecting any information in that regard. I had scanned my pictures and some artifacts and gave them to the president of the reunion committee. The resolution is not good enough for inclusion. I would like to share everything but hesitate to mail these items off. Should they get lost in the mail or they are not returned, well, you know what I mean. So that is something I will have to give thought too. To my surprise some of my photographs have monetary value to collectors. I am not interested in selling anything but when something has monetary value the likelihood of a disappearance is greater. Not saying anyone would cheat me, just saying.
 All in all I had a pleasant few hours with this group. Most are far more involved than I have any interest to be. I admire their tenacity in locating and preserving everything and anything they can. I was informed that they even have their own website dedicated to the 65th squadron. This squadron had four groups. My interest lies with what my dad did  and the missions he flew. Mr Eide told me he flew 53 missions. Another gentleman had flown 56. They all recognized some of the B-24 bombers that I had pictures of, and had flown in some them. I will stay in touch with these folks as long as my interest holds. At the end of the meeting each Veteran read the names of those that had passed since last years' meeting. It was a solemn recognition. A prayer was offered. Following that a lady began to sing. She sang God Bless America in the wavering voice of the elderly. It was beautifully done and she invited everyone to join in. As I joined in I couldn't help but think, how many young people today would even know the words.
 I left satisfied. That is all I can say about the experience. It was a rather bittersweet thing. I could see the sadness in those Vets eyes when speaking of those that are gone. I could see the pride in their eyes as well. Old men with young memories. I'm not that old just yet, but believe I can understand just a bit. They were all young men back then. The war ended seventy one years ago ! In their minds it isn't that long ago. They still fly through that hostile air in memory. I know my own Dad did  and seldom spoke of it. For these men enough time has passed and they are willing to talk. I saw some of the swagger they surely carried in their youth, these pilots, bombardiers and a nose gunner. The old bravado on display one more time. I salute these men, their brethren and all who served. God Bless them all.

Mr Jim Eide

A pilot

The gentleman to the left was also a pilot. The man to the far right is the son of the pilot in the center.