Terrific stories! Buddy's contribution takes us directly to where the action was. Your father must have been an amazing pilot to survive all the missions he flew and to do what had to be done.
My contribution isn’t the least bit riveting, but would like to commit it to pixels, anyway. My great uncle who is 99 years old got special permission to enlist in the Marines in his thirties during WWII- he had to pull strings but knew where to tug. He was the oldest person to successfully complete Marine boot camp at the time. Since he had a good career as a newspaper editor and journalist before signing up, the Marines made him an officer and had him “write” for the cause while he was actually engaged in surveillance and getting intell. He served in the South Seas the year his son and only child was born. My aunt had a wonderful year with her baby while worrying about Uncle John overseas and supporting every Marine she knew and then some. Their family physician and close personal friend waited until Uncle John came home on leave to tell him and his wife that their beloved one year-old was severely retarded.
Uncle John ended up staying in the Marines and to this day has ramrod posture. My aunt spearheaded efforts to better our understanding of Down Syndrome, and for years she sponsored an annual celebrity charity softball game in CA to raise funds for retarded children. She was a wicked good pitcher and a lovely lady.
2:28 PM, November 11, 2006
Buddy Larsen said...
"Share a story"
This is from my dad's POW diary, written sometime in 1944, by navigator (and fellow POW) James Fallon, in Stalag Luft 1, about their B-17E "Mr. Five-by-Five" and its final mission, to bomb the Messershmidt factories @ Regensberg in Feb 1944 (the last day of "Big Week". It was the crew's 13th mission, tho the plane itself was the squadron's oldest, with 49 missions. All the following is my copy 'as is' from Lt Fallon's handwritten poem, the 'pilot' he refers to is my dad, Jack K Larsen from Eagle Lake, Texas, 23 yrs old at the time, RIP as of 1986:
Old Five-by-Five, (the story of my ship)
Lads and lassies gather 'round
and if you promise to make nary a sound,
I'll tell you a tale that's sad to relate
about a long and graceful crate
with a tail that stood near ten feet tall
and guns that spat death from turret to ball.
Twas a fine and gallant ship,
with plenty of courage and beaucoup zip,
dodging thru flack and fighters too,
doing her best to protect her crew.
For time after time we limped home alive
due to the courage of old Five-by-Five.
Yes Five-by-Five was said to be old,
for 49 times she had braved the cold,
dropping her bombs on foreign soil
then winging her way did homeward toil.
Laugh, yes laugh, you young and bold, for 5 by 5 was getting old.
Her days were numbered, that we knew,
but we took no heed--we her crew.
Well I remember that final day
as we soared over Germany wending our way,
bent on the destruction of an aircraft plant.
Twas then that I heard a sputter and pant: "Feather #2" was the pilot's yell.
Nothing to worry about, all will be well,
for 5 by 5 had been in trouble before,
and had always come thru with colors galore.
Look! The group is beginning to climb!
They certainly picked one hell of a time!
Up and up, will they never stop,
listen to those damn engines pop.
Ahh, they're levelling out it appears
but what I heard next augmented my fears.
For old 5 by 5 had been trying too hard
and her engines began to slowly retard.
Yes, another engine was running away,
our ship began to rock and sway,
"Feather #3" was the pilot's yell,
the fix we were in is hard to retell.
That we lost the formation is only too true,
for our engines totaled the sum of two.
Fighters were sighted at six o'clock, old 5 by 5 tottered and rocked,
beset by fighters that numbered three,
the gallant ship struggled to get free.
But age and missions had taken their toll,
and 5 by 5 never reached her goal.
Over 120 her speed wouldn't go, the altimeter reading was much too low.
So out bailed the crew, and left her free,
riddled with bullets and on AFCE.
As slowly we drifted to the terrain below,
our spirits at the time were mighty low.
For the mighty majestic lord of the sky
was swiftly descending to the earth to die.
But even in her final and fatal dive,
a target was hit by 5 by 5.
She did her job and did it well,
old 5 by 5 we still think you're swell.
DEDICATED TO ALL FALLEN COMRADES
We will always remember Just a common Soldier
He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast
And he sat around the Legion telling stories of the past.
Of a war he had fought in and the deeds that he had done
In his exploits with his buddies: they were heroes, every one.
And though sometimes to his neighbours, his tales became a joke.
All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we'll hear his tales no longer, for old Bill has passed away
And the world's a littler poorer, for a soldier died today.
He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
And the world won't note his passing, though a soldier died today.
When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell their whole life stories from the times that they were young.
But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land,
A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?
A politician's stipend and the style in which he lives,
Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and, perhaps, a pension small.
It's so easy to forget them, for it was so long ago,
That the old "Bills" or our Country went to battle, but we know
It was not the politician, with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.
Should you find yourself in danger with your enemies at hand,
Would you want a politician with her ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a soldier who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?
He is just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his life again.
For when Countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier's part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honour while he's here to hear the praise
Then at least let's give homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
Our country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.