Sunday, June 15, 2014

Our WWII Fathers

Father's Days and Veteran's Days find most of us with only fond memories of our fathers. A touching thing began to develop recently on Facebook as first one then another of our classmates began to post pictures of their fathers. Several of them posted pictures of their dads in their WWII uniforms.

It happens that the WWII Army Air Force has been a topic I've delved deeply into over the past few years. Except in general terms, many people, including me, had little idea what our fathers did during the war. A lot of them were front line warriors, others were in support functions, still others served in stateside billets. All of them did their parts to preserve our country for us and our children.

I hope you will choose to participate in this ongoing project to add your father's picture to the collages that I hope grow from this small start.  Classes of 1960-65 welcome.

Send me a picture of your Dad in uniform and I will be pleased to add it to the collection posted here.

This modest blog has had over 138,000 views and gets about 100-200 new views each day. Not bad for a bunch of computer illiterate old duffers, eh?  SEND 'EM IN.

July 2011 update: My father was one of those young men who flew in the bombers high in the skies over Europe during WWII. During the early months of the war the young airmen were shot out of the sky in such alarming numbers that the bombing missions were entirely halted for some weeks while the brass scrambled to figure out how to combat the deadly effectiveness of Hitler’s Luftwaffe. As the Air Force was strengthened, the Luftwaffe was effectively neutered by Spring 1944. After that, it could only mount vigorous defensive attacks on infrequent occasions. The danger to the airmen increasingly came from the deadly accurate anti-aircraft guns on the ground…flak.

Dad’s diary provides an interesting account of his experiences aloft during 1944-45. Wording in his diary was purposely frugal. He never showed it to me nor talked much about his war experiences. Only in recent years have I been able to learn quite a bit of what he saw, but never told…it was frightening. His diary, that of a 21-year old, showed a degree of youthful excitement during his first tour, Spring 1944; but, his second tour, which ended in early March 1945, was clearly less eventful. The war was winding down.

Recently, a pair of pictures were posted to an account of a late March 1945, mid-air collision over Germany, near Koblenz. The pictures were far more detailed than any I had ever seen before. One of the difficult things for an airman to tell and a layman to understand is the stark terror and grinding fear that accompanied most of our young WWII Army Air Force aviators flying in the ETO. The picture posted below shows the 2 bombers plunging to earth a few moments after their collision. Pictures like this are very rare and this one tells the story my father and so many of his fellows couldn't.

Ten young men are still in each of the planes. Two will survive, eighteen will die. One man got out in time to open his parachute about 400-feet above the ground. The other, a ball-turret gunner, fell to earth unable to get out of his turret…and he survived! When this collision occurred, Dad was en-route home, his second-tour missions completed, his part in the war, done….

June 2014 Update:  Added new photos.

Bail out, Jimmy.  Are there any chutes?


Alice Kaffek said...

As I come across each section for the first time, I am more and more aware of the time you have put into this endeavor...thank you so much...I love going back through the faces and memories.
As my daughter went to her 20th reunion this weekend I found myself getting quite nostalgic and a bit jealous, but don't tell anyone.
Alice Bretz Kaffel

Gus said...

Thanks for noticing, Alice. I intended it to be not only a nostalgia trip for us, but also something of a living history for our offspring and theirs. We've lived through some very interesting times and we are the last people who will be able to tell of our parents from a first-hand perspective. Gus

Anonymous said...

Lke Alice I appreciate your efforts reminding us where we came from. TONY

Gus said...

Thanks, Tony. It's been my pleasure to share some of my recollections. Although life has taken most of us on an interesting journey, those few years at EH held a special significance I've never forgotten.

Anonymous said...

"GUS" asked me to post this: My dad, Grant Begley, was in the Army while he was at Tulane in medical school and residency. The war ended before he finished his training. He served 2 years active duty at Ft. Hood and Pine Bluff, AK as a medical officer. Perhaps the greatest hardship was fitting our new family into an Airstream camper with a snow fence around it to keep me in, while my brother slept in a dresser drawer. Post-war housing was hard to come by!
Susan B. Anderson

Gus said...

Welcome, Susan…of course we were too young to recall the substantial post-WWII hardships, but I was told that I also spent a fair number of my early nights sleeping in a dresser-drawer. One favorite story my mother liked to tell was of the 1500-mile DC-3 flight from San Francisco, home to Dallas to show me off as a new-born to her parents. Dad was in school then and I slept most of the tortuous trip on a pillow in her lap...never mind that seat belt business. And fancy infant carriers were utterly unknown then. Gus

Sherri Sledge Pulliam said...

Gus, I agree with Alice. You have spent an incredible amount of time and energy in making this the most interesting blog and a great historical timeline of our years in elementary, junior high and EHHS. It's a real treasure. Thank you!

I love seeing the handsome faces of some of our fathers...from the greatest generation (particularly loved seeing Clark Gable:-)

Gus said...

Hi Sherri, Our fathers had a significant influence on who we were to become. Since our early 1960s classes had fathers that both served and were older in WWII, thus staying stateside, we were subject to widely differing kinds of parenting. I've thought that this project would not only recognize and pay tribute to our warrior Dads, it could tell us a little more about ourselves and those we knew during our formative years. Anyone is free to ponder and draw their own conclusions about that.