Two of my uncles fought in WWII. One was a bombardier. He and his crew mates were shot down over Occupied France– it was their second plane, The Beast. Their first plane, I believe it was the Moonbeam Mcswine, got all shot up but managed to limp back to England where it crash landed. The original navigator was killed. In the second crash, all but the pilot survived. The pilot resisted. He was shot in the head by the Germans. The remaining crew members were transported to a POW camp in Germany. My uncle spent two years there. He weighed 90 pounds when the camp was liberated by the Russians. He said the first thing the men did when liberated was run wild over the countryside. Someone shot a cow. The men grilled it over an open fire. They’d starved for two years, surviving off the maggots on rotting potato skins. He wrote in his diary that the cow tasted like heaven.
Another uncle was a tail gunner. He was shot in the face, yet still managed to fly the plane back to England after the pilot and co-pilot were killed. He always wore a beard to cover his scars. (Had what he called a steel jaw.)
Takes big cojones.
My dad was just a youngster at the start of WWII. But he enlisted as soon as he could – 1945, a month before the war in the Pacific came to an end. He was grateful for Truman because, as he says, he and every man in his boot camp knew if they had to invade Japan they would all die. But my father wouldn’t have been part of the invasion anyway. He was so dang smart and scored so high on tests he was sent to the CIC- the Counter Intelligence Corps. Besides, he spoke German.
To this day I don’t know what he learned there. His standard line is, “If I tell you I’ll have to kill you.”
But he didn’t want to go overseas. He missed his mother’s cooking. (Which is pretty funny since he hated her cooking.) When his two years were up, he came home.
My two uncles are dead. My dad is, happily, alive, healthy and happy. And so busy he barely has time to talk.
My gratitude to that generation knows no bounds. These were just regular guys who morphed into hero guys. They had no choice. We are free (even to be idiots) because of them.
Because it’s Memorial Day, and because I had acupuncture this morning and my knee isn’t all that bad today, I started removing the old lead paint from an antique door.
That door will be my canvas. I have big plans…