On Christmas Eve this past year, 2017, my Mom passed away. It was a very sad and tragic event. In April of '14 my Dad passed away. (also very sad,
but not nearly as difficult). My mom was 93 when she passed and my dad was a couple weeks shy of 90 when he passed.
My Dad and I were very close. He had served in the Army Air Corps during WWII in B-17's in Europe. 381st Heavy Bombardment Group, 533rd squadron,
stationed in Ridgewell, England. I've always been a historian of WWII and particularly of the 8th Army Air Force (381st). These were the guys who
really took the brunt of the Luftwaffe and suffered nearly 100% losses for many years. In fact, my father was the only person to survive from his
original training group, the only one. He served 3 tours and nearly 88 missions...which is almost unheard of, more than three times the limit of (25)
missions to go home.
I was blessed to be his son and even more blessed to have the benefit of him willing to talk about some of the things he did (many are not so
willing). The stories I could tell are nearly endless. But sometimes 'stories' are just stories and you're not sure what to believe. Dad had a lot
of proof though. He told stories about being shot down three times, once behind enemy lines in occupied France. Crash landed on an alternate
airfield in France and had a big shootout with the German SS. But then had a Bellholla 32 caliber pistol captured off of an SS officer to prove it.
As a younger guy and a historian, some of these stories were just unimaginable...almost too hard to believe. I'd seen many of the medals, and I'd
heard the stories, but still, even though Dad was my "hero", I still wondered how much embellishment and historical waxing there was on some of these
As I noted, on Christmas Eve my Mom passed away. My sisters and I recently went to MI to clean up my parents estate. In so doing we discovered an
old steamer trunk (my Mom kept everything). Inside that trunk was a scrapbook I'd never seen. In fact, I'm not sure anyone in my living family had
ever seen this scrapbook. It was a pictorial history which .... DEFIED IMAGINATION!!
None of us had ever seen this book before, we didn't even know it existed!!
Every single thing was documented with pictures, letters, telegrams, war department commendations, letters from other families...everything.
Absolutely priceless. I was in absolute tears in the first 30 pages of this monstrous volume of history.
There was letters from Dad to his parents about bailing out over Germany, about how scared he was, about how his biggest worry even before his
parachute opened about how may other crew members parachutes he could see as he fell through the sky. It's just unbelievable (I cry even as I write
this). There are letters from other crew members parents to his parents asking about their son, knowing they were shot down and likely taken prisoner
in Germany. All they wanted to know was if they'd heard from my Dad...and if their son was even alive...they didn't care if he'd been taken prisoner
even. (The whole thing, It's just that crushing...it's unbelievable!). All the medals I thought I'd seen, the ones Dad was proud of paled in
comparison to the medals which are pasted into this book (the actual medals). All the ribbons and insignias, all the ranks and promotions. I just had
NO idea. I knew he was a hero, but he was my hero, he was my Dad...I never knew he was a freaking LEGEND. I just never knew.
Every training certificate, all originals, every single correspondence. Every pass, every communication and every order. There's even French money
from when they were rescued by the French underground. It's just unbelievable!
There are full sized (folded) bomb-sight pictures of bombing raids with impacts over Schweinfurt and Berlin, some of the most devastating and tragic
bombing runs which ever took place during WWII. There are pictures of bombing runs on D-Day. It's just unimaginable! I'm in total shock!! Pictures
of the shot up planes (in flight) he always talked about...all of it...it's all there. This "scrap-book" is absolutely priceless! It is a history
like nothing I've ever seen before...and it's all real.
Folks, I can't even begin to articulate what I have just seen. It is the most staggering historical volume of one man's experience in one of the most
terrifying wars imaginable. I'm honestly not even sure what to do now. I've never seen anything like this anywhere! I think I may have to contact a
museum like the Smithsonian, it's just this incredible.
I just had no idea!
I am just stunned beyond words
edit on 4/12/2018 by Flyingclaydisk because: (no reason given)