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Thursday, April 15, 2010

One Long Dark Night

My father has rarely talked of his experiences as a sergeant in the Air Force during during World War II. He was stationed in New Guinea and the Philippines. When I was young he told us of a few humorous incidents, but nothing that ever even hinted at the horrors of war. For instance, once he was assigned to fly on a plane to Australia to pick up musicians and supplies. On the return trip, one of the plane's engines died and to make it back safely those inside had to lighten the load--part of which was gin. Did the men on board get toss the gin into the ocean? Of course not. They tossed out the musicians' instruments.

This story always made everyone laugh, and Dad has always been rather witty. However, since Mom died, he's become much more philosophical. And he still gets emotionally choked up--over just about everything.

Last Sunday, as we chatted after dinner, he related some war stories he had never told us. In one of them, he told how Japanese paratroopers floated down from the sky at dusk one evening on the island where he was stationed. My father set his men along a perimeter but as night wore on, he could not see the men and he did not know if the perimeter would hold.

He told us he was never so glad to see the dawn and to discover that indeed his men were still there. Dad got choked up as he told us the story.

Dad told us how he slept under a canvas roof for three years. How his job was to get men to work on an landing strip made of metal plates. How the enemy would come in with "daisy cutters" and shoot at the men. How the enemy planes would drop bombs on the landing strip.

Last year, I posted a photo I found online of my father. You can find the post here.

Dad wears a cap with the emblem of the Fifth Bomber Command sewed onto it. Most people have no idea what the emblem stands for. However, only a few weeks ago--at the dermatologist's office--we met another elderly man who had served in the Fifth, though in Korea. My father got choked up again, simply amazed after all these years he had found someone else who belonged to the Fifth--who knew what the emblem stood for.

I am glad my father made it back to New Jersey.

I pray for all those soldiers who are fighting now.

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