Tuesday, March 29, 2005

I met another "piece" of history

Yesterday, I had we had to run out and do some repairs and pick up somethings to be refurbished. The owner was an elderly gentleman, and I noticed a stack of Kit Plane magazines on a table in the house. I asked if he had flown them and he tolds me, no, he didn't but he liked flying and figured that was the only kind of plane he could afford. He then volunteered he had once flown in the Army, many years ago. I sked what he had flown, and he told me he had flown C-47s and gliders. Well, not only was he just an Army Air Corps pilot, he had flown on D-Day. We didn't have much time there, but he showed me a few pictures of himself and his co-pilot, then and now at a reunion, and told me he did some public speaking to tell the story of what the gliders did, so the history wouldn't be lost. I let him know I'd enjoy attending next time he did that. They are all around us, the men and women, who were once youngand left home to fight the wars of our past. Sometimes we don't get the chance to find out that the person we are talking to was one of them. About a year ago, I was in line at the groocery store and the man behind me quipped "hurry up and wait." I asked what service he had been in and he said "I was in the Air Force, but they called it the Army Air Corps back then." We then struck up a conversation, and found out he had been a B-17 bombadier in Europe, with 27 missions to his credit. The humbling thing was to hear this man, very matter of factly say, he didn't have it bad, that his friend, who had been with Merrill's Marauders in the Pacific, living behind the Japanese lines, and eating what they could scrounge of the land. were the one who had is bad. He said the raids over germany were only about 30 minutes of combat, the rest of the time was just getting there, and getting back, usually pretty uneventful. A few weeks back, a man come into the office and we bagen atlking and he had been a soldier in the Okinawa invasion and later landed in Japan and was part of the occupying force. We discussed that briefly, but then he got into telling some of the real stories of what soldiers do when they are not fighting, which generally involved "borrowing" government equipment to better one's own unit's standard of living. He also talked at length about how a few of them realized how they could execute a sort of money laundering thing by trading the military script fo Yne and then to dollars and make some exceedingly high return on their meager pay, unitl the people up the line realized the loop hole and closed it off. He calimed to have come home with a pretty good bit of money in the bottom of his barraks bag, hidden under his uniform items. I asked him how it had been in Japan as far as violence. He said in the first area they were sent, they had no problems. He recalled marching into one town and the Japanese police were at the intersections, saluting the units. There were no people on the streets, but sometimes, you'd see one of their doors cracked open, with a few sets of eyes peering out. The second place he was in initially had some problems and the order went out to turn in all weapons in three days, and after that, if you were caught with a weapon, you would be executed. He said the mountains of weaponry was incredible. rifles, swords, knifes of all eras were brought forward. Each of the soldiers were allowed to pick out one rifle, one sword and one knife to take home. Many of the swords he said were old family heirloom samurai swords. He had brought them home and given them to his brother. Anyhow, those are some first person stories, you generally won't find in the press, but it's even better when it's living history to me.

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