Posts tagged ‘World War II’

THE READING WORLD WAR II WEEKEND

The World War II weekend at the Reading Airport is now history.  A short time ago I posted a piece describing the event and providing the date.  Along with the information I included my first published short story centered on that weekend event.

After working the mornings of all three days of the event this year, I would like to share some observations.

We had quite a few veterans of that war, along with more recent wars, in attendance.   I watched the World War II veterans, mostly in wheelchairs or supported by walkers, make their way through the gate to relive their youth.  Although there was one spry 94 year old, who could have passed for 70, come to enjoy the show and I’m sure relive a time long gone.  I tried to imagine what life was like when they were young men, in a foreign country, facing death any day.  And what life must have been like for the civilians.  In this day and age, could we muster the dedication on the scale to defeat the evil foe of that era?

These gallant men, participants belonging to the great greatest generation, rapidly dwindling, need to reveal their experiences.   If you know a participant of that war, gently try to persuade them to talk of their experiences.  Some are just waiting for someone to ask.

Also, if you know someone who lived during that era on the home front, ask them to share their experiences during that stressful time.

Their history needs to be preserved while we can still touch it.     

 

June 6, 2016 at 8:28 pm Leave a comment

SUICIDE BOMBERS: WHY DO THEY EXIST?

As predicted, here I go off subject, but current events force me to speak.

I’ve been considering this piece for some time.  The recent outrage in Paris has spurred me on to put pencil to paper and fingers to keyboard.

My thinking on this article began by considering the Japanese kamikaze pilot, of course, the current wave of suicide bombers followed.  The Japanese were also known for their fanatical charges with little hope of success.  I’m a World War II nut and am fairly certain I relate facts.  The Japanese culture, at that time, was that suicide was preferred rather than accept defeat.  That is why, with the dropping of the atomic bombs, lives on both sides were saved.

On a side note, I once read an article about the birth of the Japanese kamikaze idea.  The concept was suggested by a Japanese soldier.  I don’t remember if he was a pilot, but probably was.  Then, during the 1990’s, someone recognized this same individual sitting on a park bench.  Apparently the suggestion of self-sacrifice was not followed by action.  I mention this, for I feel the idea of self-destruction is instilled in the weak with no future, and through manipulation, no choice.

I remember learning that during World War II, the American public could not understand or relate to the concept of an organized approach to suicide.  In war, heroics cost the soldier his life when their backs are against the wall.  But the concept of voluntarily committing suicide, to make a point is not present in our thinking.   However, that attitude, in some societies and political groups exists today.  We have become numbed by the almost daily report of suicide bombers doing their deed somewhere in the world.

We are now confronted with a world where men, women and even children are sent to their deaths.  Manipulated to take their lives by those with an agenda of hate masked by religion.

I thought about this topic a great deal, as I’m sure many of us have.  How could an individual’s world, with no threat immediately present, be hopeless enough to choose to leave it?  How cheap is the value of a human life to those who have an agenda requiring the spread of terror?

 

December 2, 2015 at 8:27 pm Leave a comment

A FADING GENERATION

For the last twelve years, or so, I have volunteered to work admissions for World War II weekend, held the first weekend of June by the Mid Atlantic Air Museum located in Reading, Pennsylvania. This year, it was held on June 5, 6 and 7th. I would like to share some of the special moments I experienced that weekend and which I will never forget.

First, I want to set the scene.

Picture this, fighters and bombers from both the navy and army air force, most more than 70 years old and representing the aircraft this country used to win the war. Among the bombers there was Fifi, the only flying B-29 in the world, along with a B-24, B-17 and multiple B-25s. I know to many, these designations are meaningless. But to students of history and those who share a passion for WWII aircraft, these titles have meaning. I won’t go on to name all the fighters, but all told, there were about 80 aircraft present. During the show, troop encampments were also present with more than 1000 reenactors and over 100 authentic military vehicles from that period. Represented were units from the American army, navy and marines. There were also British, German, Japanese, and French resistance reenactors. On occasion, I would also see uniforms I could not place, especially one lad dressing in brown with a huge black feather sprouting from his pith helmet.

What I enjoy most since I began volunteering has been meeting and talking to the veterans of that war. Ten years ago most walked in, now most are wheeled in by family members, but they still come. You can see the anticipation in their eyes as they enter the gates, a chance to relive their ‘glory days’. What I found special this year as I worked the gate were people who showed up with an extra ticket, and would say, “Give this to the next veteran you see.” This happened several times, and when the tickets were presented, usually to a wheelchair-bound former soldier, you could see the gratitude of someone’s generosity, and also, the appreciation for the recognition of their service.

For me, another special encounter was when I talked to a reenactor. I don’t know what unit he represented, though I think it was a marine outfit. He told me he had learned something of the hardships and sacrifices the men he now acted as endured. Here was a man, not even 40, telling me that knowledge brought tears to his eyes.

Honoring and remembering our history, the importance cannot be overrated.

June 9, 2015 at 7:16 pm Leave a comment

MEMOIR: PRESERVING YOUR PERSONAL HISTORY

 

While thinking about and writing my memoir, I have come to the realization it is to share our history with our families, to put down the words of our lives. Our lives, to varying degrees, help form the world around us be that world distant or immediate.

As a youth of perhaps ten, I recall sitting in our backyard one summer day when our neighbor came out. The couple living next door was an elderly Polish couple. The husband rarely left the flat, so seeing him outside was a rarity. While he stood there, much to my surprise, he began talking about World War I, how he recalled airplanes flying overhead. With my love for aircraft, I was immediately enthralled. If I had been thinking, I should have sought every memory he had of the war. I never knew if he served during the conflict, and if he did, on which side he fought. I asked no questions, but 50 years later I still can recall that conversation. That fact is testament to my lost opportunity.

The same is true with my parents. My dad was in the army in 1941, with his service almost completed. He told me that when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, he cried, for he knew then he would probably be in for the duration and he was right.

While my wife and I were living in Los Angeles, he came for a visit. Long Beach, CA was the home of the Queen Mary and we took him to tour the vessel. I wanted to make the pilgrimage for I knew he traveled from the U.S. to England on that ship. I’m sure he never expected to walk its decks again. During World War II he served in a supply unit and travel through Africa and then Italy. He did not see action and was strafed once while on a train by a P-51, one of our fighters – oops.

He didn’t talk about the war much and I didn’t ask; my loss.

The greatest regret I have about missing a personal glimpse into the past was talking to my mom about her life when she was young. She lived through the Great Depression and observed conditions on the home front during World War II and I never asked was life was like during those times.

For those of you who read this blog, do not make the mistake I did.  Ask your senior citizens about their past.  They have a more vivid experience with history than a book can provide.

July 25, 2014 at 12:56 am Leave a comment

D-DAY REMEMBERED

Since I was a boy I’ve always had a love for airplanes. While a senior in college, I learned to fly – thanks to the Air Force, and reported to pilot training five days after graduation in 1969. I’ve soloed in two types of aircraft, the Cessna 150 and the Cessna 172 which the Air Force calls the T-41. I then began flying the T-37, a small twin-engine jet. I never conquered that aircraft, the T-37 conquered me and I washed-out on Labor Day 1969.
Keeping alive that love for aircraft, 15 years ago I became a member of the Mid Atlantic Air Museum (MAAM), an organization dedicated to preserving the history of aircraft produced in the Mid-Atlantic region and aircraft of World War II. One of MAAM’s prized possessions is the B-25J Briefing Time. Their inventory also includes a navy Avenger and a host of trainers, a PT-23, PT-26 and SNJ-4B Texan. Located in Reading, Pennsylvania, I highly recommend visiting or joining the museum if you are a history or aircraft buff.
Every year the MAAM holds, on the first weekend of June, World War II weekend. This year the event fell on June 6, 7 and 8th, and being there on June 6th held special meaning for it was the 70th anniversary of D Day. I try to volunteer all three days of the show manning one of the entry gates, taking admissions and thanking people for attending.
The air show draws a host of historic aircraft, trainers, fighters, bombers and cargo planes, all of them having played an important role in winning the war. In addition to the aircraft are hundreds of reenactors representing America’s army and navy as well as the soldiers of England, Germany, Japan and Russia. These troops bring along over 100 military and civilian vehicles representing the era.
In attendance are veterans, some famous and some that just did their job and want to share their experiences. I enjoy being around these men and women who risked so much in a time when the enemy was clearly defined and the reasons for the conflict beyond doubt.
In addition to the veterans drawn to the show as speakers, a number of them also are among the spectators. Testifying to this is the size of the handicapped parking area to make it as easy as possible for the elderly to attend and the staff who offer all the respect and aid they can for these cherished individuals. I never miss the opportunity to shake the hand of these elderly heroes and thank them for their service.
This past weekend, on the morning of June 6th, I was helping a speaker to where he wanted to go and noticed his baseball cap which displayed the slogan, B-26 bomber pilot. I asked him what he was doing 70 years ago on this day and he said he was dropping bombs on Cherbourg, France in support of the landing.
At the entry gate another gentleman made his way toward me, short and hobbling along using a cane. He was 90 and was a soldier there on D Day. I also had the opportunity to shake the hand of a veteran of The Battle of the Bulge. All these encounters are very special to me.
Over the years I have met some impressive individuals whose lives were changed forever by a time requiring unbelievable dedication and personal sacrifice. I cherish the opportunity to talk to these individuals who participated in a time which cannot be truly appreciated unless you were there. As the years go by, fewer and fewer veterans remain to tell their stories, to remind us of the price paid so that we are able to enjoy the life we live.

Here are some photos from the show.

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C-46 COMMANDO

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P-47D THUNDERBOLT

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ENCAMPMENTS

June 11, 2014 at 11:46 pm Leave a comment

THE FINAL STORM by JEFF SHAARA

I recently finished Jeff Shaara’s historical novel, The Final Storm. He has written numerous novels about war, from the Revolutionary War to World War II. He tells a gripping story along with providing a history lesson of the conflict he relates. His approach is to follow important historical figures, such as Eisenhower for World War II, along with the experiences of the common soldier, men who fought the battle.
The Final Storm tells the story of the latter part of the war in the Pacific, from the battle of Okinawa to the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan. There is a great deal of detail given to Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay, the B-29 which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. This was a poignant read for me for I met Tibbets about eight years ago. He passed away in 2007.
I’m a member of the Mid Atlantic Air Museum. Every year for about the last twenty years the museum has held World War II Weekend on the first weekend in June. Fighters, bombers and transports from the war make their way to Reading Airport in Pennsylvania for the event. Along with the aircraft are military vehicles and reenactors all bringing history to life.
Also present are individuals who played a part in the conflict. For a few years Paul Tibbets was one of the invited guests and that is how I met him. I wish I had read more about him before that occasion. I knew what he did but not much more about the man. I can’t remember what I said to him after shaking his hand. I still cherish the moment but wish I had known more about him.

September 27, 2013 at 6:21 pm Leave a comment


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