During a trip visiting my mother and her husband , I had the pleasure of going to the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Institute. It is a state attraction. Civilians are educated at this museum on the history of the air power of the Air Force. We had hardly walked in the door when my step-dad Roy was greeted like a rock star. He is a retired WWII veteran and Stalag 17 POW. His plane was shot down and he was captured by enemy forces for almost two years in 1942.
Pearl Harbor is not like any other museum experience. One must prepare for this excursion. I get up at 0530 in the morning in anticipation of getting free tickets. Driving to Pearl from Waikiki is a half hour and I want to be sure to be there in time to stand in line to get tickets especially for my girlfriend who has never been. Yes. FREE. Tour guides ask for top dollar to take you to this site. Tourism is high up as a way of making a living on the islands. I think the price they ask is a bit high. I was quoted $115/person. I rented a car..
Entering sacred waters toward the USS Arizona Memorial . The ship is beneath the white structure
My Dad Shot Down Over Germany In WWII. MAY WE NEVER FORGET THE SACRIFICES!
Dear Mom and Dad,
How are you? We have been assigned for five combat flights with our B 17 Bomber plane and have completed three of them. I am very scared. I am writing this to tell you I love you, but I do not think I will come out alive. We are losing a lot of men after their planes are being shot down over Germany. I don’t think we will make it. When you are in the sky dropping bombs, the germans are right above us to see what we are up to and then below on the ground they are shooting anti-aircraft flak at us. We can’t see a damn thing from the black clouds the flak make. No one has our back. It is not a good thing. I hope one day to see you again, but if I do not I want you to know how much I love you.
On Roy’s 4th combat flight as a gunner of a B-17 Bomber, he was shot down. Something in Roy told him that his days were numbered. Roy’s parents received the news he was missing in action by the Red Cross as was customary in those days. No one knew for sure what had happened except the 10 member crew on that fateful day in 1943. The Bomber was shot in several places, but with the handiwork of Coles, the pilot, the plane was able to be crashed landed in a field. The crew all survived and ran for their lives. All were captured alive.
Roy then spent the next 19 months in the notorious Stalag 17 camp. The Americans occupied five compounds. There were at least 4000 American GI men in the overcrowded barracks. Hollywood has made films about this camp and what our American soldiers had to endure. Roy recalls many times when they were forced to stand outside in extreme cold weather for long periods. He lost a huge amount of his body weight during this time, but did survive to come home and tell his story.
On April 8, 1945, Roy was among 4000 POW forced to march to where freedom was at hand. He with his fellow soldiers were finally liberated on May 9, 1945. General Patton’s Army had arrived on May 2nd to where they were closely located, but it took an additional week before Roy was finally free. Roy said he never prayed much before in his young life, but after being captured he prayed a lot. Roy still prays a lot. He can not believe he is still alive!
(photo above courtesy of my collections of postcards from about 15 years ago.)
Can a building really mean so much? The heart of a city is a big shoe to fill. The feelings are certainly there when you walk through St. Sebald which is the oldest parish church in Nuremberg, Germany.
Eerily you can see into Pearl Harbor’s waters what once was the great ship the USS ARIZONA
I hated thinking about the many who lost their lives when I was on vacation in Hawaii, but it is a part of the story when you come to our 50th state. In honor of those lost and the powerful military we do have here in America , I wanted to share a few shots of “our” equipment utilized by our brave men and women who have served and continue to serve nation across the universe.
While driving along Palm Circle on Fort Shafter, I was brought back to another time. It was here I experienced Hawaiian life first in 1969 as an army brat. This base was named after General William R. Shafter who liberated Cuba in 1898. It is also the oldest military base on the island.
Many of my Alabama family and friends will appreciate the hound’s tooth dress my mother made and wore on a beautiful hawaiian day when dad received honors for his army career on the island. Over a quarter of a century before this photo was taken, Fort Shafter was hit by Japanese bombers who targeted its artillery. It is on the field above where you see the young service men and women raising our flag that we sustained casualities. The famous movies Pearl Harbor and Tora, Tora, Tora were filmed on location here.
Above you will see the second post I lived on. This base is the largest outside the continental United States called Scholfield Barracks. I captured in this photo buildings that you can see if you were to watch the classic film From Here To Eternity.
Mother always dressed my sister and I up in clothes she made for us while living on the Hawaiian bases. Who would have ever thought a little over 25 years before this photo was taken Japanese pilots would warm up their guns above us before bombing our Army Air Corps pilots’ home base Wheeler Army Airfield?
Perhaps Hawaii’s most famous scenic picture I took is of Pearl Harbor itself. It is underneath this structure you can see the remains eerily of the sunken Battleship Arizona. It is this tourist spot visited by millions that led to the United States entering WWII.
I hope you enjoyed learning alittle history not only about your blogger, but about the Hawaiian Islands. It is good for us to understand why we are comfortable today as I titled this post, but also to keep in mind that our defense needs to stay our priority if we want to continue to stay that way.
World War II has been written about at length. However, when I started this series earlier in the year, I knew this slant would be very different than any written before. I was given permission to share the love stories of the German war bride.