Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Veterans

Dad is a veteran of World War II. But he never saw combat. He, along with so many others, volunteered right after Pearl Harbor. But he was rejected because of an irregular heart beat. He had already quit his job and sold his car so I am certain it was a big disappointment to him. I am also certain it was a surprise to him and everyone else because he was the absolute picture of health. Dad was worried about the results (and I certainly would have been) enough to visit his personal doctor. That doctor told him those military docs didn't know what they were talking about and to not worry about it.

By 1943 the military was a lot less particular. If you had a heart beat you were pretty much eligible and the draft was being expanded. So Dad's friend told him that he would help him get into the Army Air Corps if he could manage to get enlisted. Dad told about going for a physical the second time and the old doctor who examined him had him run up and down the rather numerous stairs in front of the armory. Then he listened to Dad's chest and said "There's nothing wrong with you" and so began Dad's career in military aviation.

He recalled taking a train from Oklahoma to Miami, Florida. The train was coal fired and the cars were equipped with wooden benches. The soot would blow through open windows and everyone was grimy and terribly uncomfortable. At meal time they would receive box lunch meals from whatever town they were in. Still that was his first big trip to anywhere outside of Oklahoma and he always recalled it with a certain amount of awe and wonder. Pretty heady stuff for a country boy from rural Oklahoma alright.

In the Army Air Corps he was trained on B-25's and B-26's. I remember seeing his wings when I was a child but I think they must be lost. He probably would have been sent to the pacific theater for the invasion of Japan if it had not been for the dropping of the atomic bombs and the war ending.

When he returned home he still flew for his boss from time to time. He flew to the Rio Grande valley several times and north to Chicago at least once. He told great stories about flying during those times just after the war.

Later after I came along he sometimes talked about buying an airplane and making a runway on our farm. But he never really was serious about it. He many times remarked about how in the army they had an entire crew of people to make sure the planes were maintained.

Once when I was in college my friend took flying lessons and soloed. I asked dad if I could go up with my friend. Dad asked me how many hours he had. I think he had about 40 and I told Dad that. Dad had hundreds of hours - maybe thousands - so he didn't think 40 was very good. But he let me go anyway and I made it back in one piece.

Dad always admired and respected those who served in combat. He wuld have gone himself and tried to in fact. On the other hand he never really wanted to go to war and I think he never regretted missing combat.

Once when I was a little kid he took me to a place where there were many old airplanes. I don't know what kind of place it was exactly or even where it was. But I remember him lifting me up into the cockpit of some plane. It is funny what we recall.

When the doctor came to the house to diagnose dad I was shocked that he no longer was able to remember the stories from his army days. Stories that I had heard all of my life and in some ways knew as well as he did. But they were gone.

4 comments:

~Betsy said...

The WWII generation are indeed the last great ones. Their sense of patriotism and pride is unmatched today. I think the closest this country got to that era was immediately after 9-11.

My Marine friends call the flyers "fly boys", but after a tour in Iraq, Tony especially gained a new respect for them. I never heard all the details, but I believe they saved him and a lot of his friends from a sure demise during a heated battle.

Your dad sounds like someone I would love to share a glass of lemonade with on that porch.

flintysooner said...

And he would have enjoyed that, too. We've had many wonderful gatherings of family and friends on this porch.

Lori1955 said...

Thank you for sharing that story. It brought back memories of my own father who passed in 1978. Dad was a Navy pilot In WWII.

nancy said...

it is hard to imagine and accept that they can no longer recall those memories but it is very apparent to me that your dad enjoyed telling those stories to you repetitively over the years. i had such a vivid memory of your dad and the other soldiers as they traveled on that sooted train to miami. thanks for sharing your dad's memories.