Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veteran's Day

"Connie’s crew thought it would be a “milk run,” an easy mission. A B-17 in one of the 3-plane formations ahead of them developed engine trouble. It left the group and headed back to England. Connie moved up to take the place vacated. In turn, a B-17 moved up to take the place vacated by Connie.

            As the group approached the target and started their bomb run, a red flare suddenly appeared in the sky and all hell broke loose. German jets* were above the American planes and they suddenly swooped down past the formation, and then reversed their direction climbing rapidly in order to fire into the bomber’s bellies. The plane which had taken Connie’s place in the formation was hit, and plunged toward the ground. From his ball turret Scrip saw the plane explode on impact. There were no parachutes.** The crew of the plane was flying its 34th mission. Only one more and they could have been on their way home." - Lee Kolankiewicz

All those guys are gone now. My dad was the last of the flight crew and he died about a year ago. We grew up in a new suburb filled with newly minted GI bill, GI loan middle class. Almost all the neighborhood men were the same age and had been in the service, many of them combat veterans. We never heard much about the war. Most of them were certainly cynical about any kind of power structure and guys like my dad attributed their survival to dumb luck and the actions of their immediate crew. Some seemed to let it go more easily than others. My pal Jimmy's dad loved to shoot off his 45 into the bank behind his house. We thought that was so cool. We got to keep the brass and dig the bullets out of the bank. Great Uncle Frank was with Patton and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Mom told us not ask him how many Jerries he killed. Uncle Pat was a mate on an LST in the Pacific and was kind of a mean SOB. Mom didn't think it was the war, he was that way before he went in. At any rate, we weren't allowed to ask him how many Japs he killed. Uncle Vince on the Texas, Uncle Joe in the Dirigible Corps, Great Uncle Frenchy developed electronic marine mine detection equipment, Pete and Don in stateside support roles. Jack got in right after the war and served in occupied Germany. His stories were about beer and girls. My favorite uncle. So here's to all my fading neighbors who fought in the Big One and all those who fought and are fighting in all the little ones.

* Dad said the jets moved too fast to track with his turret, that by the time he spotted them they were through the squadron.. He thought they knocked one down but it was more a matter of the jet running into the bullet stream rather than the gunners being able to target them. The archives claim 3 enemy planes downed.
**According to the archives 4 chutes were spotted. Out of a crew of 9- 1 MIA, 3 KIA and 5 POW.


  1. We wrote this a couple of years ago, thinking as soon as we get rid of that Bush fool maybe we can actually do something that supports the troops.

    Sometimes we're idiots. Naive idiots, but idiots none-the-less

  2. I always thought of Vito as my American Dad. I met him when I was 18 and I was a American wannabee who still mispronounced "Chevy". He showed me the same care and affection that he showed everyone and I decided that he would be by American Dad. He was always patient, unless you tried to pack a car or load the dishwasher, or accomplish any other task for which Vito knew there was a proper way, that is, a Vito way to do it. He always called me Slim even as my girth expanded from youthful emaciation to middle age over-nourishment.

    He also made great Brandy Alexanders, the best part of which was that he would tell some of his adventures. In one they got shot up so badly over Germany that there were gaping holes in the fuselage and an active discussion about whether they should bail out if they could make the coast of England; however, they had wounded on board and decided to land and hope for the best. They made it to the field and landed perfectly as all the emergency equipment was rushing towards them. They parked the plane, got the wounded off and then went to get some rest. The next morning, when they went to the place where the plane was parked to see the extent of the damage, they discovered that while the plane had held together in the air long enough to get back and to land, it could not withstand a night of gravity and had folded in half on the tarmac.

    There are not many men like Vito. I am glad I met him. He always cheers me up when I think of him and he gives me a twinkly-eyed wink in my memory.