I’m watching Dad’s energy and physique fade. He’s a man of the greatest generation. With the movie “Unbroken” coming out based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand, it’s no wonder this generation of men are rightly cherished. And they are dying. But my Dad is still alive! And my Mother’s brother is too! Dad is having Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIA’s), which are mini strokes that allegedly leave no permanent damage to the brain. His speech becomes slurred for a bit and he can’t remember how to put on his pants. So basically, it’s like a six-minute drunk. Fortunately, God doesn’t want him yet. My mom, my sister, and all his friends and relatives are blocking the Pearly Gates because they don’t want to be tormented by his repetition of dirty jokes yet again. Of course I’m kidding. Dad’s not a religious man, but every time we finish a phone conversation or we say goodbye in person he ends with, “Keep the faith!”
So in honor of my Dad, the following are the last entries of his war diary:
2-17-45 Frankfurt was target for today and it was pretty ruff cause we didn’t drop our bombs and then we went Giessen – that is our Sq. didn’t drop there bombs but we did and so when we went over Giessen we went off to one side and did some evasive action of our own. Marshling yards was the target.
2-20-45 Today was my 22 mission over Germany and I get a little more scared every time. Nurenburg was the target – we hit the south side of the city was target but we bombed the whole town over 1000 bombers went. We had some incendarys and 500 lb bombs.
2-21-45 – Went to Nurenburg again today and boy they must have taken a beating cause over 1000 bombers are hitting again today at it. Not as much Flack today as yesterday and there wasn’t as much yesterday as we expected so it wasn’t to bad of a target.
2-22-45 Went to [blank space] Today and this raid about took the cake We were briefed for no Flack and were bombing from 9000 ft. and the highest we went at any time was 20,000 and that was to get over the lines. Saw the Swiss Mts and were 10 miles from border and 35 miles from Czechoslovakia The 8th Air Force all bombed small towns with rail junctions in them. Saw a few bursts of Flack way back when going over front lines near Strasbourg.
2-23-45 – My 25th mission today and another dilly only today we went in over north sea and flew all over Germany at low altitude of 16,000 ft. till we got to the target and then went down to it at 5,000 ft and it was visual and was really fun watching the bombs hit and some of the gunners staffed but I wanted to save my ammo. in case some of the front line fighters come up but they never. P-51s came all over when we were bombing and they staffed everything in sight and they must have had a field day. Went out right past Stuttgart and went over the lines by Freiburg and then we were at 18,000 ft and they shot up quite a bit of Flack on the way out. Boy I was sure tired today and 4 in a row is hard on a guy.
That was the end of the tiny journal, but the contents were far from small. I asked him recently, “Why did you stop writing entries after your 25th mission?” He glanced away, pursed his lips and shrugged his shoulders. No need for me to press him about it. That was enough. At 19 years old, Dad completed 35 missions and lived to tell about them. Fourteen missions for a B-17 was the average before it was shot down. He talks about his service in WWII as a tail gunner, but when asked if he ever killed any Germans, his response is always, “No, but I scared the hell out of some.”
Dad has regaled us with stories that he omitted from his journal, and I have written about them in my not yet titled or published memoir. Keep the faith!