Sunday, June 17, 2007

Our Father's Day

When we was much younger we celebrated Fathers day alternately with our respective Fathers. We also celebrated Un-Fathers Day separately, because we had not inadvertently become pregnant during the preceding year.

Over the intervening year Un-Fathers day fell by the wayside.

This year we observe our first true Un-Fathers day. Both of our Fathers have passed away, mine most recently.

Our fathers were both World War II combat veterans.

Her father was in the Navy. He was stationed on aircraft carriers during the war. I believe he was involved in many of the dramatic battles of the Pacific War, although his service record is a little difficult to decipher. He never spoke of his war service in my presence. As far as I know he never had any contact with any of his shipmates. After the war he was discharged from the Navy but later rejoined the Navy eventually retiring after 20 years of service. He became a Master Chief Yeoman and served, just before his retirement, at the US Embassy in Rome, a time She fondly remembers.

Master Chief Yeoman

He was a wonderful, generous, gregarious man. He loved life and lived it well. He never met a stranger. He never met a man he didn't like.

He had such a good time that it was years before I realized how hard he worked. Every morning he was out early and by 7 had dispatched his crews. He put in half a day before many people woke up. He played golf nearly every afternoon for years, usually with is customers, leaving the impression he wasn't working.

My father was less gregarious. He was serious and quietly humorous he loved bad jokes, often on himself. He served in the 8th Air Force as a member of a B-17 bomber crew. My parents were married on D-Day, just before he went to Europe. They would have been married 63 years on June 6th.

"Mighty" Eighth Air Force

After the war my Dad attended college on the GI Bill. He joined a fraternity and completed engineering school in 3 years. I was born just a few months after his graduation. We lived an almost typical American Family life. Very much like the family sitcoms of the day.

Although he was proud of his service and spoke of it often, like many veterans he seldom spoke of his combat missions. He maintained contact with his fellow crew members, his comrades in arms, distant at times but closer later in their lives.

832 Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)

The only times I ever heard him talk about his combat experience was when he shared his experiences with other veterans, in quiet voices late in the evening. I sat quietly on the outside listening to these men I thought I knew well speak of their experiences, many were chilling. I hung on every word.

Many years after the war he visited Germany on business. Before leaving he was apprehensive that the Germans would hold his war service against him. HE said, "The last time I saw Germany was through a bomb sight".

He often recounted the story of the Rathskeller where he had a wonderful dinner orchestrated by is German hosts. They very proudly described the restoration of their medieval town hall which took place after the war. He came back relieved and ebullient. Proud of his German heritage.

Later he became heavily involved with his units veterans organization, eventually becoming Group Historian. Since the 486 Bomb Group (Heavy) was formed during the war and deactivated at the end of the war, there were very few younger members, mostly the children of veterans had died during the war

486th Bombardment Group (Heavy)

As Association Historian my Dad later determined that he was on the mission which probably destroyed the town hall where he had that wonderful evening. As a Virginian, raised in the long shadow of the Civil War, he felt sorrow for their loss and his part in it.

Throughout his life my father loved children. I didn't realized how much for most of my life. I was only aware that there were alway small children around, even after his had all grown. Thinking back I remember when we lived in West Virginia he would watch neighborhood children climb over the short chain link fence on the alley behind our hose to steal ripe apples. My did would sometimes watch them from inside and just as they were leaving he would go outside and yell "What are you kids doing?". He would come back in laughing saying "The apples always taste better if you think you got away with something". Had they asked he would have let them to take all they wanted. We always had more than we could eat or than my mother could can, bake into pies or put in jelly, apple sauce or apple butter.

Over the years he established close relationships with many children, often neighbors children who would come over to "talk to Charlie" or "visit Charlie" sometime to "play with Charlie". The children were a second extended family for him. Over the years my parents were included in Graduations, Weddings and other special events, often with special invitations from children (now grown) they had not seen in years. They were included in family celebrations like the births of children and grand children of his once small friends.

We both miss both our fathers every day.


oyster said...

I had my best meal in Germany down in the Rathskeller. I'll always remember it.

Anonymous said...

Great Father's Day Rememberance!

Sadly we are all loosing our parents quickly. My dad passed in 2006 a humble man and my mom is still with us at 94.
Happy Mother and Father's day for you who have them!