“True American Heroes”
In my first interview with a World War II Navy veteran, I discovered a function of the military that is new to me.
While I have spent most of my time researching Army tactics, following certain Army companies and infantries, and, yes, even researching the Army Nurse Corps, I have yet to even begin looking into other branches of military.
When I first heard there was a man from our former church who served in World War II, my internal radar immediately went up! So what did I do? I got on the phone and started making calls. With much thanks to my mother and Aunt I was able to set up a place and time to meet up with this veteran. Little did I know what was in store for me. . .
It was my understanding this war veteran was a ball turret gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress. However, upon my arrival I was informed my B-17 gunner was actually a Navy man—a turret gunner on a Grumman Avenger Torpedo plane. Immediately my mind started spinning. All my questions were based on the Army Air Corps, what was I supposed to do now? Proceed with the interview, of course!
I started with the basics, then on to his life in the Navy. As the interview progressed I knew what questions needed to be asked. After learning of this man’s rank and position, I began asking questions about his missions. He completed 15 missions in raids over Iwo Jima, Philippine Islands and the Solomon Islands. He survived all missions without injury except one close brush with disaster. I further learned he served on the U.S.S. Hornet and has been back to visit the ship on display in Alameda, California.
I was privileged to have seen the scrapbook he kept of his days in the Navy. The pages were decorated with newspaper articles, Navy records, photographs of the plane and crew with which he served, and logs. I was also privileged to view the various medals this veteran had been decorated with.
The memories I will take from this interview are priceless. No matter if my novels are published or unpublished I will never forget the stories, memorabilia, the kindness or generosity that was displayed to me.
In conclusion, these words from this World War II veteran will always be replayed in my mind:
“I wouldn’t trade my days in the Navy for anything, not for [a] million.”
…and I wouldn’t trade my time with him or his wife for a million either.
Kate Smith and Irving Berlin donated all proceeds from the song "God Bless America" to Boy Scouts of America. To this day the Boy Scouts receive royalties.
Tomorrow's post: The Grumman Avenger Torpedo plane