Thursday, March 11, 2004

Men of honor...

In Stephen Ambrose's The Wild Blue, he tracks the lives of the servicemen who flew B-24s over Germany during WWII. The tales of these men and boys, some pilots were just 21 years old, should be told and re-told to our children. For much of the book Ambrose follows the experiences of George McGovern, who piloted a B-24 during 1944 and 1945. Throughout history the image of a soldier has struck terror into civilians across the globe. Apart from a few exceptions, particularly those of the U.S. and the U.K., virtually all people realize that the appearance of soldiers, in time of war, brings with it the accompanied acts of rape and pillaging. Now, to be sure, there are always exceptions to the rule but, as a whole, the appearance of U.S. soldiers during WWII meant that men of virtue had arrived. Consider the thoughts running through McGovern's mind after an incident in which, after a bombing run, one bomb became stuck in the bomb bay. It was impossible to land the plane in that condition without destroying the aircraft, so either the bomb had to be pried loose or the entire crew would have to bail out. The bombardier, a Lt. Cooper, was working feverishly to free the stuck bomb.
Then Cooper yelled something "and all of a sudden the plane jumped and I knew the bomb had been cut loose." They were approaching the Austrian-Italian border. McGovern watched the bomb descend,... "It went down and hit right on a farm in that beautiful, green part of Austria. It was almost like a mushroom, a big, gigantic mushroom. It just withered the house, the barn, the chicken house, the water tank. Everything was just leveled. It couldn't have come in more perfectly. If we had been trying to hit it we couldn't have hit it as square..." McGovern glanced at his watch. It was high noon. He came from South Dakota. He knew what time farmers eat. "I got a sickening feeling. Here was this peaceful area. They thought they were safely out of the war zone... Just a peaceful farmyard. Had nothing to do with the war, just a family eating a noon meal. It made me sick to my stomach."

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