Thanks for all the comments guys, its really awesome. When I was a kid, we moved up to Duluth were my Dad had taken a job with the Air Force. In the years we lived there I knew so many kids who didnt have a dad, most had ran off, or were quite litteraly pushed away by our wonderful welfare system and its amazing social workers. It was just fine if Momma had some drunk in her bed she brought home from the bar last night, just as long as the kids Daddy wasnt around. So from an early age, I grew to realise that having a dad wasnt something to take for granted, that he could go away, or be taken away at any time.
I also learned to love hearing my dads many amazing stories. While so many people became tired of hearing "that" story one more time, I simply allowed him to ramble on, admittedly only half listening, or not listening at all sometimes, which really made me feel quite awful. But I just never found it easy to blow him off, or tell him I heard it before. But on so many occasions in his ramblings, some new tidbit would come to light, something he hadnt spoken of before, and I would find myself stopping him and asking questions about this new found fact. I often wish I had kept notes, maybe to put something together into some little book,, call it "Dad" or something. Just the other day he sat at the table and asked if I wanted to hear him recite the 23rd Psalm. I said not really, I heard it before. later as I was looking at where he was in his Bible, I realised that was the part he had been reading in. Dad was reading "the Bible in a year", and had been doing so for over at least the last 20 years, so its likely he read through the same sections the same times each year, and I suddenly realised that each year about this time he always came out to recite the 23rd Psalm. I hust just awful that I didnt say yes.
Dad went into the Army Air Force in December of 1942, he and everyone he grew up with went down and signed up within days of the 7th, none he knew waited around to get drafted. No one he knew refused to go, carried signs out on the streets, burned their draft cards, or ran off to Canada. Dad went to Texas, into aircraft mechanics, to Santa Monica, back to Texas, and then a slow journey from one air base to another moving along the gulf coast.
His particular aircraft was a Douglas A-20 Havoc, though it started out as a DB-7. For those familiar with the B-25, this was basically the same airplane, same engines, but a very narrow fuselage, slightly more than 3 feet wide, single pilot, bombardier in the nose, and a gunner in the waist. They used the planes for skip bombing. Flying low, with the tips of the props a foot off the ground, they would fly across the ground at 240 knots (almost 300 mph), drop a bomb, and pull up and away in a banking turn. Done correcty, the bomb would whistle along the ground at speed into whatever target it was aimed at.
The pilots would come out of flight school after soloing some tiny single engine plane like a Piper Cub, and be put directly into these big heavy Bombers. Not surprisingly, they lost many. Trying to land a large twin engine bomber, touching down on the ground at 150 knots, it took experience that just wasnt being provided. The lucky ones were slowly able to master the planes, and my Dad would sign up to fly as much as he could. But he did say, that almost every day one or more would "splatter" and few ever walked away.
When he wasnt flying, he was wrenching on engines, pulling them and putting em back in. All day long in the gulf heat. He said the engines burned about 4 quarts an hour, each, but didnt really run good until they were burning around 8 quarts an hour, and they pulled them when they started burning 15 quarts an hour. Unfortunately, most of the engines they had were rebuilt with salvaged parts and used spark plugs, all the good stuff was going overseas. So many engines couldnt make more than 15 or 20 hours before they were pulled. Or they needed a "plug change". The pilots would taxi around lollygaggin, idling those big engines with the cowl flaps open, running cold and rich they would load up and oil foul. They would get out ready to takeoff, and when they checked mags had over 300 rpm drop. My Dad and his buddies got real tired changing 28 spark plugs day in and day out, they figured out to teach the pilots how to run them. Get out there in the run up area, close the cowl flaps, and crank the engines to full power while watching cylinder heat temp. When it got close to redline heat, then do your normal mag checks, found they wouldnt even flicker.
But all that wrenching in filth all day took its toll on Dad. They had solar heated showers, 55 gallon barrels that sat up on a stand in the sun all day, and most days by the time they came in off the flight line there was no water left, and they went to bed filthy, covered in grease and oil. Sweating in army tents at night, the rain, he said a lot of times they woke up and found they shoes floating. And get up and go back to work. Same dirty clothes and socks, no bath. In early 1943 his feet got a bad fungus going on his feet and he wasnt able to stop it. He was eventually hospitalised, where it eventually spread to his face and hands. They sent him back home to the Minneapolis VA, where he spent over 6 months in the hospital while they tried every treatment known to man, but in the end told my Grandma they didnt have anymore ideas and that he would likely die, and discharged him with a medical calling it Jungle Rot. Grandma found some obscure salve somewhere, and whatever it was, it slowly started making whatever he had go away. Thats not really true, it never really went away, it just came and went, and he fought it his whole life. But he never had any regrets, never complained he got a bad deal, in fact he felt awful he was not able to follow his unit over to France.
What he did regret was not flying more. He just got so excited talking about riding up in that glass nose, blasting along low over the swamps and forests of the gulf states from Texas to Florida, almost always 3 feet off the ground at almost 300 mph, or in the tree tops. Going out over the Gulf, so low they would erode the blade tips off the props. Sand blast the paint off the belly with salt spray. And of course, mayhem. Dropping 1 pound sacks of flour on people, spraying tear gas on ground troops, chase cars off roads, make fishermen jump out of their boat seeing that plane coming at them screaming, down on the water making spray, they always jumped. Then they would shoot the snot out of things with their 30 cal machine guns, like bouys. They were always shooting bouys. But as he said, 30 calibre machine guns were like pea shooters next to twin .50 machine guns. He said when you let loose on a bouy with a 50 the things would just explode. But all good things come to an end. The Army had to paint huge 5 foot numbers on the side of all their planes so people could report them, and they took away all thier bullets.
Im leaving tomorrow to personally deliver Dad home to Minnesota, where he will join my Mom. Thier journey was not paved with roses, it was hard, and they made a million mistakes. But through it all there was a love that was undying. As thier son, I pray ive done as well as I could, and that I can someday join them.
We'll keep in touch guys. Thank you all so very, very much.