It seems that, this time of year, I tend to recall things from years ago, I guess because so many things happened in late spring and early summer during my teens, upwards to my 40s. Of course, lots of things happened since, but it started with my achieving the Eagle Scout award, something that many worked so hard to get, and then, of course, the war.
So many times I lost dear comrades, men with whom I’d fought the enemy, side by side in our fighter aircraft. Victories were against ground and air targets and, naturally, we were overjoyed when peace was achieved.
Then, for a brief period, I was successful in business before I was recalled to fight in Korea, where again I was successful in combat and also in destroying some of the war-making capability of the enemy. And my joy was my marriage to Barbara.
Then I flew combat again in my 40s as commander of jet fighter squadrons. Flying was my occupation; the citizens of this wonderful nation were sharing the expense for the jets, fuel and personnel to support my mission.
I was happy when these episodes were finished. They were not my choice, but we did the government’s bidding. I am often asked many questions about my life and the conditions while we were in the combat arena.
Unlike the ground troops – who slept in pup tents or foxholes in the ground and had to fight the enemy face to face, at when and wherever they could, and endure many other hardships — we always had nice quarters, adequate food and generally uninterrupted sleep.
Not all flying units had it so nice, especially in the Pacific area during the war. We just were extremely fortunate.
One food item I have never forgotten is brussels sprouts. I guess 99 percent of us had never tasted them, but in England during the war, it seems that the only fresh vegetable our supply people could get was brussels sprouts. Our cooks had never seen them so they didn’t know how to prepare them; I believe they boiled them until they were like mush. I wouldn’t try them again for at least 20 years, and that was it. I tried them.
My comrades from the war and many from Korea are now deceased and Vietnam veterans are also fading away. But I remember so many faces, names and episodes – happy and sad. I’m not trying to rush and join these brave men. I just hope I can go out with a smile on my face.