Sunday, July 02, 2006

Grandpa's Day


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Saturday, July 1st, was a great day. Uncle Gaylen, Gaylen B., Grandpa and myself decided to make a day of it at the Museum of Flight. The reason I wanted to attend in the first place was they would be hosted two WWII era bombers, including a B-24 like the one grandpa served as a bombardier on.

When we met up at the museum, the B-24 had just left to give folks a 30 minute ride around the Seattle-area. So we toured the main museum and its extensive collection of all things aviation....and I mean ALL things. It was incredible to see how far aviation has come in such a realitively short period of time. Uncle Gaylen had a story and background info on so many things there I started to feel sorry for all those around us because it is one thing to look at the collection, it is another to have someone passionate about aviation there to explain things to you.

We then left that exhibit and toured the William E. Boeing Red Barn, again I was blown away, this time by the craftsmenship that was on display. The Red Barn was an original site where workers crafted parts for airplanes, boats and even furniture. After taking it all in I decided to head outside to see if the B-24 had arrived back, it had.

I was taken aback when I first saw the B-24, I had seen it plenty of times in pictures but seeing it in person was a treat. I had to chuckle to myself when we got there, grandpa climbed up and under the belly of the B-24 probably much like he did some 60 years ago, perhaps a bit slower but he was in his element. Nothing prepares you for the cramped quarters they had to work in and how they managed to perform incredibly under what must have been hellish conditions.

Seeing that bomber I get a clearer picture of what grandpa did in WWII and I'm in awe of him and realize it is a small miracle that my mother didn't end up an only child and grandma widowed. Before Saturday if you asked what grandpa did as a bombardier I would have probably just said sit at his station and drop bombs with the push of a button...I know different now. Under the belly of the B-24 there is a narrow "catwalk", connected on the outside of it are the bombs. Before making his way forward to release his bombs, the bombardier would walk along this catwalk and arm the bombs...mind you that there is no floor, except the ground roughly 25.000 feet or so below and nothing but a few beams to hold on to as he made his way, grandpa mentioned he would, of course, take his trusty parachute with him. Once armed, he went forward to a freezing little compartment were he would kneel over his equipment while lining up targets. Once the bombs were away grandpa went back over the catwalk to the back of the bomber and on a few occasions he manned the waist gun. An incredible account can be found here of his crews very first mission.

As we walked around the aircraft grandpa met another B-24 vet who also flew over Italy (see picture). I won't bore you with all the details, but what an honor to be able to stand there and listen to these courageous men swap stories... soon others came around to listen to these men and bask in all that history..incredible stuff. I will never know what it is like to have that bond, but it was beautiful to see these two old men relive those times when they answered their generations call to duty and now be recognized, albeit informally as the heroes they are still to this day...The beauty of it for me was I felt like I got to know my grandfather a little bit better...I am honored and humbled to call myself his Grandson.





2 Comments:

At 7:17 AM, Anonymous Aun"t" said...

Wonderful article. Glad to see you back on the boards.

 
At 12:55 PM, Blogger James Zimmerman said...

Thanks for sharing the info. Esp. Since I couldn't make it that day.

 

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