Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Family Photo--Veterans Day

When you go home
Tell them of us, and say,
For your tomorrow
We gave our today
Kohima Epitaph

Across the nation we're observing Veterans Day, November 11, which memorializes the end of WWI (armistice was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918), and honors all veterans of the armed services. Today's photos are my Uncle Clare looking sharp and spiffy in his dress uniform in New Orleans and home on leave with his parents. He was 32 when he went into the Army Air Force in 1942. I think he could have had an exemption because he was a farmer and essentially was managing the Illinois and Iowa farms for his parents who were 68 and 66, and doing all the physical work on the home place. But I think he also saw the war as an opportunity to do some of the things he'd always dreamed of--he was a fabulous mechanic and loved airplanes. I have a dim memory of my mother telling me he couldn't be a pilot because of a hearing problem, but was trained for photographic mapping, and was an aerial engineer for the 24th Mapping Squadron of the 8th Photo Group, Reconnaissance (10th Air Force) which served in the China, Burma, India theater.

In New Orleans

With his parents, on the Franklin Grove farm

On a Geocities site I found the following information about this squadron: "The 8th Photographic Reconaissance Group arrived in India on 31 March 1944, assuming operational control of the 9th Photographic Reconaissance Squadron, 20th Tactical Reconaissance Squadron and 24th Combat Mapping Squadron on 25 April 1944, with the 40th Photgraphic Reconaissance Squadron joining the unit on 6 September 1944.

The main mission of the units attached to the 8th Photographic Reconaissance Group was to gather phtographs to be used in making target maps, assessing target damage and identifying potential targets"

Clare and a pilot were killed in an explosion when the plane hit a gasoline supply, through the stupidity of his commanding officer who insisted the men go up in a blinding storm. No one else in that unit lost his life and we found out how Clare died when a great nephew attended one of their reunions. I'm glad my grandparents never knew since they suffered this loss so terribly the rest of their lives (died in 1963 and 1968).

Searching the internet I found lists of accident reports, alphabetic by name of the soldier or civilian--thousands and thousands died in accidents--and his name is listed. Also found this report of USAAF Serial Numbers, "64105 (F-7A, 8th BRG, 24th CMS) w/o on takeoff accident at Hsing Hing, China Oc 29, 1944" which I assume was his plane since nothing else matches the date.

Originally buried near Chengtu, China after his death on October, 29, 1944, Uncle Clare came home on the Honda Knot in 1947 (I found this information on a Lee County, IL obituary web site) with over 200,000 dead soldiers and sailors with fighter escorts and awaiting dignitaries. While we waited in rural Illinois to bury him with other family in Ashton, he was being welcomed home in San Francisco:

"In San Francisco, a similar ceremony took place under an overcast October sky as the army transport ship Honda Knot slipped through the frigid waters beneath the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco Bay. An aerial escort of forty-eight fighter planes flew over the vessel before dipping their wings in salute and banking away. Surface ships from the Coast Guard and the Navy approached the Honda Knot and led her through a misting rain to anchorage off Marina Point, where a gathering of five thousand mourners waited to pay tribute to the war dead that the ship was delivering home to American soil from the Pacific theater. A navy launch approached the Honda Knot and offered another massive wreath from President Truman. Dignitaries in the audience included Army General Mark Clark, who had led American troops in Italy during the war, and the Secretary of the Navy John L. Sullivan, who honored these fallen heroes, many of whom had passed under the Golden Gate Bridge on ships bound for the Pacific war. Six of the 3,012 flag-draped coffins aboard the Honda Knot were removed the next day to lie in state in the rotunda of San Francisco’s city hall, where ordinary citizens of a sorrowful nation paid their last respects. The six dead represented servicemen from the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard, along with a civilian, all killed in the war. From the early morning until late that night, thousands of mourners filed by the coffins of knelt in prayer by their sides. The arrival of the Honda Knot and the Joseph V. Connolly officially initiated what one observer called the "most melancholy immigration movement in the history of man," the return to the United States of 233,181 American dead after the end of World War II. America's army of fallen warriors was coming home from the four corners of the earth, from Guadalcanal and Australia, from New Guinea, Japan, China, and Burma in the Pacific theater. From the Mediterranean theater men were returned from Libya, Sicily, Italy, Yugoslavia, and Romania. The bodies of men who had died in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany also came home. David Colley site

Clare is listed on this memorial site for the 10th Air Force.

Update: The National Archives has a site for WWII Honor List of Dead and Missing. You select by branch of the military, then by state, then by county. I found Uncle Clare, although his name was misspelled.

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Anonymous said...

As a teenager, I used to love to watch WWII movies on television -- how romantic -- working for the war effort at home, letters from one's boyfriend on the front, the welcome home....only when my husband was in Viet Nam did I realize how horrible war is -- there is no romance, only pain, and more pain. The sacrifice -- and it is a sacrifice -- our young men are making now is overwhelming -- I just heard of a 20 year old who was blinded and lost both hands -- We have to be sure that "going to war" is not done lightly, or without realistic regard to the outcome. I salute all in uniform and their families -- the impact on their lives --even on those who arrive back intact -- will be with them forever.

Anonymous said...

"Clare and a pilot were killed in an explosion when the plane hit a gasoline supply..."
I'm sorry for the loss of your uncle Clare and so many others. My uncle John was killed in the Bataan Death March.
My dad, thank our sweet Lord, did come home but having been one of those whose job it was was to bury bodies at camp Buchenwald, I think it is safe to say, that the horrors of war killed a part of him.
Which brings me to the comments from "Anonymous" of which I have to echo.

And today...I'm afraid it is going to be worse for returning men and woman and their families. The VA hospitals are under funded and strained to max already.
God bless America and God help us too.

Norma said...

VA hospitals are not the only need veterans have. It's just the one the media like to harp on because they are a bigger target. It's quite possible that considering the number of vets, today's are better off than in 1945. Also, just because a hospital is not VA, doesn't mean it can't treat a veteran closer to home at a quality facility. Very few head injuries, for instance, are war related compared to those caused by automobile accident trauma.

Compensation and Pension
Health Eligibility
Vocational Rehab and Employment Services
Section 508 Accessibility
Homeless Veterans
Military Services
Minority Veterans
Women Veterans
Job Opportunities

[links from American Daughter]