Caryn

My oldest daughter, Corrie Petersen is studying to be a nurse. It was not her life’s dream, but rather a change that came about after spending years as a caregiver for both sets of her grandparents, Allen and Collene Spencer, and Walt and Joann Schulenberg. Corrie was a faithful team member and loving caregiver to them all. She was meticulous, loving, kind, and cheerful. Whether she knew it then or not, Corrie possessed all the traits of a successful CNA or nurse, except for the medical training that is. I sometimes wonder if she had any inkling of what the future would bring. She knew she was good at caregiving, but did that doesn’t necessarily transfer to nursing. It doesn’t matter really, because God knew.

From the time Corrie was 15, she worked in one office or another…just 3 really, and she was very good at what she did. She married Kevin Petersen just a month and a half after her high school graduation. At that time, she wasn’t interested in college, but rather was looking forward to starting a family. She was content and her family was her whole world. Life went on and her boys, Chris and Josh grew, but when they were 10 and 8, my her grandpa became ill, and that started 13 years of caregiving, first for one grandparent and then for another. Our family “caregiving team” needed lots of help, because it really does take a village to take care of a person, and the hardest thing is to have a village of one or two. Corrie, her sister, Amy Royce, and their kids, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen all became a part of that village, and we couldn’t have done what we did without each and every one of them.

When our village was no longer necessary, an event we wished had never come, Corrie began to feel like she needed a different career. God was leading her to make a career change. The time she had spent caring for her grandparents would change her forever. She prayed about it, and made the decision to follow God’s leading. She would have to trust Him to make a way, which He has in every way, and through every aspect of her training…because God knew it was right for her. Today is Corrie’s birthday!! Happy birthday Corrie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Santa Barbara, California is a picturesque area with mountains to the east, ocean to the west, and palm trees everywhere. It seems like a perfect kind of paradise, and most of the time it probably is, but on June 29, 1925, many things changed. That morning, a magnitude between 6.5 and 6.8 earthquake hit the area of Santa Barbara. Although no foreshocks were reportedly felt before the mainshock, a pressure gauge recording card at the local waterworks showed disturbances beginning at 3:27am, which were likely caused by minor foreshocks. Then, at 6:44am the mainshock occurred, lasting 19 seconds. The earthquake’s epicenter was in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Santa Barbara, in the Santa Barbara Channel. It is thought that the fault on which it occurred is an extension of the Mesa fault or the Santa Ynez system. The earthquake was felt from Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo County to the north to Santa Ana in Orange County to the south and to Mojave in Kern County to the east. Major damage occurred in the city of Santa Barbara and along the coast, as well as north of Santa Ynez Mountains, including Santa Ynez and Santa Maria valleys.

Those were 19 seconds that started a disaster of epic proportions. The earthquake was immediately complicated when the dam broke and water mains burst. The earthen Sheffield Dam had been built near the city in 1917. It was 720 feet long and 25 feet high and held 30 million gallons of water. The soil under the dam liquefied during the earthquake and the dam collapsed. This was the only dam to fail during an earthquake in the United States until the Lower San Fernando Dam failed in 1971. When it burst, a wall of water swept between Voluntario and Alisos Streets destroying trees, cars, three houses and flooding the lower part of town to a depth of 2 feet. The rushing water caused some areas of the city to be flattened. People as far away as San Francisco and Los Angeles felt the earthquake, reporting millions of dollars worth of damage across California. The earthquake was even felt in other states as far away as Montana, who reported more damage. The earthquake destroyed the historic center of the city, with damage estimated at $8 million in 1925, or about $117 million today.

Thirteen people lost their lives that day, but it may have been far worse without the actions of three heroes. Those heroes shut off the town gas and electricity preventing a catastrophic fire. Most homes survived the earthquake in relatively good condition, with the exception of the fact that every chimney in the city crumbled. The downtown area of Santa Barbara was in complete ruins. On State Street, the main commercial street, only a few buildings remained standing after the earthquake. The City Cab building, The Californian, and Arlington garages…all large and fully occupied parking structures…collapsed. They were full of cars. Many other vehicles were crushed in the downtown area too. At least one death was the result of the San Marcos building crushing a car, as walls of buildings fell onto cars parked there. In the 36 block business district, only a few structures were not substantially damaged. Many had to be completely demolished and rebuilt. The façade of the church of the Mission Santa Barbara was severely damaged and lost its statues. Many important buildings, including hotels, offices, and the Potter Theater, were lost. The courthouse, jail, library, schools, and churches were among the buildings sustaining serious damage. Concrete curbs buckled in almost every block in Santa Barbara. Pavement on the boulevard along the beach was displaced by about a foot to a foot and a half, but oddly, the pavement in the downtown area was virtually not damaged.

Railroad tracks were damaged in several places between Ventura and Gaviota. In particular, a portion between Naples and Santa Barbara was badly damaged. Seaside bluffs fell into the ocean, and a slight tsunami was felt by offshore ships. The town was completely cut off from telephone and telegraph, and the only source of news was from shortwave radios. Because the gas was shut off, there was an absence of post-earthquake fires. This allowed scientists to study earthquake damage to various types of construction. That was a rare things for the scientists. The American Legion and the Naval Reserves from the Naval Reserve Center Santa Barbara patrolled the streets looking to inhibit looters of the damaged businesses and homes. Additional fire and police personnel arrived from as far as Los Angeles to assist the sailors and soldiers in maintaining order. Three strong aftershocks occurred at 8:00am, 10:45am, and 10:57am, but without further damage. There were many smaller shocks that continued throughout the day. An aftershock on July 3 caused additional cracked walls and damaged chimneys. Since downtown Santa Barbara suffered so much damage, there was a large-scale construction effort in 1925 and 1926 aimed at removing or repairing damaged structures and constructing new buildings. This new construction completely altered the character of the city center. Before the earthquake, a considerable part of the center was built in the Moorish Revival style. After the earthquake, the decision was made to rebuild it in the Spanish Colonial Revival style. This effort was undertaken by the Santa Barbara Community Arts Association, which was founded in the beginning of the 1920s and viewed the earthquake as the opportunity to rebuild the city center in the unified architectural style. As a result, many buildings later listed on National Register of Historic Places were designed in the late 1920s, among them the Santa Barbara County Courthouse and the front of the Andalucia Building. Building codes in Santa Barbara were also made more stringent after the earthquake demonstrated that traditional construction techniques of unreinforced concrete, brick, and masonry were unsafe and unlikely to survive strong quakes.

The life of a cattle rancher is never an easy one, but most think it is worth the extra effort. Cattle ranching is not a 9 to 5 kind of job, but I guess it does have it’s perks too. After all, while the day might start at sun up, it could allow for a break in the afternoon heat of the summer day. Still, when there is work to be done, you do the work, and that can mean long hours, and sometimes into the late night or early morning, without a break. That is the life my husband’s uncle, Butch Hein has chosen…or rather inherited from his dad, Walt Hein. Of course, I think it was as much earned as inherited. Quite possibly the only thing he inherited was the old homestead house, which, he doesn’t live in.

One of the things that always must be done in cattle ranching is the branding. That always means hiring a few extra hands to help with the project, because those cattle are not too keen on the process, and who can blame them. They are chased around and roped, held down by the men, and branded with a hot branding iron…ouch!! Any girl who has ever burned herself with a hair curling iron can totally relate to the plight of the cow. These days, of course, Butch has his son Scott and grandson Carson to help out, but it’s possible that he could still need additional help for branding and moving the cattle from one pasture area to another, as those are both pretty big jobs, requiring extra people to accomplish.

A number of years ago, Butch built a house at the edge of the small town of Forsyth, Montana, where he has lived all of his life. Scott had lived, with his family, a mile away or so, but then he built a house on his dad’s large section of property. It has worked well for them, because they can consolidate their equipment, and ride to work together. Scott is a partner in his dad’s ranch, and in time, will be it’s owner, so working together is a must so they both know all the ins and outs of the business. The upside to it is that Butch and Scott, as well as Scott’s family are all very close, so working together can be lots of fun. I’m happy about that, because since Scott’s mom, Bonnie died, when he was young, Butch has really need a nice family to share his love with. Scott’s family is just the family he needed. Today is Butch’s 74th birthday. Happy birthday Butch!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grand nephew, Topher Spicer is a typical teenager who like to hang out with his friends. They like to go long boarding and walking around. Topher loves long boarding, and he is very good at it. He is always practicing his moves, and that leads to greatly improved skill levels, but that doesn’t mean that the only thing you need is practice, because that isn’t true. Lots of people practice things and some still have no talent. It takes a certain amount of talent. Topher has talent.

Topher’s talent doesn’t stop at the long board though. Topher is an artist. He does his drawing on the computer, but the drawing is all him. I’ve tried to draw on a computer, and believe me that is also not where my talent lies. People who are artists have the pictures in their head, long before they appear on the paper or the screen. Art takes a number of forms too. Photography is an art, but not everyone can take a photo that anyone would call art. Topher has a pretty good eye when it comes to photography, and one of his favorite subjects is his dog, Buttercup. Buttercup is a silky terrier, and like all pet parents, Topher loves his Fur Baby. They hang out together, and Buttercup is totally content doing whatever Topher wants to. It doesn’t get better than that, does it.

Topher is going into high school this year. The thing I notice the most about Topher is that he is getting so tall. His mom tells me that he is polite and smart, and always makes her so proud. He is a good student, and is looking forward to the cool things that high school will bring. High school is a turning point for kids. They get to spread their wings and start to decide where they want their lives to go. It’s going to be an exciting year. Today is Topher’s 14th birthday. Happy birthday Topher!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Every child deserves to have two good parents. I know, in a perfect world, every child will get that set of good parents, but unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. When my brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg met his future wife, Rachel Franklin, she had a grown daughter and two sons, the youngest, Tucker was not yet 3 years old. Ron never had any children of his own. Unfortunately, Tucker’s dad was never able to really be a dad to him. He had his own issues and therefore, never really had time for Tucker.

Ron and Rachel were married on June 12, 2010, and while Rachel’s daughter, Cassie was married a week before Ron and Rachel, the two boys, Riley and Tucker would be living with Ron and Rachel. Riley had a relationship, such as it was, with his dad, and that continued to a degree. Still, Tucker did not have that. His dad couldn’t or wouldn’t really be there for him. Enter Tucker’s step-dad, Ron. Tucker and Ron did everything together. Ron was the role model Tucker needed, and the dad he had always wanted. They were inseparable, and before long a realization began to take shape in Tucker’s mind. Ron was his dad!! He didn’t want Ron to be just his step-dad. He wanted him to be his real dad!! So, Tucker asked if that could happen…if Ron would adopt him. Ron was so pleased, because that was what he wanted too.

There were road blocks to overcome, because Tucker’s dad was still around…somewhere. There was also the roadblock of getting him to terminate his rights legally, because he had already terminated his relationship in every way, but legally. We prayed for this to be taken care of, knowing that the only way it would be done was with God’s help. It all came together one day, when Rachel found out that her ex-husband was in Casper, and really needed a way to get back home. She headed down to the mission, but saw him waiting for a bus. She stopped and asked him to sign the papers. She would then buy him a ticket out of town, and he would be free of the child support that he wasn’t paying anyway. He took the deal, and they went straight to the court house. Ron signed paperwork stating that he wanted to adopt Tucker, and Tucker’s dad signed paperwork terminating his rights. Rachel signed paperwork agreeing to the transfer of parental rights from her ex-husband to Ron. Even Tucker got to sign paperwork stating his desire to be Ron’s son. That was the beginning of a wonderful journey. Today, after a court hearing, that journey has come to an end, and a new journey begins. Today, Tucker is Ron’s legal son. Today Tucker is no longer the old Tucker, his legal name is Tucker William Schulenberg!! It’s a dream come true for him and his parents, Ron and Rachel Schulenberg. Tucker is right where he belongs. Tucker is Ron’s first child, and it’s a boy!! Congratulations to all three of you. Tucker, you are now a Schulenberg, and we are all very happy!!

One of the most romantic ideas in storybook romances, a message in a bottle has captivated our imaginations for years, but this was not just something in a storybook. It seems that it has gone on for centuries. In fact the oldest known message in a bottle has a date was dated June 12, 1886. The message was found in 2018 on a West Australian beach. The message indicated that it had come from a ship called Paula. The finder, Tonya Illman assumed the message was a hoax. However, her husband did some research online. There was a date on the message, which corresponded with an ongoing program conducted in Germany from 1864 to 1963. Captains routinely threw bottles in the sea and wrote down the name of the ship, the date, the precise coordinates, and the travel route. Because the message included this information, they took the bottle to a maritime museum. A curator determined that the message was authentic and was released as part of the program. Similar messages have been found. A message found in 1999, found bobbing around in the Thames by a local fisherman was from a young British soldier named Private Thomas Hughes. It was 1914, the first year in the war. Hughes was lonely aboard a transport ship. He wrote a letter to his wife, but had no way to mail it.

In 1956, a young Swedish man named Ake Viking was out at sea and lonely for love. One evening, he decided to send his quest for love out into the ocean via a message in a bottle. The note included his contact information and a message that read, “To Someone Beautiful and Far Away.” He did not seriously think anything would come of it, but two years later he received a response from an Italian woman named Paolina. When she wrote back to him, she explained: “[it’s] so miraculous that [the bottle] should have traveled so far and long to reach me that I must send you an answer.” They wrote letters back and forth, and fell in love through the letters. Eventually, they met. Viking left his life at sea, married Paolina, and moved to Sicily.

It amazes me, but probably shouldn’t, that people whose ship is sinking might have the foresight to write a note and put it in a bottle, and drop it over in the hope that it might be found later. Nevertheless, people on both Titanic and Lusitania actually did. A young Irishman named Jeremiah Burke was traveling on Titanic, with a cousin to join their family in Boston. Before his departure from Ireland, his mother had given him a small bottle of holy water. In his last moments, Burke put his note into the bottle and cast it into the sea. His note read: “From Titanic, goodbye all, Burke of Glanmire, Cork.” Sadly, both Burke and his cousin died in the sinking, but his poignant message washed ashore in the bottle a year later, just a few miles from his home.

The Lusitania sunk by a German torpedo in May 1915, while on its way from New York to Liverpool. The Lusitania sank in only eighteen minutes. More than 1,000 people lost their lives. One passenger aboard who had the presence of mind and the time to dash off a quick note, put it in a bottle, and set it adrift before the end came. The unknown author chillingly wrote: “Still on deck with a few people. The last boats have left. We are sinking fast. Some men near me are praying with a priest. The end is near. Maybe this note will…” There was no time to write more. He rolled the message, placed it in the bottle, and threw it in, before the boat sank. How could he have had the forethought to write a message.

Harold Hackett is a resident of Prince Edward Island in Canada. He had a lifelong interest in the mystery of messages floating in bottles. In 1996, the amateur fisherman decided to experiment, sending messages in bottles out to sea and wait for the results. To increase his chances of having even one bottle retrieved by someone, he sent more than 4,800 bottles with messages into the sea. Over the years, he has received more than 3,000 responses from the delighted people who found them. I guess, we still love the storybook idea of a message in a bottle.

As a little boy, my grandson, Caalab Royce was always smiling, laughing, telling jokes, and of course, teasing his sister, Shai Royce, who didn’t always appreciate her younger brother’s sense of humor. In fact, there was a time when she was very willing to sell him at auction!! Shai was sure that she would never get along with her brother, and she would always want to send him back, sell him, or ship him off somewhere. The teasing never has stopped, but Shai’s dislike of her brother certainly has. These days she thinks of him as her best friend, and she knows that his teasing is just who he is and that he will always love his sister.

Caalab has a smile that lights up his whole face. And whenever I saw it, my heart would just melt. He was one boy who grabbed a hold of your heart and hung on tight. It was hard to be angry at his antics, when he flashed that smile. I think that might have been what Shai finally saw in her brother too, once she got beyond the “annoyance years.” That time came when they were teenagers. I remember stopping by their house one day, and there they were, sitting on the steps, actually talking…not fighting. It was a shocking moment, but also a wonderful moment. It was a moment I knew would come at some point, nevertheless, it was still unexpected.

These days, Caalab is all grown up. He and his sister are still best friends, but much has changed in life again. Caalab, who works full time at Red Robin in Bellingham, Washington is a responsible man who can always be counted on at work and with people. That part really hasn’t changed much, because Caalab could always be counted on. Now what has changed is that he is so busy and lives so far away, that I don’t get to see him nearly as much as when he was a kid. I miss that very much, and sometimes I still tear up over that…but, I get to see him very soon, so that makes me very happy.

Caalab’s family all tell me the same thing about what’s going on in his life. They say, “He works a lot.” I told them that “all work and no play, makes Caalab a dull boy,” but I think there must be more than that. I think it might have something to do with a certain girl named Chloe Foster. Caalab and Chloe have been dating for a while now, and I have a feeling that all of that “lost” free time is being spent with Chloe. I can’t say that I blame him though, because I have heard nothing but good things about Chloe, and I can’t wait to meet her when we visit them. Recently Caalab took a little bit of time off from his busy schedule and dating life to stand as best man for his buddy’s wedding, and he sure looked very handsome. Today is Caalab’s birthday. Happy birthday Caalab!! Have a great day, and we will see you soon!! We love you!!

In any war, when soldiers are killed or wounded in battle, their guns, grenades, and bullets were left behind…forgotten. Those who assisted the wounded and carried off the dead, had more important things to attend to than the soldier’s weapons and such, which were simply left behind…discarded. As the front lines shifted from one area to another, battlefields were deserted, and in the absence of the trampling footsteps of the soldiers, the grass and low plants began to grow again. As the months and years passed, trees continued to grow. The littered items somehow became embedded in the bark of the growing trees. That phenomena has always amazed me. How could the tree bark accept this odd foreign object into itself…and yet it did. Of course, it was not without scars that the odd pair would coexist. The foreign items would be wrapped with a knotted looking bulge, or would appear to eat up portions of the foreign object, while completely ignoring another part, as if it was simply laying beside it.

Like the weapons of war, the soldiers’ helmets were often discarded in an injury or more likely death situation. The likelihood of survival for the owner of a helmet that contained a bullet hole, was slim to none. The helmet was not likely to be needed by its owner again, so the helmet lay on the battlefield where it had been discarded. As time went on, the little sapling trees growing up after the end of the war started up under the helmet. In order for the tree to grow up, it had to make its way, somehow through the helmet or to topple it in order to survive. A bullet hole provided the perfect way to get through the heavy helmet. The tiny tree peeked through the hole to find the sunlight necessary for the tree’s survival. As the tree grew, the corroding helmet allowed the hole to be expanded, and the tree became larger. Soon the helmet became a part of the growing tree. There was not a knotted wrapping of the tree around the helmet, but rather the helmet took on a mushroom like appearance. It looked like an odd sort of umbrella to anyone who might come across this odd marriage of nature and the man-made helmet. Only on occasion did the tree protest the marriage, or the helmet refuse to allow the expansion of the hole, thereby creating the knot that was so often seen as the tree absorbed the foreign object. Even then, the tree could not fully absorb the helmet, and so it looked almost like the tree was wearing the helmet on its knotted head…and the branches protruding from the knot looked like messy hair. The strange looking trees, were a lingering reminder of a war that was long over, but somehow not forgotten…and nature prevails.

B-17 crews were a tight group. Mostly these crews flew with the same crew on missions, but sometimes, someone was sick, went home, or was killed, and crews changed. For that reason, it was vital that everyone know their responsibilities. We shouldn’t write about the B-17 as a bomber without writing about the crew. In reality, the crew and their Fortress worked much like one unit. I think the crew came to love the fortress that kept them safe.

In the cockpit, you would find the standard, pilot and co-pilot. The pilot was the commander of the crew. He was in command of the B-17, but he was also responsible for all aspects of crew training, discipline, safety and efficiency at all times, but he was more than the commander, he was also one of the crew, he wasn’t a gunner, but it was his job to bring these men home. The co-pilot was the executive officer. He must be as familiar as the pilot with all aspects of flying the B-17, ready to take over both as pilot and commander, if necessary. The B-17 required a flight crew of two to fly the plane, much like modern day jets. The co-pilot operated the instruments on the right and instruments on the left were run by the pilot. Nevertheless, in an emergency, one could fly the plane.

The navigator had the job of making sure that the plane made it to the target, and back home again. He used one or more ways of navigating: dead reckoning; using charts and visual references; pilotage, using charts along with time, distance, and speed calculations; use of radio navigation aides; and using the sun observations or at night using stars and planets. As the B-17 gets close to the target, the bombardier takes over command of the plane (including flying) as they approached the bomb target. Then, when they arrived at the target he released the bombs. Accurate bombing was crucial and that was the bombardier’s responsibility. If he wasn’t accurate, they could hit a school, a neighborhood, or other civilian area. Later on in WW II, the navigator and bombardier positions were combined into one position done by one man.

The radio operator’s job was communications, working the radios, and keeping the radios in good working order. There was a lot of radio equipment in the B-17 that allowed for both communications and navigation. He maintained a log and was often the photographer of the crew. A good radio operator knew his equipment inside out. But the radio operator was also a trained gunner. The flight engineer was one of the most important people on the plane. He knew all the equipment on the B-17 better than the pilot or any other crew member from the engines to the radio equipment to the armament to the engines to the electrical system and everything else. Many flight engineers served as maintenance crew chiefs before moving to the position of a B-17 flight engineer. The flight engineer was the final person to advise the pilot of the airworthiness of the plane before each mission. A wise pilot listened. The flight engineer doubles as top turret gunner.

A typical crew had four gunners, sometimes less. In a configuration of four gunners there were two waist gunners (right and left), a tail gunner, and a ball turret gunner. The two waist gunners station was in the middle of the plane. As the name implies, the tail gunner’s position was in the tail and the ball turret gunner (a small man) position was in a turret underneath the B-17. Each gunner was responsible for their own armament and ensuring that their guns were in working order. Their whole job was to keep the enemy planes and enemy fire off of the B-17. So close was the relationship that these 10 men shared, that many would go on to remain friends for life, and even name their children after their respected crew mates.

The pilots of the war birds were brave men. They were tasked with staying the course while under heavy anti-aircraft fire and flak. That would be a major undertaking for most of us because in that situation, all our mind can think to do is to turn and run. These men had to stay in place so they could make the bomb runs, or protect those who were. Of course, there were gunners tasked with keeping the enemy planes at bay, but they couldn’t fly the plane to get you home.

United States Army Air Force Lieutenant William R Lawley Jr, was a pilot on a B-17 Bomber on February 20, 1944. It was the first day of “Big Week,” and Lieutenant Lawley’s Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was at the head of a formation of one thousand bombers sent to bomb Germany’s production and aircraft manufacturing facilities. “Big Week” was the Allied plan to spend seven days ruthlessly dropping explosives onto enemy aircraft production facilities deep behind enemy lines. Day and night, wave after wave of American B-17 Flying Fortresses, B-24 Liberators, and British Lancasters blasted shipyards, railroad junctions, power plants, airfields, steel production facilities, dams, and military bases relentlessly, igniting everything from ball bearing plants to oil refineries up into towering explosive fireballs, to make it impossible for anyone in Germany to build a working fighter plane.

Suddenly, the call rang out, “Bandits, incoming, three o’clock high!” Immediately, the gunners began shooting to fight off the enemy planes, while Lawley held the plane steady. The loud, rumbling propellers roared as he pushed open the throttle and smashed through a thick black cloud of anti-aircraft smoke at nearly three hundred miles an hour, all while keeping in tight formation with hundreds of other B-17s. A pair of Nazi Focke-Wulf 190 fighter planes screamed by, ripping off thousands of rounds from twin-linked machine guns and heavy 20mm autocannons. Black puffs of enemy artillery popped up all around Lawley’s massive aircraft craft. The enemy fighters screamed past at speeds of over four hundred miles an hour. As the gray Nazi fighters dove down towards another squadron of American bombers below, Lawley’s starboard waist gunner zeroed in on them with his .50-caliber machine gun with a quick burst of tracer fire, but had to release the trigger as a pair of American P-47 Thunderbolt fighter planes dropped in to chase them. These Bomber raids were nothing new for Lawley. Born in Alabama, this 23 year old veteran pilot had already flown nine missions over Germany in the last year. This was his tenth mission, but the first at the controls of a brand-new B-17, nicknamed Cabin in the Sky III, because the first two Cabin in the Sky aircraft been blown up.

Suddenly, voices on the intercom called out enemy fighters, this time diving down from behind. With the sun at their backs, blinding the tail gunner, the Focke-Wulfs ignored the deadly clouds of flak ripping apart the sky around them and hurtled straight into the B-17 formation. Their 20mm cannons struck home at one of Lawley’s wingmen, catching her engines on fire and dropping her out of the sky like a brick. Another flak explosion hit even closer, rocking Cabin in the Sky III and peppering one of the engines with shards of metal, causing it to burst into flames. Lawley ordered the copilot to shut it down and kept moving. More calls came in. “Six o’clock low.” “Three o’clock level.” The Nazis were everywhere, attacking from seemingly every direction at once. The B-17s stuck close together, knowing that the only way to survive was to stay close and lay down heavy fields of machine gun fire. As his gunners fired in every direction, Lawley looked through his cockpit window to see a fleet of twenty or so 190s drop down in front of him, pick out targets, and open fire. With a deafening crash, a 20mm high explosive autocannon shell bust through the front window of the pane, exploding in the cockpit. Everything went black.

Lawley snapped awake seconds later, his ears ringing. Alarms were going off all across his console, which was now riddled with shards of shrapnel. His right arm was shattered. Through blurry vision, Lawley saw his co-pilot slumped over dead, his body laying on the control stick pushing it forward, putting the plane was in a steep dive. The loaded bomb racks made matters worse. The pilot-side window was smashed, and broken glass had gone into Lawley’s face, arms, and side. The windshield was so smeared with blood and oil that he could barely see out of it. Another engine was one fire. Lieutenant William Lawley didn’t panic. He did his job. Determined to keep his plane and his crew alive, the veteran USAAF pilot reached out with his shattered right arm, grabbed his dead co-pilot, and somehow pulled him back off the controls. Then, with just his left hand, he manually fought a 15-ton bomber aircraft out of a ninety-degree nosedive at 12,000 feet, leveled it off, and shut down the second burning engine. Looking up, he saw the Focke-Wulf pilots circling around for another pass, so this grim warrior made an evasive turn, dove the plane down into the cloud cover, and accelerated out of there as fast as he could. Other B-17s in the formation had radioed Cabin in the Sky III as Killed in Action, but somehow William Lawley managed to evade the enemy fighters and get the heck out of Leipzig. He flew across Germany, dodging enemy AA positions, then flew in low over the French countryside and ordered the surviving eight members of his crew to grab parachutes and bail out. It was then that he learned all eight crewmen were wounded in the attack, and that two of them were hurt so bad they couldn’t possibly go skydiving right now. Lawley said, “Ok. I’m going to get us home then.” Nobody jumped out of the plane.

The bombardier eventually got the racks unstuck and released his bombs over an unimportant part of the French countryside, but before long another squadron of Me-109 fighters picked up the wounded B-17 on radar and came swooping in for the kill. With his guys running to their guns to bark .50-caliber machine gun fire, Lawley hammered the stick of his crippled plane, dodging and evading with one arm and somehow eluding enemy fighters one more time. In the process, however, he had to use more fuel than he’d have liked, and one of the two remaining engines was now almost completely out of gas. Once the coast was clear and the Messerschmitt fighter planes were gone, Lawley leveled off the plane and promptly passed out from loss of blood. This was the days before autopilot, and Lawley was the only guy who knew how to fly the plane. Luckily his navigator figured out what was up and woke him up pretty much right away.

Cabin in the Sky III somehow reached the English Channel against all odds, received emergency landing permission from a Canadian fighter base on the English coast and, just in case you’re wondering how the heck this could possibly get any worse, when William Lawley hit the button to drop his landing gear, it didn’t deploy. So, limping in with three burned-out engines, “feathering” his only working one by pumping it off and on with small amounts of gas, half blinded by broken glass, exhausted from loss of blood, and with no landing gear, eight wounded crew members, and one good arm, Lieutenant William Lawley attempted to crash land a 15-ton B-17 on a grass airfield about the size of a soccer pitch. He came in hard on his belly, sliding across the airfield, finally coming to a rest just outside the Canadian barracks. Every member of his crew survived. Lawley walked out of the wreckage, spend a few weeks in the hospital, and make a full recovery. He successfully piloted four more bombing missions before the war was over. Did he earn his Modal of Honor? Without a doubt!!

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