Family

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Some of the biggest defeats in any war come from underestimating the enemy or refusing to believe the facts. In the case of Japan it was a little of both. The security of the Marianas Islands, in the western Pacific, was vital to Japan, which had air bases on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. The United States troops were already battling the Japanese on Saipan, since their arrival there on June 15, 1944. Any further intrusion would leave the Philippine Islands, and Japan itself, vulnerable to US attack. The Japanese needed to maintain their security in the Marianas Islands.

The US Fifth Fleet, commanded by Admiral Raymond Spruance, was on its way northwest from the Marshall Islands. Their mission was to provide backup for the invasion of Saipan and the rest of the Marianas. Whether he knew what was going on or not, Japanese Admiral Ozawa Jisaburo, decided to challenge the American fleet. He ordered 430 of his planes, launched from aircraft carriers, to attack. The greatest carrier battle of the war was about to begin. The United States picked up the Japanese craft on radar and shot down more than 300 aircraft and sunk two Japanese aircraft carriers. By comparison, the United States only lost 29 of their own planes in the process. Strangely, Admiral Ozawa, believed that his missing planes had landed at their Guam air base. He maintained his position in the Philippine Sea, allowing for a second attack of US carrier-based fighter planes. He made his men sitting ducks!! The secondary attack, commanded by Admiral Mitscher, shot down an additional 65 Japanese planes and sink another carrier. In total, the Japanese lost 480 aircraft…about three-quarters of its total aircraft, not to mention most of its crews. American would dominate the Marianas Islands, and Japan was in deep trouble. The battle was later described as a “turkey shoot.”

Not long after this battle at sea, US Marine divisions penetrated farther into the island of Saipan. Two of the Japanese commanders on the island, Admiral Nagumo and General Saito, both committed suicide in an attempt to rally the remaining Japanese forces. I can’t imagine how that would inspire the forces. It was an act that can only be understood by a sick mind, but their plan worked. Those forces also committed a virtual suicide as they attacked the Americans’ lines, losing 26,000 men compared with 3,500 lost by the United States. Within another month, the islands of Tinian and Guam were also captured by the United States. Due to the disgrace, the Japanese government of Premier Hideki Tojo resigned at this stunning defeat, in what many have described as the turning point of the war in the Pacific.

After reading about the rescue of Allied personnel from occupied France by smuggling them through Spain and then to the Rock of Gibraltar, I wanted to know more about this place. The story talked about the tunnels that basically created an underground city in the Rock of Gibraltar. The Rock was basically a huge underground fortress capable of accommodating 16,000 men along with all the supplies, ammunition, and equipment needed to withstand a prolonged siege. The entire 16,000 strong garrison could be housed there along with enough food to last them for 16 months. Within the tunnels there were also an underground telephone exchange, a power generating station, a water distillation plant, a hospital, a bakery, ammunition magazines and a vehicle maintenance workshop. Such a place in World War II would be almost impossible to penetrate with the weapons available in that day and age.

The tunnels of Gibraltar were constructed over the course of nearly 200 years, principally by the British Army. Within a land area of only 2.6 square miles, Gibraltar has around 34 miles of tunnels, nearly twice the length of its entire road network. The first tunnels were excavated in the late 18th century. They served as communication passages between artillery positions and housed guns within embrasures cut into the North Face of the Rock, to protect the interior city. More tunnels were constructed in the 19th century to allow easier access to remote areas of Gibraltar and accommodate stores and reservoirs to deliver the water supply of Gibraltar. At the start of World War II, the civilian population around the Rock of Gibraltar was evacuated and the garrison inside the facility was greatly increased in size. A number of new tunnels were excavated to create accommodation for the expanded garrison and to store huge quantities of food, equipment, and ammunition. The work was carried out by four specialized tunneling companies from the Royal Engineers and the Canadian Army. They created a new Main Base Area in the southeastern part of Gibraltar on the peninsula’s Mediterranean coast. It was chosen because it was shielded from the potentially hostile Spanish mainland. New connecting tunnels were created to link this with the established military bases on the west side. A pair of tunnels, called the Great North Road and the Fosse Way, were excavated running nearly the full length of the Rock to interconnect the bulk of the wartime tunnels.

It was to this place that the French Resistance smuggled downed Allied airmen and other escapees from the Nazi regime inside France. Men like Staff Sergeant Arthur Meyerowitz and RAF Bomber Lieutenant R.F.W. Cleaver…two of the men who were smuggled out of occupied France by the French Resistance network known as Réseau Morhange which was created in 1943 by Marcel Taillandier in Toulouse. Taillandier was killed shortly after these two men were smuggled out. He had given his life to protect the airmen he smuggled out as well as to provide intelligence to England. For the airmen who made it to the Rock of Gibraltar, freedom awaited. While the road had been long and hard, the time spent at the Rock of Gibraltar meant safety, medical care, food, and warmth. It meant being able to let their family know that they were alive. It meant being able to go back to life, and maybe for some, to be able to live to fight another day. As the men were told upon arrival at the Rock of Gibraltar, “Welcome back to the war.”

Whenever I come across a book about World War II, and especially about a B-17 Bomber, I want to read it. That subject holds my interest mostly because my dad, Allen Spencer was a top turret gunner and flight engineer on a B-17 bomber stationed at Great Ashfield, Suffolk, England. Lately, I have been “reading” by way of Audible.com, and I must say that having a book read to you, allows you to sit back and enjoy it as if you were watching it unfold before your very eyes. So, when I came across a book called The Lost Airman written by Seth Meyerowitz, I knew I had to hear about it. As the true story began, I found that Arthur Meyerowitz (Seth Meyerowitz’ grandfather) could have been my own dad…at least to the extent that both of them were in the Eight Air Force stationed in England. Arthur was assigned to a B-24 Liberator. At first their experiences were probably almost identical. Arriving at his base, Arthur heard the men who had been there a while, tease the newcomers with things like “You’ll be sorry you came here” or “Look, fresh meat.” I can only imagine how that kind of thing must have felt to the new and often very young airmen…like a swift kick in the gut!! Then the book went on to tell how the airmen felt on their first mission, when no one could eat breakfast, because of the churning in their stomach. Arthur was the flight engineer and top turret gunner, just like my dad had been. It was the job of the flight engineer to check the plane over to ensure that it was fight worthy, and report to the captain. Arthur found problems with their plane, Harmful Lil Armful, and told his captain it needed repairs, but his captain wouldn’t hear of it. He was close to going home, and wanted his last mission out of the way, and besides what did this “newbie” know. He was only on his second mission, and he was filling in for someone else. So, they took off…a catastrophic decision.

This was where and similarities between Arthur’s experiences, and those of my dad ended, because my dad was not shot down like Arthur’s plane was. At the point Arthur’s plane was going down, his pilot and co-pilot showed incredible cowardice, and abandoned the plane first…something that was just not done. Arthur tried to make sure everyone was off, but in the end, one man was stuck and injured. He told Arthur to go and take the newcomer with him, but the newcomer wouldn’t go. He fought Arthur, and actually kicked him off the plane, physically. As Arthur fell, he was sickened by the fact that his pilot and co-pilot jumped first, and that his friends would not be coming home. The pilot and co-pilot spent the rest of the war in a prison camp, but the outcome for Arthur was different, and in fact, miraculous, in more ways than one, because Arthur was not only an airman in the US Army Air Forces, but he was also a Jewish man facing the Nazis in World War II…a perilous place to be.

It was at this point in the book that my interest in it changed, because this could have been the fate of my dad, had his plane been shot down, but it hadn’t. While the outcome for Arthur was better than that of his crew mates, he still went through a harrowing experience, as did those who helped him. Arthur came down in occupied France on December 31, 1943, and in his landing, he badly hurt his back. From that point on, Arthur came in contact with some of the most amazing people on earth in that or any other time. The French resistance network took Arthur in, and over the next six months, they slowly smuggled him and a British Airman out through Spain to the Rock of Gibraltar. These people did this with precision and secrecy. They knew that if they were caught, they would be killed, but they hated the Nazis, and would do anything to fight against the Nazi regime…right up to, and for some, including giving their lives. The chances they took and the hardships they faced…voluntarily, were so far above and beyond the call of duty, that it almost seemed like a fictional movie. You know, the kind where the good guys always win, and the bad guys always lose. Nevertheless, this wasn’t a fictional movie, and the lives lost were real, but Arthur Meyerowitz was not among the lives lost. His was saved because of the selfless acts of so many people in the French Resistance. The story of Arthur Meyerowitz was, for me, so moving that in the end, I cried, and throughout the book, there were moments that I could hardly breathe with the tension of the situations they found themselves in. I felt bad to think it, but I was so thankful that my dad’s B-17 always made it home, and he never had to face the prison camps, or try to escape from a hostile nation. For Arthur, his escape was miraculous, and I believe it was because of the fervent prayers of his family and the undying faith of his mother, who believed that God would bring her son home…and God did.

Since both of my dads, Al Spencer (my dad) and Walt Schulenberg (my father-in-law) are in Heaven now, I don’t have a dad on Earth to celebrate with, but my husband, Bob Schulenberg is still with us…eight months after suffering a heart attack, and receiving miracle care and a miracle healing, and for that, my family and I rejoice and praise God, every day. This year could have been very different, and yet God stepped in and made a way for us. That is my biggest reason to celebrate this Father’s Day. Every day beyond October 14, 2018, is a gift. A precious gift from God. So to my husband, I wish a very special Father’s Day. I am so thankful that you are still with us.

The example my dad and my father-in-law set for their children is one of kindness and love. It is an example that we all try to follow, because they were both great family leaders. They were hard working, and took care of their families so that they never wanted for anything. Having a great dad is not automatic…unfortunately. As the saying goes, “Any man can be a father, but it takes someone very special to be a dad.” It takes someone very special to be there through thick and thin…when their children are being good and when they are being bad. Children need to know that no matter what mistakes they make, their parents will always love and support them as they work through life’s ups and downs. Growing up is hard, and we don’t always make that journey smoothly. It is a road often filled with big rock and pot holes. We stumble along, and if there is no one there to pick us up and put us back on out feet, things don’t always go very well. I am so thankful for my two dads, who were good dads to me and my siblings, and well as Bob and his siblings. I firmly believe that it was because of them that Bob and I became the parents we are.

I also feel very blessed that my daughters, Corrie and Amy have been blessed with the wonderful husbands they have. Kevin and Travis are the kid of dads I would have wanted for my girls and their children, if I could have picked. Thankfully, God chose these men for my girls, and I an very proud of the families they have raised. Their homes are filled with love and much laughter, as well and encouragement and forgiveness. Their children know that their parents are there for them, no matter what. Now the next generation are coming into the age to have kids, beginning with Corrie and Kevin’s son, Chris, who is taking the lessons he learned from his parents, and applying them to his own daughter. Chris is a great dad, and I know that he will raise great kids. Happy Father’s Day to my guys, and all the dads out there!!

My grandfather, George Byer was a man of gentle strength. Many people may not think those to traits go together, but in him they did. He was always a hard-working man, who gave his all to support his family, but maybe the gentleness came partly from the fact that he had 9 children, 7 of whom were girls. That can make a man understand that girls are often the fairer gender, at least in those days. Grandpa Byer lived in a time when the women stayed home and raised the family and the men went out and made the living…even if that meant working long hours or multiple jobs. Grandpa also lived during the great depression, when jobs were scarce, so the women need not have bothered to go look for one very often.

While times were tough sometimes, the family really never wanted for much, and grandma, Hattie Byer could somehow make the meager portions of food go a long way, and still never turn away a stranger in need of a meal, and it seemed there was always a plentiful supply of those strangers and friends who would come for dinner at the Byer house. They were a good team, and truth be told, Grandma Byer was probably just as tough, if not more so than Grandpa Byer, who did have a definite soft spot in his heart for people. Grandpa worked at a number of jobs, but the one I probably heard the most about was the building of Alcova Dam Grandpa had also worked on Kortez Dam and Pathfinder Dam, but my mom, Collene Spencer, who was Grandpa’s middle child, always mentioned to us that her dad had helped build Alcova Dam, every time we drove past it. She was very proud of her dad, and with good reason, because he was very special.

Grandpa served in the Army during World War I as a cook. While he was very brave, and never a man to shirk his duties, I think it would have been hard for this gentle soul to have a military career of killing people. Nevertheless, had the need arisen, he would have done it, because he always knew that he would protect those in his charge. He was a very loyal soldier, and he would never have allowed those he cared about to be killed, if he could stop it. His gentle strength was, for me, his trademark trait. I remember it from my childhood as clearly as if Grandpa Byer were standing right next to me as I write this story. he was the sweetest, kindest, most gentle man anyone could have known. Today would have been my Grandpa Byer’s 126th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Grandpa. We love and miss you very much!!

My grand nephew, James Renville has been working hard, going to college, and living at home with his mom, Toni Chase and step-dad, Dave Chase. It has been a good way to go for James, because he attended Casper College, and his parents live in Casper, so why pay for a dorm or apartment. James and his parents get along very well, so it has worked out nicely. In addition, living at home gives James’ the ability to enjoy the family dog, which he could not have in a dorm or in most apartments. James has always had a dogs, and right now they Biscuit and Cricket, and they would be lonely without James.

James graduated from college in May, with a degree in Communications and Media. I wasn’t sure just exactly what you can do with that degree, so I did a bit of research. Jobs directly related to your degree include: Media planner, Multimedia specialist, Program researcher, broadcasting/film/video, Public relations officer, broadcasting/film/video, Social media manager, Television/film/video producer, and Web content manager…just to name a few. I’m not sure just exactly what James has in mind for his career, but he has time to explore the great possibilities for career ideas.

James may continue his education, but for right now, he’s taking a break from school. He is working at Home Depot right now, and saving his money, because he wants to travel overseas again. James visited the Netherlands a couple of times, where he has a close friend, and that really gave him the travel bug. His job and living at home allows him to put his money into his travel plans. James has big plans for his life, possibly including moving out of Wyoming, but nothing is set in stone right now, so I guess time will tell. Of course, we hope he doesn’t go too far. Still, the future is wide open, and I’m excited to see where it will take him. Today is James’ birthday. Happy birthday James!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My husband, Bob’s grandparents, Robert and Nettie Knox were married in Forsyth, Montana on this day in 1928. It’s strange how things come to pass. Nettie was born in Clyde Park, Montana, but Robert was born in Prosser, Washington. Had Robert’s family not moved to Montana when he was young, they likely would never have met. Distances back then prevented things like yearly vacations to tour the United States. Nevertheless, like my own Robert, who was born in Miles City, Montana; while I was born in Superior, Wisconsin; and we met in Casper, Wyoming, where both families lived then. Robert Knox and Nettie Noyes both ended up in the Rosebud area, and the rest was history.

Grandma always liked to tease grandpa that she was older and wiser than he was…at least from June 30th to November 28th, when he caught up to her in years again. It was just one of the ways Grandma liked to tease Grandma. Their marriage would have it’s ups and downs, just like any other marriage. They lost their first child, Everett Knox at birth, and it was then that Grandma decided that any subsequent children would be born in the hospital, not at home. Grandma entered the hospital with my future mother-in-law, 40 days before she was born. Thankfully, $5.00 a day covered her hospital bills. I don’t think she could have been able to afford todays rate just to make sure she had the baby in the hospital. Their daughter, Joann Knox’s birth went off without a hitch, nevertheless, I don’t think Grandma could get comfortable with the idea of having another baby…at lease not for the next 14 years, when she got pregnant with their daughter, Linda, who’s birth also went off without a hitch. Margaret “Margee” would follow just a little over two years later, and their family was complete. Nevertheless, Grandma’s belief that her son would have survived, had she been delivered by Caesarean Section, prompted her to distrust home-births for the rest of her life. Grandma and Grandpa Knox, went on to have 8 grandchildren; each of them having a granddaughter born on their birthday…Corrie on Grandma’s birthday, and Machelle on Grandpa’s.

Married life wasn’t always easy for them. They lived through many tough times in their own life, as well as, economic times. Nevertheless, they persevered, and their marriage lasted until Grandpa’s passing in 1985. Grandma never really wanted to continue on after his passing, but she stuck it out until 1990. If they were still alive today, which wul have put them in their 110s, they would have been married 91 years today. I know they are celebrating in Heaven. Happy 91st Anniversary Grandma and Grandpa Knox. We love and miss you very much.

My nephew, Garrett Stevens has had a great year. It has been a year of great change for him and his wife, Kayla, who welcomed their first child on August 3, 2018. Their daughter, Elliott has been the answer to prayer for both of them. For as long as I can remember, Garrett has loved kids, and Kayla has too. Now that he has a child of his own, Garrett is on cloud nine. He is a great dad, and a great husband.

This summer has been a busy one for Garrett and Kayla. Kayla was a bridesmaid in a wedding earlier that took the family to Huntington Beach, California. They had a great time enjoying the sun and sand. They went sight seeing, and just had a great vacation. This past weekend, Kayla had to go out of town for the weekend, and so Garrett found himself being Mister Mom. I think he would have had no problem taking care of Elliott alone, but he wanted to give his mom a chance to join in, and since it was Elliott’s first time away from her mommy, Garrett might have been just a little bit nervous. Having his mom there would help, in the event that Elliott was fussy. He needn’t have worried. It all went very well, and Garrett and his mom had a good visit too. It was a sweet gift he could give to his mom, my sister, Alena Stevens.

Garrett has been working hard, and making great strides in his career too. Garrett took after his grandpa, my dad, Allen Spencer, when he decided to become a welder. Garrett went to college for his chosen field, and he is very good at it. Garrett works at EMIT Technologies, Inc in Sheridan. Kayla told me that Garrett made her very proud yesterday, when he won an award for his work. She told me that Garrett’s boss, Will said that he has never seen a new hire come in and hit the ground running as hard as Garrett has and he was impressed with how Garrett is making changes to products to make them better!! Compliments from bosses just don’t get better than that. Today is Garrett’s birthday. Happy birthday Garrett!! Have a great day!! We love you and we’re very proud of you!!

My cousin, Shirley Cameron is what can only be call a Modern Pioneer Woman. Not many people were living off the grid when she and her parents and brother moved to their mountain top in Washington state. They built 3 cabins. Her brother later moved to town, but her parents, Ruth and Jim, lived there for the rest of Ruth’s life and until fire destroyed their cabin, and Jim, who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease had to be moved to a nursing home, where he lived out the remainder of his days. That left Shirley and her husband Shorty, and their grandson Tyrel living off the grid on the top of Wolfe Mountain.

After Shorty’s passing, in 2016, Shirley and Tyrel live up there alone. Oh they have neighbors, down the mountain, and Tyrel’s mom lives not too far away, but in town. Shirley and Tyrell just like living in the wilderness far from civilization. I really don’t think Shirley will ever leave her mountain. The views up there are breathtaking, and she gets to see lots of wild animals. Nevertheless, winter can be long and lonely. There are times when getting off the mountain just isn’t going to happen, because the snow is too deep. They have to have enough food to last for a very long time, because running out of food would be bad. There is a well, so water is not a problem, and they use a generator for electricity, so they do have to have enough fuel to run that. Still, summer will come around again, and everything is renewed.

These days, more and more people are living off the grid. It has become almost “fashionable” for people to get away from the city and all of its ties to utilities, phones, and water. With cell phones, people can still be connected to a degree, if they choose to be, but they can also shut it off when they don’t want to be connected. I think Shirley likes to be disconnected sometimes. It gives her time with her own thoughts. Being a modern day pioneer woman is not a way of life for the faint of heart. A person has to be comfortable in their own company. I don’t know if it would be something I could handle, but Shirley has done well with it, and I commend her for it. Today is Shirley’s birthday. Happy birthday Shirley!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My aunt, Virginia Beadle is a woman of resilience. There are still a few of those around. They are the people who face adversity head on and fight their way back to health with strength and courage. As people age, sometimes their health can suffer. Aunt Virginia is turning 89 years today. Her mind isn’t as sharp as it once was, and her body shows definite signs of weakening that comes with the years, but her spirit…her essence…the beautiful lady that her family has always love is still there, and still just as beautiful as her sweet face.

There have been times in the last year or so that her body has betrayed her to a degree, and she has spent some time in the hospital and a nursing home, but she works hard to get her strength back with the hope of going home. It’s hard to say if the nursing home will become permanent, as it did for my mother-in-law in her final five years, but I can tell you that the love that Aunt Virginia’s kids have for her will never die, because they would give anything to keep her home. They have shown this in the care they have given her in the past few years. Aunt Virginia know that and feels the blessing of that love. They would give her the moon if they could, but all they can give her is their love, and that is what they have done. That is to be commended.

Aunt Virginia worked hard all her life to give her kids the best she could. Life wasn’t always easy, but she was resilient. She never gave up. If hard work could make a good life or her family…well, she worked hard. I remember how beautiful Aunt Virginia looked when she was getting off or going to work. She was always dressed up and she had style, but more than that, she was good at her job. These days her mind might not be as sharp, but when she worked, she “rocked” it. She has earned her retirement, and the love of her family. She may be older now, but she is still the beautiful lady we all know and love…inside and out. Today is Aunt Virginia’s 89th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Virginia!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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