Unfortunately, not every life story is a perfect one. There are among us, who embrace evil, greed, and selfishness, as well as the need to promote themselves as far more important than they are, or ever should be allowed to be. Georgia Tann was purported to be the face of modern adoption practices. She supposedly changed the view of orphan children, from unworthy of better circumstances to simply victims of circumstance who could go on to greatness, if given the chance. She had the backing of many of the prominent members of Memphis society, and officials including Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Camille Kelley. In reality, Tann operated a horrific human trafficking operation under the name of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society (not to be confused with the legally operated Tennessee Children’s Home) from 1924 to 1950. The non-profit corporation might have been legitimate when first chartered in 1897. Beulah George Tann was born in July 18, 1891, so she was too young to bring her evil into the society when it first began, and didn’t work there when the charter was renewed in 1913, but it was under her leadership that it became an illegal adoption agency.
Tann preyed upon people who had lost their jobs due to the depression, as well as single mothers, telling them that she could help them by taking the children temporarily, until they could get back on their feet. When the parents tried to reclaim their children, they found out that they had been adopted. The parents tried to fight Tann in court, but the courts rules in favor of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society…but she didn’t stop there. She had her people take children off the streets, and even their own front porches. The children were listed as abused, neglected, or abandoned. Their names and birthdates were changed to make tracking difficult…records were routinely destroyed. She also had parents sign forms they did not understand when their babies were born, often while mothers were still under medication, saying that this would let the county pay for the birth. Parents were then told the babies had died. When their older children were taken away, they found out that they had also signed away the rights to their them too. There were many corrupt officials involved in this. The corruption ran deep, and everyone covered up for everyone else in the ring.
The problem the children faced after being removed from the protection of their parents, who love them; is that the people who take them do not value the heart, mind, and bodies of these children. The children kept there were routinely malnourished, beaten, imprisoned, and abused…in every sense of the word. They were not allowed to go to school, and they were taken to viewing parties so potential…rich parents could take the ones they liked. Tann took children from poor people and gave them to “high-types” of people…for a price, of course. The cost of the adoptions was high and there were additional fees is the child had to be transported to another state. Only the rich could afford them. Tann pocketed the lion’s share of the fees received, and she lived well, while the children often survived on cornmeal mush. It is estimated that over 500 children died in the group homes run by Georgia Tann. Some were buried in mass graves. The final resting place of many others is unknown.
Tann’s rich parents were victims too. They had unknowingly adopted children who shouldn’t have been up for adoption. If they found out what she had done, Tann blackmailed them into silence. Actress, Joan Crawford’s twin daughters Cathy and Cynthia were adopted through the agency. Actors, June Allyson and husband Dick Powell also used the Memphis-based home for adopting a child. Professional wrestler Ric Flair was stolen from his birth mother and placed for adoption. Auto racer Gene Tapia had a son stolen by the agency. A 1950 state investigation found that Tann had arranged for thousands of adoptions under questionable means. State investigators discovered that the Society was a front for a broad black market adoption ring, headed by Tann. They also found record irregularities and secret bank accounts. In some cases, Tann skimmed as much as 80 to 90% of the adoption fees when children were placed out of state. Officials found that Judge Camille Kelley had railroaded through hundreds of adoptions without following state laws. Kelley received payments from Tann for her assistance. Tann died in the fall of 1950, before the case could go to trial. Kelley announced that she would retire after 20 years on the bench. Kelley was not prosecuted for her role in the scandal and died in 1955. Over the years that Tann headed up the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, she amassed at least 5,000 victims. The true number will most likely never be known, and in reality, continues to grow with each generation of children born, who will never know their true heritage.
There is good that comes from science, and there is bad too, unfortunately. Things like weapons of warfare would most likely fall into the bad that comes from science. Still, weapons are necessary, and maybe it isn’t the weapon that is bad, but rather the user. Wernher von Braun was a rocket scientist in Hitler’s Germany. His job was to build bigger and more dangerous weapons. The V-2 missile was the culmination of von Braun’s work so far. On October 3, 1942, von Braun tested the V-2 missile. The missile was fired successfully from Peenemunde, as island off Germany’s Baltic coast. It traveled 118 miles in that test; and later, in evil weapon style, it proved extraordinarily deadly in the war. The V-2 missile was the precursor to the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) of the postwar era.
German scientists, led by von Braun, had been working on the development of these long-range missiles since the 1930s. I don’t know if von Braun was doing this work by choice, which would make him very likely as evil as the weapons of destruction he made, or whether, like so many of the German people under Hitler’s evil rule, he simply had no say in the matter. Whatever the case may be, von Braun was good at what he did. The science, which clearly must have fascinated him, was a work to which he was well suited. He understood it. He knew how to make it do hat he wanted it to do, and become what he wanted it to become…or, at least what he was told to make it become. Still, it took time to perfect. Three trial launches had already failed. The fourth in the series, known as A-4, finally saw the V-2, a 12-ton rocket capable of carrying a one-ton warhead, successfully launched. I wonder just how much pressure was on von Braun at that fourth launch attempt. Could it have cost him his life, or his freedom, if he did not successfully create this weapon that Hitler wanted so badly.
The V-2 was unique in several ways. First, it was virtually impossible to intercept, making it a serious threat to anyone it was aimed at. Upon launching, the missile rises six miles straight up. Then, it proceeds on an arced course, cutting off its own fuel according to the range desired. The missile then tips over and falls on its target-at a speed of almost 4,000 miles per hour. That would make it extremely difficult to blow up in flight, since hitting something moving at that speed would take serious accuracy, and heat seeking missiles were not developed yet. The missile hits with such force that it burrows itself several feet into the ground before exploding. In addition, the missile had the potential of flying a distance of 200 miles, and the launch pads were portable, making them impossible to detect before firing.
September 6, 1944 became the first real use of the V-2, when two missiles were fired at Paris. On September 8, two more were fired at England, which would be followed by more than 1,100 more during the next six months. More than 2,700 British citizens died because of the rocket attacks. After the war, both the United States and the Soviet Union captured samples of the rockets for reproduction. They also captured the scientists responsible for their creation. Following the war, von Braun was secretly moved to the United States, along with about 1,600 other German scientists, engineers, and technicians, as part of Operation Paperclip. He worked for the United States Army on an intermediate-range ballistic missile program, and he developed the rockets that launched the United States’ first space satellite Explorer 1.
His group was assimilated into NASA, where he served as director of the newly formed Marshall Space Flight Center and as the chief architect of the Saturn V super heavy-lift launch vehicle that propelled the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon. He also advocated for a human mission to Mars. In 1967, von Braun was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering and in 1975, he received the National Medal of Science. Von Braun died on June 16, 1977 of pancreatic cancer in Alexandria, Virginia at age 65. He was buried at the Ivy Hill Cemetery. His gravestone quotes Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (KJV).
Opinions vary as to who the worst generals of World War II were, and I can’t say where I stand on the issue, but after researching several of the battles fought, whether won or lost, I can see how people could make up their own minds on the issue. It must also be noted that even the worst general can have enough good men under him to bring success through multiple blunders on the part of the general. Then, the general is considered a war hero. It doesn’t always happen, but sometimes, it does.
On September 14, 1944, the US 1st Marine Division landed on the island of Peleliu, one of the Palau Islands in the Pacific. It was part of a larger operation to provide support for General Douglas MacArthur, who was preparing to invade the Philippines. The Palaus were part of the Caroline Islands. They were among the mandated islands taken from Germany and given to Japan as one of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles at the close of World War I. The US military was unfamiliar with the islands, and Admiral William Halsey had argued against Operation Stalemate, which included the Army invasion of Morotai in the Dutch East Indies. He believed that MacArthur would meet minimal resistance in the Philippines, making this operation unnecessary, especially given the risks involved.
General William Henry Rupertus was the commander of the 1st Marine Division when they attacked the Japanese-held island Peleliu. Rupertus mistakenly predicted that the island would fall within 4 days. With that in mind, he sent his troops ashore with minimal water supplies. The battle was a horror show that dragged on for nearly 75 days. The Marines thought they knew how to attack the island, but the Japanese were using some new, innovative tactics, and so the Marines were unprepared. Nevertheless, Rupertus stuck to his original plan, even as casualties mounted, even withdrawing tank support for a critical assault, mistakenly believing it wasn’t needed. It’s actions like this that make you wonder how he ever got to be a general, I guess the Marines agreed, because Rupertus was pulled from command and soon died of a heart attack. The 1st Marine Division was pulled out after a month of vicious combat. They were in such bad shape that the division didn’t fight again for six months.
The pre-invasion bombardment of Peleliu had somehow seemed important, at the time, but it proved to be of no real help. The Japanese defenders of the island were buried too deep in the jungle, and the target intelligence given the Americans was faulty. Upon landing, the Marines met little immediate resistance, but that was a maneuver to get them further onto the island. Shortly thereafter, Japanese machine guns opened fire, knocking out more than two dozen landing craft. Scores of Japanese tanks and troops immediately stormed upon the marines. The shocked 1st and 5th Marine regiments fought for their lives. Jungle caves seemingly exploded with Japanese soldiers. Within one week of the invasion, the Marines lost 4,000 men. By the time it was all over, that number would surpass 9,000. The Japanese lost more than 13,000 men. Flamethrowers and bombs finally subdued the island for the Americans, but in the end, it all proved pointless. MacArthur invaded the Philippines without need of Army or Marine protection from either Peleliu or Morotai.
While MacArthur has a reputation as one of the most innovative and courageous generals in US history, he also committed inexplicable blunders at multiple points in the war. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, MacArthur was ordered to carry out pre-war attack plans on Japanese bases, but he gave no reply. As a result, Japanese planes immediately attacked, wiping out his air force. His thinly spaced and poorly supplied US and Filipino forces crumbled, and he was ordered to evacuate Manila with his command staff. About 150,000 Allied troops had been killed, wounded, or captured. His bold conduct over the next four years gained him a justifiable reputation as a war hero, but he was also reckless, arrogant, and careerist. He saw his role as the occupational governor of Japan as a stepping-stone to running for president and pardoned Japanese war criminals involved in human experimentation. These are not things that a general in the United States military should be doing, and while he was considered a hero by some, there were many others who would seriously disagree.
World War II took it’s toll on many people. The soldiers, families at home, and probably unknown to the people of the Allied nations…the German people. When we think of the Nazis, we think of an entire country so filled with hate for the Jewish people…as well as any nationality that was different that the Nazi white people. The reality is that while there were a relatively small number of Hitler’s puppets to actually embraced the thinking and the hatred of Hitler; there were also a great many of the German people who were not Nazis, nor did they agree with anything that Hitler did or believed. They were good and decent people, who valued life, and just wanted to work hard, and live their lives in peace and happiness.
These post-war German citizens were faced with a new and strange kind of post-war reality. The country suffered from collective PTSD. Said one German citizen, “We were a broken, defeated, extinguished people in 1045. 60 million human beings suffered from PTDS. And Knowing that not only did you lose…but also that you were on the wrong side. On the wrong side of morality, of humanity, of history. We were the bad guys. There was no pride. Just the knowledge that we were at rock bottom, and rightfully so.”
As American and Allies, it is hard for us to accept their feelings of remorse. I’m sure that the Jews, Gypsies, and other persecuted races had an even harder time feeling bad for the German people…at least, not unless they were some of the German citizens who escaped from Germany along with other refugees, or those who helped their Jewish or Gypsy counterparts to escape or to survive. One of those sympathizers who lived, warned his children and grandchildren, saying, “Don’t forget, but don’t tell anyone about this.” He was so ashamed and so angry, still, 40, 50 years later. He said that the Nazis had taken the best years of his life, saying, “We must look out for them, it can happen again. Beware, pay attention to politics! Speak up! We couldn’t stop them, maybe you can, next time.” The man hammered these things into his grandchild’s brain, over and over and over. He knew the dangers of complacency where politics is concerned. He knew that if they take your guns you are helpless. He knew that if evil people get in office, the danger grows exponentially. He had seen it…first hand. It is a lesson many people today need to learn. It could happen again, if we aren’t vigilant.
It hardly seems possible that 18 years have passed since our nation was brutally attacked on our own soil by Al-Qaeda terrorists, and yet sometimes it seems like so many people who are adults now, don’t really remember 9-11, so they don’t understand the importance. It’s not an unusual thing, I guess, because they were only told about what happened. It might seem like a movie, more than a reality. Nevertheless, it did happen. On that dreadful day, a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic group, Al-Qaeda were carried out against the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The attacks killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. Additional people died of 9/11-related cancer and respiratory diseases in the months and years following the attacks. We, the people of the United States, sat stunned in front of our television sets, trying to grasp what had happened. We were shocked, angry, and terribly grieved. We vowed never to forget. And most of us have not forgotten.
Still, with time comes acceptance. Not that I think that is a good thing, because with acceptance comes complacency. We feel like we can’t change anything, so the best solution is to simply get along. Don’t rock the boat. Try to live together in peace. It all sounds so loving, so…Christian. Unfortunately, the only ones that are trying to “get along and live together in peace,” are the Christians, and maybe the Jews, who have been through such things before, and are getting tired of being the target of slaughter. But, should we be trying to get along with the devil? We have seen the evil that comes with these hateful people who target innocent people who are just trying to live their lives. The don’t care about living in peace with us!! The only want us to comply with their demands.
I have seen so many people saying that they miss 9/12, and I think I agree with them. Yes that horrific day had happened…the unthinkable was in our midst. We were scratching through the rubble, trying to find yet one more alive, though not many would come out of the rubble. The survivors were, for the most part, those who managed to escape before the towers came down. Still, on 9/12, there was something else…there was determination, anger, and love for our fellow man. We were determined to rise out of the ashes, and take back our Pre-9/11 lives, to catch those who did this, and make them pay for what they had done. And we did!!
But then, as the years went by, we tried to get along, hoping that this would never happen again…an impossible feat. Our “get along” spirit did not stop other attacks. We began to hear of places like Benghazi, and even the attack on the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan this morning. The “get along” spirit wasn’t…isn’t working. They hate us simply because we are Christians and Jews, Americans…free people, who don’t believe as they do. September 11, 2001 was a horrible day, very likely the worst in the history of the United States, but I agree with so many others who say they miss 9/12, because on that day, we were no longer the “sleeping giant.” We woke up and realized that we can’t be complacent, because they will kill those who sit idly by and do nothing. We must either continue to fight for our freedom…or we will lose our freedom. We must begin again to recognize our enemy…foreign or domestic. The war hasn’t ended. It continues. We must fight for our freedoms.
My youngest grandson, Josh Petersen is a hardworking and very busy guy. Josh works two jobs. He services fire extinguishers at All Out Fire, and at Sanford’s Grub and Pub, where he is a jack of all trades. I guess that five years in the restaurant industry teaches you every job. Josh doesn’t have much time off. His jobs keep him very busy, and we, his family don’t get to see much of him. It’s part of what he does to be able to live as an adult. Sometimes you have to, work more than one job to make ends meet…especially in this economy.
Josh has a couple of pets, whom he loves very much. His little Dachshund dog, named Molly is his best pal. I’ll never forget when he first got Molly, and he loved her so much that he carried her everywhere. I don’t think that dog walk three feet in those days, and she still doesn’t walk much when Josh is around. I think Molly has completely convinced Josh that it is his responsibility to carry her everywhere. He also has Lilly, the cat, who has a couple of kittens.
Josh has such a soft heart, me I think Molly takes advantage of that fact, but I guess it doesn’t hurt anything. It is Josh’s soft heart, in my opinion, that makes him excel in the EMT/Firefighter field. Josh is studying to do both, and is very good at both. He has the heart of a helper. He doesn’t like to see anyone with a need left unmet. It doesn’t matter if the need is medical or some other need, Josh tries to help. It isn’t that he always has the excess to meet a need, but he will sacrifice his own needs for the needs of others in a heartbeat.
Today, as Josh turns 21, I find myself almost in shock that this, my youngest grandchild could already be 21 years old. He is no longer a child, he is a man. He works more than full time, and lives on his own, with two roommates, and a menagerie of assorted pets. Josh is responsible. He gets to work on time, takes care of his animals and his home and he studies and gets good grades. He makes me proud. A grandmother couldn’t ask for anything more. Today is Josh’s 21st birthday. Happy birthday Josh!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
After World War II, many of the veterans were hesitant to talk about their experiences. My dad, Allen Spencer was one of those men. We were never exactly sure why he didn’t talk about it, but thought that he didn’t want to brag. I don’t really think that was it at all.
While listening to an audiobook called Citizen Soldiers, which covers the D-Day battle and the Battle of the Bulge, it hit me…even before the author said it. The reason soldiers didn’t talk much about war was a deliberate effort to forget. Unfortunately for most of her them, forgetting was impossible. Their minds were filled with haunted memories. The book mostly covers the thoughts of the infantry, but touches on the air war too.
After listening to the author’s account of the battle, I don’t think I could ever forget either, and I wasn’t there. Memories of the 19 year old farm boy away from home for the first time, and not really trained for combat. When the shooting started, he stood up to fire. Other soldiers told him to get down, by it was too late. His first battle had become his last, as an enemy bullet pierced his forehead. The soldiers who witnessed it, felt sick to their stomachs. It was a time when a seasoned veteran was just 22 years old…and he had been made an office when his commanding officer was killed. There weren’t very many of the older men left…and by older I mean 30.
There were memories of a young prisoner of war, packed into a train to the POW camps was singing in his beautiful tenor voice, all the Christmas music he could think of to help raise moral. It was working, but suddenly the trains were under attack. The prisoners couldn’t get out, and the guards had run away. Finally a skinny boy was able to get out through a tiny window. He opened the door to his car and the men moved to free the other prisoners. There was really nowhere to go, but they escaped the attack. Then, the guards came back and loaded them back on the train. When someone asked the tenor to sing some more, they were told that he hadn’t made it back. His sweet voice was forever silenced. The men on the train were silent too…sick at heart.
The fighters in the plane’s overhead knew that it was kill or be killed, but whenever a plane went down, enemy or one of theirs, they counted the parachutes, hoping the men got out alive. For them non the planes dropping bombs, they knew that someone below went to work that day, having no idea tat they would not be returning home again. They had been simple factory workers, just doing what they were told. And what of the missed targets that landed bombs on schools and other civilian locations. The men in the planes above had to live with that. They had done their duty, but it certainly didn’t feel good.
I have long been interested in war, and especially World War II. Every aspect of it interests me, and I find myself wondering about the enemy. I’m sure that might seem odd to many people, but as we have found in the United States, just because the government goes to war, does not mean that every citizen, or even every soldier agrees with the reasons the country has gone to war. I have been listening to a couple of audiobooks that have taken in D-Day, and I came across something interesting.
Without going into all of that amazing strategy of warfare, I want to focus on one of the bombing maneuvers that took place. One of the soldiers on the ground was trying to take cover from incoming German bombs. After the bombing stopped, he looked out and was shocked to see eight bombs embedded in the ground near his foxhole. They had not gone off. He knew that it is possible for bombs to be duds, but he hadn’t heard of any American bombs that had turned out to be duds…especially eight of them at the same time, in the same place. He wasn’t bragging on the American bombs, their craftmanship, or their ingenuity, but rather, wondering how so many German bombs could have been duds…all at the same time.
Then the soldier made an observation that I had not considered, but that fell right into my view that not everyone in Germany agreed with Hitler. The American bomb builders were doing their job willingly. They were working to make the bombs efficient, because Germany needed to be defeated. In contrast, the German bomb builders were actually Polish slaves. Hitler had invaded their nation and was forcing them to play a part in a war that they disagreed with. The soldier considered these things and came to the conclusion that somehow the Polish slaves had been able to build a bomb that they knew would not explode, but would still pass the inspections of the Germans. The soldier believed that eight unexploded bombs could not be coincidental. It had to be sabotage.
In my research, I have seen situations where the citizens have helped the enemy, at great risk to their own safety. I have seen situations where the citizens have given aid to the enemy. And this situation was a blatant sabotage of the weapons of warfare. Within their nations, these acts were acts of treason, but they were actually fighting the evil that had tried to take over their nation. Within their confines, they were standing up for their values…for good, and for what was right. They were the enemy, in location only, because in their hearts, the were fighting for what was right, and I have to respect them for that.
Emma Gatewood was a survivor. When I read the first few lines about her, I thought her story was remarkable, but as I read the whole story, I realized just how remarkable she really was. Emma’s married life was pure torture, with the exception of her children, whom she dearly loved. Emma married her husband, Perry Clayton Gatewood, a 26 year old school teacher, turned farmer, when she was just 19 years old. He was a horrible man, who immediately put her to work building fences, burning tobacco beds, and mixing cement, in addition to her household chores. Three months after their wedding, he started to beat her, a practice he continued until, one day in 1939, he broke her teeth, cracked one of her ribs and bloodied her face. Women didn’t have as many options back then, so Emma was stuck. Because Emma threw a sack of flour at him, the police came and arrested her, not him, and put her in jail. The next day, when the mayor saw her battered face, he took her to his own home, where she remained under his protection until she got back on her feet.
Emma and Perry had 11 children, and unfortunately, the treatment of their mother was not hidden from them. Nevertheless, the story of Emma’s abuse at the hands of her husband went untold for more than a 50 years. In 2014, a newspaper reporter named Ben Montgomery, Emma’s great grand nephew, told her story in his book, “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk.” Emma Rowena (Caldwell) Gatewood passed away on June 04, 1973 in Gallipolis, Ohio, of an apparent heart attack, at the grand old age of 85, having accomplished much since her birth on October 25, 1887, in Gallia County, Ohio. Her father, Hugh Caldwell, a farmer, had lost a leg after being wounded in the Civil War and in his depression, turned to a life of drinking and gambling. Her mother, Evelyn (Trowbridge) Caldwell, raised the couple’s 15 children, who slept four to a bed in the family’s log cabin.
In an interview with her children, Montgomery, who worked for The Tampa Bay Times in Florida. In his research for the book, her surviving children spoke with him and entrusted him with her journals, letters, and scrapbooks. In that material he found stark references to what she had withheld from news interviewers: that her husband had nearly pummeled her to death several times. During one beating, she wrote, he broke a broom over her head. Her children told Montgomery that their father’s sexual hunger had been insatiable and that he forced himself on their mother several times a day. He made their lives a nightmare for years.
The woods became a place of solace and safety for Emma, who would often escape to them amid her husband’s rants. She came to view the wilderness as protective and restorative. In 1937 she left him and moved in with relatives in California. She was forced to leave behind two daughters, ages 9 and 11, who were still at home. Emma knew her husband would not beat the girls, and she could not afford to take them with her. She wrote to the girls to explain it to them, making sure not to leave a return address. In the letter, she wrote, “I have suffered enough at his hands to last me for the next hundred years.” Nevertheless, Emma couldn’t stand to be away from her girls any longer, so she returned after a few months. Her life became a prison after that. Her husband would not let her out of his sight. She later wrote that in 1938, he beat her “beyond recognition” 10 times. “For a lot of people the trail is a refuge,” Brian B. King, a publisher of guidebooks and maps for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, said in a telephone interview. “But seldom is it a refuge for something as bad as that.” A short time later, her husband left for good, filed for divorce, which was granted in 1941, and he was out of her life.
Emma’s hiking became a saving grace for her…she loved it. In 1949, she came across a National Geographic magazine article about the Appalachian Trail and became intrigued to learn in reading it that no woman had ever hiked it solo. In 1954, in her first attempt at hiking the Appalachian Trail, she started out in Maine, but broke her glasses, got lost, and was rescued by rangers, who told her to go home. Undaunted, she tried again in 1955, starting from Georgia this time. She was 67 years old, a mother of 11, a grandmother and even a great-grandmother when she became the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail by herself in one season. She would go on to repeat the feat 2 more times. Soon everyone was calling her “America’s most celebrated pedestrian.” In 1959, Emma went on to conquer the 2,000 miles of the Oregon Trail, trekking alone from Independence, Missouri to Portland, Oregon.
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.