My dad was the top turret gunner and flight engineer on a B-17G Fortress Heavy Bomber during World War II. That was something that my family always knew. Dad didn’t talk much about it, but we were always very proud of him. What we didn’t know about all of that was that my dad was on the toughest plane ever built. At the time of his service, this little known fact probably wouldn’t have brought much comfort to his parents or siblings, but now, all these years later, it somehow brings a good measure of comfort to my dad’s daughter…me. My dad made it home from the war, of course. I know that there were times that his plane sustained damage, but it always brought the crew home.
The testing of the B-17 Bomber, as is the case with most planes was rigorous. Is this great trial, the B-17 Flying Fortress put up one of most impressive displays, proving not only an effective carrier of firepower in which the plane delivered over a 3rd of the ordnance dropped by the allies in Europe and much of the ordnance dropped in the Pacific, but an astoundingly tough plane. Pilots and crews soon learned that the B-17s, which flew tens of thousands of missions under heavy anti-aircraft and fighter-plane pressure, could take extraordinary damage and still get home.
During the war years, the B-17s proved time and time again just what a wonderful plane they were. While they may not have brought their entire crew home every time they returned, they came home with part of them even with parts of the nose, propellers, and wings missing…and even with a tail that was hanging on by a thread. Of course, if the wing was torn completely off or the plane took a hit that ripped it in half, it did go down, but that is to be expected, as was the case with B-17G-15-BO “Wee Willie,” 322d BS, 91st BG, after direct flak hit on her 128th mission.
Still, the condition in which some of these planes came home would have shocked the builder altogether, if you ask me. I have looked at the pictures of these damaged planes, and I don’t know how they stayed in flight. The “All American,” with the 97th Bomber Group, made without a doubt, the most astonishing return. The plane had a huge gash in it’s tail section from a collision with an enemy fighter, whose wing sliced almost completely through the fuselage. The tail gunner was trapped at the rear of the plane because the floor connecting his section to the rest of the plane was gone. The plane was piloted by Lieutenant Kendrick Bragg, who flew 90 minutes back to base with the tail barely hanging on. One crew member said that the tail wagged like a dog’s tail. The pilot, proceeded to drop his bombs, and then made a U-turn taking the plane in a wide turn over 70 miles, so as not to stress the tail. When the plane landed and came to a complete stop, the tail finally broke off. Now that is one tough plane!!
I love looking at old photographs of people and trying to decide who they look like. With some people that can be difficult, because they are a Heinz 57, of sorts…a little bit of both parents, with some aunts, uncles, and grandparents mixed in there. Other people are so obvious that you can tell who they belong to right away. Still others don’t necessarily look like a specific person, until a little later on in life.
Our grand niece, Jala falls into the “Wow!! She looks a lot like her grandma” catagory. I have always thought she reminded me of my sister-in-law, Debbie, but even more so, when I look back at pictures of Debbie when she was closer to Jala’s age. They have the same jaw line and smile…the same nose…the same ears, and even similar eyes. It always surprises me when someone looks so much like another person in the family, although I suppose it shouldn’t because everyone has those traits that are strong in their family. Nevertheless, when it happens it still surprises me.
Jala is my sister-in-law, Debbies first granddaughter, and I know they have more likes and dislikes in common that just their looks, though…like their love of quilts. Debbie likes to make them, and Jala collects them and other types of blankets. She must have a hundred of them, and uses every single one. In fact, I had heard that Debbie was planning to teach Jala how to make them herself. Just think of it. Then she could have 200 of them if she wanted, and her grandma wouldn’t have to make all of them. Ok, that was a joke, because I know that Debbie loves making quilts and other things for her grandchildren.
Today is Jala’s 11th birthday. You are growing up way too fast. Before we know it, you will be all grown up and married with kids of your own. Ok…let’s not rush things. Happy birthday Jala!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!
For some time now, my niece, Jenny has thought that her son, Isaac looks like his great grandpa, my Dad. Whenever she, or anyone else says that, I look at him, and I can kind of see it, but I wasn’t sure. For me, it can take a while to see those similarities…mostly I suppose because the similarity is often from a specific age of the proposed look alike, but once you see what the other person saw the looked so similar, there is just no doubt.
It is often easier to see the similarities when you are talking about a father/son or even grandparent/grandchild, but a great grandparent/great grandchild and beyond is often a little more difficult to see…at lease for a number of years, in most cases. One of the things I see about Isaac is that he is quick to smile, like my Dad was. I think they might share more that physical looks. They might have a very similar sense of humor. I do know that Isaac gets the same little look on his face when he is about to pull something on someone that I have seen on my dad’s face…it’s one of those funny little looks that tells you immediately that you are about to get picked on…if you are quick enough to notice it.
There are other similarities between Isaac and my dad too, of course. They had the same nose, smile, chin, and especially eyes, of a deep amazing blue color, and of course, the twinkle. I look forward to watching Issac grow up, to see how much he looks like my dad at ages older than what they were in these pictures. I think that as he gets older, we will see so many ways that he is like Dad. Often, when someone is so similar to another person, those similarities carry into other areas of their lives. I think Issac could do no better than to be like his great grandpa. He would be an amazing man, if he was like my dad.