World War II

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In any job, there can be personality conflicts, and Lieutenant General George S Patton was not liked by every other officer he served with. Nevertheless, like him or not, Lieutenant General George S Patton’s 3rd Army was successful is battle. On March 22, 1945, soldiers of the United States’ Third Army, under the command of Lieutenant General George S Patton, crossed the Rhine River at Oppenheim, south of Mainz. Patton’s arrival was weeks ahead of his rival, British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery. When Patton went to battle, he was known to fight his own higher command structure nearly as hard as he did the Germans. His comments were often harsh and probably ruffled some feathers, but he was known to get the job done. He was also known for moving farther and more aggressively than ordered, and even having his troops pose as First Army soldiers in order to steal fuel from that unit’s stores in order to maintain their own advance to the east. By March 29, Patton had captured Frankfurt. Then Patton, commonly called “Old Blood and Guts” continued his march east.

Frankfurt am Main, which means “On the Main” River, in western Germany, was the mid-19th century capital of Germany, until it was annexed by Prussia in 1866, in a move that ended its status as a free city, and thereby ending its reign as capital. When Germany was integrated into a united German nation, Frankfurt developed into a significant industrial city, making it a prime target for Allied bombing during the war. Bombing began in July of 1941, during a series of British air raids against the Nazis. By March of 1944, Frankfurt suffered major damage during a raid in which 27,000 tons of bombs were dropped on the nation in a single month. As a result, Frankfurt’s medieval Old Town was virtually destroyed.

Like him or not, Patton was a capable warrior. During the Battle of the Bulge, in December of 1944, General Patton broke through the German lines of the besieged Belgian city of Bastogne. The brave defenders of that city were so thankful for the assistance. Patton continued to push the Germans to the east, heading for his goal…to cross the Rhine. He was so determined that he didn’t care if he had to take down every single bridge along the route, in order to achieve his objective. Upon his arrival, Patton found one bridge…the Ludendorff Bridge, located in the little town of Remagen had not been destroyed. The American troops had already made a crossing on March 7, 1945, in a single great moment in the war and in history. Historically, no enemy army had crossed the Rhine since Napoleon accomplished the feat in 1805. Now there were two. The March 7th crossing and Patton’s grand crossing on March 22nd, and from the bridgehead created there, “Old Blood and Guts” and h is 3rd Army headed east and captured Frankfurt on March 29, 1945.

Still, Patton didn’t stop there. He crossed through southern Germany and into Czechoslovakia, at which point, he was given an order not to take Prague, the capital. It was to be saved for the Soviets to take. After all that, you might expect Patton to be furious, but uncharacteristically, he was not. Nevertheless, Patton desperately wanted to liberate Prague, probably for political, as well as personal reasons. Patton was a great warrior, but he was not above wanting the headlines.

I am always amazed at some of the “latest and greatest” kinds of weapons that men have come up with to wreak havoc on their enemies. Of course, in a war, it is kill or be killed, so when you go into battle, you need the best weapons available. Still, some weapons are so strange that it is hard to imagine how they can work and how anyone would be willing to use them. Nevertheless, they do. On March 25, 1941, Italy attacked the British Fleet at Souda Bay, Crete. The strange part about this warhead (a torpedo) was that this was a “manned” torpedo. You might ask yourself how that could possibly be and how it could possibly work. We know what torpedoes are, but how can they possibly be manned? Nevertheless, they were.

The attack of March 25, 1941, was the first time that manned torpedoes had been employed in naval warfare, and while it was strange, it added a new weapon to the world’s navies’ arsenals. Known as the “Chariot,” the weapon was definitely unique. It was mainly used to attack enemy ships that were still in the harbors. That makes sense, because the type of preparation necessary to run it would not be feasible in most settings. The Chariots needed “pilots” to “drive” them to their targets. Now, imagine having that be your job. We all know what torpedoes do, they are deployed and run straight to their target and explode on contact. So, what does a “manned” torpedo do? The same thing!! Technically, however, this is not a suicide mission for the pilot. The way it works is this. The pilot sits astride the torpedo on a vehicle that would transport them both to their target. The pilot would guide the missile as close to the target as possible, then he detached the vehicle and rode it back, usually to a submarine. The only major problem my mind can envision would be if the vehicle wouldn’t detach. The Chariot was an enormous tactical advantage, because before its development, the closest weapon to the Chariot was the Japanese Kaiten, which was a human torpedo, or suicide bomb, which had obvious drawbacks. Imagine being the “pilot” of that kind of torpedo. Obviously, it something malfunctioned, the “pilot” could end up dead, but with the Kaiten, something was going to go very wrong by definition.

The first successful use of the Chariot was by the Italian navy was on March 26, when six Italian motorboats, commanded by Italian naval commander Lieutenant Luigi Faggioni, entered Souda Bay in Crete and planted their weapons along a British convoy in harbor there. The Italians referred to their version as Maiali, or “Pigs.” In the attack, the cruiser York was so severely damaged by the blast that it had to be beached. The manned torpedoes had proven to be the most effective weapon in the Italian naval arsenal. In December 1941, the Italian torpedoes were successfully used against the British at Alexandria, Egypt. Malian torpedoes also sank the British battleships Queen Elizabeth and Valiant, as well as one tanker. They were used against merchant ships at Gibraltar and elsewhere.

The British did get even with the Italians by sinking the new Italian cruiser Ulpio Traiano in the port of Palermo, Sicily, in early January 1943. An 8,500-ton ocean liner was also damaged in the same attack. After the Italian surrender, Britain, and later Germany, continued to use the manned torpedo. It is such a strange weapon, and I can’t imagine how the “pilots” felt about the risks involved with it. Nevertheless, it was successful. Germany succeeded in sinking two British minesweepers off Normandy Beach in July 1944, using their Neger torpedoes, which was basically the same thing.

Adolf Hitler was quite possibly one of the most insane people of all time, but apparently much of the hateful things he did were actually done under the influence of Opioids and Meth. Does that excuse his behavior? Absolutely not. Even on opioids and meth, there was a monster that existed deep on the inside of that man. There was a deep-seated hatred that made him do the things he did. The opioids and meth merely gave him the ability to continue on in his hatred, and it wasn’t just Hitler that was regularly using these drugs to carry out their hateful tasks. It is common knowledge that many of the soldiers under Hitler either didn’t know the truth of everything that was going on, and still others were afraid to argue the point for fear of their own death. For many of those people, the use of drugs was the only escape from the horrors of what they had to do.

Still, there were many people who were truly evil, and it’s quite likely that those people simply used the drugs to “enhance” the horrific experience, and by enhance, I mean they very much enjoyed the killing and in their twisted minds, the use of the drugs made it more “pleasurable” to do the things they did. The drugs also kept the Nazis awake for many more hours than they might otherwise have been able to endure. The Nazi call was “Germany awake!” The orders were constantly barked out, and they meant it more than most people even knew. As Nazi Germany battled its way through World War II, the country relied on a little secret to stay “energetic.” It was known as Pervitin. It was used by the soldiers to avoid sleep and to numb the terror of battle. Housewives later popped Pervitin so they could “finish all their chores and lose weight” too. It turns out, however, that it was just pure methamphetamine. And Adolf Hitler himself relied on even stronger remedies, taking a drug called Eukodal, effectively a cocktail of oxycodone and cocaine, to treat various “ailments.”

By 1941, a top German health minister wrote a letter fretting that the entire nation was “becoming addicted to drugs” but it made little difference to Hitler or anyone else. Indeed, there remains a “trove of weird historical facts about drug use in Nazi Germany” that would totally astound even World War II buffs. We already knew that Hitler was evil and crazy, but now we know more about how he was able to keep going with all his hate. For some or most of the soldiers, it was likely a way to control what they did. I’m sure a ‘mutiny” would have been catastrophic for Hitler’s master plan against the Jews. When some of those soldiers saw the atrocities that occurred, they actually wept. Many of them had no idea what was really going on…and I’m sure that was exactly what Hitler wanted.

I have always been intrigued by Albert Einstein. Albert Einstein had an estimated IQ (Intelligence Quotient) of 160 to 190, although it was never really tested, so it could be higher. According to Mensa International, IQ is a score that identifies how far above or below someone is in comparison to others’ mental ability. Mensa is the largest and oldest high-IQ society in the world. It is a non-profit organization open to people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized, supervised IQ or other approved intelligence test.

The term, IQ originated in 1912, and since then, IQ tests have been further developed to define standard deviations of someone’s logic and reasoning. Nevertheless, even with the tests, intelligence is not easy to measure. Many of those who are considered “the smartest people in the world,” such as Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein, do not have extraordinarily high IQ scores in comparison with others. Still, the prowess they display in their everyday life and in the great achievements they make shows their intelligence in ways no test can effectively measure. I would think that this is a far greater measure of their intelligence. Some of the most intelligent people do not do well and do not like taking a test. Some even get very anxious when testing.

Of course, we have all heard of the famous Einstein equation E = MC² and have probably wondered what that was all about. It was in his 1905 paper, that Einstein proposed his famous equation: E = MC². That equation laid out a new understanding of “the matter/energy relationship where the energy of a body is equal to the mass of that body multiplied by the speed of light squared.” Now, if that doesn’t make sense to you…well, you are among the majority of people who feel the same way. First of all, tell me how fast if the speed of light squared. No, I can’t explain that either…but, Einstein knew. Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his study of the photoelectric effect in 1921. Einstein (a Jewish man) immigrated to the United States during the outbreak of World War II, after being targeted by Hitler’s administration. In the United States, his work became crucial in the development of the atomic bomb later during the war.

While his great discoveries and scientific advancements were crucial to advancement on the world stage, they were not his only abilities. Einstein was outspoken, eloquent, and he had abilities that were far beyond the confines of the scientific community. He played the violin. He loved both the classic and popular literature of his time. He was funny, often without realizing it. He once told a conductor on the train he had boarded, when asked for the ticket he had misplaced, that if he did not find his ticket…he would not know where to get off!! Eistein kept his mind clear for more important things, but not cluttering it with things that could be written down, such as the station when he was to disembark. He was also not snooty, and certainly not above making the occasional funny face. He was known for having clutter. He had too much on his mind to worry about neatness. All in all, Einstein was simply a real person, and his personality took in all that entailed. Today marks the 145th anniversary of this great man’s birth. I would have liked very much to know Albert Einstein.

When the Liedekerke-De Beaufort family left their previous home, Vêves Castle, during the French Revolution, they needed a new home. The castle that they would name Château Miranda was planned and designed in 1866 by the English architect Edward Milner. Unfortunately, Milner died in 1884 before the château was finished. I’m sure he would have loved to see his design completed. Construction was completed in 1907 after the clock tower was erected. The descendants of the Liedekerke-De Beauford family remained in occupation until World War II. During World War II, a small portion of the Battle of the Bulge took place on the property, and it was during that time that the château was taken over and occupied by German forces.

The Liedekerke-De Beauford never moved back into Château Miranda. In 1950, it was renamed “Château de Noisy” when it was taken over by the National Railway Company of Belgium (NMBS/SNCB). During that time, and the reason for the strange name change, was that Château Miranda was converted into an orphanage and also a holiday camp for sickly children. Château Miranda lasted as a children’s camp until the late 1970s. Little is known about its occupation from the late 19702 to 1991, when it was abandoned and stood empty, because the cost to maintain it was too great, and a search for investors in the property failed. The municipality of Celles offered to take it over, but the family refused, and the enormous building lingered in a derelict state, slowly succumbing to decay and vandalism. At one point, parts of Château Miranda were heavily damaged in a fire, and many ceiling areas began collapsing. Despite this, it became a favorite site for exploration.

Finally, the fate of Château Miranda was decided, and demolition work began in 2016. This was mainly due to concern over the structural stability of the building. The demolition took approximately a year, beginning in October 2016 with the removal of the roof. By October 2017, it was done…and, the Château Miranda had been completely demolished. The last part to be removed was the central tower. To me it is a terrible injustice for what was once so fine a castle. Sadly, not everyone sees the historic value in old buildings, and some would rather see these historic buildings restored, rather than have history destroyed.

While visiting my Aunt Sandy Pattan during her stay at Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Hospital where she is recuperating from a recent surgery, we were talking about our favorite subject…the Byer-Pattan Family History. The subject turned to the many things her parents, my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer had seen come into being during their lifetimes. Grandpa was born on June 15, 1893, and Grandma was born on February 26, 1909. A sixteen-year age difference wasn’t that uncommon in those days, and many people to this day have a large age difference between husband and wife. Of course, the world when Grandma was born was already quite different than the world when Grandpa was born. The automobile was first invented…officially in 1889, but people really didn’t start owning them until about 1929, so by the time my grandparents were married in 1927, a few people might have owned their own car, but many still didn’t. For those, it was still the horse and buggy days.

Planes were another thing that the most likely saw come into existence. While they existed at the time my grandmother was born, they did not during my grandfather’s early years. Nevertheless, like automobiles, planes were not something that was commonly in use for the average citizen. They were too expensive and so were only for the very rich or for military use. Most people who needed to travel long distances used the trains in those days, and some very likely still used the horse and buggy travel mode. Of course, truth be told, there are still those who use a horse and buggy today. The Amish and even a few others, but the others are mostly for show, like parades, races, and such. Personally, my husband, Bob and I dearly love the trains. We ride one pretty much every year. I think trains are in my blood. My dad grew up riding them, because his dad worked as a carpenter for the Great Northers Railroad. Because of that, his kids got a free pass to ride…within reason, of course.

Televisions might have been “invented” in the late 1800s, but they were not common in homes until much later. In fact, in 1947 there were only a few thousand televisions in homes in the United States. I suppose that getting programming together could have had something to do with it, but many people thought it was an unnecessary evil, and maybe they had a point. Prior to that time, families would gather around the radio to hear the latest news…especially when it came to the important news of the wars.

Telephones were just as rare. Invented in 1869 by Alexander Graham Bell, although, it was truly a race between him and other competitors. Nevertheless, he was granted the patent. By 1920, about 35% of homes had phones. These days we couldn’t imagine running our lives without a phone, and who needs a home, we carry them in our purses, pockets, backpacks, and even on our wrist. If you don’t have access to your phone, it is entirely your fault…either you forgot it or you let the battery die. Either way…your fault. Aunt Sandy and I agreed that there have also been a lot of changes in our eras, but maybe not quite as drastic as the ones our parents and grandparents saw. I’m quite sure there will be many more changes as time goes on. Space travel, for the common man being one. Wow!! Now, that’s something to think about!!

MV Joyita, an American merchant vessel, was acquired by the United States Navy in October of 1941. She was not a big ship and only ran with a crew of 25 men. Joyita was a 69-foot wooden ship built in 1931 as a luxury yacht by the Wilmington Boat Works in Los Angeles. She was originally built for movie director Roland West, who named the ship for his wife, actress Jewel Carmen. The word “joyita” in Spanish meaning “little jewel.” The ship’s hull was constructed of 2-inch-thick cedar on oak frames. She was 69 feet long, with beam of 17 feet and a draft of 7 feet 6 inches. her net tonnage was 47 tons and her gross tonnage approximately 70 tons. She had tanks for 2,500 US gallons of water and 3,000 US gallons of diesel fuel. In 1936 West sold the ship to Milton E Beacon. During this period, she made numerous trips south to Mexico and to the 1939–1940 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco. During part of this time, Chester Mills was the captain of the vessel.

In October 1941, two months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Joyita was acquired by the United States Navy and taken to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where she was outfitted as yard patrol boat YP-108. The Navy used her to patrol the Big Island of Hawaii until the end of World War II. In 1943 she ran aground and was heavily damaged, but the Navy was badly in need of ships, so she was repaired. At this point, new pipework was made from galvanized iron instead of copper or brass. In 1946, the ship was surplus to Navy requirements and most of her equipment was removed.

She was decommissioned and in 1948, Joyita was sold to the firm of Louis Brothers. They added a cork lining was added to the ship’s hull along with refrigeration equipment. The ship also had two Gray Marine diesel engines providing 225 horsepower, and two extra diesel engines for generators. Joyita was sold to William Tavares in 1950, but he decided he didn’t really need it, so he sold it in 1952 to Dr Katharine Luomala, a professor at the University of Hawaii. Luomala chartered the boat to her friend, Captain Thomas H “Dusty” Miller, a British-born sailor living in Samoa.

Miller used the ship as a trading and fishing charter boat. About 5:00 AM on October 3, 1955, Joyita left Samoa’s Apia harbor bound for the Tokelau Islands, about 270 miles away. They got a late start, because her port engine clutch failed. Joyita eventually left Samoa on one engine. She was carrying sixteen crew members and nine passengers, including a government official, a doctor (Alfred “Andy” Denis Parsons, a World War II surgeon on his way to perform an amputation), a copra buyer, and two children. Her cargo consisted of medical supplies, timber, 80 empty 45-gallon oil drums, and various foodstuffs. Joyita was scheduled to arrive in the Tokelau Islands on October 5th, after an expected voyage of 41 and 48 hours. On October 6th, a message from Fakaofo port reported that the ship was overdue. No distress signal from the crew was ever received. A search-and-rescue mission was launched and, from October 6th to 12th, Sunderlands of the Royal New Zealand Air Force covered a probability area of nearly 100,000 square miles of ocean, but no sign of Joyita or any of her passengers or crew was found. Five weeks later, on November 10th, Gerald Douglas, captain of the merchant ship Tuvalu, en route from Suva to Funafuti, sighted Joyita more than 600 miles west from her scheduled route, drifting north of Vanua Levu. The ship was partially submerged and listing heavily (her port deck rail was awash) and there was no trace of any of the passengers or crew. Also missing was her four tons of cargo. The recovery party noted that the radio was discovered tuned to 2182 kHz, the international marine radiotelephone distress channel. No sign of the passengers or crew was ever found.

What was known as the Yalta Conference, was held February 4 – 11, 1945. It was a meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, during World War II, to discuss the postwar reorganization of Germany and Europe, because it was becoming more and more evident that the war was winding down, and the Allies would be the victors. Representing the United States was President Franklin D Roosevelt. Prime Minister Winston Churchill represented the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union was represented by General Secretary Joseph Stalin. Yalta is located in Crimea, Soviet Union, within the Livadia, Yusupov, and Vorontsov palaces.

As a war comes to a close, there must be some kind of a postwar strategy for shaping how the defeated nation will move into peacetime. They cannot be allowed to continue in the same direction that led to war in the first place, and the nations who won the victory will be key players in the newly formed alliance. They needed to shape a postwar peace that represented not only a collective security order, but also a plan to give self-determination to the liberated peoples of Europe, following years of oppression. The conference was intended mainly to discuss the re-establishment of the nations of war-torn Europe. Unfortunately, within a few years, and with the Cold War dividing the continent, the conference became a subject of intense controversy. There was a total of three conferences during World War II. They were known as the Big Three, and Yalta was the second one. The first was the Tehran Conference in November 1943 and the third was the Potsdam Conference in July of the same year as the Yalta Conference…1945. It was also preceded by a conference in Moscow in October 1944, not attended by Roosevelt, in which Churchill and Stalin had spoken about Western and Soviet spheres of influence in Europe.

Finally, on February 11, 1945, after a week of intensive bargaining by the three leaders of the Allied powers, the conference in Yalta ended. While the Yalta Conference was in session, the Western Allies liberated all of France and Belgium and were fighting on the western border of Germany. In the east, Soviet forces were 40 miles from Berlin, having already pushed back the Germans from Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria. These operations proved without a doubt that a German defeat was imminent. So, the focus moved toward shaping postwar Europe. With victory over Germany three months away, Churchill and Stalin were more intent on dividing Europe into zones of political influence than in addressing military considerations. Germany was to be divided into four occupation zones administered by the three major powers and France and was to be thoroughly demilitarized and its war criminals brought to trial. The Soviets were given the duty to administer those European countries they liberated but promised to hold free elections. The British and Americans would oversee the transition to democracy in countries such as Italy, Austria and Greece. Final plans were made for the establishment of the United Nations. A charter conference was scheduled for April in San Francisco.

President Roosevelt, just two months from his death, concentrated his efforts on gaining Soviet support for the United States war effort against Japan. The secret United States atomic bomb project had not yet tested a weapon, and it was estimated that an amphibious attack against Japan could cost hundreds of thousands of American lives. Stalin agreed, after being assured of an occupation zone in Korea, and possession of Sakhalin Island and other territories historically disputed between Russia and Japan, to enter the Pacific War within two to three months of Germany’s surrender. Most of the Yalta accords remained secret until after World War II, and the items that were revealed, such as “Allied plans for Germany and the United Nations, were generally applauded. Roosevelt returned to the United States exhausted, and when he went to address the U.S. Congress on Yalta, he was no longer strong enough to stand with the support of braces. In that speech, he called the conference ‘a turning point, I hope, in our history, and therefore in the history of the world.'” Unfortunately, he was too sick to recover now. Roosevelt did not live long enough to see the iron curtain drop along the lines of division laid out at Yalta. In April, he traveled to his cottage in Warm Springs, Georgia, to rest and on April 12 died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

In World War I, airplanes were a relatively new item. The Wright brothers made their first sustained flight on December 17, 1903, so by 1918, they were still barely more than a novelty, but that didn’t matter. The world needed these machines, if the Allied countries were to win World War I. I’m sure that no one really knew how these new machines were going to work out, and I can only imagine how the pilots that had to fly those first planes felt about not only flying in them, but doing combat in them. One of those first crew members was Stephen W Thompson, a 24-year-old gunner on a French aircraft in February 1918.

Thompson was born on March 20, 1894, in West Plains, Missouri. When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, Thompson was a senior in electrical engineering at the University of Missouri. Men were needed to go and fight, so the school announced that seniors who joined the military before graduation would receive their diplomas in June. Being a loyal American, Thompson enlisted in the Army. He was sent for basic training at Fort Riley, Kansas, and by June he was sent to Fort Monroe, Virginia for training in the Coast Artillery Corps. The train ride to his post would change his life forever, when he spotted an airplane in the sky. It was the first one he had ever seen, and when he got the opportunity, he went to the flying field, the Curtis School at Newport News, and asked if he could take a ride. He figured it might be the only chance he would get, and he didn’t want to miss out. Thomas Scott Baldwin, who had been a famous performer in his own balloons and dirigibles, was in charge and he agreed to give Thompson a ride. The plane was a Curtiss JN-4 Jenny and the pilot was Edward Stinson, a prominent flyer at the time who later founded the Stinson Aircraft Company.

After his ride, in which Stinson did a number of aerobatic maneuvers, including looping the loop five times in a row, Thompson said that the only thing that kept him from falling out of the plane at the top of the last loop was the lap belt. I can only imagine how he felt, but that flight changed Thompson’s whole life. He decided to apply for duty in the Air Service. He was accepted, and on February 5, 1918, flying as a gunner on a French aircraft in February 1918, he became the first member of the United States military to shoot down an enemy aircraft. He was not the first person to shoot down another aircraft, because Kiffin Rockwell achieved an earlier aerial victory as an American volunteer member of the French Lafayette Escadrille in 1916. Nevertheless, Thompson was the first “official soldier” to do so. That day, the 1st Aero Squadron had not yet begun combat operations, and Thompson visited a French unit with a fellow member of the 1st Aero Squadron. The men were invited to fly as gunner-bombardiers with the French on a bombing raid over Saarbrücken, Germany. Well, nobody had to ask them twice. The run was successful, but after they had dropped their bombs, the squadron was attacked by Albatros D III fighters. Immediately taking action, Thompson shot down one of them, thereby carrying out the first aerial victory by any member of the US military. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palm for the action.

After the war Thompson worked at McCook Field for several years as an engineer. Today, McCook Field is Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Following his time at McCook Field, he became a high school mathematics teacher. During World War II, he taught preflight and meteorology. He maintained an interest in aviation and in 1940 he received US Patent Number 2,210,642 for a tailless flying wing. He died on October 9, 1977, in Dayton, Ohio at age 83.

It’s hard for me to believe that my uncle, Bill Spencer has been in Heaven for more than three years already. Uncle Bill chose Christmas Day to go. I think maybe he wanted to spend the holiday with his parents and siblings. He was the last of the original family to go to Heaven, and with Covid stalking the world, he didn’t get to see his children as much either. Since Uncle Bill had Dementia, he probably didn’t realize that he didn’t get to see much of his family, but they knew it, and it made them sad. There were months and months during which they could not go visit him, and sadly it didn’t matter that all these precautions were taken. Uncle Bill still got Covid, and by Christmas Day, he was ready to go home. And so, on Christmas Day 2020, the Spencer brothers got back together again.

My dad, Allen Spencer was two years younger than his brother, Bill, but they were the very best of friends. When they were together, you didn’t have to ask them to talk about their childhood, all you have to do was sit back and listen, because the stories were the talk of the day. They had so many great adventures. They would go fishing, swimming, and boating with friends. They also loved getting into mischief, and dynamite was one of their favorite mischief makers. They normally used dynamite to remove tree stumps, but they weren’t above the Independence Day “fireworks” display or the “gate post” experiment. They were very industrious boys, and in those days, before things like video games, television (while it did exist, was not common in every household), and telephones (they were first in homes in 1856, but only 35% of homes in the 1920s had one), kids actually played outside, and used their imaginations. These brothers had the best time. They rode their bicycles for miles and miles. They hopped the trains…no, not like illegally. These boys had a pass, because their dad worked on the trains, but they never simply boarded a train…they hopped the train, even though they were scolded for it, they hopped the trains anyway. Danger be hanged!! Oh, the adventures they had.

When the United States entered World War II, the brothers were all set to go into the Army Air Force together, but Uncle Bill had a hernia and flat feet, so they wouldn’t take him. My dad went in alone, and his big brother, who had always been there to take care of him, was…well, a little frantic about it. He didn’t want my dad to go without him. He worried about his little brother. Sending any family member into the military in times of war, is something any family would worry about, and Uncle Bill was no exception. So, while his brother fought in the war, Uncle Bill worked on the planes here at home. Uncle Bill was a welder, and his skills were very important in the building of the planes that would fight and eventually win World War II. His was a very important job, and I am very proud of the part he played in the victory. Today would have been Uncle Bill’s 102nd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Bill. We love and miss you very much.

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