Opinion: *Sigh*…such a bittersweet story to make me weak in the knees and sorrowful all at once. I am truly starting to adore reading short stories more and more.
…but MY OH MY is it a wonderful story…
Heavy going (Pt.1)
With the B-17’s brave but beleaguered WW2 service in the Pacific and its epic contribution to victory in Europe, along with the B-24’s ubiquitous duty in every corner of the conflict, it would be easy to forget that the RAF also operated both types.
Indeed the British were the first to use the American heavies in anger, and their combat experience would profoundly shape the development and success of the USAAF’s mainstay bombers.
RAF pilots found the Liberator and Fortress – and it was only ever ‘Fortress’ in British hands; I guess they thought the ‘Flying’ part was largely self-evident – well designed and easy to operate. However the early models just weren’t ready for the ferocity and operating extremes of modern war. Most were quickly moved to support and long range patrol duties.
Ultimately, the RAF had limited need for the Fortress, but they found the…
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Lodging — bending of the stalk of a plant (stalk lodging) or the entire plant (root lodging).
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“Grandma… Grandma! Can she even hear me?”
“She comes and goes. Some days are better than others.”
“What is she looking at out there?”
“I don’t know.”
Of course, I could hear them. But sometimes it is easier to pretend not to. How do you tell your family — your children and your children’s children that their lives are — or maybe, were unintended. That they might never have been.
I don’t know if “unintended” is the right word. Accidental? Like getting shot with a ricocheted bullet.
I loved Bill. I did. Captain Billy — the pilot of my soul. We had a good life and we were happy. But, he wasn’t the one. He was the one who came back, but he wasn’t the one.
A ricocheted bullet…
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It is funny how children can be so oblivious to deprivation. My best friend, Sarah, and I were so. The world was at war and we were yet young girls in high school, still filled with the wonder of life, not caring about rationing or war bonds or newspaper headlines. And suddenly the world seemed to be coming to Liberal — boring, stodgy old Liberal, Kansas. West of town a giant airfield was cultivated out of the wheat fields. Soon after, the sky filled with airplanes and the streets flooded with young men from all over the country coming to our town to learn to fly the planes they called “Liberators” — from New York, from California, from Florida, from Chicago, St. Louis, New Orleans, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco — places Sarah and I could only dream of, trapped as we were on the empty high plains in the middle of North America.
We used to ride our bikes out to the Army Airfield and wade into the fields of grain to lie down at the end of the runways like lodging wheat to feel the roar of the huge bombers shake our bodies. Fear tingled our toes as they swooped in to land, so close — so close overhead that we could see the rivets. So close, we could feel the heat of the exhaust of those grumpy, growling engines. So close. So big. So close.
The planes came so low overhead we could see the faces of the boys in the bubbles — the bombardiers, nose and tail gunners. It wasn’t long before they noticed Sarah and I and they began to smile and wave at us. They pressed their faces against the Plexiglas or hung out the side when the tornado of air off the wings and propellers tried to lift the hems of our dresses. Sometimes — just sometimes, we kind of let our fingers slip just a little and the caboose boys — that’s what we called the tail gunners — would give us a big grin and a thumbs up. Of course, that was a secret that only Sarah and I…and the Army Air Corps shared.
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