You don't know him, and even a deep search on Google might not find him. So, why should you be interested? That is the reason behind this little essay.
Rich Grey was in the 366th Fighter Group, known as "The Gunfighters." He flew a P-47 fighter in ground support after D-Day and through the rest of the Second World War.
He told me that intelligence said that the Germans were using everything possible to resupply their troops, even the hand carts refugees used to carry their belongings in as they tried to move away from combat. Rich said he was flying parallel to a road, saw what appeared to be families and a number of carts.....He hit full left rudder, putting his plane in a skid, you aren't supposed to be able to make a P-47 skid sideways much less do it and strafe. The .50 caliber Browning Machine Gun is an awesome weapon, those big slugs are capable of doing very serious damage, and he had eight of them and BLOOIE! the carts erupted as the ammunition in them exploded.
We talked about airplanes and techniques he used to extend the range of the plane hundreds of miles further than the specifications said a P-47 could go.
Rich told me he stayed with the 366th into the jet age, before finally retiring as a Colonel. He was a gentle-man in every sense, and although we read in the Obituaries "they were devoted" blah, blah, Rich and his wife were just that, the happiness of the other being the concern of each. I would have liked to talk more but they were too far away for more than the rare times they were at my in-law's home.
I met Rich at the home of my father in-law, Morris "Andy" Andersen, a man who, even in the depths of Dementia before he passed on, was always a polite and sociable gentle-man and that is an uncommon blessing as those with experience with Dementia and Alzheimer's know. Andy was a Colonel in General George S. Patton's Third Army, but never left the States. Andy ran a factory that made ammunition for the rest of the Division to shoot at Germans.
Another person I got to meet at the Andersen's was Charlie Hudson. Charlie had a life that was worth making into a movie based on his book; "Combat, He Wrote" about being the lead bombardier for the 8th Air Force and his life after the war. No, wait. There were movies. http://www.91stbombgroup.com/91st_bu...udsonbook.html
Charlie grew up with Andy's wife, Klondie in Taft, California. Their life long friendship is why I got to meet Charlie when he visited.
A grandfather, Leon Offner received an award from the Commanding Officer as the best telegraph operator in the Pacific Fleet. He had been retired from the Navy many years before the Japanese attack and his ship was the only undamaged Battle Ship at Pearl Harbor December 7 1941, the USS Pennsylvania.
My mothers father Wayne A. Tatom lied and got in the Navy at 16. He served on a "armored cruiser" commissioned West Virginia in 1905 and changed to USS Huntington in 1917. So, another grandfather served but missed a war.
It is uncommon for a step-parent and step-child to get along, but I was lucky to learn a little bit about mine, Chesley H. Robertson. My discovery was reading a couple sentences about him in the book; "RAF Biggin Hill. Ches joined in Canada to get into Eagle Squadron, flying a Spitfire against the Luftwaffe at the end of the Battle of Britain. Originally from Mississippi, Ches was a Southern Gentleman, and outside confirming what I'd read and that he went on to fly the P-47 when his squadron was absorbed into the United States Army Air Force, he never spoke about the war. I did see a photo of him, a lanky 6'4" youngster in a group around Winston Churchill. That was all.
He and my mom went to an Eagle Squadron reunion. Like many, he walked over to the Spitfire, gently petted it, and cried.
Ted Shatto was a fighter pilot in The Aleutians. Around campfires, he gave me only the smallest tidbits; a story about being jumped by Zero's who shot out one engine of his P-38, and there he was, upside-down over the Arctic Ocean and then they killed the other engine....
He told of the Royal Canadian Air Force pilot that was cross training with the Yanks who was assigned to my dad and was to fly using his P-40. He was told that you had to use full power to take off from the muddy strip and the best way to overcome the torque was to wedge his arm against the side of the cockpit with the stick against the butt of his hand. The Canadian did it like he would in a Hurricane, part throttle, and drove my dad's favorite plane right into the bay at the end of the runway.
He used to remove the ammo bins, fly to the mainland and load up with beer.
They had to have someone walk the paths to the tents they lived in after a party when the Medic let them use some of his Alcohol to mix with orange juice...because a guy could freeze if he passed out on the way to his tent and bed.
He said his Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded just because he took over when the flight leader slipped, fell and broke his arm trying to mount his plane for a mission one rainy morning.
Once, he looked back to see a puff of black smoke where the bomber he was escorting had been. Ack-Ack in the bomb bay.
Then, there was the poor guy sitting in a rock looking across the water and dreaming about home. Dad said he would not have seen him, and he would have been fine except he got up and ran into a nearby shack.
So, what is the point?
I believe the stories need telling because they make up the thread and the fabric of a family and holds it together.
The stories that make up the history of a family, a clan, berg, village, town, city, the stories of the people add-up to the story of a nation and culture.
Without knowing what happened and how it relates to us personally, we have no context, no basis, no foundation upon which to build our lives and we are likely to be easily manipulated by people with agendas based upon theories and practices that have often-times already been proved not to work.
Every one of us wishes, too late, that we had been able to talk with and learn more about the people we know.
These stories need to be told.
Not just the warriors tale, but the everyday people from all parts of our family. The people who invented and gave us the lifestyle we enjoy today. The old folks who lived what is in today's history books.
They rarely offer their stories.
We would be enchanted by them.
They would enjoy the attention.
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Retired Pro-Hunter featured in; 'African Hunter', by James R. Mellon III. and listed in; Rowland Ward's Records of Big Game.
my dad served in korea, but saw no action. so i'll tell an "at home" story about him that summed up his life...
dad was a supervisor in a publics works dept in our home town. one day he and an employee had a disagreement about how the job was to be done. after some heat words(the other guy) and some firm, quiet ones(dad), the guy took a swing at dad, hitting him in the side. because dad was a small man(prolly 110-120lb), he sustained 2 broken ribs.
well, after going to the clinic, dad had the displeasure of writing a report as crew leader. the public works director insisted dad should fire him, but that it was his decision.
dad declined, citing that the guy had been going thru a rough time in his divorce among other things. i'm not sure how many of us would do the same. i'm not even certain what i would have done.
Shatto, some of those who came home never spoke of what they saw because they saw too much for a civilized human being to endure.
Dad was over Berlin on a mission when a plane in front and above him was hit by flack and the oxygen bottles exploded. He saw three men jump out of the plane.
The first man lost his parachute, before he could strap it on in the -40 degree air 150 MPH air at 25,000 feet. The second was covered in fire.
The third man passed just to the left of the cockpit. Dad caught a glimpse of his face just before he flew into the propeller of the planes engine and was shredded.
20 years later when I was 15 years old, in 1965, my bedroom was just across the hall from his. Some nights he would dream of those things and wake up in the night screaming. Many of the vets drank themselves to death. Others just shut it in some place in their brains and it slowly ate away at them until it took their lives.
Today we are loosing those memories as those who fought slowly leave us behind. It's hard for us to understand why they endured the unthinkable for us to have the privilege of forgetting their sacrifices.
The memories will stay with me until my last breath.
Shortly after my parents were married, my dad was drafted into the Army. He served in the infantry in Vietnam during the Tet offensive. He made Sargent during his tour but he doesn't talk about the combat part. He saw quite a bit of action and said that 40% of the guys in his platoon didn't come home alive.