What Are You Doing Next Saturday At 4:00PM? by Jeffrey Worthington, iHistory Project-WW2

War is Hell.  Ask anyone who has been there and the story is the same.  Still, amidst the death and destruction; despite the hating and the killing, humanity shines through, a beacon and a sentinel letting us know there is hope our spirit of good will prevail.  Frank and Jean Bausmith lived through the ravages but stood as a beacon of goodness in the face of inhumanity.  This is their story:

Frank was a quarterback and Jean was a cheerleader.  She wanted a football boyfriend for whom she could root and he admits he was watching Jean from afar.  They were both shy, but through the encouragement of friends, and the intervention of the local paperboy, who asked Jean if she would go out with frank, they began a dating relationship that was described as “back and forth.” Then came December, 1941…

The Japanese attack on December 7, 1941 was something Frank could not ignore.  “Pearl Harbor,” he recalled, “was what turned us on to joining the service.  That was it.  We had to do something, so I volunteered.”  He enlisted in the Marine Corps and served honorably as a medic with the 4th Marine Division.  Frank got a Purple Heart after a Japanese hand grenade hit him.  In another attack, while attending to a fellow Marine, he was wounded, again, when a Japanese bullet went through a palm tree and stuck in his arm. The wound was so minor that he didn’t get a Purple Heart for it.  The real magic of Frank’s time in the war, however, wasn’t his valor under fire.  It wasn’t the  wounds  he received nor was it the many fierce battle locations he survived, places like Saipan, Okinawa and Iwo Jima.  The real magic was the humanity he maintained despite the inhumanity around him. 

At Saipan, fighting was characteristically fierce and the Japanese held tightly to every inch of ground.  They had convinced the local people that surrender to the Americans would bring unthinkable horrors, so many committed suicide or tried anything, regardless of how desperate, to avoid capture.  In a cistern the Marines found bodies of dead civilians who had hidden themselves there and died.  Frank saw a baby move and jumped into save him.  A fellow Marine sent the baby to the aid station.  Amidst the horror, humanity survived.  In his personal life, too, Frank put love above the fray. Here is their story…

Frank and Jean maintained a long distance romance by mail.  He recalls that letters came from her every other day, under most conditions.  Sometimes the war interrupted mail flow, so occasionally a week would go by with no letters in the mail pouch.  He wrote, faithfully, every day.

The romantic intensity grew as the months and even years passed and Frank even bought a ring while on leave and sent it to jean, with no explanation.  The price tag was still on it.  She decided that, as she remarked, “it better be an engagement ring” and she put an engagement announcement in the newspaper.  When Frank returned home, he asked Jean when she thought they might marry.  She asked him:  “What are you doing next Saturday at 4:00PM?”   They have been married for sixty-seven years. 

War is Hell.  Still, somewhere beyond the horror, humanity can survive.
     
I hope you will support me (and hundreds of World War 2 enthusiasts and volunteers around the world) in challenging American teens across America, who are interested in military history, to participate in the iHistory Project-WW2.  We are committed to preserving these great World War 2 stories and memories and to bringing them to life so future generations will understand and appreciate the events of this conflict and how they shaped our world.

For more information, visit the I-History Project-WW2 or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org

What Do You Get When You Cross Old Crow With Bud? By Jeffrey Worthington, iHistory Project-WW2

What do you get when you cross Old Crow with Bud?  No, I’m not talking about the trade name for a particular bourbon Whiskey and I certainly don’t mean to conjure thoughts of a very popular brand of beer.  I’m talking about the plane, “Old Crow” and the pilot, Clarence, “Bud” Anderson.  Put them together and you get one of the most winning combinations of man and machine to take to the skies during World War 2.

Flying his P-51 Mustang, “Old Crow”, as part of the 357th Fighter Group of the Mighty Eighth Air Force,  Bud was part of a team that challenged the Luftwaffe’s supremacy and  ultimately dominated the skies over Europe. He earned the title Triple Ace, a title that recognizing that Bud shot down no fewer than 15 Axis aircraft while piloting not only a good fighter aircraft, but the one the History Channel, in its program on the top ten fighters of all time, called the best of the best.   Its speed and maneuverability are legendary and its extended range made it a long distance escort for bombers like the B-17 Flying Fortress whose missions deep into Nazi airspace would not have been possible without the P-51 and the men like Bud Anderson who so skillfully flew them.  Commenting on the Mustang’s contribution Bud noted:

“The airplane arrived in Europe at the precisely important time when the heavy bombers were taking such losses that they knew they had to have escort fighters that could go wherever the bombers could go. The arrival of the Mustang…meant we could go deep into Germany …The spring of 1944 is when historians agree we broke the back of the Luftwaffe…We overwhelmed them with 1,000 bomber raids with 1,000 – 1200 fighters, all at once, day after day.”  

So, if you combine Bud, the WW2 Triple Ace with Old Crow, his trusty P-51 Mustang, you get a winning combination that helped win the war over Europe!

You can learn more about Bud Anderson the P-51 Mustang and the Mighty Eighth Air Force by visiting Bud’s web site and the web site of the Mighty Eighth at www.mightyeighth.org/history.  
 

I hope you will support me (and hundreds of World War 2 enthusiasts and volunteers around the world) in challenging American teens across America, who are interested in military history, to participate in the iHistory Project-WW2.  We are committed to preserving these great World War 2 stories and memories and to bringing them to life so future generations will understand and appreciate the events of this conflict and how they shaped our world.

For more information, visit the I-History Project-WW2 or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org.

Besides Us, Who Will Make It Back Alive? by Jeffrey Worthington, iHistory Project-WW2

Airmen of the Second World War were, if nothing else, resilient. This was true for all of the men who flew the skies patrolled by the Axis and none deserved the title more than the pilots and the crews of the B-17 Fling Fortresses. Norm Stevens commanded one of these formidable aircraft and his is a story of survival in the face of near certain death.

Recounting his experiences as a bomber pilot, Norm tells of a typical mission briefing, the time all of the pilots learn their targets and assess their risks. Out of groups of eight bombers, only two would make it back, intact. With characteristic confidence, a cross between cockiness and the kind of humor needed to stay focused on the mission and not the suicidal nature of their work, Norm tells how he would look around the room and wonder who, among his fellows, would come back with him and his crew?

Yes, the missions were dangerous. Pilot Stevens was twice wounded and twice won the Purple Heart for battlefield injuries. On one particular mission, facing heavy anti-aircraft fire, he took shrapnel in the back of his head. Shrapnel pieces are the metal fragments embedded in flak; those ever present puffs of smoke that let crews know the anti-aircraft gunners below wanted them dead.

On this particular run Norm’s belly gunner pleaded with him to break formation. He could tell from the predictable time between blasts and their locations that they were flying headlong into the path of the anti-aircraft fire. Of course Norm couldn’t break formation. This was about “mission” and they all flew knowing they might have to die fighting for victory. The same blast that hurled shrapnel into Norm’s head slit the belly gunner’s jugular, taking his life in a matter of seconds.

The pilots and the crews of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses were common men performing uncommon feats of bravery in the face of a fierce enemy who gave them little hope of surviving. Still, with confidence in themselves, in their fellow crew members and in their mission, they sprang back time after time, resilient despite all odds.

I hope you will support me (and hundreds of World War 2 enthusiasts and volunteers around the world) in challenging American teens across America, who are interested in military history, to participate in the iHistory Project-WW2. We are committed to preserving these great World War 2 stories and memories and to bringing them to life so future generations will understand and appreciate the events of this conflict and how they shaped our world.

For more information, visit the I-History Project-WW2 or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org