Every now and then I share vintage pictures here. Some have been childhood pics, but a handful have been of my grandfather, who was a WWII pilot. He died in Okinawa after his plane crashed. About six weeks ago, I received an email from another writer who’d stumbled across a Veteran’s Day post I had written back in November 2013. (In that post I’d shared a picture of my grandfather and an excerpt from a local Oklahoma newspaper about his death).
The writer who recently contacted me is writing a book on the type of planes that my grandfather flew and he’s been researching, among other things, my grandfather’s squadron. Turns out, he not only knew who my grandfather was, but he had some information to share — one item being a very sobering photograph of my grandfather’s plane after the crash. It was a picture I’d never seen before. Needless to say, opening that email attachment and seeing the wreckage was a mildly profound moment for me. I’ve grown up hearing about the way my grandfather died, but hearing about something and seeing it are two different experiences. I showed my family the photograph and my father-in-law summed up why I think the blogging part of this story is so incredible:
I gotta say that is amazing. A somber picture. But what it took to get it here. The internet had to be invented, the army had to archive pictures, the pilot’s granddaughter had to be an author & another writer had to read a blog she created, recognize the aircraft & contact her over 70 years later.
I’d share the photo here, but it’s not my photo. And it’s not a happy picture. The story of how it made its way to me, however, is inspiring.
In honor of Memorial Day, I spent a few hours yesterday going back through my grandmother’s album so that I could scan some old photos and war dept. letters for this researcher/writer. As I looked through everything, it was impossible not to wish that the crash hadn’t happened. How different my grandmother and my mother’s life would have been. That said, I’m aware that other families have suffered much more recent losses. And their Memorial Day this year was probably more sad than reflective.
That’s why I’m going to end this post by simply saying thank you to all those in the armed forces, past and present, and their family members too. I’m sorry for your losses and I deeply appreciate your loved ones’ sacrifices.