Skip to comments.Another of the “Greatest Generation” Passes On: World War II Veteran and Ex-POW
Posted on 01/23/2010 3:35:05 PM PST by Captain Peter Blood
In the wee small hours of Wednesday morning my dear friend of over 30 years left this mortal plane and headed for his next adventure.
His name was John D., most of his friends referred to him as J.D. and his wife affectionately called him The Old Warrior.
J.D. grew up with my Father, both of them came from that can do group known as The Greatest Generation. Today would have been J.D.s 86th Birthday .
He was of that vanishing breed that fought a war, came home, married, had a family and contributed to the success of the Greatest Country in the world and this place is now a little less without him.
Let me tell you about my friend, he was fresh out of High School from Pine Bluff, Arkansas and joined the Army Air Corp in about 1942. He was tough, smart and very resourceful. As I remember he was a Gunner/Flight engineer on a B-24 Liberator Bomber.
J.D. was the kind of person who didnt mind talking about his war experiences and certainly on several occasions we did so.
As he told it he was assigned to the European Theatre of Operations, The 8th Air Force, and in the spring of 1944 one of his early flying missions was on D-Day flying a bomb mission to help support the Normandy Invasion. His plane was a B-24 Liberator and the name of it was Witchcraft. High adventure for a 20 year old kid from Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
Well in one of his subsequent missions, he was trying to make up a mission so he could stay with his original crew, he was on the B-24 Perils of Pauline when he was shot down and he was then put in Stalag Luft IV, and it certainly wasnt like watching the old TV show Hogans Heroes either.
Now here is where a remarkable story starts. If I recall correctly in the first Stalag he was in, which he said was very large, there were three other people in that Stalag from Pine Bluff, Arkansas and they all knew each other.
They were dispersed in different areas of the camp but somehow they were able to communicate with each other at times. J.D. in this camp somehow was able to scavenge food and other essentials to those who needed it and I was told literally kept some of those people alive.
The next part of the story was that he attempted three escapes and finally was successful in the last try. He told me it took weeks of evading the Germans and that he and others walked who knows how many miles to get to the Allied lines and safety.
J.D. after the war stayed in the Army Air Corp which became the U.S. Air Force. He retired in 1963 with the rank of Air Force Master Sergeant. In the 1963 he had the opportunity to join NASA an Aircraft Maintenance Inspector. He job involved traveling all over the world and as he told me he had the great fortune to know and work with the original Seven Mercury Astronauts. He retired I believe in 1979 after a remarkable career.
One of the things he became involved in later in life was helping to get a World War II Memorial for former Veterans of the Mighty 8th Air Force built and it is located in Pooler, Georgia. Somewhere I think I have a picture he sent me proudly standing by the place in the Memorial pointing to his name.
The real tragedy is that everyday we lose this collective of a generation that helped to do so much for our country and as the poet said, They shall not pass this way again anytime soon.
J.D.s funeral will be in a few days and I have asked permission to read a poem I have that I have read at about two other funerals for close friends and family that have passed away. Its one that I really like and one that I think J. D. will like also:
THIS WAS WRITTEN IN THE 19TH CENTURY BY AN ENGLISH PARSON:
TO MY BELOVED FAMILY AND FRIENDS:
DEATH IS NOTHING AT ALL. IVE ONLY SLIPPED AWAY INTO THE NEXT ROOM. I AM I AND YOU ARE YOU; WHATEVER WE WERE TO EACH OTHER THAT WE ARE STILL.
CALL ME BY MY OLD FAMILIAR NAME. SPEAK TO ME IN THE EASY WAY YOU ALWAYS USED. PUT NO DIFFERENCE INTO YOUR TONE. WHEN FALSE AIR OF SOLEMNITY OR SORROW, LAUGH AS WE ALWAYS LAUGHED AT THE LITTLE JOKES WE ENJOYED TOGETHER. PLAY, SMILE THINK OF ME, PRAY FOR ME.
LET MY NAME BE EVER THE HOUSEHOLD WORD THAT IT ALWAYS WAS. LET IT BE SPOKEN WITHOUT EFFECT, WITHOUT A GHOST OF A SHADOW ON IT. LIFE MEANS ALL THAT IT EVER WAS. IT IS THE SAME AS EVER. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY UNBROKEN CONTINUITY. WHY SHOULD I BE OUT OF MIND BECAUSE I AM OUT OF SIGHT? I AM BUT WAITING FOR YOU FOR AN INTERVAL SOMEWHERE VERY NEAR, JUST AROUND THE CORNER.
ALL IS WELL
IN CLOSING I WOULD JUST LIKE TO SAY:
GOODBYE MY DEAR FRIEND JOHN D., UNTIL THAT TIME WHEN WE MEET ONCE AGAIN IN THAT SHINING CITY ON THE HILL.
May God Bless Our WW2 Vets!
Farewell to your dear friend, and Thank You.
I work at a VA Medical Center. We are losing this generation of soldiers quickly.
I wish I had appreciated what what they did earlier in my life. I grew up in the 1970’s and was, frankly, sick of hearing about “the war.” I didn’t “get it” until I came to the VA.
Those folks saved the world.
Rest in Peace J.D.
Thank you for your service J.D. and may you rest in peace.
The Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum is something you don’t want to miss if you’re ever near Savannah Georgia.
Thanks for sharing JD’s story. It is hard to imagine that not so many years ago this country was populated by men like him. Hopefully, a new generation will emerge with the same qualities of character as those who endured the Great Depression and WWII. We have good men (and women) of all generations, but we need to have them in the majority, not minority.
Hm? These are the people who gave us:
** FOUR** terms of FDR and his New Deal
** The U.N.
** Johnson's Great Society
** Our modern government school monstrosity
** A few thousand social programs and offices
( Just to name a few)
Great! Yeah, just great! ( sarc.)
Oh, and what have you done?
If not for them, my dad included who lost a leg in the pacific, you could be speaking Japanese or German. Those men and women fought the ugliest war in history and as another poster said “what have you done?”
A poignant remembrance . . .
Thank you for sharing . . .
Thanks so much for the picture and link.
A million Americans were killed or wounded in WWII, a generation you disparage.
You homeschooled 3 kids.
Thanks for your sacrifice.
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