December 17th

I'm usually better at remembering this date but it wasn't until I was at work yesterday and had to write down the day's date that I realized that it was December 17th.

December 17th is the anniversary of the day my father was shot down during WWII 64 years ago.

My Dad was the pilot of a B-24 Liberator and on December 17, 1944 he
was on a mission to bomb the Odertal Oil Refineries in Germany. He and
his crew took off out of Italy and about half-way to their destination,
over the Czech Republic, they were attacked by a squadron of German
P-38 fighters who shot down my father's plane.

Half of my Dad's crew was killed in an instant. The other half, five
guys including my father, parachuted out of the burning plane to land
in the Czech countryside. They were captured just hours later by German
soldiers and my father and these other four men were were taken to a
German prison camp on the Baltic Sea until the war ended 6 months later.

Every year for as long as I can remember my father has reserved
December 17th as a day to remember not only the men who died that day,
but to think about his life and the chance he got to live it to its
fullest.

I felt guilty for not remembering until midway into my day, so caught up have I been in my own little drama. But it was a good reminder in that sense, to think about an event, a day so much bigger than the problems I'm currently facing.

Dad Mountains
It never ceases to amaze me how brave my father was. He was only 24 years old when he was shot out that plane, landing in a foreign country. And he never forgot it. He never stopped being grateful for his life. Up until his last breaths he was always aware of what a gift life is and he never overlooked the opportunity to make those around him aware of how he felt.

Last night we went to dinner at a friend's house and I told the story of how my father was shot down and we all raised a glass to him and his crew and I gave thanks for my life, just as he would have done.

4 comments

4 Comments

  • Carroll
    Posted December 18, 2008 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    I’ve “heard” you tell this story before, Claire, and it always makes me tremble. My own father was in WW2, though in a non-combat medical position, and my husband was drafted during the Vietnam era, but joined a reserve unit instead. Having two sons around your age who grew up safe and sound in California, I wonder about the bubble in which we live. Do you suppose there would even *be* such a thing as war if women ran the world? I can’t imagine making a decision that would send anyone’s child into the face of such peril. Here’s a toast to your brave father, and a cheer that he survived and was responsible for bringing you into the world!

  • Posted December 18, 2008 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always loved that picture…the contrasting colors, the bright blue sky and his gentle smile.

  • RzDrms
    Posted December 18, 2008 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    claire, after reading this post this morning at work and seeing you say that you felt guilty for not remembering until midway into your day yesterday about the significance of the date, i immediately re-read through what you actually wrote on the morning of december 17th, and the profoundness of your last few lines struck me even more, in light of your father’s anniversary of such a monumental event in his life, and eventually in your and your baby’s life:
    “I’m always amazed by how quickly life flows forward, by the situations we all face time and time again. No one walks through unscathed and many of us test the line again and again. And I’m always awed by how the hardest things in life also give you the deepest appreciation for it.”
    beautifully, beautifully put, especially in retrospect of you “not remembering”….
    he’s always in your heart.

  • Tonia
    Posted December 19, 2008 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    I remember your dad’s stories about German prison camp so vividly. He was truly a brave man and wonderful person.

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