Our veterans should be remembered every day
A long-time Burien resident and United States Air Force veteran of World War II, Ed Allen, wrote short stories about war experiences that included tales of fiery parachute airplane bailouts, critical casualties, and crash landings.
Flying 30 missions over Nazi-held European countries in war had its moments. It was enough to catch the eye of a British editor who published three Allen writings in England-based “Fly-Past” Magazine.
Allen wrote his first book, “From Kansas Farm Boy to Bomber Pilot.”
When we’re young and positive we’re totally invincible, it’s exciting and scary to face danger. The adrenaline pumps, all bodily support systems register GO and the brain and body kick into high gear.
Allen piloted a Boeing B-24 Liberator airplane with a full crew of 10 members over enemy territory from July 1944 to April of 1945. The B-24 with its counterpart warhorse of the air the B-17 made history known as The Flying Fortress.
Thoughts of the pending dangerous reality hit Allen the night before his first mission.
“I didn’t sleep well thinking about the safety of our crew getting shot at in the sky and no place to hide up there.”
Shortly after takeoff that concept became actuality. Flying in formation the 8th Air Force Division headed for target. German troops spotted them and fired anti-aircraft guns at the Americans in flying fortresses.
Tons of ammunition exploded to decorate the skies with black puffs of smoke.
“It was like a ball of knitting wool bursting open with a giant red center.” Flack peppered the sky and hit the #1 engine. That burst a high-pressure oil line and squirted oil on the turbo supercharger. The engine caught fire. “I knew something had to be done and fast, or we could be goners,” Allen wrote.
Turning the blades into the wind they “feathered the propellers.” Oil stopped pumping out and the B-24 dropped away from formation. They could not keep up to complete the mission.
Returning to base the plane was unable to hold altitude. “Navigator to Captain,” Allen heard, “At the present rate of descent we will be at minus 230 feet when we cross the coastline.”
Something had to go.
Sighting an open field the crew jettisoned their payload of bombs and landed safely at the base. Sharing the events of that day later, the crew agreed they were not looking forward to the remaining 29 missions.
Still, fly them they would and they even became a lead plane singled out by the enemy.
“German guns were trained on our airplane and we knew they wanted to shoot our fannies off,” Allen said.
The crew survived to leave their base in Norfolk County, near the village of Hardwick, England, to go home via a stop at a processing center. The news of V-E Day and the end of war in Europe reached them at that center.
Wartime changes people. The cost of war is all or nothing. Recognition and respect for veterans who put their life on the line can never be over-done and it should not end with only a parade and medal awards for dresser drawers. Young veterans need jobs, education and financial, medical, and community support to climb that long hill to war recovery.
If elected politicians can’t take time to prioritize benefits for veterans instead fighting over whose party is the most right or most wrong, then it’s time the people speak loud and clear, “Get your act together or go home.”
The day Pearl Harbor was bombed and World War II began will live in history. Although war in 1941 was a scary time today’s war is starkly different. It’s an age of missiles and push button warfare, high tech. and more threat of Atomic disasters.
“In a traditional war we knew who and where the enemy was, it’s not knowing that’s difficult,” Allen said.
In today’s world wars husbands, fathers, wife, mothers, children and community are anxiously waiting to come home. The whole world seems affected, or is it infected, with this fighting mentality. Bring our military loved ones home safe and sound now!
As to retired pilot Ed Allen memories written here, he later located six of 10 former B-24 crewmembers and proposed this toast,
“To us who by the Grace of God, a little luck, and a little skill, managed to survive- - and to the ladies who tolerate our stories.”
The nearby ladies who endured several different versions from guys telling the same stories said, “Are you guys sure you were on the same airplane?”
Memories differ yet one fact remains; Military veterans’ sacrifices are largely why American’s are still free to express opinion, vote for candidates of choice, and provide hope for children. They deserve a job, educational opportunities and a peaceful future.
Veterans Day is everyday!