Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Work Is Worth It

Written 6/20/2017
Exhausted is how I left Florida in May.  Exhausted describes how I have been this entire year really.  Excited, yet exhausted   There is an expression that my daughters team uses repeatedly when they are in the thick of practicing for a competition- the work is worth it.   And it is. When you are working towards something you care deeply about, every ounce of work is worth it.  But as I laid my weary, tired achy body to bed one night aboard the rolling Puk Uk, our marine chariot for the 2017 WWll Aleutian Island history tour, I was questioning my desires.  

My home for three weeks, the 70ft M/V Puk Uk.  It is one of the only vessels that travels all the way to Attu. 

Normally, I feel strongly guided to move in a certain direction lead by some kind of extraordinary circumstance that directs me to move one way or another.  With all the busyness of this year coupled with several misleading heart flutters, I have been missing or perhaps numb to the strong pull of my guide wires, the ones that make it clear what my next step is.   Don’t get me wrong, there are some incredible things on the horizon for 2018, and in actuality next summer is already full with exciting events!  But something, at least as of that night, was missing.

I suspect this contemplation stems from the utter feeling of devitalization from the last 300 some odd days of planning this summer’s events.  I’d say,  if there is one place for me to get replenished, it would be here in the middle of the Bering Sea.  I mean, we are totally disconnected, surrounded by the breathtaking marvel of the sea, the mountains and marine life. The history alone should be enough to clear all ones uncertainties away.  The most challenging part of the year is over.  Our trip is half way through, we have our sea legs, the long days of hiking are behind us, and I am fully caught up on sleep. It is now time to exhale, slow down and open up to the experience of what may be next.

Barren Islands, Alaska
And as for the long awaited events that brought on such contemplations?  Phenomenal. All of them.  For now, here is quick slide show that highlights some of the festivities and people involved with the 75th Anniversary weekend

Welcome to Unalaska!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The 75th Anniversary of the bombing of Dutch Harbor has been filled with a weekend long remembrance ceremony in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. We were blessed with the presence of nine WWll veterans, forty evacuees along with speakers, warbirds and an outstanding community that came together to honor those whose lives were effected. 
After nearly a year long of planning for this commemoration, it was a huge success all around, even when the Aleutian weather reared it's unsettled head.  It is an event quite worthy of a separate post, perhaps even multiple, which will have to come at a later date.

WWll Veteran from the 7th Infantry who landed on Attu May 1943, Signalman Frank Vaughn.
Right now, final preparations are being made for a second WWll historical tour through the Aleutians that leaves just hours from now!  This years tour has a very diverse group with three Japanese film makers, two ladies, both daughters of Aleutian Island veterans and four Alaskans, plus me- the Canadian.   Makes for a well rounded trip, I'd say.

As I so often do, before I left I wanted to sit down and investigate what the 111 (F) Squadron, RCAF were up to on this day 1942.  Around this time 75 years ago,  the squadron, then stationed out of Patrica Bay, British Columbia (now the Victoria Airport) were just days away from making their long trip north to Anchorage in defense Alaska.

Below are a few entries from the Squadron diary leading up to their arrival in the last frontier state.   After reading this and coupled with the memories fresh in my mind from last weekend, reminded me of exactly why I am out here and how all the blood, sweat and tears of this last year, is totally worth it.  

Patricia Bay, B.C

June 10th, 1942
No flying.  Servicing Ships.

June 12th, 1942
F/S Baird and Sgt. Stusiak returned to Pat Bay from leave and left that evening for Prince Rupert enroute to Anchorage.  Balance of squadron arrived at Wrangell and departed at 19:00 hours.

June 13th, 1942
Squadron Leader Nesbitt leaves the squadron to take the post of C.O. of the Canadian Wing at Annette Island.  He will be sorely missed by all personnel of the squadron.  F/L Kerwin appointed C.O. of our squadron.   The balance of the squadron arrived in Juneau at 07:00 hours. 

June 14th, 1942
Squadron left Juneau at 06:00 hours and arrived at Valdez at 14:00.  Squadron offices set up at Elmendorf.  No flying today. 

June 15th 
Squadron took over readiness (24 hours) with six Kittyhawks. Balance of squadron departed Valdez at 07:00 hours.

June 16th, 1942
P/O Lynch and *Whiteside on orders from W.A.C. moved by air to Sea Island (Vancouver Airport) for the purpose of flying two Kittyhawks of the 14 (F) to Anchorage, in formation with the three that are already at Sea Island.  All machines to have belly tanks.  Balance of squadron to arrive at Seward at 14:30. Disembarked at 19:30, embarking on train at 21:00.  Church services were conducted each Sunday by the Adjutant. 

L-R- my grandfather P/O Lynch, wife Eileen, Baird's wife Muriel, *F/S Baird at Patricia Bay, B.C. just before departing for Alaska.  F/S Baird was killed July 16th when he and four other Canadian Airmen were killed when lost in the Aleutian weather.

* P/O Whiteside did not survive the war, he was in the same formation as F/S Baird (above) when they got lost in the fog and crashed into Unalaska.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Once A Pilot, Always A Pilot

Volunteer pilot Brian Norris released this in flight video of WWII Veteran Pilot, Bob Brocklehurst's ride in the TF-51D Mustang. Here you get to hear some of Bob's war stories, listen to some technical talk and watch Bob take control of the plane.  So much fun to ride along with them!  Thanks Brian for allowing us to share in this experience!   Bob truly is amazing and really, so are you.  Thanks Brian for your commitment to making sure the legacies of the planes and the people who flew them are never forgotten!