Sunday, August 19, 2012

In The Words Of An Airman

My Papa was an impeccable record keeper, which is why, I suppose, my mother, his daughter, inherited that same quality.  Her printing is like perfection, as so was his, even in the midst of war in the Aleutian Islands.  When he died he left behind some wonderful things, items that would teach us something about a time in his life that he was never able to verbally share with us himself.  

Some of those things were his Pilots Flight Log Books. There in his briefcase, he had his original flight log book that went with him into the cold battles of WW2.  The history that this irreplaceable  book has is immense, if it could only speak to us all of the unwritten stories, imagine the things it would say.  Also in that briefcase, a second Pilots Flight Log Book, this one was a copy of the original that he had re-written after the war. In this version, he added some mission details, photos, and memories and one thing he was sure to include were  the names of fallen comrades and, in some cases, their photo.  These books have been a great resource for me now since I refer back to them continuously to get accurate dates of his whereabouts as it refers to my research on the campaign.  

His original Pilots Flying Log Book, 1941-1945
His re-written Pilots Flying Log Book, complete with photos

One of the other priceless documents included in his memorabilia were copies of correspondence letters between M.V. Bezeau, Captain Historian at the National Defense Headquarters of Canada, and himself.  Mr. Bezeau had written my grandfather, as well as other airmen, asking them a range of questions, from strategies and tactics to living conditions during the war in Alaska.  Many of the questions are the exact questions I would have asked myself.  Living up to the meticulous man my Papa was, he answered each and every question with detail.  Throughout the history of this blog, I will share those questions and responses.  

Correspondence between Historian M.V. Bezeau and my Papa, 1980

Later, Mr Bezeau went on to become the Director of Ceremonial and was responsible for tradition and heritage programs within the Canadian Armed Forces, speaking and writing a number of historical documents regarding the war in Alaska and the RCAF.  He spoke in Alaska at the 50th Anniversary Symposium.   He died in 2010.

I can remember 15 years ago when we first discovered those treasures, I read and re-read those books and papers and studied those photos.  Oh how I wish I could have spoken to him about his experiences.  But since I was not able to, actually no one in my family ever got the chance, I guess these are the next best things.  And as I do more research everyday, I become even more fascinated with the story of the Aleutian campaign.  

These are the words, which I have previously quoted but are very much worth re-stating, from the mouth, or fingers if you want to be literal, of my Papa to Mr. Bezeau at the National Defense Headquarters.   These were his most sincere thoughts and feelings on the the Aleutian campaign.

"In closing, I must say that my service in the 111th (F) Squadron is an experience I would not have missed.  I feel that the Aleutian Campaign is a forgotten item in the history of the R.C.A.F. and I am happy and appreciative that you are doing something about it."
Yours Sincerely,

Robert W. Lynch

I now know,  that he was not alone in how he felt, many veterans from that battle, both Canadians and Americans, felt this same way.  This is what drives me to continue forward on this journey.  

I ask that you share their story too.

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