Sunday, August 3, 2014

Day One In The Books

These views are all in a hours drive.
Along the way back to Anchorage from Whittier.  

One last stop and day two is in the books.    We made a quick visit along side Merrill Field to view the 11th Air Force Memorial.    This memorial honors the names of all its airmen, both American and Canadian who lost their lives in WW2.  The 11th Air Force, who dominated and protected the Alaskan skies for both the Second World and the Cold Wars, originated in 1940 right there at Merrill Field.  Just after origination, they transferred their operation just a few miles east to where it is now, at Elmendorf Air Force Base.  The 11th Air Force was renamed the Alaska Air Command only to eventually (1990) return to their root name- the 11th Air Force.   Now a days, you can still find them patrolling the Alaskan skies.  I excitedly saw several F-16's take off and land from my hotel room.  Very cool. 

During WW2 the Americans and Canadians worked together under the command of 11th Pursuit to defend Alaska against the Japanese.  In the words of my grandfather, when asked in the 1980's by the Canadian Directorate of History, about the role of the R.C.A.F. in the Aleutian campaign  and the relations of the mixed squadron, his response was; 

L-R: My grandfather, R.C.A.F. F/O Robert W. Lynch 
& a U.S. Bombardier on Kodiak Island.
 Ready to referee a league hockey game. 
Question (M.V. Bezeau): "Why was a detachment of 111F squadron sent forward to Umnak Island in the summer of 1942 to work with the 11th Pursuit?  Was this for training or reinforcement purposes?  What were its duties?"

Response: "It was my understanding, as commander of "A" flight that we were to work with the 11th Pursuit squadron for operational purposes. Our training was accomplished in Anchorage mainly in learning USAF radio procedures.  Our subsequent operational duties on Umnak consisted of aerodrome patrols, shared equally with the 11th Pursuit from dawn to dusk on a daily basis. "

Question (M.V. Bezeau) :   "How did this detachment blend into the 11th Pursuit Squadron?  Did it fully retain it's identity? How were relations?"  

Response: "Pilots are pilots.  Consequently we had no problem blending into the routines of the 11th Pursuit’s operational duties.  We definitely retained our identity and our relations with the Americans could not have been better.”

11th Air Force Memorial along side Merrill Field Airstrip,  Anchorage, Alaska. 

It is always saddens me to see the names of fallen soldiers.  It is the ugly and somber reality of war.  War kills.    I don’t like war.   I don’t.  Yes, even though I write a blog about it.  I like to think that what I write about is not so much about war, as it is about the personal stories of these brave individuals who risked their own selves so that we could live a life of freedom.   I write it as a way to keep their memories alive.  To honor them.  To be the voice that so many veterans wanted to have.  So that people don't forget.   On the flip side,   I can understand that, especially at that time, war was about the survival of either them or us and there is no doubt,  I am glad we came out on top.  I still don’t like it though. Please, can't we all just get along?

As my first full day in Alaska came to a close, I was still numb with disbelief that I was finally there.       I could feel the warmth of my grandfathers smile everywhere I went.  I know how proud he is.  And I feel honored that I am able to take this journey in his name.  The adventure continues on day two with a visit to a downtown market, a tour around Elmendorf Air Force Base, and dinner at the Colonel's house.   Time to force myself to close the daylight blocking curtains and get some rest.  Good night Alaska. 

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