Saturday, April 6, 2019

Different Side Of History

"Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything."

Napoleon Hill - 1883-1970 - Author

I recently traveled to Anchorage to do some long awaited research in John Cloe's old archive room at Joint Base Elmendrof/ Fort Richardson.  I was warmly greeted by a couple of his replacements, both like John, having arrived in Alaska from the southern regions of the United States.  One of them was able to recount all kinds of fantastic historical events in a series of successive stories that rolled smoothly out of his mouth like a walking American history encyclopedia.  Something I am always in awe of- how they remember so many facts and tactical details so easily.   Afterwards,  I began to reflect on how my interpretive delivery method of military history differs.  John, the previous 11th Air Force's Military Historian for 20 plus years, God love him, was the most thorough individual.  He knew the stuff he knew well.  His newest book Mission To The Kurils, which was the follow up to Aleutian Warriors, was a big one.    Reminiscent of my 10th grade history text book.  

In my writing, I try to blend the dry facts, thoroughly verified as John drilled into me "Make sure you have the facts correct," with the human side of war.  Because ultimately, war is about people.  Heck, everything is about people.  And what I think lacks in much of the literature out there is an emotional connection to the individuals who pay the price for our continued modern day comforts.  That is the gap I try to close with the work I do.  At the end of the day, every single one of us is human and relating to each other and seeing how we are more alike then different is what will aid in the elimination of conflict going forward.   Isn't that the ultimate goal of wars in the first place?  To somehow find a more permanent peace?

Sweet Allan is now 103 and still going strong! In this video he shares what it was like being faced with his first combat experience and his realization of what it all means in the end.

This year, one of my colleagues who is soon to take over the position of Historian for the  RCAF has initiated the process of me becoming an official Royal Canadian Air Force Associate Historian, for which I am extremely humbled.  It is hard for me to consider myself a historian especially when standing next to someone like the John Cloe's or Peter Coffman's of the world who have spent years in school studying and/or also in service but I suppose I am in my own right.  

Although the reason why I started this history filled blog journey may be different than those that study and act as military historians for a living, the work I do is equally as important and without a doubt, just as relevant. My work focuses specifically on a particular segment of WWII, a piece of the war often overlooked by most supposedly 'in the know' people.   It is this lack of awareness and recognition that deeply drives my desire to tell the forgotten story of my Grandfather and those he served with.  My mission is personal and for the 144, 000 troops who were stationed in this remote and isolated area, it means the world and clearly validates the need for my efforts.   

Nine surviving Aleutian Island veterans at the Attu75 Commemoration in Anchorage.  May 2018
BACK ROW (L-R): Allan Seroll (Signal Corps), Bob Hinsdale (USN), Joe Sasser (Army- 50th Combat Engineers), Paul Shaughency (Army), Bill Green (Seabees), Bob Brocklehurst (Pilot-Army Air Corps), Roy Dover (Co F, 50th Combat Engineers)   FRONT (L-R): Clint Goodwin (Co B, 807th Combat Engineers), Gerry Rusello (USN Pilot)
Sadly, we have already lost Bob Brocklehust and Clint Goodwin since this photo was taken.

I definitely miss John Cloe's guidance but I know he had faith in what I was doing.   As we were preparing the 75th Anniversary of the bombing of Dutch Harbor planning Committee, I had asked John if he wanted to be part of our group.  And his reply- "No Karen. You can cover for me."  was all I needed.  With that I knew I had his approval of the work I was doing and before he passed, I vowed to him that I would continue on with his legacy. John spent at least the last 25 years dedicated to Military History in Alaska. He was a legend.  You can read more about John here

As for me, take me or leave me- I am not going anywhere.  My mission will continue on and it will do so keeping these fine fellas in mind.   And so I write...

Members of 111(F) Squadrons. RCAF enjoying some downtime on Umnak after their rotation on Amchitka where they actively participated in missions over the Japanese occupied island of Kiska.  
BACK ROW (L-R):  P/O Ed Merkley, WO1 Joseph McLeod, P/O Delbert English, P/O Hal Gooding DFC AAM,  P/O Bill Peacock, P/O Alfred Harrison, P/O George Millar, P/O Jim Gohl. 
 FRONT ROW (L-R):  F/L John Clarke, P/O Frank Crowley, P/O Campbell  DFC, P/O Billy Weeks DFC, P/O Bill Williams, F/S Delaney, W/C David Ramsey (driving), P/O Frank Skelly, and an unidentified airmen.
**P/O Campbell,DFC, P/O Crowley, P/O Gohl, P/O Peacock, P/O Merkely, P/O Millar and P/O Skelly did not survive the war and were killed over Europe.

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