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FDP Forum / Moe's Tavern (_8^(I) / Strangers with interesting stories.

Contributing Member


Angels do exist. I knew one personally.
Mar 7th, 2012 05:58 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

This is a bit of a spinoff from Larry's (BlondStrat) "likable" thread from a week ago, which sort of evolved into people's attitudes towards meeting strangers for the first time.

I tend to enjoy meeting new people, and do it frequently in my work. Over time, I've often grown to appreciate hearing about other people's lives, and am struck by the interesting stories they have to tell.

I've heard many. Here's one:

A couple of years ago, the Collings Foundation brought their WWII era aircraft to a local airport, to put on display for a few days, and to offer rides to anyone who was interested.

These types of events bring out all the local airplane buffs, as well as many elderly WWII veterans who were involved with them during their military service.

While standing at the souvenir table set up in the terminal, I happened to strike up a conversation with an older gent named Irv, who served as a waist gunner on a B-17 during the war.

He started talking about his life before the war, just out of high school and working in a factory, and how he eventually got his parents permission to enlist in the Army.

Despite having never even been in an airplane before, somehow he ended up in the Air Corps, got assigned to a B-17 and ended up going to Europe to fight the Germans.

By this time, the more he talked, the more questions I had, so we gravitated to a bench along the wall. Even though he was well past 90, he was very sharp and had an excellent memory. Before long, I was the interviewer, and he was my subject.

Anyway, he talked about being based in Italy, and how the missions he flew often took them over Eastern Europe. IIRC, his crew had to fly 25 missions before being rotated out of a combat area, and since they flew in daylight, the chances of actually completing 25 missions weren't all that good.

By August of 1944, he had finally made it to his 23rd mission, with just two to go. This trip was a daylight bombing run over some target in Romania, or Czechoslovakia, or someplace.

Here, Irv's memory and attention to detail were most impressive.

They had just unloaded their ordinance and were headed back to Italy. It was just before noontime, on a bright summer day when the Messerschmidts and FW's attacked. A couple of bombers got hit and his was among them, taking two engines out on one side. It was bailout time.

Interestingly, although he had been trained in how to use a parachute, he had never actually done it, before. I think he and most of the crew exited from the plane through the bombay doors.

Here, his memory was pinpoint sharp.

I'm paraphrasing here:

"When I bailed out and got straightened away, I glanced at the altimeter on my chest and it said 14,000 feet. I remember they told us to free fall as far as could so as not to become targets as we decended after our chutes opened.

I waited until I got to about 3,000 feet and pulled the ripcord. Looking around, I saw that I was heading toward some wide open farm fields, which were crisscrossed by dirt roads. Off in the distance, I could see a bunch of German military vehicles parked along one side of a field. As I got lower, I saw a couple of soldiers take off in a field car, and on a few motorcycles, and started heading off to where my crewmates were heading to land.

Soon a couple of other soldiers broke off from the group and it was clear they were tracking me.
By the time I hit the ground, the soldiers were waiting for me with weapons drawn."

They rounded them all up, ( I think he was in a group of 5 of his crewmates) and before long, he found himself in a German POW camp, run, fortunately, by the Luftwaffe.

"You hear a lot of stories about how bad the POW's had it during the war, but that really wasn't the situation as far as my deal went.
The Luftwaffe were flyers too, and treated us pretty well. We had decent food, the housing wasn't all that bad, and they treated us almost like equals. All in all, if I had to be in prison, this wasn't a bad way to go.

It turns out that that was where Irv's war ended. He and his buddies remained in German custody until the spring of 1945, when the war ended.

By the time Irv was through with his story, we had been there over an hour. He lived fairly close by and I asked him if he needed a ride.
It turns out that his car was parked outside, and, in fact, was driving to Florida the following week for a reunion with some of his old Army buddies.

Anyway, that was my chance encounter with Irv. A fascinating guy who gave me a first person account of a time I've always been interested in.
In truth, the hour we spent was too short. I still had a ton of things to ask him.

Unfortunately, I never got his last name, so I'll probably never get the opportunity.

How about you all? Anybody else ever fall into a situation like this with an unforgettable character?

Contributing Member

of PA.

Mar 7th, 2012 06:51 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I met an old hotelier in Bavaria who worked for Hitler.

Heard about WWII from a Nazi perspective, which was pretty intriguing.

Contributing Member

Asheville, NC

Enlightening the world, 1 post at a time
Mar 7th, 2012 07:06 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Back in the very early 80's, I had a sleepover at a friends house. His mother was German, and during dinner the conversation turned to her childhood during the war.

She left the table, and went to a drawer and pulled out an old black and white picture of her as a very young teen girl with Adolf Hitler. She was dressed in a Hitler Youth uniform, and was shaking his hand.

Having been raised with an avid interest in Military history, I was mildly shocked, and she explained to me that it was compulsory to join the Youth, and to "walk the walk" and you simply did not have a choice.

She also explained that even though she felt he was a despicable man, and not at all proud of her involuntary service, she could not bring herself to destroy the picture because of the sheer historical significance of it.

I was pretty amazed by the whole thing.

Contributing Member

Columbia, SC

E. All of the Above
Mar 7th, 2012 07:36 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

In Germany in the 90s, our band played a gig in what had been East Germany, and occupied by the Russians up til 89. At dinner with a table of local folks, they told me that the saddest day in the history of their village was in 1945.

Their village had been liberated by the US Army, and there were lots of celebrations going on, friendships with the soldiers, but only until the day came that the Americans left, and the Russian Army took over.

For these folks they may not have known that the Allied powers had already drawn up how they would divide Germany (along the Elbe in this case I believe), but they did know that at some point the Americans had to leave and the Russians moved in.

Sitting there at dinner with these nice folks it was just painful to imagine how it must have felt, not knowing what would happen in the future, but to then live under Communism for 44 years or so, and then once again have the Russians finally leave.

Contributing Member

Blue Jay, OH

Don't just do something...Stand there
Mar 7th, 2012 08:47 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

These are great stories. I don't have a similar one to add, but this thread is timely for me as just today I had a sudden insight into the sweat, toil, creativity, sacrifice and endurance that others before us have displayed - including our families - so that we might have a place in this world. It's easy to become jaded about humankind, so this is worth remembering.

D Rogue
Contributing Member

Hollister, CA

Is it supposed to make that sound?
Mar 8th, 2012 08:30 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

After an appointment with one of my customers I went next door to the Hard Rock Cafe at Pier 39 in San Francisco. As probably expected it is mostly full of tourists.

This older gentleman walks in and I guess some tourists were sitting at the seat at the bar he always sits at so he sat next to me. The bartender introduced me to him, as he is a regular, and it turns out that he just got back from Alcatraz where he goes many days of the week to sell the book he wrote (unfortunately I don't remember the name of the book).

It turns out that he was an inmate on Alcatraz and his book is about life on the rock. Granted this was probably a pretty bad dude at one time, and shouldn't be considered a hero, but I really enjoyed our conversation.

Before I left I asked him if he thought that the guys that escaped made it, and he said he was sure they did (I wonder why he was so confident that they did). He said that they're probably down in Costa Rica (if still alive). I wondered for a minute if maybe he was one of them.

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