Memorial Day

keep off the grass

 

dadairplane

My dad, just out of high school, on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for flight training. This led to his service as navigator of a B-29 flying from Tinian and Iwo Jima to bomb Japan.
Here’s what I write about that in Immortal for Quite Some Time:

During the Second World War, enlisted days after he graduated from high school, Dad was trained and double-rated as a navigator and pilot of a B-29. It’s impossible for me to visualize what that meant for him. I can read about the 325 B-29s that first firebombed Tokyo, igniting conflagrations so fierce that the big bombers were tossed like toys on the updraft, fires that killed close to one hundred thousand civilians. Was he there that day? What were his thoughts while droning home after bombing raids?
Among Dad’s things, companion to circular slide rules and colorful silk maps, is a large paper map titled “U.S. Army Air Forces Special Air Navigation Chart: Caroline Islands to Japan (S-115) Restricted.” A single straight pencil line slices across the blue of the North Pacific Ocean, connecting the islands of Tinian and IŌ-JIMA. Ruled pencil lines radiate from IŌ-JIMA to southern islands of Japan, punctuated by compass holes and cut through by penciled arcs labeled 1300, 1400, 1500. Miles, kilometers, times? A square of the map stands in relief above the rest of the map–raised, I suppose, by a small table mounted in front of the navigator with a band of some sort to hold the square fast.
This map on whose accuracy the soldiers bet their lives is remarkably clear about its contingencies:
First Edition, subject to correction. August 1944.
Warning: Due to war conditions, lights, radio facilities and other aids to navigation may be changed or discontinued without notice.
Caution: Streams or coastlines shown on this chart by broken lines indicate that the exact position or shape of the charted feature is doubtful.
Note: Officers using this chart will mark hereon corrections and additions which come to their attention and mail direct to the Aeronautical Chart Service, Headquarters, Army Air Forces, Washington, D.C.
The map, like all maps, tells an incomplete story. Because of the consequences of obfuscation, it does so as honestly as possible. Despite its deficiencies, the military map is encyclopedic compared with Dad’s account of the war.

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About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at http://works.bepress.com/scott_abbott/
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