Friday, March 28, 2008

Another Hero Flies Final Mission; Jake Deshazer: Doolittle Raider and Christian Teacher

Another of my heroes flew his final mission last week--Jacob 'Jake' Deshazer. Mr. Deshazer was one of the Doolittle Raiders and ended up a POW in Japan for the entire war. Several of his crew-mates were executed by the Japanese, and his treatment was abysmal. His captivity strengthened his Christian faith, and after the war, he returned to Japan as a missionary. In one of history's intriguing stories, one of the men he converted to Christianity was the pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor.

I did not know Mr. Deshazer well, but had correponded with him over the years. He was a gentle, quiet, and friendly man who knew the Lord and whose greatest joy was serving Him. What follows is his obituary from the New York Times:
Obituary written by: RICHARD GOLDSTEIN
Published: March 23, 2008
Jacob DeShazer, a bombardier in the storied Doolittle raid over Japan in World War II who endured 40 months of brutality as a prisoner of the Japanese, then became a missionary in Japan spreading a message of Christian love and forgiveness, died on March 15 at his home in Salem, Ore. He was 95.

Jacob DeShazer

His death was announced by his wife, Florence.
On April 18, 1942, crewmen in 16 Army Air Forces B-25 bombers, commanded by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, flew from the carrier Hornet on a daylight bombing raid that brought the war home to Japan for the first time since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The raid resulted in only light damage to military and industrial targets, but it buoyed an American home front stunned by Japanese advances during the war’s first four months.
Corporal DeShazer, a native of Oregon and the son of a Church of God minister, was among the five-member crew of Bat Out of Hell, the last bomber to depart the Hornet. His plane dropped incendiary bombs on an oil installation and a factory in Nagoya but it ran out of fuel before the pilot could try a landing at an airfield held by America’s Chinese allies.

Below, Jake Deshazer stands at far right with the rest of Crew, Navigator George Barr; pilot Lt. William Glover Farrow (executed by a Japanese firing squad on October 15, 1942); Engineer-Gunner Sgt. Harold A. Spatz (executed by a Japanese firing squad on October 15, 1942); Co-pilot Robert Hite (POW); and Bombardier Cpl. Jacob Deshazer.

Hite, Barr, and Deshazer were liberated August 20, 1945.

The last plane off the flight deck, Deshazer's crew takes wing for Japan.

The five crewmen bailed out over Japanese-occupied territory in China and all were quickly captured. In October 1942, a Japanese firing squad executed the pilot, Lt. William G. Farrow, and the engineer-gunner, Sgt. Harold A. Spatz, along with a captured crewman from another Doolittle raid plane. Corporal DeShazer and the other surviving crewmen from his plane, Lt. George Barr, the navigator, and Lt. Robert L. Hite, the co-pilot, were starved, beaten and tortured at prisons in Japan and China — spending most of their time in solitary confinement — until their liberation a few days after Japan’s surrender in August 1945.

Amid his misery, Corporal DeShazer had one source of solace.

“I begged my captors to get a Bible for me,” he recalled in “I Was a Prisoner of Japan,” a religious tract he wrote in 1950. “At last, in the month of May 1944, a guard brought me the book, but told me I could have it only for three weeks. I eagerly began to read its pages. I discovered that God had given me new spiritual eyes and that when I looked at the enemy officers and guards who had starved and beaten my companions and me so cruelly, I found my bitter hatred for them changed to loving pity. I realized that these people did not know anything about my Savior and that if Christ is not in a heart, it is natural to be cruel.”
Corporal DeShazer gained the strength to survive, and he became determined to spread Christian teachings to his enemy.

Upon returning home, he enrolled at Seattle Pacific College (now Seattle Pacific University) and received a bachelor’s degree in biblical literature in 1948. He arrived in Japan with Florence, also a graduate of Seattle Pacific and a fellow missionary in the Free Methodist Church, in late December 1948. A few days later, he preached his first sermon there, speaking to about 180 people at a Free Methodist church in a Tokyo suburb.

In 1950, he gained a remarkable convert, Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese naval flier who had led the Pearl Harbor attack and had become a rice farmer after the war, came upon the DeShazer tract.
Jake Deshazer with Pearl Harbor lead pilot Mitsuo Fuchida, who he brought to Christ.
“It was then that I met Jesus, and accepted him as my personal savior,” Mr. Fuchida recalled when he attended a memorial service in Hawaii in observance of the 25th anniversary of the attack. He had become an evangelist and had made several trips to the United States to meet with Japanese-speaking immigrants.

Mr. DeShazer spent 30 years in Japan doing missionary work, interrupted only by a sabbatical to earn a master’s degree at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky in 1958.
In 2001, he was a guest at the premiere of the movie “Pearl Harbor.”

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his sons Mark, of Winston, Ore.; John, of Coos Bay, Ore.; Paul, of Salem; daughters Ruth Kutrakun of Seattle, and Carol Dixon of Chicago; a sister, Helen Hindman of Iowa City; 10 grandchildren; and 6 great-grandchildren.
Over the years, Mr. DeShazer met on several occasions with Mr. Fuchida, who died in 1976.
“I saw him just before he died,” Mr. DeShazer once told The Salem Statesman Journal. “We shared in that good wonderful thing that Christ has done.”

This April, there will be one less upturned glass at the Doolittle Reunion, a tradition begun in 1946 when General Doolittle celebrated his birthday with the Raiders in a hotel. The Raiders have met every year since. In 1959, the city of Tucson , Arizona , gave the Raiders a set of silver goblets, one for each of the 80 men on the mission. Doolittle presented the goblets to the Raiders and a sacred ceremony for the crews began. The goblets hang in a display case at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs with each name of a “Raider” inscribed right side up and upside down on it. After reading the names of each man in roll call fashion, the Raiders who are left answer “here” for those still living or go and turn a goblet upside down for those who have gone. They then toast “To those who have gone,” and sip their wine. When the last two men living remain for the ceremony, they will open a 1896 bottle of cognac (the year Jimmy Doolittle was born) and complete the ceremony for the last time.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

New Norman Feltwell Warbird Photos


P-39Q Airacobra

P-51 D Mustang

Englishman Norman Feltwell takes incredible photos of WWII warbirds. I'm lucky enough to be on his mailing list, and he has kindly given me permission to share. The above photos were all taken by Mr. Feltwell.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

B-52 and B-17: Portrait of Two Great Bombers

Two of the best, side by side, taken at Barksdale AFB, LA and obtained on Picasa webshare


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Frank Irgang's Etched in Purple Released by Potomac

The Twenty-Ninth Infantry goes ashore on D-Day. Frank was there. He tells about it in his book.

One of my most prized possessions, a signed, First Edition of Etched in Purple, published back in 1949 by Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho. Frank sent me the pristine dust jacket, over fifty years old.
The new edition of Etched in Purple. If I could write one book as good as this, I could die a happy man.

The book I consider to be the greatest memoir of World War Two was released yesterday by Potomac Books. Frank Irgang wrote Etched in Purple shortly after returning from his hellish tour of duty as a medic, and, after attrition killed many of his comrades, regular infantryman in the famed 29th Infantry Division. Frank landed on the Normandy beachhead on D-Day and fougth his way through Europe, through the Battle of the Bulge, before being wounded.
What makes Frank's book so special is that he pulls no punches in relating what happened, from D-Day onwards. One of the most disturbing scenes in the book involves a German woman pouring boiling water on a wounded American soldier, as Frank watches. What would you do?
Frank has become a good friend over the years. I have no qualms admitting that my friend is also one of my heroes and mentors. His book is better than anything I could ever attempt to write. It is, in my opinion and that of Potomac Books, a 're-discovered classic'.
Don't pass this book up. It will change you forever. Frank tells it like it was, and believe me, he also proves that, in the words of General Sherman, 'War is Hell'
Who were the 29th Division? Here are some facts from the net:
Some stats and history on the 29th Division

The 29th Division was reactivated on 3 February 1941 and departed for the United Kingdom on 5 October 1942 where it continued training in Scotland and England from October of 1942 up to June 1944 in preparation for the invasion of France.
Teamed with the
U.S. 1st Infantry Division, the 116th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Division was in the first assault wave to hit the beaches at Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944. The division itself landed on Omaha Beach on the same day in the face of intense enemy fire but soon secured the bluff tops and went on to occupy Isigny on 9 June. The division cut across the Elle River and advanced slowly toward St. Lo, fighting bitterly in the Normandy bocage (hedge rows).
After taking St. Lo on
18 July, the division joined in the battle for Vire, capturing that strongly held city on 7 August. Turning west, the 29th took part in the assault on Brest from 25 August to 18 September.
After a short rest, the division moved to defensive positions along the Teveren-Geilenkirchen line in
Germany and maintained those positions through October. (In mid-October the 116th Infantry took part in the fighting at the Aachen Gap.) On 16 November the division began its drive to the Ruhr, blasting its way through Siersdorf, Setterich, Duerboslar, and Bettendorf, reaching the Ruhr by the end of the month.
8 December, heavy fighting reduced Juelich Sportplatz and the Hasenfeld Gut. From 8 December 1944 to 23 February 1945, the division held defensive positions along the Ruhr and prepared for the offensive. The attack jumped off across the Ruhr on 23 February and carried the division through Juelich, Broich, Immerath, and Titz to Mönchengladbach on 1 March. The division was out of combat in March, however in early April the 116th Infantry helped mop up in the Ruhr area and on 19 April the division pushed to the Elbe River and held defensive positions until 4 May. Meanwhile, the 175th Infantry Regiment cleared the Kloetze Forest. After VE Day, the division was on military government duty in the Bremen enclave.
The 29th Infantry Division had spent 242 days in combat during campaigns in
Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland and Central Europe, earning four Distinguished Unit Citations in the process. Two soldiers of the division were awarded the Medal of Honor. Also awarded were 44 DSCs, one DSM, 854 Silver Stars, 17 Legion of Merit, 24 Soldier's Medal and 6,308 Bronze Stars.

The 29th in Popular Culture
In the 1962 film
The Longest Day much of the action of the 29th on Omaha Beach on D-Day is depicted, with assistant division commander Brigadier General Norman Cota portrayed by Robert Mitchum.
Close Combat, part of a Microsoft Series of wargames during the 1990s also portrayed the actions of the 29th Division from Omaha Beach to the capture of St. Lo.

In the 1998 film "
Saving Private Ryan", many of the soldiers seen in the Omaha Beach sequence are from the 29th, identified by their shoulder insignias. Corporal Timothy E.Upham, for instance, is portrayed as a soldier serving with the 29th Infantry Division. Upham was drafted to serve with a squad from the 2nd Rangers. The 29th, along with the 1st Infantry Division, were grouped with a few companies of the 2nd Ranger Battalion to storm Omaha Beach on June 6th, 1944.

Friday, March 14, 2008

8th Air Force Legend Thomas Jeffrey Flies Final Mission

One of the truly great men of the American air war over Europe in WWII is Thomas Jeffrey. Every man I've ever talked with that served under this gentleman loved him. I'm saddened to learn of Gen. Jeffery's passing. Mike Faley, one of the historians of the 100th Bomb Group, posted this post today:

General Thomas S. Jeffrey Jr. has passed away
by Michael Faley on Fri Mar 14, 2008 2:07 pm
It is my sad duty to inform the 100th Bomb Group Foundation the Gen Thomas S. Jeffrey has passed away at the age of 91. As Deputy Group Commander of the 390th Bomb Group he was instrumental in the formation, training, and deployment of the Group to England. He was the 390th's Command Pilot on the Schweinfurt mission "Black Thursday" October 14, 1943 for which the group received it second Distinguished Unit Citation. In May of 1944, Gen Jeffrey took over command of the 100th Bomb Group (The Hard Luck Group) and implemented procedures and discipline that made the 100th BG one of the best groups in the ETO. His leadership before during and after the War were inspiring to those who served under him and those who only had the pleasure of knowing him through our reunions. Our Condolences go our to Ann and Tom Jeffrey and we wish Gods speed. To read up more on General Jeffrey, please go to this page on our website. Below is a letter from Gen. Jeffrey to the 100th BG that he sent last fall:
"(September 2007)Greetings! Best wishes to the 100th Bomb Group reunion attendees! Wish I could be here to swap tall tales!We are still hanging in here. We're ALL hanging in here; we're all still here, some just floating a little higher than before. As the old song says “…You take her up and spin her, and with an awful tear, your ship folds up, your wings fall off, but you will never care, for in two minutes max another pair you'll find… and dance with Pete and the angels sweet, and you will never mind.” Well, never mind this old age stuff. We'll get through it, we always have. We're tough, made of strong fiber and all of my colleagues of yesteryear proved it – showed what they were made of. We're all steadily turning over the great 100th Bomb Group Foundation to younger members with new ideas, a fresh outlook, and a desire to be a part of it. And that is as it should be. The proud tradition carries on. And we are pleased.Thank you for carrying on, thank you for cataloging the history, and keeping the memories alive. I raise my glass to you all!Maj. General Thomas S. Jeffrey Jr.Commanding Officer100th Bomb Group (H)
---Michael P. Faley 100th Bomb Group Historian 100th Bomb Group Photo Archivist 13th Combat Wing Historian
Michael Faley

America's Fighter 'Sportscar'--The P-51 Mustang

Arguably the greatest escort fighter of World War Two, the P-51 Mustang saved the lives of many American bomber crewmen in the deadly skies over Europe in WWII. English photographer Norman Feltwell captures two of these classic warbirds in flight in this photo. Thanks, Norman!!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Honoring the Great Tuskegee Airmen of WWII

William Holloman of Kent, Washington, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, bows his head Monday at the Museum of Flight while taps is played at the end of a ceremony honoring the veterans, who were the nation's first African American military pilots. (May 28, 2007)

Barrier-Shattering Black aviators fought on 2 fronts

by CRAIG T. KOJIMA, Star Bulletin

"Lt. Col. Bill Holloman flew "Red Tail" P-51s with the 332nd
Fighter Group in World War II -- the famed Tuskegee
Airmen. He continued flying during the Korean War and
Vietnam, was the first black helicopter pilot in the Air Force
and later became a professor of history at the University of

"I'm proud to be associated with that group of men who not only fought racism among the Nazis, but also here in America," Holloman says.

He'll speak on the contributions of the Tuskegee Airmen in a Black History Month presentation at the Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor tomorrow and Sunday.

It's one of the great stories rising from the so-called Greatest Generation, the tale of the
"Tuskegee Airmen," the all-black squadrons that not only scored victories over Nazis in the air,
they scored strikes against racism on the homefront. As an inspirational paen, it's a story that
can't be told often enough.

Particularly now, during Black History Month. Which is why the Pacific Aviation Museum at PearlHarbor is bringing in Tuskegee Airman Bill Holloman and others to give a couple of talks on the subject this week. Except that ... ..."During the war, nobody ever heard of Tuskegee Airmen," explains Holloman.

Say what?

"We were 'those colored pilots,' " said Holloman. "Then we were 'Negros' until 1963, when we
became 'black.' Then somebody dreamed up 'African-American,' which I sort of resent. I'm an
American who happens to be of African descent. And I'm proud to be associated with that group
of men who not only fought racism among the Nazis, but also here in America. Some of our pilots
who were captured by the Germans were asked, why would you fly for a country that treats you as second-class citizens? Compared to what the Nazis were doing, America is the greatest nation
on Earth."

The phrase "Tuskegee Airmen," Hollomen explained, came about in the 1970s when veterans of
the fighter group organized an educational trust under that name. It comes from the all-black
Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, a university that served as a conduit for young black men to join
the Army Air Forces.

In 1941, Congress pressured the military into creating a black flying unit, but the plan was nearly scuttled by overt racism within the War Department, which commissioned "scientific" studies from the University of Texas proving that blacks couldn't handle anything as complex as a flying machine. This notion was scuttled by, of all people, Eleanor Roosevelt, who showed up at the flying field one day and insisted that she be taken up in the air in a Piper Cub flown by a black pilot.

Eventually, the 99th, 100th, 301st and 302nd all-black squadron were formed, collectively under the 332nd Fighter Group. And if you're wondering why there are four squadrons instead of the usual three, "we were the only four-squadron group in the armed forces," said Holloman. "And it was because we were segregated."

Not just pilots. The Tuskegee Airmen also consisted of hundreds of black support personnel.
"And one of the beautiful things about being in a segregated unit," said Holloman, "is that you
couldn't be transferred out away from your friends. We became a family."

Holloman hails from St. Louis, and like many aviators of the era, tried flying by jumping off the
garage roof with a sheet tied across his shoulders. "That is, until my mother got wind of it, and my father had us try jumping off a box instead. 'If you can fly off the box,' he said, 'I'll let you jump off the garage.' "

The airplane-crazy kid went to Tuskegee for training, graduating in class 44H, and Holloman says that nearby Tuskegee Airfield was unique in the sheer variety of training aircraft. "Usually, cadets would move from one field to another, learning different types of aircraft. But since we were segregated, instead, all the types of aircraft came to Tuskegee."

Holloman became rated in the famous P-40, P-39 and P-47 fighters, and like many aviators, his
heart was stolen by the sleek P-51 Mustang. The 332nd painted their aircraft with distinctively
crimson control surfaces, and thoroughout the campaign in Europe, the "Red Tails" were noted
as a fierce bunch of fighter pilots who went the extra air mile to protect bombers -- and often the crews who praised them didn't know the Red Tails were black.
Richard Taylor's painting of the Red Tails at work, protecting the heavy bombers over Europe in WWII.

"Star Wars" creator George Lucas' dream project is a movie about the 332nd, called, naturally,
"Red Tails." Holloman was called to Los Angeles last week to consult on the script.

"By 1945, we pretty much controlled the air," said Holloman. "We'd do five escort missions, then
get to do one search-and-destroy or strafing mission, which we preferred because it was more
exciting! As a whole, fighter pilots are crazy young men, and we liked it that way."
The armed forces were desegregated in 1948 by executive order, creating by law -- supposedly the only fully integrated communities in the United States. "I discovered quickly that you can have friends in the military, and be treated as an equal, as long as our kids didn't date," said Holloman.

"If there was any good that came out of World War II, it was the notion that we ignore the color of our skin when we're in the trenches together. America is not perfect -- 'America' is a goal, a
dream to work toward."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Remembering Airmen Interned in Switzerland

If you are looking for a new and fascinating area of study about the air war over Europe in World War Two, then look no further than the strange situation of Allied airmen interned in Switzerland. It is a story often overlooked, and very few men who ended up there eve qualified for the POW medal. Technically, they were not POW; however, some endured far worse treatment at the hands of the Swiss than most American airmen did in Luftwaffe camps.

The Swiss Internee Association keeps the memories alive. The following is a quote directily from their website. I highly recommend you click on the link following this sentence and spend a few hours looking around. You'll be glad you did.

"The vast majority of American servicemen interned in Switzerland during WWII were US Army Air Force bomber crewmembers participating in the Strategic Air Offensive against the Axis. While the British employed nighttime area bombing, US B-17 and B-24 bombers targeted precision industrial sites during the day, concentrating on several key industries and finally focusing on the German transportation network. The US airmen who flew these bombers were young, and the doctrine they relied on was largely unproven due to the recent rise of long-range air power theory. Allied bombardment contributed significantly to the downfall of the German war economy, but with a steep price. The USAAF lost 80,000 airmen, more than any other branch of the US armed forces.
Due to the long-range nature of bombing missions over occupied Europe, Allied bombers initially had no fighter escort to protect them from Luftwaffe fighters. They also had few options when they sustained heavy damage to their aircraft. Any loss of fuel, damage to engines or mechanical failure made the return trip to England or North Africa unlikely, if not impossible. Heading for neutral Switzerland or Sweden was often the only alternative to a German POW camp, a fate which no aircrew relished. This accounts for the 167 USAAF aircraft that intentionally landed in Swiss territory, and the many others that tried to do so unsuccessfully. During the war, German propagandists claimed that some aircrews intentionally flew to Switzerland with no damage in order to avoid combat. This rumor was investigated and debunked in April of 1944 by order of General Carl Spaatz, chief of US Strategic Air Forces in Europe. Nearly every USAAF aircraft in Switzerland was found to have received significant battle damage, and no charges were ever instigated against their crews.
Once in the custody of the Swiss government, American airmen were considered “internees.” Internees are treated almost identically to POWs under the laws of war, excepting that by definition an internee is held in a neutral state. Some other US soldiers entered Switzerland by foot, for which they earned the status of “evadee.” Evadees were not kept in camps, and could come and go as they pleased. Internees, on the other hand, were usually restricted to a specific area and kept under guard. The Swiss were determined to adhere strictly to the rules governing internees, largely because they were under constant threat of invasion by the German Army. Any hint of impartiality toward the Allies could have incurred dire consequences for a state that professed neutrality, particularly one surrounded completely by the Axis. USAAF personnel caught attempting escape were punished severely, sometimes well beyond the limits stipulated in the laws of war. The Swiss government’s policy toward neutrality was clearly illustrated by the fact that some USAAF bombers attempting to land in Switzerland were attacked by Swiss fighters and anti-aircraft weapons.
After landing in Switzerland, interned crewmembers were typically interrogated and then quarantined for a short period before movement to a permanent internment camp. The first permanent internment facility was established at Adelboden, and others soon followed in Wengen and Davos. Several “punishment” or concentration camps were also established to house internees undergoing disciplinary punishment, normally for attempting escape. These camps included Straflager Wauwilermoos, Hünenburg, Les Diablerets and Greppen. Wauwilermoos was the most notorious of the punishment camps, due to deplorable camp conditions and a fanatical Swiss Army commander. Incarceration in such facilities grew dramatically after the Allied invasion of France, mainly because of the increased prospect of escape to Allied lines.
Despite the severe treatment that some internees received at the hands of the Swiss government, the overwhelming majority of Swiss citizens were sympathetic to the Allied cause. Many Swiss citizens risked punishment or exile by helping American airmen to escape the country. The anti-Allied posture of the Swiss government at the time was understandable in a historical context; Switzerland was not self-sufficient, and depended on foreign imports to survive. Neutral states are not required to restrict private citizens from selling munitions or equipment that contribute to the war effort of a belligerent nation, however, they cannot restrict commerce to one belligerent and allow it with another. By the passing of exclusive treaties, the Swiss government did effectively restrict nearly all trade with the Allies, while at the same time providing loans, munitions and key industrial components for the Axis. This clearly violated their neutral status, although this decision probably preserved their political sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Telephone Conversation with a Hero

Hello readers of Rob's blog. This is Les Poitras writing again. (not Rob, as you might recall earlier Rob is letting me post occasionally. Thanks Rob!)

I am a blessed guy even though sometimes I take that for granted. Tonight, I had the privelege of talking on the phone with a man who not only has become a dear friend, but he was the bombardier on the same crew with which my grandfather flew 33 perilous missions almost 64 years ago over Germany during WWII.

Bill Bates is the last surviving member of my grandfather's crew. Bill graduated from Penn. State University with a degree in Ceramics Engineering in 1942 before becoming an officer in the United States Army Air Corps. He married his wife shortly before going overseas to England but they didn't celebrate their honeymoon until Bill completed his 35th mission, in New York City. Bill's wife passed away from emphysema in the mid-90's. He now lives alone, but not lonely, in an assisted living facility in Mansfield, MA, surrounded by friends.

Bill will be celebrating the arrival of his fourth great grandchild in June. His voice lit up in anticipation when telling me about this on the phone.

Bill isn't just a good man, he's a great man. He's better than great. Words can't describe him. He's 86 years old and still has child like faith. He tells me everything he can about his experience before, during and after the war and I listen to him eagerly. He gets choked up when he talks about the heroes who didn't come back. I get choked up when I listen to him.

I hold Bill and all those like him who served their country with honor and bravery in WWII in the absolute highest regard. I am honored that you take the time to share your thoughts with me, Bill. I am a blessed man.

Thank you Bill and I look forward to sharing brunch with you and my family when we meet in a few weeks...

p.s. Bill will be attending the 65th reunion of the Penn. State class of 1942 in June! Thank you for your friendship Bill and thank you for my freedom!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

More Bruce Becker Photos

As mentioned in my previous post, Bruce Becker is a professional photographer and outdoorsman who lives in Idaho Falls. I teach at the same school as his wife Lisa. Bruce is a master artist with his camera, and I'm lucky enough to be on his mailing list. Every time he goes out and shoots photos, he sends me some via email.

Anyone who loves the West, the Tetons and Yellowstone in particular, would do well to buy some of his prints. I plan to get a large version of the Lupine Meadows photo in the near future.

Here are some more shots. Check out Bruce's entire portfolio at

All photos are copyrighted and I hope I don't get sued for using them.

Enjoy! The Idaho Wildflowers montage we have hanging on the wall in our bedroom. Double-click on images to super-size.

All I have to do is look at these photos to remember why I love living here.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Old Faithful Inn--A National Treasure

Bruce Becker, an excellent photographer and the husband of a teacher at my school, took this shot at Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone Park, just a short drive from Idaho Falls. The Inn, built back in the early years of the Twentieth Century, is one of the crown jewels of the National Park system. The interior architecture in the great hall consists entirely of native trees and rock. It must be seen to be believed. Bruce has come close to capturing the majesty of this old inn with this shot.

He writes: "I was messing around with photoshop this morning. The attached image is the combination of over a dozen seperate images. The final shows the lobby of the Old Faithful Inn."

Bruce has a website where you can see all his photos. A gallery of Bruce's outdoor photos are found here:

My favorite Becker shot is below, shot of a field of Lupines below the Grand Tetons, also only eighty miles from Idaho Falls.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Actors Behaving Well, Part I

A heart-warming story about a man who is not only a tremendous actor, but a genuinely good person.

Subject: Denzel Washington, and Brooks Army Medical Center

Denzel Washington and his family visited the troops at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas (BAMC) recently. BAMC cares for soldiers who have been evacuated from Germany after tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and specializes in burn victims.

On-base housing is provided for soldiers being treated at BAMC. These homes, called Fisher Houses, are available to families at little or no charge. BAMC has a number of these houses on base; however, they are usually filled.

While Denzel Washington was visiting BAMC, he toured one of the Fisher Houses, and asked how much each home cost to build.

He then took his check book out and wrote a check for the full amount for one Fisher House on the spot.

Sad, but in this day and age, when Brittney Spears and Paris Hilton make the news daily for behaving badly, the Denzel Washington story did not make any newspaper except the local newspaper in San Antonio.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Phone Call with a Friend

I called my old friend again today. He appears, at the age of 91, to be fading. His daughter is caring for him pretty much round the clock. When she's not able to, he's shut into his room for his own safety. It's sad how the U.S. just doesn't seem to have many facilities that can care for old veterans. Or maybe we do, and this particular family does not know where to find the facility. My friend is in the advanced stages of dementia. I try to call him every week but sometimes I'm unable to get an answer at his end. He lives with his daughter and son-in-law, and has for many years. I talk to his daughter each time, too, and try to give her my support and prayers. She is at her wit's end much of the time, dealing with this old man who is her father.

When I first met him, he was fully functional, if a tad eccentric. He drove himself around, flirted with the ladies in the Post Office, looked for good deals on vitamins, and loved life. He was nominated for a Congressional Medal of Honor, but didn't get it. Instead, he got a post office named after him in Florida. He loved to have people recognize him in his 'First B-17's over Berlin' ballcap or take notice of his Purple Heart license plates, which hinted at the horrific story of an event 20,000 feet over Germany in 1943. When he returned to the States after that terrifying tour, he swore he'd never go back into combat. A few months later, he was flying B-26 missions over France, doing more than any one man should ever have to.

In the past year and a half, he has lost the ability to drive, to go anywhere alone, or even to have his own phone line. His doctor wants him to leave his TV on so that he is stimulated, but he turns it off and goes to bed, earlier each night. Then he gets up during the night and wanders the room, looking out onto the back lawn.

Before I called today, he's always had vivid recall of his days in the skies over Europe in World War II, regaling me with stories and off-color jokes for hours, despite the fact that he had trouble remembering things from the present. Today, it appeared he had forgotten not just the present day, but also most of the past. I tried over and over to bring up stories he could connect with, and he finally grasped at one and remembered the event, from VE Day, 1945, when he was on his second combat tour in Rheims, France--the city where the Armistace was signed.

Tomorrow I'm going to send him a photo of me, so when he talks to me next, as we have for so many hundreds of times over the years, he can remember what I look like. It's sad watching my old friend gliding slowly into the twilight, but it's a journey he will not be making alone. I'm signed on for the duration.

We have a lunch date in June, and we both intend to keep it.

Discussion: Best WWII Movies

Today I'm going to nominate some of my favorite WWII movies for a discussion on the best films of World War Two. My list is not definitive by any means, and many have to do with the European theater, so I hope many readers will add more to the list and that we can create a list of must-see flicks.

1. Twelve O'Clock High: Gregory Peck stars as a bomb group commander charged with creating discipline in a struggling group.

2. The Great Escape: Based on a true story, this movie stars Steve McQueen. It tells the story of a carefully orchestrated break-out from a German prison camp and its tragic aftermath. Suspenseful throughout, with moments of humor, the movie also highlights McQueen jumping to freedom over the Swiss border on his motorcycle.

3. Bridge over the River Kwai: My WWII vet teacher showed us this in high school, and I've loved it ever since. Prisoners are charged with building a bridge for the Japanese, and then decide to blow it up.

4. Tora, Tora, Tora. The attack on Pearl Harbor.

5. A Bridge Too Far. Film adaptation of Cornelius Ryan's book about the failed Arnhem campaign. Lavishly done.

6. Saints and Soldiers. Little-known, low-budget film about a small group of soldiers who get trapped behind enemy lines during the Battle of the Bulge. Outstanding.

7. Band of Brothers. HBO mini-series that gets you inside the heads of a group of men from training through the end of the war.

8. Saving Private Ryan. The plot is a little weak, but the visual effects make up for it.

9. Schindler's List. This film, about a German businessman who plays the Germans and protects his Jewish workers, is a masterpiece.

10. The Longest Day. Another film version of a Cornelius Ryan book, this classic tells the story of D-Day from the points-of-view of the participants.

Okay, there are ten to get us going. Let the nominations begin. Or you can agree with some I've already mentioned.