Today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
In honor of that I watched Twelve O’Clock High again last night. The movie has always affected me because my father was a pilot in a bomber group. The movie was made in 1949 and is black and white, but you still get caught up in the story.
I’ve told this before, so excuse me for telling it again. When I was a teenager we lived overseas. My parents were great about wanting to experience lots of stuff. We went to the Costa Brava in Spain for our summers and Chiemsee, Bavaria, Germany for winter vacations. We stayed at a place Hitler had built and it was odd sitting in the dining room looking around at the 20 foot portraits of German working men and women knowing that Hitler had been there.
We drove everywhere we went which made it fun, fun, fun. Picture a huge honkin’ Pontiac Bonneville trying to make it through the narrow streets of some French villages. I learned lots of new words from my father.
On our first trip to Germany we were driving through the Black Forest. These trips were all marathon adventures. He refused to stop unless it was for gas, so if you had a weak bladder or a motion sickness problem you were SOL. On this trip, however, he shocked all of us by pulling off on the side of the highway in the middle of the Black Forest and getting out of the car.
My mother, brother, and I just looked at each other. Finally, I got out of the car and went to stand by my father. I didn’t say anything. I normally never originated a conversation with my father. It was a little like talking to the queen. One does not speak until she does.
He finally looked at me and said, “I’m having a hard time with this, Karen.” I didn’t say anything because I didn’t understand. Then he said, “I used to bomb this place. I flew over it I don’t know how many times and now I’m driving through it with my family.”
I still remember his words. Later, I put together a picture of the twenty-two year old pilot who’d been advanced up the ranks, who had a plane shot to pieces out from under him, and who still woke from nightmares. We were told, as little kids, never to wake our father. He would surface from sleep screaming and thrashing.
Seventy-five years ago a lot of young men performed deeds that would cause them nightmares. They were heroes who deserve to be remembered.