Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Father's Rescue From Above

As a young boy I was always curious about what my dad did in World War II. He was a decorated Marine Corps pilot fighting in the Philippines and was later recalled to fly in the Korean War. He fought in the Philippines as a young single man who had memorized the color-blindness test so he could be accepted in the Marine Corps flight program. (I'm colorblind too; it is a hereditary thing.)

He tried unsuccessfully to do all he could to avoid the Korean War as a married father of two. To no avail he smoked two packs of cigarettes and guzzled down several cups of coffee before the blood pressure test, as well as confessing that he had cheated on his color blindness test in the previous war.

As a child I thought I was alone in wanting to talk to my dad about his war exploits and not being able to learn anything until I realized that this was a common response of most of that generation of war heroes. (I have been reminded of that recently through reconnecting with a high school classmate who had a very similar experience with his dad.) Perhaps their way of coping with the pain of the war was to simply try to bury the memory of what they endured.

I remember asking my dad as a young boy, "Did you ever kill anyone in the war?" or "Were you close enough to see the enemy when you were bombing?" Those questions were usually answered, "No." Or if I followed up with, "What did you bomb then?" he would impatiently answer, "Rice paddies."

Disappointed, I walked away and thought to myself, "Great, Uncle Joe got shot in the stomach while fighting a bunch of Germans in hand to hand combat at the Battle of the Bulge and my dad killed...rice…from the air!"

As my dad has aged well into his 80s I have found, as many other baby boomers have found, he is now more willing to talk about the war. In my last blog I was able to share a nugget of a story from my dad regarding his co-founding of Sambo's Restaurants. I learned of a story on that same day together about one of my dad's WW2 bombing missions that he feels most grateful for---first for surviving it and second, for what was accomplished in the saving of American lives.

The Japanese Imperial Army had brutalized the Filipino people in their occupation of their islands and had been very cruel captors to American prisoners. Dad was part of the American effort to drive the enemy out of the Philippines. The Americans had received intelligence that the Japanese were executing American prisoners before they abandoned the prisons. They knew the location of one such prison where the Japanese still held Americans captive.

His mission was to bomb the walls down in this prison, which would also eliminate the machine guns placed upon the walls facing inward. This would make possible a way of escape for the prisoners. To destroy the walls with gun emplacements would be a "twofer." The advantage of a dive bomb attack is that they could come somewhat unexpectedly from the air, fairly accurately drop a bomb and then "hopefully" pull up in time to escape enemy fire. Easier said then done.

He recalls, now 65 years later, "It was just like in the movies. I dropped down on them, dropped the bomb and as I pulled up to look back I could see those little guys flying up in the air as the walls collapsed. My tail gunner was so excited by the direct hit that he almost shot the tail off our plane as I jerked it abruptly upward."

Why did this story stir me when I heard it? I think it was because I could imagine myself as one of those frightened, starving POWs knowing that my life would be taken at any moment by my vengeful, fleeing captors. For a moment I could taste a little of what they must have felt when they saw one of our planes take out, in one fell swoop, what was holding them captive–those machine guns stationed on the walls. Deliverance from certain doom with one well-placed bomb!

Isn't this a little bit of a picture of what Jesus did for us? He came from above not as roaring plane laden with guns and bombs but as a baby in a manger and later as a grown man dying on a cross. We were hopelessly and helplessly captive awaiting certain death until He came down from above. With His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave He shattered the walls and destroyed the weapons that held us in a state of a living death–now and forever.

I know the analogy is flawed but just the same, as I think about dad's bombing mission that day some 65 years ago in the Philippines, I gain a new dimension of gratitude for my heavenly Father's divinely conceived rescue from above.

Forever Grateful For My Father's Rescue,


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1 comment:

John said...

Great post Jamie, I too have a "war" dad who speaks very little of his days at war, he is 88 years old. Blessings, Janie Chitester