Each mission began at 4 AM when an NCO stuck his head in the tent. I fell out of my cot, yanked on my flight suit and Colt 45, ate a big breakfast, rode to a Quonset hut by the flight line where a huge map was mounted on the wall, the mission marked by a broad red line. Would the target be rough, like the oil fields at Ploesti or ball-bearing factories at Schweinfurt, or a “milk run?’ Hitler’s Wehrmacht was on the run, Goering’s Messerschmitts grounded for lack of fuel, and my missions were all milk runs. The Germans still had flak (acronym of Flugzeugabwehrkanone, anti-aircraft gunfire), and after my sixth, the crew chief of my B-17 showed me a piece as big as my hand that he’d dug out of the leading edge of my wing. “It had no juice left. Didn’t hit you, you hit it.” It was dull on one side, shiny on the other with a network of tiny cracks.
“You want it?”
“Hell, no!” I wanted nothing to do with it.
Seven missions was my shooting war, so after VE Day, I stayed, Army of Occupation. Crews with a full tour, 35 missions, went right home, but George McGovern, B-24 Liberator pilot, 35 missions, spent a couple more months flying food into southern Italy where they were starving. He had to have volunteered.
Supposedly you learn from history, although history itself seems to deny it. The folks who elected a felon president, then a combat-shy frat boy who started a frivolous war, are now trying to install a gutless schemer who can’t speak truth about anything. For history’s sake I hope they are outvoted by those who remember or learned about George McGovern, a warrior who loved peace.