Sunday, January 16, 2011

EMPS: Gateway to Memories

Carly wants us to photograph a gateway for the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot, actual or metaphorical. As busy as I've been with two jobs, buying a car and my dad's visit, I haven't gotten over to Reid Park to photograph a gateway to the dog park or the rose garden, and frankly a picture of my own back gate (above) is a bit yawn-worthy. Metaphor it is, then. For what it's worth, this could be a gateway to freedom for the dogs - if we ever unlocked it while they were in the yard! This would not be a good thing.

But I took my dad to the Pima Air and Space Museum today, very much as an afterthought. It was 3 PM when we arrived and they closed at five, but it didn't really matter. Dad was mostly only interested in one exhibit, a gateway to many old memories for him.

The 390th Memorial Museum isn't museum #390 in a series, collect them all, or in memory of a deceased ordinal number. It pays tribute to the history of a particular squadron in the 8th Army Air Corps (I think that's right) that flew in a B-17 bomber in World War II. My dad was a navigator for the 15th Army Air Corps, stationed in Italy. On this seventh mission, his sabotaged B-17 lost one engine after another, and he had to bail out over Czechoslovakia. After capture by farmers and interrogation by the Gestapo, he spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft One.

All the time I was growing up, I knew very little about my dad's World War II experiences. That changed today. Standing near a plane very like the ones he'd flown in, Dad told his story to one of the docents at the 390th Museum, and again to a visitor whose father had also been in a B17 and also ended up a POW. This man was very interested, and suggested further resources online for Dad to both give and receive more information about the history of Dad's squadron. And I got to hear, for the first time ever, about two of my Dad's missions - the disastrous first one, in which the lead plane was shot down and chaos ensued, and the seventh one, the failure of which was probably caused by a group of Italian POWs when they were meant to be building an airstrip.

Okay, it's a weak metaphor. But that seventy-year-old plane led my dad and me to a new place in our relationship, with me finally encountering a part of my dad's past that had previously been locked away.



Daephene said...

That's very cool, getting a chance to know more about your dad. And it certainly sounds like those would be interesting stories.

Carly said...

Hi Karen

Sweet. You warmed my heart here. My father and I shared our love, and mutual fear of flying throughout our time together. He was an aircraft mechanic at the Navel air station at Alameda. In the 80's, when the Star Trek films came out, I used to tease him about working so close to Star Fleet Command. LOL. He wouldn't fly on any aircraft because he said he knew which bolt would bring down the whole plane, should it ever come off inflight! LOL. Gosh, I could go on and on about our conversations about the matter! Such fun memories.

Thank you Sweetie, for the step outside the box... or maybe GATEWAY! LOVED THIS!


Wil said...

An interesting response to the photo challenge. I actually think the photo of the B-17 was very appropriate. That yellow ladder leading up into the bowels of the aircraft, past the drop-down hatch, is quite an imposing portal. Even better, the unintended portal into your Dad's war time experiences. Very fitting.