The first “Veterans Day” was Armistice Day on November 11, 1919 to celebrate the previous year’s armistice ending WWI. President Wilson declared it as a day “filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”
After some changes to the date of its observance and a name change, the holiday reverted back to its original date — November 11th — and continued its general purpose: “To honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”
Throughout the years, I’ve celebrated this holiday by giving thanks and remembering. To all active soldiers and veterans out there — THANK YOU. Your courage and commitment is inspiring and your service and sacrifices are greatly appreciated.
According to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, there are 1.2 million WWII veterans remaining of the 16 million who served in WWII. If you know a WWII veteran who wants to share their story, you can help them create a personal page or donate an artifact. I haven’t created a personal page for my grandfather yet, but I love the idea of helping veterans preserve their legacies. In honor of Veterans Day, here are a few pictures and a brief bit about my grandfather.
In a previous post, I had wondered what type of aircraft my grandfather might have piloted. Since then, I’ve dug through our albums again and think I’ve identified the plane — a “grasshopper” L-5 observation plane. Grasshoppers were designed to fly over enemy positions and tell the artillery where to aim. But in Okinawa, where my grandfather was stationed, pilots used them to rescue wounded marines trapped in the jungle.
From The Chickasha Daily Express (a local Oklahoma newspaper, circa 1944):
The only possible place to land in the jungle was a narrow strip of paved road 12 feet wide and the planes were eight feet wide… Certain types of wounded couldn’t be subjected to pressure, so when hauling men with stomach, head and chest wounds, the planes couldn’t go any higher than 100 feet. Most of the time they flew over the water, averaging between four to eight feet from the bottom of the plane to the crest of the waves.
My grandfather died on July 11, 1945. He had been engaged in transporting patients and mail, following the end of action on Okinawa, and had been serving as the flight leader of his squadron. The morning he was killed, he had been promoted to the rank of master sergeant.
107 Year Old WWII Vet
In doing my brief research for this post, I ran across this post about Richard Overton, believed to be the oldest (and “coolest”) WWII vet. According to USA Today, he was a member of the Army’s 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion, who volunteered for service in 1942 and saw combat while “island hopping” in the Pacific with an all-black unit. Imagine the stories he could tell!
Wishing each of you a wonderful Veteran’s Day.