Seventy years ago to the day Rex Jones, my grandfather, was hit by anti-aircraft fire over Kure, Japan. Blinded by hydraulic oil, fellow pilot, Smoke H., who he credits with saving his life (and the life of his gunner), led him out over the Shikoku Mountains. Rex executed a water landing and he and his gunner got safely aboard their raft and were picked up by a destroyer.
He describes the incident in a letter home after the war was over and censorship restrictions were lifted. That letter, of August 16, 1945, is in Letters Home (pg. 68). He describes the explosion breaking the lenses out of his goggles and being saved by his generator control box and manual bomb release quadrant deflecting most of the shrapnel away from him. He describes getting aboard the destroyer exhausted and being dragged to the skipper’s room:
The doc offered me a pint bottle of whiskey and I drank it all in one gulp. That settled me down to where I could shower and then he patched me up and tried to settle me for the night. I wouldn’t settle. I insisted on writing a letter, which I tore up later.
He wrote he couldn’t read it himself, later, but I would have liked the chance to try deciphering it. Reading over a thousand pages of my grandfather’s letters gave me tremendous insight into the mind of a man who died when I was seven, but also roused some questions frustrating because they can never be answered. What was in that letter tops that list. As a work, Letters Home might be better with that entry left a mystery. A reminder of the value of the letters we do have and an opportunity to connect in our imaginations with what he must have been thinking, not having access to what he wrote about what he was thinking. So I tell myself. Still, I would have liked the added project of taping together the shreds of that letter and transcribing one mark at a time what those words were.
Letters Home is available at Amazon:
links below from wordpress.