Too busy for a hero

Back in the late 80’s, the CAF flew their B-29 (Fifi) and B-24 (Diamond ‘Lil) into the Tallahassee, FL, USA airport. I went out to see them.

When I was standing under the B-29, there was an old man in a wheel chair sitting under it, just looking up. An older woman, presumably his wife, was standing off to the side. A family was near him, and he started talking to them. His speech was slurred, which I guessed was from a stroke. The family seemed annoyed he was talking to them, and moved away. He hushed up.

I felt bad for the way they treated him. So I walked over, and standing under the open bomb bay, I said “Sure looks like they could hold a lot of ordnance in there.”

And in his slow, hard to understand speech, he started talking.

I listened as this man- this hero- told stories of being a bombadier on a B-29, of living in the South Pacific, of raids over Japan. He’d met “Tennessee” Ernie Ford, who he said was a -29 bombadier, too.

He recalled some of the people he knew, just first names, like Charlie and “ole Bud” and “some kid from San Diego”. Some of them brought tears, and others laughs. I honestly got teary eyed myself at times.

He even told about some odd group called the 509th Composite group, and he described to me watching a plane take off on the morning of August 6th- and he dramatically paused and said “That was the Enola Gay that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.”

We talked a little more, and I thanked him for the stories and for all he did.

That family who was to busy to listen to an old man slowly tell his tale never knew what they missed. They were in the presence of a hero, a real hero, and ignored it because of a little slurred pseech and some liver spots.