I just completed and submitted my WWII tail gunner (see previous post) story. I’m quite happy with it. 2,200 words. And it seems every time I read it, well…a part of me gets a little choked up. I hope it has the same effect for others, but I’m aware I’m coming at it from a different perspective than most are probably going to come from. I’ve talked about the feeling that I’ve lived other lives, and, I feel one of them was as a WWII tail gunner that went down in the manner I’d described in my story. Take it or leave it, but that is my conviction, and I certainly don’t require others to step in line behind me. Others have their religions and beliefs…this is mine.
But whatever the reason, I’ve always felt (along with other similar feelings, like regarding the Civil War or the Titanic) a deep in-the-bones emotional intensity whenever I see pictures of WWII.
And pictures involving flying, especially B-17 (the Flying Fortress) bombing runs over Germany, the ones where aircraft lose pieces in-flight, really hit a note with me…but it has only been recently that it took such an unrelenting hold of me and simply would not let go. I felt that someone was reaching out to me for some reason—it doesn’t matter what that reason, or if I even understand it—just that “he” had. The imagery, the thoughts, the reaching out from “wherever.” Call it what you will…active imagination, wandering mind. Doesn’t matter. But I finally decided to give it the attention it deserved. I’m glad I did.
The short stick is that I believe things all happen for a reason. There is only apparent randomness. Call it synchronicity, causality, or whatever, I feel we attract what we get. In my life I’ve felt “odd” about certain things that only because of this sudden sharp focus of attention the past several months seem to be making more sense. Such as always having an “odd feeling” while being in the very back of airliners (you know, the very last seat, or standing in the galley back there), or, as a kid, I got the book Flying Fortress: The Illustrated Biography of the B-17s and The Men Who Flew Them, by Edward Jablonski…the odd feeling when I had been at the prone in-flight refueling station aboard a KC-135. The fact that all “this” started with the thoughts and images of “said guy” at the gym (I had been stretching in an empty martial arts/yoga room…and a lone ceiling fan [propeller images!] had been on, too, if you must know…)…only to shortly thereafter find the Memphis Belle movie on TV…and, further, that I ignored this movie the entire night, then only “happened” to channel surf back to it during the in-flight collision scene where the empennage of one B-17 (in the movie, Mother and Country) was separated through a mid-air collision. Or how disturbed I feel every time I see photos (or watch that dang Mother and Country scene…) of B-17s falling out of the sky in pieces—sometimes damaged by their own mistakes (such as upper levels of B-17s inadvertently dropping bombs on the horizontal stabilizers of their own aircraft beneath them) or by whole wings shot off by flak or aerial dogfights.
It all quite unnerves me.
It’s almost like I could feel the falling. The screaming out of the sky in a fiery death. Sure, I feel for the other planes and the lives lost in the fighters (not to mention those on the ground), et cetera, but the feeling, as I recently analyzed it, just isn’t the same as with the Forts (B-17s). It may not affect you, but for me…those B-17s…they affect me. Always have.
So, in this story I wrote, I (unconsciously at first) found myself creating the structure of falling…and once I consciously noted this, I immediately set about trying to enhance that structure. I hope I’d succeeded. And now I feel conflicted. I’m glad I finished the sorry, but feel a sense of loss…at the same time I feel I’ve helped someone. It’s never good to continually focus on the “past,” but try to learn from it, give it the energy it deserves without invalidating it, then move forward. I liked working on the story, doing that research. “Revisiting old stomping grounds,” if you will. As I’d described in the Genghis Khan exhibit post, I felt a sense of “coming home,” here, too. Like I’d revisited an old friend, one I might have inadvertently put off a little too long…and now we must go our separate ways. I wish him well!
I’d like to thank all the research avenues I pursued in creating this story, from the paragraphs from Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns book The War: An Intimate History, 1941 – 1945, dealing with the B-17 crews and some of their stories, to the websites, like the one honoring tail gunner Sergeant Glen E. Seeber, or the pages on Eyewitness To History detailing B-17s, and the pages on Dave’s War Birds, detailing battle-damaged B-17s. Also thank you to all of those who got back to me about my questions about battle-damaged B-17s. I appreciate your time and efforts.
To my own personal tail gunner who just would not leave me alone, I hope I helped.
I did it for you.