Saturday, June 8, 2013

Food for Thought

German Pilot Jumping From His Crippled FW-190
It's a quiet Saturday, I'm listening to tunes on YouTube and I see this video, with the title "1945 Zeros Attack B-29 Formation over the Fujiyama". Being an amateur military historian, I decide to have a look at this video. Here it is -

Thing is, as I'm watching the video, it struck me. These are not just machines going down in flames. There was no music playing in the background. This was a desperate aerial struggle taking place in the skies over Japan. Men were dying, men were being grievously wounded. Men were seeing and experiencing things we can only imagine. Things which in years to come, they couldn't talk about. Unless it was with someone who had been through something similar.

I've watched hundreds of clips of gun camera footage over the years. When I was a kid, the TV show "Twelve O'Clock High" was something we watched and enjoyed immensely.

The show ran from 1964 to early 1967, there were 78 episodes, 61 of which were in black and white. Those episodes always had gun camera footage from the war. There was lots of it, by using that footage, the producers could save money and do a better job of showing us what the war in the air looked like. All weaved into the story line of that week's episode.

Later in life, I worked with World War II vets. Some of whom flew in the skies over both Europe and the Pacific. They didn't talk about it very much. Most would tell you the funny stories of military life. But if anyone talked about the fighting itself, you knew that he'd not been there. Real veterans won't talk about combat with civilians. It's too painful to talk about it among ourselves. Let alone someone who has no frame of reference at all.

That lead in picture really struck me. The pilot bailing out of the plane, a brief moment in time captured on the camera of the aircraft which shot him down. Who is this man?

He's probably in his twenties. Is he a Nazi, or just someone who signed up to serve his country? Many sign up to fight for their native land without a thought or a care for the ideology involved. Young men will do that. Perhaps he was drafted. Unlikely, as he's a pilot, though a slight possibility.

Did he survive the war? Did his family survive the war. Unlike here in the States, which hasn't been touched by battle since the War Between the States, Europe was devastated by the war. Not wearing a uniform didn't protect you from being killed or wounded. Thousands died in the bombing raids and just for the simple fact of living on a battlefield, for all of Europe was a battlefield.

It's possible this young German pilot survived the war but lost his entire family. It happened. Soldiers would return from the front, on leave, and discover that their home was gone, their family lost.

War is a terrible thing, sometimes it's a necessity, but only the insane desire war. It made me stop and think, and remember.

All this from watching a couple of minutes of combat footage.

Food for thought.


  1. Food for thought.

    Too true. We who haven't been there can never know what they went through. My father never talked about his war until he was on his death-bed, literally, and then the stories came pouring out. I was humbled as I listened.

    Good post, Chris.

  2. It truly comes home when one realizes, as you did, that's not a movie, that is a human being dying... Good post and good points!

    1. That's what struck me. The photo of the pilot moments after leaving his machine really drove that home.


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