Sunday, November 11, 2012

Interview with a WWII Veteran

I have never been to war and never been a soldier, but I respect those who have. Some of these soldiers sacrificed a few years. Others sacrificed everything, ending up killed, disabled, or forever changed in such a way that life can never be whole again.

I honor that sacrifice and I certainly appreciate the freedoms they have fought for. I might disagree with politicians, and get discouraged by campaign nastiness, but the underlying truth is that our country was built by and still depends on great minds and valiant soldiers.

So on this Veteran's Day, I would like to give thanks to the men, women, and dogs who have served our nation during war and peace and natural disaster.

To remember or veterans, I'd like to reprise an interview I did with my good friend Lawrence Kennon, a WWII veteran. He is still working on his book. It is hard for him sometimes to recount those stories of war -- hard for him to bring back those ghosts and make them come alive again on the page. Hopefully this winter, he and I can hole up with a nice bottle of red wine and finish it up.

Rachelle: Lawrence, you told me you served in WWII. Can you tell me where and when?

Lawrence: 1941 to 1945. European theatre of operations. I was stationed in Great Britain. You need to know that I was in the Army Air Corps. We had no such thing as the air force then. General Hap Arnold organized the Air Corp as part of the army and I was in the heavy bombardment...4 engine bombers. He saw the need for air power during the war. We didn't have any and he saw the need for it, so he worked with Pres. Roosevelt and organized the Air Corps which later became the Air Force.
Lawrence Kennon - Air Corps
Rachelle: Can you tell me a little about your role there?

Lawrence: Our main task overseas ...or main orders were...we flew up into the North Sea from Great Britain and flew around in the North Sea and jammed the German radar...that was our main task. We had to fight fighters off so that our other planes could go in and bomb them. I didn't know that until later -- the details, that is. I just knew we were jamming their radar. You see, we had the Norton bomb site to let us drop bombs acurately, but the Germans had it too. It was highly secret, but they had it. All they did was reverse it and they could shoot us down just like we could bomb them.

Rachelle: That sounds dangerous. Which mission do you remember most?

Lawrence: We went down into Germany. The orders were to bomb a little town – Dresden, I think it was. We came back out..well...we thought we were clear...but we were shot down with anti-aircraft fire. We abandoned the plane, jumped out in parachutes, went into the North Sea and I was picked up by Air Sea rescue, which was stationed in France. They took me back to France and kept me a couple days out, then sent me back to Great Britain, where they assigned me to another crew...another plane.

I shall never forget Air Sea Rescue's code name that day was Colgate. We used words like Colgate, Pepsodent, Lucky Strike, Camels. But I remember the code name that day was Colgate.
There were 8 crew members that day. Seven of us were picked up. We never knew what happened to the 8th. He was a good boy. A friend.
Rachelle: Do you want to talk more about the war, or should we talk about your trip to Washington?
Lawrence Kennon - Now
Lawrence: Let's talk about the trip. The trip to Washington, for me, was a real experience. It was really a good trip. It was organized by a group called Honor Tour.
Rachelle: Was it all WWII vets?
Lawrence: Yes, but from different branches. Our group met in Poplar Bluff and we rode a coach to St. Louis, where we boarded a plane that flew us to Baltimore. From Baltimore, we took a coach again to Washington DC. They put us up in the Drury Motel, fed us all our meals and Saturday we spent the day visiting the different memorials. I was impressed with all of them, but mostly with the World War II memorial. It's really a fabulous thing – 50 columns, each named after one of the states. IT has 40,000 gold stars...each star represents 100 people who lost their life. That's a lot of people, isn't it? *shakes head sadly* War is obscene.

It's built in 4 sections, Pacific on one side and Atlantic on the other. There are eagles on each section...I think there were 4...they weigh 2 ton a piece. Can you imagine that? Each state's name is on a column with a big wreath.
The other thing that impressed me tremendously was FDR memorial. That one is built in 4 sections, each representing a term inoffice. I think that's why I was impressed with it. That was my time. He died while I was in Great Britain fighting, so he was my president. The other thing that was really fascinating was the Navy museum...all of the navy from the beginning up until the present day. Every school student should have to go through that. *chuckles*
Rachelle: What made you smile on your trip?

Lawrence: *grins* There was a 3-star general who had served in Afghanistan. He was due to go back again soon. He asked me why we wore off hats tilted off to one side. I said, "It's because that's the way the ladies like them." He chuckled at that.
Another funny thing was when I saw a lady and her husband. She was British -- I could tell that by her accent -- and she asked me where and when I had served. I said "A little town called Tring." Her husband said "That's where we live. Right by the runway." Can you imagine that?
Rachelle: What was the most moving experience of your trip?
Lawrence: We watched the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery is very moving...very impressive. Those soliders who do that...they devote their entire life to bein absolutely spotless and perfect. They change the wreath on the unknown soldier.
Rachelle: It sounds like you enjoyed your trip.
Lawrence: It was a great trip for me. *touches heart* I've been carrying some ghosts around with me all this time...50, 60 years. I finally left those behind. Some of my friends who died over there...I never could bury them. This trip, I did. When I went to Arlington Cemetery, that's when I really...really I don't know how to say it. I just accepted the fact that my friends had died and that was it. I had closure on it. I buried them. I'm grateful I had that chance.
Rachelle: I am too. Lawrence, thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I hope more veterens are able to go on the Honor Tour. They deserve it!

Although Lawrence is still working on his book, if you or someone you know, would like to learn more about World War II, my friend K.F. Kirwin has compiled a book of her father's photographs taken during the war. Like Lawrence, he was a pilot, although I don't think they ever knew each other. Unlike Lawrence, Kitty's father was never able to talk about his ghosts, so many of the people in the photos are unidentified. Kitty would love to hear from anyone who recognizes people in the photos.
Let's also keep in mind that dogs serve bravely too. Although they don't understand the politics, the borders, or the religious differences of the those they are fighting for, vs. those they fight against, they work hard, face danger, and deserve our thanks. Here is another link to a book my mother recommended -- and one that she helped provide to school libraries. It's about a military dog named Rex and it is one of the best books I've read this year.  I plan to do a full review of it down the road...but why wait for the full review?  It's available in Kindle, paperback, and hardback editions.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thankful for my Readers

Our Coffin Hop winner is Penelope Crowe. Please contact us by sending a DM to @RachelleReese or sending an email so we can get you the Trick or Treat bag. 
It's Thankful Thursday, so I'd like to give thanks to all the Coffin Hop participants and everyone who stopped by. And especially, to all of you who took the time to download our free Kindle offerings. I hope you enjoy them. Please remember, to write a review. We are extending our review policy to all our books -- write an honest review, let me know where you posted it and how to contact you, and I'll send you a coupon for a free ebook.'s what you all accomplished and what we're thankful for as we welcome in November.

Bones of the Woods hit #3 in the Kindle Short Stories category. This is our first time ever in the Amazon Top 10 list, so we are thrilled.
The Reunion hit #32 in the Kindle Contemporary Fantasy category.
And our latest book, High Rollers hit #45 in the Kindle Contemporary Fantasy category.

It was a fantastic week..and it was nice being airborne. I'd also like to thank this hawk for posing for a few pictures, even though he had his eye on a chicken dinner (which he did not get, by the way). 

And remember...if you have not read my story The Big Hill, you still can. It's in the America's Next Author contest, so I would appreciate your vote.