Monday, January 26, 2015
Believe it or not, when I found this small collection of photos, it was the sign that I wanted.
When I look through my collection of old photos, I'm well aware that the majority of people I see are dead; and I'm never more aware of that fact then when I'm looking at pictures from the World War 2 era. It's not just the age of the photos, although that is a large part of it. My father was a veteran, he was born in 1919, and if he were still alive, he would be turning 96 on February 4. Even those who joined the military at 18, in 1945, are now in their late eighties. It's the sheer carnage of a war, that killed so many young men, women, and huge numbers of civilians that reminds me of death. It's fair to say that every person in the United States either had a family member that didn't come back, or they new of a family that suffered a lose of some sort. And let's be honest, we in the United States actually got off easy.
FEAF stands for Far East Air Force. It was formed on November 16, 1941, when all Army Air Force units in the Philippines were placed under a single, unified command. Less than a month latter, on December 8 (Dec 7 on the other side of the international date line.) the Japanese attacked. To make a long story short, the FEAF was pretty much destroyed on the ground. In the end, 14 B-17s and their crews, 49 out of 165 fighter pilots, 27 ground officers, and 16 wounded enlisted men were evacuated to Darwin, Australia where they were reorganized as the 5th Air Force. Those who weren't killed in the initial fighting, and who weren't evacuated, ended up as infantry on Bataan.
I'm not sure anyone who has gone to war can be described as lucky, but the young men in these photos come close. While the men of the FEAF were stationed in the Philippines, they were trained in the United States. The third picture in the column has a processors stamp on the back. "McCOLLUM'S PHOTO SHOP, ALBANY, GA. DEC 8 1941." Who knows whether they survived the war, but they did miss the surprise attacks in the Pacific.