Living history becomes past
I'm fairly straight forward when it comes to how I feel about the military and especially WWII veterans. I'm a member of the 8th Air Force Historical Society of Minnesota. These are the guys who flew and maintained the B-17's, B-24's, C-47's. We have men from the 8th, 12th, 15th, 7th Air Forces along with ground and air crew from the Pacific. And they let hanger-ons like me join. One of those men is Richard "Mac" McCullum. He was a Navy Corsair pilot in the Pacific. Carrier based. Over 120 carrier landings, 24 at night (long before sophisticated radar, GPS and electronics) when night carrier landings were, well, dangerous (unlike all other carrier landings that are described even by Air Force pilots as "a controlled crash"). My friend Mac passed away on Friday.
He had been in failing health for the last few years. So, I'm not shocked, but am certainly sad and saddened.
Mac kept flying well after WWII. He was finally forced to give up his pilots license in the early 1990's after a heart battack and the onset of diabetes, but was somehow able to find the stick in his hand when offered the opportunity on someone else's license.But, Mac was always reluctant to tell his story about WWII. A friend of mine Jon Cermin has committed to putting as many stories as possible on video (CAPS). We tried a few times to interview Mac. Mac said OK, but then declined. I never pressed him after the second time. But Mac was my friend. If he didn't want to talk about WWII, that was more than fine. I just enjoined his company.
At today's luncheon, there was an article that was read. The oldest living veteran in America and the last WWI veteran in Massachusetts passed away. And the comment was that there are now only seven known surviving American WWI veterans. And that the men I have lunch with will also shortly be in small numbers.
When these wonderful men started to pass away shortly after I joined the Society, I was talking to my brother. I told him that we are going to get to know these men better. That we're going to get closer to them. And that it's going to hurt more and more when they pass away. And we agreed that was the price to be paid to get to know and serve these wonderful guys. And we'd have it no other way. As my brother remarked, in a quote from the war "We knew the mission was dangerous when we volunteered".
And I already miss my friend Mac.
From September, 1988: