Sunday, July 14, 2013

John and Julian—Part One

Julian was the oldest and I’m told he was the better looking one. 
John, the lanky younger brother was quiet. Not brooding but perhaps a bit more than just shy.
Everyone signed up for the war—city boys and country boys alike. John and Julian did too and Julian became an Army Air Forces aviator. I reckon it's kinda natural that younger brother John would want to do the same thing. And what a departure it must have been. Two brothers born and raised on a South Carolina dairy farm now manning these flying machines and headed to war somewhere…wherever they were told to go.
Here’s Julian with his cousin Fred who’s on leave from the Navy. My stepfather said that he joined the Navy because the line was shorter at the Navy Recruiting office. Maybe Fred had a fear of flying.
These boys were barely more than children when they ended up in flight school. Maybe other generations upon return from such adventures would tell great tales…you know…long, animated, twisty-turny stories about the thrill of flying. I know I would. John and Julian’s generation rarely and then barely uttered a word about all of this. Milking cows and doing farm chores one day. Wearing shearling jackets and flying planes soon thereafter. Daddy would be John.
The personal photos of John and Julian and their brothers in flight reflect to me the same reality that all photos from this era convey. They all look older—much older than they are.  But they are kids. Some of them only five years older than LFG and none of the fellas in these photos have yet been tainted or hardened by combat—though many would be dead in another year.
Brother Julian died. Soon. His life ended in the cockpit of his fighter and so went his war sacrifice. Hell of a price for a kid to pay.
I can imagine the U.S. Army staff car coming up the lane, approaching the Turbeville, South Carolina farm house that John and Julian and their father before them grew up in. Army staff cars were ominous in any setting. I think more so in Turbeville. That's a 1970's photo of John and Julian's family home.
Baby brother John’s aviation career ended the day Julian’s life did. The only remaining son was humanely relegated to desk duty for the remainder of the war. I wonder how he felt about it. You know, the dialectic of emotions about losing Julian and the probably frustrating compliance with the Army's decision to spare their mother another staff car approach to the farm house. Seems to me most of those boys wanted to fight, not push paper.

These painful but all too ordinary tales…these matter of course, routine occurrences amidst war and destruction, seem anything but ordinary as I ponder them and I’m sure that John and Julian’s mom and dad had strong feelings about their boys’ jockeying these rat trap flying machines. I speculate that John's mom had feeling of relief amidst her grief when she learned that her only remaining son would be excused from aerial combat.
John came home and quietly resumed life on the dairy farm and membership in that Greatest Generation. And like most of them, he didn’t talk about it much. Turbeville, South Carolina to Manhattan…farm boys and city fellas…wealthy and poor. One thing I know is that few families were spared the call to offer up their sons. And the ultimate sacrifice, like the one Julian made, wasn’t limited to modest Southern farm boys.
So here’s to John and Julian and cousin Fred. And here’s to all the other boys from every region and every strata of society who served and especially to those like Julian, who made the ultimate sacrifice.



Anonymous said...

Powerful, thanks for this moving post.


ADG said...

Thanks. I think you'll like part two even better.

LPC said...

I love your muted writing here. The distance. So not the usual in the world of man words about war.

But I have to confess. I am not 100% sure who these men are in your family...step-father? Father?

I suppose I shouldn't care, the issues are universal, but I do.

ADG said...

LPC...Prunella, I wasn't 100% sure who these men were either. That's why there's a second part to the story. I trust that all is well in your orbit!

Gail, in northern California said...

Oh, Max. You need write. And write. Then write some more. How lucky we are that you carved out a moment in your busy schedule for this wonderful post. Thank you.

GSL said...

Great post ADG; looking forward to part 2.

Anonymous said...

What Gail said.

Hoping your page view meter can handle the heavy traffic from all'vus coming back looking for Part Two.


Anonymous said...

"My stepfather said that he joined the Navy because the line was shorter at the Navy Recruiting office"

My grandfather was in the Army Air Corp. He told me he wanted to be a paratrooper, but the line was too long. The shorter line next to it was the line for armorers. He told me he wasn't sure what they did, but that didn't matter. He later learned that on air craft carriers, each plane was assigned three men: a pilot, a mechanic and a armorer - the guy who loaded the plane's weapons. His brother, like many of our boys, landed on a French beach never to return home.

I can't wait to read part two, Max.


Scale Worm said...

Thank you for a moving and humbling series of images with your family here.
I appreciate your doing this.

I have a new friend that is almost 100 years old and was as well an aviator. He flies a Pitts bi-plane now.

I have lost and am losing my WWII friends that I have met. All of these people are Gods in my book.

Thank you again for sharing as you do, so selflessly, with us here.