This is an insight into war as told to me by veterans I have known:

“I was lucky. I always came into a war zone after the battle was fought. Landed on Omaha Beach at D-Day plus 5 [five days after the initial landing], was at the Battle of the Bulge after we secured Bastogne, and was in a staging area to invade Japan just as they dropped the A-bomb. We all loved President Truman for that. I was off for home soon after that.”PFC Robert E. Rutherford, U.S. Army, 1943-46

“I was flying in an unarmed A20 reconnaissance [light bomber] plane taking pictures over Germany. I sat in the upper turret and surrounded myself with flak jackets so I wouldn’t get shot. They gave us .45 automatics so if we jumped, we could fight off the German soldiers. Most of the guys who jumped, the first thing they did was throw away the .45 so they could be captured alive.”Sergeant Joseph liocanno, USAAF, 1943-46

“We were loading thousands of pamphlets onto planes to be dropped somewhere over cities in Japan. They were in Japanese so I did not know what they said. Turns out they were warnings to the cities that we had a terrible weapon and to surrender.”RM2C Philip A. Conte, USN, somewhere in the South Pacific, 1945

I flew a B-25 bomber and my job was to sink Japanese ships. On the nose of the plane I had a 75mm canon and four .50 caliber and four more .50 caliber on the outside fuselage, two on each side under where the co-pilot and I sat. The first time I shot everything I had was at a Jap supply ship. I almost went in my pants; I swear the plane stood still in the air for a few seconds.”1st Lt. Jerry Fitton, USAAF, somewhere in the South Pacific, 1944-45

“We were going on a mission when the pilot in the helicopter behind me started to shout over the radio, ‘I’m hit, I’m hit, I’m going down, I’m going down!’ He landed the copter safely, but as we ran up to it, we noticed a large hole in the plexiglass in the front. We opened the cockpit door and the pilot was hit – by a goose! It was lodged between his armpit and the seat. That night the cook served it to him for dinner. A few weeks later, he was shot down and killed.”Chief Warrant Officer 2 Thomas Stryker, U.S. Army Helicopter Pilot, Vietnam, 1969

“I went back into the barracks and saw my buddy hanging from the ceiling. I was a medic and couldn’t help him.”T/Sgt. George Sheyon, U.S. Army, Guam, 1944

“I flew B-26 bombers in WW2 but my last landing was a crash landing that broke almost every bone in my back. It took them three hours to cut me out of the wreckage and then I was medically discharged six months later. To my surprise, I was called up for the Korean War. My first contact with the new Air Force was when I went into the barracks and a black solider was sitting there. ‘Hey soldier,’ I said, ‘I think you’re in the wrong barrack?’ The black soldier answered back, ‘Not according to President Truman. Welcome to the new Air Force.’”2nd Lt. Lee Jackiewicz, U.S. Army 1939-42, USAAF, 1942-44 European/Pacific Theaters

To all veterans, past and present, we salute you and thank you for your service. Have a peaceful Veterans Day.

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