Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Day 4: "Why were we spared? The Lord still had a mission for us" - Tom Easterly

Seventy years ago, the horror and death that was brought to England was
seared into the memory of an entire generation. Our veteran, Tom Easterly, witnessed this firsthand as a part of the medical team. These images shaped the rest of Tom's life as he vowed to honor the sacrifice of so many great men and women.

This morning, we were able to spend quality time with our veteran at the Imperial War Museums at Duxford. One of the museums that we visited was the American Air Museum. This museum housed many of the planes used throughout American history. Tom was among the first group of 1100 draftees to become medics for the Army Air Corps at the end of January 1942. While in the Medical Branch of the US Army, Tom was the sole man responsible for all medical records, which included 1200 airmen plus ground crews.  While he did not fly in the planes, Tom recalls sweating out the arrival of the flight crews returning from missions. He was based at Shipdham Airfield from October 1942 until the end of July 1943. At this specific airfield, B-24 Bombers were flown, one of which was on display at the American Air Museum. Shockingly, one of our other veterans on the trip, Walt Fitzmaurice, was in the same bomb group, the 44th; however, he came in October of 1943. Later in the war, Tom was stationed south of Chengdu, China. At HsinChing they flew the larger B-29 Bomber which was also on display at the American Air Museum. A lesser known theater of World War II between May of 1944 and Christmas Eve of 1945 was CBI (China, Burma, India).

We were able to get a private tour of Lakenheath Air Force Base, a joint base with the British Royal Air Force and home of the 48th Fighter Wing. During the tour, we heard several F-15's take off with a thunderous roar. A plane we were able to see up close later. We also were able to go into the air traffic control management areas to explore the behind the scenes of a modern Air Force Base. A HUGE thank you goes out to our amazing tour guides, Ray & Cristy Pfeiffer for getting us a private tour at the Air Force Base.

Through all of the conversations and discussions that happened today and throughout the trip there has been a subtle, yet consistent, theme in all of the stories and accounts. The one truth in all of these stories is that the men by and large want to share the stories of men that did not make it, much more than that, they want to share personal stories. This speaks to the character of a generation who not only fought in the war 70 years ago, but is sharing stories of the multitude of comrades and friends who are not here to share those stories today.

Melissa Moore, sophomore
Brandon Ashbee, junior

1 comment:

  1. While visiting for my ex-RAF friend's funeral his son (also ex-RAF) and wife took me to Duxford. The son is responsible for obtaining a couple Argentine craft displayed there. I know your group had a good time at the museum.