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For some time I've known what 4-F meant in the jargon of World War II. It meant a man of draft-eligible age had some sort of physical handicap that prevented them from qualifying for military service. Sometimes the handicap was minor (such as flat feet). Being rated 4-F might mean a young man would live with the perceived shame of not being "brave" enough to fight. Anecdotally, we hearf form the World War II era that some young men took their lives upon getting the news.

From learning of Vic's story, though, I've learned what 2-B status meant. It meant one was employed in work considered necessary to the war effort and was therefore exempt from the draft.

Vic was assigned 2-B status. He had worked for more than a year at an aeronautical hydraulics manufacturer when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. His skills were in need there. And when one things about the astounding number of aircraft the U.S. manufactured during the war (more than we'd ever have the cr…
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The Air War in Korea

When word first came to me about this potential program, there was some doubt as to whether I would be part of a cohort traveling to France for World War I or to Hawaii for the Korean War. Candidly, my first hope was for the former. In retrospect, it sounds silly. I felt more of an intellectual curiosity about World War I. I thought some of what I would be learning about World War I would overlap with World War II. And, I might have misunderstood the tentative agenda, but I thought the World War I cohort would be visiting a cemetery that I found oddly fascinating in that area of France.

I didn't get my wish (obviously). And I'm very glad for that.

My intellectual curiosity was satisfied by much of what I learned about the Korean War, a conflict about which I knew very little going in. Also, learning about the Korean War ended up eliding with more learning about World War II, much like I expected would happen with the the two world wars. And now I'm immersed in reading abo…

News from Korea and the Work of the DPAA

I just caught an interesting news story in the Washington Post. You can read here of how the U.S. has received the remains of Americans missing from the Korean War. Toward the middle of the article, it mentions a center in Hawaii that houses a forensics lab for the identification of remains. The facility is where the Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency does the important work of identifying the remains of America's servicemen lost overseas.

The New York Times also has coverage of this story. Here is their article.

On Monday the group of teachers on the Memorializing the Fallen trip had a chance to tour parts of this facility and learn of the work of this agency. They prize themselves on the important and challenging work that they do. Their work goes beyond forensics. Anthropology and archaeology are central to this work too. Military know how, also, as it's usually a small contingent of active duty armed forces that lead these missions.

Dignity and honor is also central to it.…


Today I got my opportunity to deliver a eulogy for my fallen hero. Lauren had this opportunity last year and I enjoyed seeing her create, revise, and practice so that she could do well by Bill.

The other teachers and I put a great deal of thought into our eulogies. Many of us were editing and revising through this week . . . a lot of tweaking. In fact, I didn't finish tweaking mine until 6:09 this morning.

I was proud of my finished product. I had an abundance of information from his personnel file, and the story of his life in there provided a lot of good material for a eulogy. One limitation I had was that my attempts to reach family didn't get any responses, so I didn't have the personal anecdotes some of my peers could employ.

In some ways my eulogy was more brusque than what the other teachers offered. But when I was finished, the representative from the Veterans Administration accompanying us paid me a pretty high compliment: that I delivered a eulogy a Marine would …

About that previous air war . . .

Our learning today took place at the Pacific Aviation Museum. Tomorrow I'll have another chance to photograph some of the exhibits on the aircraft from the Korean War. Today, though, I went to the area of the museum showcasing World War II aircraft.

At first I was a little disappointed. My favorite plane, the F4U, was nowhere to be found. Nor could I find the F6F (Hellcat) which was the workhorse fighter for our Navy in the war.

But then I realized what they were up to: it's an exhibit dedicated toe the aircraft that characterized the first year of the war in the Pacific. In other words, the planes that were outdated: too slow, too lightly armed, too ungainly (as a retired Air Force pilot quipped today: a plane flies like it looks . . . if it looks pretty it flies pretty, if it looks ugly . . . ). Eventually these ugly ducklings were replaced by the more beautiful aircraft that capture our imagination.

Here are some pictures of these homely planes.

Interesting note: When we b…

A Little Bit about the Air War

Dumb little joke with my students: I often assert that my first love in history was the War War II, in particular the story of aviation in that war. If we were to get very, very narrow, I'd say that it was the plans America flew in that war. This project has given me a chance to indulge in that old love a little bit, and learn about what happened with that topic in the Korean War. 
The Air War in Korea is both a fascinating and maddening topic. Fascinating in that a lot went unexpectedly for the United States. At the beginning of that war, we found ourselves outclassed by what the Communists were flying. Our F-80s and F-84s really just couldn't keep up with their MiGs. Eventually our F-86s closed the gap between what our assets and theirs could do. 

An admission: I don't find those cutting edge planes from Korean nearly as attractive as our stalwarts from World War II, or as attractive as the next generation of jets which came into service later in the 1950s and 1960s. 

Eulogizing Bruce

I leave for Hawaii Wednesday. On Sunday I will have the opportunity to eulogize one of my two Marines by his grave in Hawaii. The honor becomes clearer as I get closer to this date. 
You may remember from an earlier post that Bruce is one of only six Pennsylvania veterans of the Korean War buried in Hawaii's National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Six seems like an awfully small number for a conflict that claimed a total of 2,401 lives from my state. (You can see a listing of all casualties, by state, at this Archives website.) To understand why this is so, I draw on what I learned from Lauren's research and the Normandy Institute. 
In World Wars I and II the next of kin for deceased American soldiers were offered a choice for their loved one's remains: interment overseas in a U.S. cemetery or repatriation to the U.S. If brought back to the U.S., that serviceman may be buried by the family or a U.S. cemetery here. This policy was the result of a compromise, struck in W…