Wednesday, December 07, 2005

december 7, 1941

In honor of all those who served our country during WWII, I am sharing this story written by my late paternal grandfather, affectionately known by his grandchildren as Papa.

I walked slowly out of the operations tent of the 21st Figher Group on Iwo Jima into the opaqueness of a heavy fog. At the time, orders were being issued to alert the island and to station first aid units and rescue units at strategic points on the island. The Mustang fighter planes of the 21st were on their way back from a mission over Japan and there was no place for them to land.

It was a long flight for P-51's and there could be no delay getting them down when they returned. It seemed that the only possibility of saving any of the pilots was to have them bail out as they flew over the island, letting the planes go where they might. The danger involved was tremendous, but there seemed to be no other recourse.

My burden was heavy as I trudged slowly up the slope to a high point near the operations tent. I was the staff weather officer for the group and had prepared the forecast for the flight. My mind was in a turmoil as I considered the possibility that all of our planes would be lost and with them probably many of the pilots.

I sat down on a mound of clay, some fifty yards from the operations tent. I looked back toward its dim outline through the fog and over it toward Suribachi which was completely hidden by the gray mist. The visibility varied from a few yards to two hundred as the fog changed to drizzle and back to fog again. My mind was as foggy as I reconsidered the facts that led me to forecast good flying conditions at Iwo Jima for the day.

I tried to justify, in my mind, the preliminary forecast to Colonel Powell the day before when I had said that the fog that grounded fighter flights for the two previous days would clear away in time for the take-off the next morning. I tried to justify the final forecast which said much the same thing and promising visibility of eight miles or better, and scattered clouds at 3000 feet when the planes returned.

I could think of no logical reason for the forecast. The lack of weather data at the weather station should have made me cautious. We had nothing that showed us the reason for the fog and we had nothing to indicate its clearing. For some unknown reason I had felt that the fog would lift and clear and the weather would remain good through the day.

I had felt good when my forecast for the take-off had proven right and I was sure at the time that my forecast [for that evening] would be good. But I remembered, too, how the low clouds had started moving in soon after take-off and how they became lower and lower until they swallowed the island in their mantle of invisibility.

I sat there for an hour or two; I know not how long. Wet, and shivering from the wetness and cold and fear, I prayed to God. I am sure that other men, better men than I, prayed also; but I prayed to God, "Dear Lord, let the fog break and let the planes land." I sat there and through my mind and from my heart the words continued, over and over, "Let the fog break and let the planes land."

About thirty minutes before the planes were due back I was looking toward the north and the fog appeared to be lighter. It was -- the brightness grew and the sky became visible. It continued to lighten and the fog moved out or dissipated.

There were the planes -- the first flight swooping down over the field, peeling off and coming in to land. The Weather Station observation at the time was almost identical with the forecast. Soon after the last plane had landed the fog was back, blanketing the island in its grayness for the rest of the night.

The pilots said it was the best forecast they had ever had, but I cannot take the credit for it. I have a feeling that it was right because of a Being greater than I.


Blogger Amanda said...

Thanks so much for sharing that, Jana!

What an incredible story and testimony to His power.

I had tears in my eyes reading it. :o)

10:07 AM  
Blogger Tony Arnold said...

Incredible. I have nothing more I could say.


1:34 PM  
Blogger Katey said...

Jana- You may not remember me, my name is Katey Earles and I grew up across the street from Mama and Papa Bear. Reading that story made me miss him so much I started to cry. Thank you for that story.

(I actually go to OC now too.)

4:12 PM  
Blogger Jana said...

Katey - No way, no way! I've seen your name out in the blog word and at OC, and I thought you sounded familiar! Don't you have a little brother? I think I took pics of him for my photo class at ACU. Wow. I appreciate you sharing your sweet thoughts about my Papa.

4:25 PM  

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