Well, really I mean, meet my grandfather. I couldn't blog about my trip earlier because it was a surprise, and I do believe my great-aunt and I pulled it off!
My grandfather, Norman Bussel, is reading tonight at Left Bank Books in St. Louis (which I'm told is the only indie bookstore in St. Louis) from his memoir My Private War: Liberated Body, Captive Mind: A World War II POW's Journey.
I was the last one to bail out of our B-17 bomber alive that day. It was around noon on April 29, 1944 and our target was Berlin. “Big B,” we called it. It was probably the most heavily fortified city in Germany, with thousands of effective and deadly 88mm guns pointed at the sky. Pointed at the Allied planes that came to release their bombs on Hitler’s glorious city.
The mission started out very badly for my crew and continued to get worse as the day progressed. First, there was the problem with Flt. Officer Sherwood Landis, our navigator. Sherry’s face was ashen as we rode in the truck to the flight line. The day before, Lt. Sokol, also in our bomb squad, and a close friend and former classmate of Sherry’s in navigation school, had been hit in the neck by schrapnel while on a mission. His crew was unable to stop the flow of blood and Sokol died on the flight back to our base in Rattlesden, England.
As our crew’s radio operator, it was my job to pick up our intercom headsets before every mission. I walked into the radio shack with our co-pilot, Lt. Benedict and hurriedly hung the ten headsets over my left arm while Benedict signed out for them. When we reached the hardstand, where our plane was parked, I began passing the headsets out to my crew.
You can read the rest of the first chapter at Memoirville.
Here's a photo of him and his wife Melanie at a recent signing:
Please join us if you're in town! I'm still pretty sick, was woozy and almost delirious this morning but managed to not only make it to LaGuardia two hours early (a practically unknown feat for me), but had no trouble with the TSA with my expired-by-two-days passport. It's gonna be tricky cause I will now send it back on Monday to get a new one, and pray that it arrives by January 28th, since I'm supposed to fly to San Francisco on the 29th. I was going to wait but I don't know how great the TSA will be about a passport that's been expired for three weeks.
I will be writing soon about my misadventures in traveling in 2008, which I'm hoping don't spill over to this year, especially since I'm going to Italy sometime in the next few months to visit my mom before she moves back to the States.
I'm in St. Louis until Sunday, have some writing to do and books to read for work but am mostly going to be spending time with my family; my uncle is here from Oregon as well. And, of course, I'll be sampling the city's cupcakes!