Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

War Stories: Father Focuses on the Funny

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

War Stories: Father Focuses on the Funny

Article excerpt

THE GRAINY black-and-white photograph was always on our wall. Classic World War II:

In the background, the fuselage of a B-26 Marauder bomber with a cartoon drawing of the namesake rooster, the "Fightin' Cock." In front, its crew of six young men staring straight into the camera.

It fascinated me as a child because the youngest looking one, with his cap set at a rakish angle, kneeling at the far right is my father, LeVoyde Grimes. And, naturally, I always thought him quite the handsomest, bravest man alive.

With the 50th anniversary of D-Day upon us, the image is much on my mind again, and I am realizing, for the first time, just how lucky I am to be able to use that word about him: alive.

He is 71 now, hoarse of voice, gone gray, getting a little paunchy, an ordinary farmer. Back when the photo was taken on Dec. 11, 1943, he was . . . well, he thinks of himself as ordinary then, too. And, in that time and place, maybe he was.

Just a kid, gone to war. Lied about his age to join up. Five feet, 10 inches tall, 123 pounds of scrawny country boy from south Alabama with reddish-blond hair, merry brown eyes and a go-to-hell grin. A dead-eye shot with a rifle and a natural knack as a mechanic. Good gifts for what he became: aerial engineer and top turret gunner on a B-26, with the 450th Bomb Squadron, 322nd Bombardment Group, Ninth Air Force.

My father flew 72 missions. Not the record. But enough. He'd hunker beside his pilot, watch the gauges, fix what broke and finally crawl into his little turret-gun bubble when the Marauder crossed into enemy-held Holland, France, Germany. In the box of his trinkets, my childhood toys, were these: 13 Air Medals. A Distinguished Flying Cross. Not the Medal of Honor. But enough.

Of course, as I was growing up, he told lots of war stories. They were always funny. Now they remind me that in the midst of all that death there was so much life. Maybe that's what they reminded him of, too, why those were the memories he shared.

Here are some of the things Daddy chose to tell:

How his lucky number got to be 13 - for the 13 planes in his squadron; the 13 stops in 13 countries on his way to Bury St. …

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