Jul 17, 2014

The Greatest Generation: A Missed Chance

MrsZ had some bodywork done today, patching up a dinged wing that's been an issue for a while. She's home and resting as comfortably as can be expected.

While GfZ and I were in the waiting room killing time before being called back to retrieve MrsZ, there was an elderly gent sitting with his young grandson on the far side of the room. He was any of a hundred older men you might see holding court at the local barber, or diner, or on the bench on the town square... right down to the "NAVY" ballcap.

I didn't get a close look at it until he shuffled by us... underneath "NAVY", in smaller print, was embroidered the legend, "WWII - VB-20".

The nurse called us in to find MrsZ then, so I didn't get a chance to give him more than a smile and nod. I just looked up VB-20. Here's a brief history of the squadron, courtesy Wikipedia:
On October 15, 1943, the squadron was redesignated Bombing Squadron TWENTY (VB-20), and on November 15, 1943 the squadron started to receive its first SB2C-1C Helldivers.
From August 16 through November 23, 1944, VB-20 flew the Helldiver from USS Enterprise (CV-6) for the first of two World War II Pacific Theater combat cruises. The squadron's first combat action occurred on August 31, 1944 and involved an attack on the Bonin Islands. In September 1944, VB-20 participated in pre-invasion strikes on Palau Islands and provided air support for landings on Peleliu Island. In October 1944, the squadron participated in air strikes against Okinawa, Formosa and Luzon. On October 24, 1944, VB-20 participated in the Battle for Leyte Gulf. Squadron SB2Cs flew sorties against Japanese surface force in the Sibuyan Sea, these attacks contributed to the sinking of the Musashi, one of the two largest battleships in the world. On October 25, 1944, VB-20 aircraft were part of the Fast Carrier Task Force that attacked the Japanese carrier force in the Battle of Cape EngaƱo. Four Japanese carriers were sunk during this engagement.
From November 23, 1944 through February 2, 1945, VB-20 embarked aboard USS Lexington (CV-16), for the second of two World War II combat cruises. Squadron Helldivers struck Japanese positions in Ormoc Bay, Leyte, Luzon, Formosa, Hong Kong, the South China Sea and Okinawa.
On November 15, 1946, VB-20 was redesignated Attack Squadron NINE A (VA-9A).
 If those links above don't ring a bell for you... well, go back to History class. That stooped and shuffling old man has seen the elephant.

I wish I'd had made a moment to shake his hand.

4 comments:

pediem said...

Oh, Zer... Truly a hero, indeed. And so few of them left anymore.

jon spencer said...

There is / was a car around here with TAFFY-3 for its license plate. I never was able to spot the car when it was stopped and now I have not seen it in quite a few months.
That generation is fading away fast, all my uncles and father who served are now gone. There are a couple of tough old birds around here that are still going. Not going to say going strong but they are still going and not looking like they are going anywhere soon.

Old NFO said...

What Pedi said... sigh

Brigid said...

I'm glad my Dad is still around. He gave Partner his WWII uniform. He collects such items, fully aware of their history, and the two of them are the same size, 5 foot 7 and about 165 pounds of lean muscle.

I'm very proud that he did that.

Please tell Mrs.Z that we hope she is feeling better. we have just a smidge of the fine whiskey you brought over to the house and will raise a toast to her recovery this weekend.