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Chapter 14 -  Epilogue

My release from active duty precipitated a flurry of decision making. Living quarters and location, return to college; where and in what profession, what sort of job would Doris look for, how could we contribute to the care of Doris’ mother and my father, could we afford a car, civilian clothes for me and a myriad of other mundane decisions. We decided to take over and renovate my father’s apartment, as he was now alone, assuming the financial burden he would then live with us. Housing was in extremely short supply with under the table profiteering rampant. After flirting with the idea of going to Dental school I decided to return to engineering college in Brooklyn the GI bill and complete my mechanical engineering degree as soon as possible by taking summer courses to accelerate the process. I stayed in a hybrid outfit of army and civilian clothes for many months and gradually reconverted. Doris obtained a job as a greeting card artist making use of her art background and developed a successful career in that field for many years. We did get on old 1938 Dodge automobile which I maintained, either on the street or by removing components, wrapping them and taking them to one of my engineering labs for disassembly. It was a most happy and productive period of our lives. Our lovely daughter was born in 1950 and we moved to suburbia for our first house and second car. My father had died in 1948. I remained with the Air Force reserve flying single engine aircraft once a month until I realized that I could not maintain my proficiency on that schedule. I switched my assignment to research and development since I now had an engineering degree and experience.

In 1953 the darkness of the McCarthy anti communist period swept thru the country and I was badgered by the FBI because my oldest brother was a Abraham Lincoln brigade Veteran of the Spanish Civil War of 1936 to 1939. The five years he had served in the US Air Force was ignored. Also his injury requiring hospitalization in a VA hospital. My loyalty was questioned and it required a trial and a wait of 18 months before the restoration of my top secret clearance necessary for employment at my level. The experience was a difficult one for the entire family and remains with us still.

Shortly before I had been called to active duty during the Korean War but released after 3 months to complete my master’s degree. Life was getting more complicated, much more so then the simple life and death decisions of WWII . These stressful days were becoming hazier and hazier in my mind as time passed. A chance meeting in downtown Brooklyn with Flym, the engineer of my first crew, shot down on their third mission over Mersberg, Germany reminded me of the intensity of those days.

Occasionally, Buggsy and I would meet for a nostalgic evening. My engineering career continued thru the 1950’s at Fairchild Space and Defense Systems and climaxed with my responsibility for the design and development of a Satellite mapping system used for targeting China and Russia.

We also did much traveling, hiking and camping and finally built a summer lakeside cabin in the Adirondack mountains of New York state in 1959-61. In 1962 I was appointed Field Engineering Manager for Fairchild based in Palo Alto, California. This was a critical turning point in our lives. After two years and another security risk go around this time with the CIA, I resigned. I found that so long as I remained in contact with my brother I would be subject to this type of harassment in the reconnaissance business. In order to achieve a measure of financial independence I secured an executive management position with a small company with stock options as part of the arrangement. That would pay off with the companies growth. After a hectic three year interval in which my contribution to the companies growth was vital I was able to cash my options and start another exciting phase of my life. With Doris’s blessing and encouragement I now went back to college while doing part time consulting and secured a Masters degree in Geology. This mid life change enabled me to be active professionally in a field that I had developed a strong interest in while designing mapping systems. These systems not only could find targets for missile systems but also made it possible to evaluate the earths surface for peace time mineral potential. At the same time I was active in mineral exploration, Doris, I and Margaret were busy building a large home for ourselves - another unforgettable experience for our memory book.

In 1975 while on a consulting trip to Spain and Norway I was able to revisit the old 305 Bomb Group base at Chelvaston, England. It had just been shut down but all the facilities were still in place. Walking out on the runways and climbing into the tower brought back memories of the early morning takeoffs, the roar of the engines, the lucky and unlucky squadron mates, the crackups, the tensions and much more.

I learned that while excavating for house foundations on the field the builders had unearthed fifty caliber ammunition. Which one of us had been carrying it?

I was besieged by a large group of 12 and 13 year old children of American GI’s stationed nearly. The questions came thick and fast when they discovered I had flown missions from the field 30 years ago. I wondered what the future had in store for them. Luckily they were young enough to have missed the just ended Vietnam war.

Strangely enough I had gone through the 1960s paying little attention to the Vietnam war until I discovered my daughter was strongly agitating against it, sitting on railroad tracks and even spending a day in jail with many of her classmates for doing so. It was a far cry from my generations’s response to World War II. After thinking about it I approved of her sentiments, and supported her views against the draft and involuntary service in a highly unpopular war. I sympathized with the young men being drafted and those who elected to accept jail instead or fled to Canada.

The 1970’s meant more exploration for Doris and me, visiting all of the states and adding to our antique, Indian basket and mineral fossil collections when we weren’t busy improving our property. I continued woodcarving, teaching woodcarving and showing at the state fair; 1982 was a banner year, three first place carvings in different categories. Doris now has her own workshop; collecting old jewelry, beads, all of which ended up as colorful and creative jewelry assemblages.

In the eighties and approaching my sixtieth birthday I decided that the time was now to live one of my long time dreams; back-packing and hiking mountains around the world. Doris decided to sit out the overseas trips. I went to New York, then the British Isles, Scotland and the western highlands;  Germany, Austria, Italy, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Iran, Hongkong, India and Japan were my destinations. Shorter trips to Australia, New Zealand, Iceland and Northwest territory followed. The last two with my daughter whose job as a high school special education teacher gave her free summers. She’s an ideal traveling companion; these days leading not following. I’m proud of her.

Doris enjoys the journals and photography after we get back. the photography was also used for travel lectures at Senior Centers.

Even after fifty years my get togethers with Buggsy still touch on the `there we were at thirty thousand feet.’ On occasion I let my mind drift back to the our youth and the excitement days and their meaning. Those of us who participated in combat missions and survived do not regret the experience. The thousand plane raids required the best from all of us and in most cases we gave it; 26000 paid the ultimate price 28,000 suffered the rigors of the prisoner of war camps 9000 aircraft were shot down. What a waste of high quality human potential.

Doris and I emerged from the war considerably more mature than our first meeting at the Fairplay social in 1943. We entered peace time living confident that we could handle what life had to offer and that we could cope with any adversity and go on - and have. We can still find the dew on a flower, a birdcall, an antique find, or a sunset exciting and look forward to more of the same.

My feelings about my participation in WWII are mixed; on the one hand, I had no choice since the romanticism and idealism of youth had to be satisfied to save the world from fascism was paramount. On the other hand dictators, hunger, poverty, genocide still exist and will not be eliminated by warfare; that’s a given. The dancing on the point of a pin will continue as long as the desire for power and wealth is a driving force in the human equation of life.

No, our WWII experiences was not the high point of our lives but surviving them has made it possible to appreciate the value of the intervening years. I still act as a guide in my Air Force uniform which I can still fit into! When one of the last flyable B-17’s makes is annual pilgrimage to the local Bay Area Airports. "What was it like up there?" "My father was a gunner he’s gone now", "How many bombs did you carry?" "How many in a crew?" " Did you ever have to bail out?" Each question brings a little twinge and I’m back at the 305th , at 25,000 feet, rubbernecking, cursing the leadship, "drop those bombs, damn it."   "Boy, that flaks heavy."

I am proud to have been there, Would I do it again? I don’t know!

50 years later, and it still fits!

50 years later, and it still fits!

Ray, Doris, and Margaret

Ray, Doris, and Margaret

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