Sunday, November 6, 2011

Leaving the Ghosts Behind - An Interview with a WWII Vet

If you're following the tour, you probably just came from Gracen Miller's blog. After you leave a comment, continue the tour by visiting Sherry Ellis's blog.

It's me again. I seem to be getting more face-time than the Dime Store Novel characters lately. If you're here to read about them, scroll down...I hope you do...but first, I hope you read my interview with Lawrence Kennon, a WWII vet who I feel blessed to have as a friend.

Lawrence agreed to let me interview him as part of Blog Tour de Troops.
When you finish reading my interview with Lawrence, make sure to leave a comment to receive a free ebook copy of the latest Dime Store Novel The Reunion for you and a troop. Robyn M. Ryan gave it a great review...read it here.

Rachelle: Lawrence, you told me you served in WWII. Can you tell me where and when?

Lawrence: 1941 to 1945. European theatre of operations. I was stationed in Great Britain. You need to know that I was in the Army Air Corps. We had no such thing as the air force then. General Hap Arnold organized the Air Corp as part of the army and I was in the heavy bombardment...4 engine bombers. He saw the need for air power during the war. We didn't have any and he saw the need for it, so he worked with Pres. Roosevelt and organized the Air Corps which later became the Air Force.

Lawrence Kennon - Air Corps
Rachelle: Can you tell me a little about your role there?

Lawrence: Our main task overseas ...or main orders were...we flew up into the North Sea from Great Britain and flew around in the North Sea and jammed the German radar...that was our main task. We had to fight fighters off so that our other planes could go in and bomb them. I didn't know that until later -- the details, that is. I just knew we were jamming their radar. You see, we had the Norton bomb site to let us drop bombs acurately, but the Germans had it too. It was highly secret, but they had it. All they did was reverse it and they could shoot us down just like we could bomb them.

Rachelle: That sounds dangerous. Which mission do you remember most?

Lawrence: We went down into Germany. The orders were to bomb a little town – Dresden, I think it was. We came back out..well...we thought we were clear...but  we were shot down with anti-aircraft fire. We abandoned the plane, jumped out in parachutes, went into the North Sea and I was picked up by Air Sea rescue, which was stationed in France. They took me back to France and kept me a couple days out, then sent me back to Great Britain, where they assigned me to another crew...another plane.

I shall never forget Air Sea Rescue's code name that day was Colgate. We used words like Colgate, Pepsodent, Lucky Strike, Camels. But I remember the code name that day was Colgate.
There were 8 crew members that day. Seven of us were picked up. We never knew what happened to the 8th. He was a good boy. A friend.
Rachelle: Do you want to talk more about the war, or should we talk about your trip to Washington?
Lawrence Kennon - Now
Lawrence: Let's talk about the trip. The trip to Washington, for me, was a real experience. It was really a good trip. It was organized by a group called Honor Tour.
Rachelle: Was it all WWII vets?
Lawrence: Yes, but from different branches. Our group met in Poplar Bluff and we rode a coach to St. Louis, where we boarded a plane that flew us to Baltimore. From Baltimore, we took a coach again to Washington DC. They put us up in the Drury Motel, fed us all our meals and Saturday we spent the day visiting the different memorials. I was impressed with all of them, but mostly with the World War II memorial. It's really a fabulous thing – 50 columns, each named after one of the states. IT has 40,000 gold stars...each star represents 100 people who lost their life. That's a lot of people, isn't it? *shakes head sadly* War is obscene.
It's built in 4 sections, Pacific on one side and Atlantic on the other. There are eagles on each section...I think there were 4...they weigh 2 ton a piece. Can you imagine that? Each state's name is on a column with a big wreath. 
The other thing that impressed me tremendously was FDR memorial. That one is built in 4 sections, each representing a term inoffice. I think that's why I was impressed with it. That was my time. He died while I was in Great Britain fighting, so he was my president. The other thing that was really fascinating was the Navy museum...all of the navy from the beginning up until the present day. Every school student should have to go through that. *chuckles*
Rachelle: What made you smile on your trip?
Lawrence: *grins* There was a 3-star general who had served in Afghanistan. He was due to go back again soon. He asked me why we wore off hats tilted off to one side. I said, "It's because that's the way the ladies like them." He chuckled at that.
Another funny thing was when I saw a lady and her husband. She was British -- I could tell that by her accent -- and she asked me where and when I had served. I said "A little town called Tring." Her husband said "That's where we live. Right by the runway." Can you imagine that?
Rachelle: What was the most moving experience of your trip?
Lawrence: We watched the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery is very moving...very impressive. Those soliders who do that...they devote their entire life to bein absolutely spotless and perfect. They change the wreath on the unknown soldier.
Rachelle: It sounds like you enjoyed your trip.
Lawrence: It was a great trip for me. *touches heart* I've been carrying some ghosts around with me all this time...50, 60 years. I finally left those behind. Some of my friends who died over there...I never could bury them. This trip, I did. When I went to Arlington Cemetery, that's when I really...really I don't know how to say it. I just accepted the fact that my friends had died and that was it. I had closure on it. I buried them. I'm grateful I had that chance.
Rachelle: I am too. Lawrence, thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I hope more veterens are able to go on the Honor Tour. They deserve it!

I'm grateful for the freedom to live my life as I want to. It's people like Lawrence and all the men and women serving today who risk their lives for my freedom. After you leave a comment, continue the tour by visiting Sherry Ellis's blog.