Sunday, February 28, 2010

One morning in England

This is all still in my taped interview with John Sweren of Mesa, Arizona, which I have yet to play back or transcribe, so some of the details will be sketchy, but I wanted to share this story while I have some time before flying home this afternoon.

Sweren flew 58 bombing missions as a tail gunner before his B-26 was shot down in France late in July of 1944. He flew out of England, where he was stationed with the 9th Air Force. Whenever he got a pass, he would rent a room in a house owned by an elderly woman and her middle aged daughter. John was about 19 at the time.

One night he had a little too much to drink at a local pub and could barely stagger back to the house. As he climbed the outside stairs, he leaned on an expensive vase, knocked it over and shattered it.

The women of the house were very understanding and told him not to worry about the vase. They helped him up to his bed and tucked him in, and he promptly fell into a deep sleep.

During the night the air raid siren sounded, and the two women headed for a shelter, assumiing John had done the same. Only he was still asleep and didn't hear the siren. A "buzz bomb" slammed into the street nearby and the concussion caused part of the ceiling of the house to fall in. When the two women returned, they found John covered in debris and rubble, still asleep and thankfully, uninjured.

After they woke him and he shook off the plaster, one of the women remarked to John that she was so glad that he had broken their vase, and not the Germans.

More details will have to wait until I transcribe the interview, but I wanted to share that story, one of many poignant, humorous, sad, compelling anecdotes I was fortunate to record in the last four weeks.

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