I have a Flickr addiction. I admit that.
Untold numbers of pictures, amazing photographers, millions of stories – it is an astonishing resource. What follows below is a perfect example of the sort of history that can be found there. Small in scale, incredibly human, but also profound when you think about the passage of time and the role of the individual man or crew in the course of history.
The first picture is from 1944. The picture is posted by the son of the bombardier pictured in the B-24 crew. His caption and notes:
Pacific Theatre – This crew flew 44 bombing missions in 1944 over the Pacific in B-24 Liberators. 5th Air Force 90th Bomb Group 319th Squadron – Jolly Rogers “Best Damn Bomb Group in the World”. Pilot’s name is Van Arsdale. … That is my Daddy on the bottom row, far right. A Very Fine Man, One of the Choice Ones. He loved this shot and also the one from 1999. His treasures. He was the Bombardier!
The above is indeed a great shot, but look at it and then look at the next one. Nine of the same men fifty-two years later. Again, the caption:
This reunion took place in Omaha and was the first time they had all been together since 1944. Only one of the gunners had passed away (2nd from the left standing in the previous photo). It was such an honor to meet the men my Daddy (lower right) had served with and shared the danger most of us can’t imagine. I’ve not met a finer group of men, anywhere, anytime. The men are in the same order in both photos.
My sincere thanks to the poster of these shots for sharing this amazing pair of pictures. Google being what it is, I tracked the crew down on the Jolly Rogers’ web site (here) and I believe the bombardier’s name was Merlin H. Workman. You can read his 2005 obituary here. He was 21 in the top picture, and after the war would be married for fifty-five years and have four children, sixteen grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren at the time of his death.