My Life-Long Quest for my World War II Airman Father

The title "Carrying Fire" is taken from Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, in which Sheriff Ed Tom Bell talks about his own father. “I had two dreams about him after he died. I don’t remember the first one all that well. But the second one it was like we was both back in older times and I was on horseback goin through the mountains of a night. Goin through this pass in the mountains. It was cold and there was snow on the ground and he rode past me and kept on goin. Never said nothing. He just rode on past and he had this blanket wrapped around him and he had his head down and when he rode past I seen that he was carryin fire in a horn the way people used to do and I could see the horn from the light inside of it. About the color of the moon. And in the dream I knew that he was goin on ahead and that he was fixin to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold and I knew that whenever I got there he would be there.”

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tribute to My Father

Lt. Donald R. Christensen

This is a tribute to my father's life and his war.  His name was Lt. Donald R. Christensen and he was a B-17 pilot with the 8th Air Force in England during World War II.  He was stationed with the 398th Bomb Group at Nuthampstead. England, and was a member of the 603rd Squadron.  He and all but one of his crew men were killed on March 2, 1945, when the tail was shot off of his aircraft by enemy fighters the plane crashed near Slany, Czechoslovkia  (today's Czech Republic.)  Tail gunner Selmer Haakenson was the sole survivor. I was two and a half years old.

I have been haunted by the loss of my father all my life, and after 70 years I still grieve.  For the last 25 years or more  I have been sporadically combing through old papers and photographs, military records, books relating to the 8th Air Force, and talking with many veterans of the 398th BG. I have been wanting to tell his story for a long time, and the 70th anniversary of his death seems like an appropriate time to get off my duff and  honor his memory in words and pictures.

The title "Carrying Fire" is taken from Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, in which Sheriff  Ed Tom Bell talks about his own father. “I had two dreams about him after he died. I don’t remember the first one all that well. But the second one it was like we was both back in older times and I was on horseback goin through the mountains of a night. Goin through this pass in the mountains. It was cold and there was snow on the ground and he rode past me and kept on goin. Never said nothing. He just rode on past and he had this blanket wrapped around him and he had his head down and when he rode past I seen that he was carryin fire in a horn the way people used to do and I could see the horn from the light inside of it. About the color of the moon. And in the dream I knew that he was goin on ahead and that he was fixin to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold and I knew that whenever I got there he would be there.”