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.”

Friday, February 27, 2015

398th Bomb Group Commemorative Window

St. George's Church, Anstey

In 2000, a stained glass window was installed at St. George's Church in the village on Anstey, Hertfordshire, and dedicated to the memory of the 292 men from the 398th Bomb Group who lost their lives during WWII.

The left panel represents B-17s  and butterflies ascending. 

The center panel depicts more butterflies ascending along with the 398th's logo "Hell From Heaven" at the bottom. The names of those killed are etched on the butterflies' wings.

The right panel shows B-17s crashing to earth.

 My father's name, Donald R. Christensen,  can be seen on the upper left wing of the butterfly below. It is found near the top of the right panel.

The village of Anstey is located about two miles south of the main runway at Station 131, home of the 398th.  In an earlier post I mentioned that on April 15, 1944, a B-17 piloted by William Meyran crashed on take off into the old castle mound moat and the whole village was evacuated until the full load of fuel was burned off.  Luckily the full bomb load was submerged in the moat and did not explode.

I learned recently that a wedding was scheduled in the church for the next day but had to be postponed due to damage to the west side of the church from the fire.

On a beautiful English morning in 2010, before I'd heard the wedding story,  my son Jeff, brother Steve, and I walked about a mile to visit the church to see the window. As we approached we saw an elderly man kneeling next to a grave placing flowers on it, so we hung back to not disturb him. When he was finished we passed him as he was coming out and said "good morning." He took about two steps, then turned around and said, "Yanks are ya?" Then he proceeded to tell us a tale of the airplane crash and how he was supposed to be married in the next day.  He had just been visiting his deceased wife's grave, something he said he did regularly.  

We said our goodbyes and went into the church.  If I had known the postponed wedding story the I certainly would have talked to him more and asked his name.  But life is filled with ironies.

My brother Steve on the right, and me at the Anstey church.

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