Monday, December 29, 2014

UnBroken -American Heroism

To the Officers and Enlisted men of the of the 27thBombardment Group (L) dead or missing in action in the
Philippine Islands, Australia Java, and New Guinea, we
dedicate this book and all our efforts to repay, ten thousand
times over, the Japanese for every one of our men lost.
Thomas P. Gerrity ( Leo 1930) Top row extreme right - shortly after his escape from Bataan.
 It was great to see that Angelina Jolie's film of UnBroken, based upon Laura Hillenbrand’s wonderful book of the same name, has exceeded box office expectations.  Hollywood no longer wants movies that extol common values like valor, honor, courage and faith. Instead, movies are churned out that cast doubt on any one's ability to reach deeply to the human core forged in faith, commitment, sacrifice and duty.  Valor comes not from a political bequest and certainly not from a reparation of grievances and is therefore taboo to the Procrustean themes forced by Harvey Weinstein, Peter Gruber, or Scott Rudin.

Marvel and DC Comics are the script templates replacing the Torah, the Pentateuch, or the Rights of Man.  Abe Lincoln fights Vampires, Werewolves, or the demons of his sexual identity.  Valor only works when pagan totems are doled out by Odin, Zeus, Minerva, or learned in the classrooms of Hogwarts Staff.

Anything that leads a person to behave selflessly and in good-faith from a First Cause is verboten.

Yet, thanks to Ms. Jolie's UnBroken, it is evident that People will pay to witness a man act without the aid of PC, or magical powers.

Our Thumb-Dummy Kultur Kampf is meant to keep people from talking with another person and arriving at mutually satisfying conclusion that 'boy, a man's faith in God and himself can sure give him an edge in a tough situation.'

Tough situations abound, but tough people ( people who can it - whatever it happens to be) are getting scarce it seems.  Seeming is not being.   We can be tough without Bat Utility Belts, a bog-ass Mjǫlnir in our mitts, or help from President Obama.

I linked a story writtten by a group of very tough people - the battered, under equipped, out-numbered and alone survivors of the 27th Bomb Group, including Lt (later Captain) Tom Gerrity of 17th Bomb Squadron who were sent to the Phillipine Islands less than a month before Pearl Harbor.

Tom Gerrity (Leo Class of 1930) flew a B-18 bomber that only seems to appear in a Bugs Bunny Cartoon

The plane was obsolete and Gerrity never got his plane off the ground of Nichols Field on December 9, 1941 when the Japanese destroyed General Mac Arthur's air power on the ground. 

The next day, (9th), found the 17th with some of the crews manning machine gun
posts at Nichols Field and with flying crews standing by to man the B-18’s. Tom Gerrity
and Ed Townsend had one, Pete Bender and Harry Roth of the 16th had the second, and
Gus Heiss and F.E. Timlin of the 17th had the third. All had it easy on the 9th but on the
10th all were called out. Tom and Ed were down at Nichols preparing for a bombing
mission when shortly afternoon the Nips staged a huge raid. Tom and Ed ran for cover as
the Zeros began to strafe the B-18’s that they were to use on their mission. Tom
unfortunately was hit in the hand by a piece of shrapnel and Ed got to cover just as the B-
18’s load of bombs blew up. “Tim” and “Gus” ran into a dog fight but finally managed
to get to San Marcelino.
In the same raid, several of the 17th gunners at Nichols were strafed and one crew
manned its post until blown out by bombs.
Nine days later:
The 27th Group Commander, Major Davies and a number of pilots left early this
morning by plane for Australia. They plan to pick-up the 27th’s A-24 dive bombers, and
ferry them back to the Philippines. In the absence of Major Davies, Major Sewell acted
as Group Commander with Captain Whoffell as executive officer and Tom Gerrity as
group Material Officer.
Due to the lack of aircraft and the dis-organization of the entire situation, the 27th
was left high and dry. A complete air corps unit with no airplanes with which to fight.
The “Powers the be” later turned the Group into an infantry outfit.
On December 20th Tom Gerrity was assigned to the North Luzon force as Air Corp
Liason Officer. On the way north he stopped off at Stotsenberg. Clark Field was a
shamble. Wrecked airplanes lay burned all over the field.
Tom Gerrity served as liason to General Wainwright, flying from the island fortress of Corregidor to Bataan and back keeping the man desiganted by MacArthur to be the goat for his monumental failures and arrogance in the Phillipines apprised of the appaling air defences,
Gerrity front row far right on Bataan as a P-40 pilot

 Tom Gerrity later went to Bataan as a pursuit pilot in one of few remaing P-40's, until malaria, dengue fever and the Japanese Zero turned pilots into rifle men.
Gerrity was one of the last men to escape the Death March when he was ordered to Australia only hours before the fall of Bataan. Gerrity patched up a Grumman Floatplane and flew himself and others one thousand miles south Mindanao's Del Monte Field, where he was picked up by comrades from the 27th Group ordered to Australia months earlier.

The next day two more missions were flown by
each flight. Cebu Harbor and Dabao was heavly bombed. Anti-aircraft fire was heaby
on all missions, but the Japs consistenly underestimated the speed of the B-25. After the
last mission both flights landed at Del Monte, and under cover of darkness bomb bay
tanks were reinstalled and the ships were serviced for the long hop back to Darwin. Up at
the clubhouse, the 27th Pilots welcomed back into the fold, two 27th men who had make
their way down from Bataan bare hours before it’s fall.
The faces of Tom Gerrity and Jack Wienert clearly showed the strain of four
months on beleaguered Bataan. They could give no information about the men of the
27th who remained on Bataan to the last, except that all the officers were still alive up to
the last day and that the casualties among the men had been small.
Take-off time was set at 2300, and shortly before midnight ten B-25s, each
overloaded to capacity with officers recently evacuated from Bataan - - took off from Del
Monte, bored up through a low overcast, and headed south toward Darwin, 2000 miles
away in the darkness. The scourge of the tropic “old man dengue” had smacked Talley
squarely between the eyes just before the last mission, and Pete gladly let Jack Wienert take his place as co-pilot during most of the return trip. All the ships landed at Batchelor
Field, forty miles south of Darwin, after daylight the morning of April 14, staying only
long enough to gas up, and taking off immediately. Night found them back in Charters
Towers, more than a little weary from nearly fifty hours of hard flying in four days, and
asking for nothing but a bed.
After a few days of rest, the group was called on to furnish ships for constant patrol
out of Port Moresby. J.R. Smith and Talley – now recovered from his battle with dengue
- - took two ships up April 23 and spent the usual four or five days, running a nine hour
recon flight every day over all Jap bases from Kavieng in the North to the deboyne
Islands in the south. The recons were long, lonely, and dangerous, but the pilots who
flew them gained an intimate knowledge of the entire combat area which was to be
invaluable to them later on.

Gerrity flew B-25s against the Japanese is credited with sinking 28 ships in the Bismark Sea.

UnBroken.   There are many tales of Unbroken people. We need to tell those tale. Shared memory is civilization.

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