“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

Summer is Falling: What We Know and How We Know It

Can it be? Is summer 2015 really over? You promise?

A smorgasbord of ways to know if it’s really over muddles the real answer. There’s the Unofficial end of summer, the Fashion end of summer, the Astrological end of summer, the Meteorological end of summer, the Astronomical end of summer, and the Temperature end of summer. These are probably only a short list of the possibilities.
How you know summer is here -- ripe tomatoes. . .

Right now in Alaska, autumn is morphing, or already has morphed, into winter. I think Anchorage has already had snow.

At the other end of the Northern Hemisphere, many, many people in the American South pine for summer to end, for the obnoxious Dog Days to end, for the triple-digit temperatures to end. By the time it really ends, we are hot and sticky and the ants are too hot and sticky to show up at picnics and backyard cookouts. The pool and lake waters no longer refresh, since they are as hot as the outside air. The sugary white sand on our Gulf Coast is as hot as hot tar on a roof. And air conditioning units fall victim to the hot and sticky monster’s final insult.

In my childhood, we had window and attic fans running in summer. Soon enough all they did was suck in hot and sticky, thick air.

People who spend their summers in Alaska are really tired by the onset of fall, because the summer days stay light all night. People in the South, especially those with broken or no air conditioning, are exhausted by summer’s end because no one can sleep in molasses-thick air.
. . .and peaches

About the time the Dog Days arrive, one of the best parts of a Southern summer are over – when all the fabulous fresh vegetables and fruits that the sun and heat and rain and humidity have offered up are gone. Gone. You go to the farmer’s market and ride all over town looking for the fresh food stands in trucks and shaky wooden huts and you find nothing, so you throw your head onto the steering wheel and weep. Tomatoes gone, peaches gone. Lady- and black-eyed peas, Silver Queen corn, butter beans, limas, blackberries, figs, watermelon, cantaloupe – everything – poof – gone. Disappeared into thin. . . .no, thick, hot air. No more BLTs, no more peach cobbler, no more blackberry pie.

Then you go home only to find the kids moaning and whining about how bored they are and how they don’t want to go swimming because it’s too hot. In your emotional mind you’re screaming, “SHUT UP!”

Just add bread slathered with mayo and you've got BLTs

Then, finally, the end-of-summer signals start beeping: School starts. College and NFL football games replace baseball. Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer, demands you put up your white patent leather shoes, white cotton gloves, and light linen clothes. OMG, some relief is in sight.

(An aside: I wouldn’t wear white patent leather shoes or white cotton gloves for all the jobs in China. Furthermore, neither Alabama’s second-ranked Crimson Tide nor Auburn’s Tigers are doing very well on the gridiron. I think we’re both all in for a long season.)

Cobbler in an iron skillet

But the most definitive signal of all is tomorrow, Wednesday, September 23, at 3-something a.m.Central Time. There is a moment, an almost magical moment, an astrological moment, when our sun shines all the way across the Earth’s equator, giving both hemispheres equal amounts of day and night before slipping downward to the Southern Hemisphere – the Autumnal Equinox. You’ll find much more about it here: http://spaceweather.com/ gives you information about the aurora watch and autumn equinox. This site also tells you about near-encounters, geomagnetic storms, and much more happenings in space. Also see http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/ast22sep_1/ for exciting visits into space.

Autumn is as slow getting to Alabama as a Southern drawl. But a couple of weeks ago we had a rare weather event – a late summer “cool” front slid all the way to the coast. Nighttime temps fell into the upper 50s, which we haven’t seen in a coon’s age. Three or four leaves fell onto my patio, heralding the avalanche of leaves to fall. The “cold” tap water coming out of my faucets got cooler; soon it will run cold again.

But summer is not lost. Before you know it, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas will be over, thank goodness. Soon after, crocus and daffodils will pop up like Jack-in-the-boxes. The spring equinox will happen, somewhere around March 22, and summer will return with all its bounty.

It is sort of magical: It’s always summer somewhere.

Paul McCartney, Elton John, and Rod Stewart Rumored to be Teaming Up for a Mega-Concert in London

The ultimate concert in 70 years is barely a month away, unless that is, you think you might be around for the one in 2045. Rumor has it that the 70th anniversary of VE Day Concert will headline Paul McCartney, Elton John, and Rod Stewart. If true, they will perform May 9 at the Horse Guards Parade in London. The 100th Anniversary of the event in 2045 might outdo this one, but I wouldn’t bet a concert ticket on it.

In fact, good luck on tickets of any kind.

Could it be? All three at one concert?

In the U.S. a huge flyover of World War II aircraft is planned in Washington D.C. Free. No tickets to worry about, except maybe your airline ticket. According to that Warbirds.com announcement, the three-day events include a gala dinner at the Smithsonian on the Mall and lots more activities.

Events for this Anniversary will likely be held all over the U.S. and the world, including in your hometown. Watch for announcements in local news outlets in your area.

On May 7, 1945, two events happened: one event impacted me, the world, and probably you, somehow. The second was a revelation that occurred at my house in 1990.

The original of this historic document of Germany's unconditional surrender is in our National Archives in Washington D.C.

First, the unconditional surrender of the German Third Reich was signed before dawn on a rainy Monday, May 7, 1945 at “The Little Red Schoolhouse,” location of the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) at Reims, about 90 miles north of Paris. Present were representatives of the four Allied Powers—France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States—and the three Germany officers delegated by German President Karl Doenitz—Gen. Alfred Jodl, who had alone been authorized to sign the surrender document; Maj. Wilhelm Oxenius, an aide to Jodl; and Adm. Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, one of the German chief negotiators. Lt. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, SHAEF chief of staff, led the Allied delegation as the representative of General Eisenhower, who had refused to meet with the Germans until the surrender had been accomplished. Other American officers present were Maj. Gen. Harold R. Bull and Gen. Carl Spaatz.

In The Little Red Schoolhouse at Reims, May 7, 1945

Alfred Jodl was notoriously arrogant. A year after surrender, he was tried in Nuremberg, found guilty, and hanged for war crimes against humanity. Adolf Hitler was unable to be at the table in the Little Red Schoolhouse; he committed suicide in Berlin and had ordered his body to be burned. No trace has ever been found. A shame.

And second, that same day was my father’s 30th birthday.

At my house in 1990, we celebrated his 70th birthday. It was a beautiful May day and I had made his favorite: a homemade coconut cake. We were outside on the patio to east dessert.

I noticed he had become quiet and was staring out into space. Then he said it, out of nowhere. Or so it seemed that day, which today feels like all of my life ago.

“Forty-five years ago, on my 30th birthday, a friend and I were wandering around a town outside the POW camp begging for food.” Then his consciousness brought him back.

It was jarring.  I said, “Oh my God, dad.” I hoped he would continue. He didn’t. The memory of that birthday lunch stayed tucked away in my brain’s ridges, valleys, and synapses, as a stray piece, until it became part of a whole picture that I would never have known had it not been for a strange, wholly unlikely, improbable event in September 2012, well after dad’s death in 1995. He died in February 1995, missing the 50th Anniversary of the end of World War II, as well as his 80th birthday, by fewer than three months.

He had been liberated from Stalag VII, Moosburg, by General Patton’s army on April 29, but he wasn’t yet released to be taken to a camp in France to wait his turn to be shipped back home. The neediest prisoners had to be taken first. He arrived in New York in early June, skinny and glad to be heading to Atlanta to rendezvous with mom, who had no idea he had lived to make it back to U.S. soil, let alone to be on his way south.

While I can’t make to the London event, I am going to find something special to do this May 7.

Today, April 12, is also the 70th anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's death in Warm Springs, Georgia. He was 63. A few hours later, Vice President Harry S. Truman became the 33rd President of the United States.

Other blog posts detailing dad’s World War II ordeal:
June 22, 2009, Father’s Day

February 20, 2013

Feb. 21, 2013

Nov. 9, 2013

A Cold Day in Italy

In Memoriam: Keith Bullock


Keith M. Bullock
Mils bei Imst, Austria
d. 11 March 2015

Although I never met Keith Bullock, either in person or by correspondence, I owe him a debt of gratitude, albeit indirectly. An unexpected request and photograph that he received in 1992 propelled him into a determined and dedicated pursuit to uncover the facts and historical data surrounding crash sites of U.S. Army Air Forces air craft downed in his area, any eye witnesses, and any survivors or family members of airmen attached to the aircraft. In the years of his aircraft archaeology and research of details, he became a mentor to others who continue his work in the same relentless, selfless, and exacting manner.

Because of Keith Bullock, I now know precise details of my father’s downed P-51 and his unlikely survival. One of Bullock’s students, Roland Domanig, of Lienz, Austria, became aware of the crash site of the P-51 on Ubetal Glacier in the South Tirol, did extensive research, and pursued the story for nearly a decade until he found me on the Internet.

This past summer, I, my sister, Susan Cravey, and my granddaughter, Joanna Leigh Hutt traveled by way of Munich and Innsbruck to meet Roland and travel on to the village where my father emerged after descending the mountain where he landed with his parachute. Many times Roland has named Keith Bullock as his mentor and inspiration.

Indeed all of us who have benefited from the precise research and determination of those whom Bullock mentored ultimately owe Keith Bullock.

And so, I thank him; and I thank those who followed him, including Roland Domanig, Jakob Mayer, and many others who learned from him. Bullock did not feel his task was finished until he made every effort humanly possible to find survivors or family members of those airmen who were MIA or KIA. One of those stories is STORY SULLIVAN CREW #49 - RICHARD SULLIVAN, told by the airman’s son, who went to visit Bullock and his father’s crash site.

After serving in the British RAF during World War II, Bullock eventually decided to live in Mils bei Imst, Austria, where he met and married his wife, Helene.

In the early 1990s he was asked about a bomber crash site near the village where he lived: would he try to find out how many of the airmen had been killed, how many had survived, and were any of them alive, This project and the research it would require so intrigued him that he spent all the rest of his years before his debilitating stroke in 2002 in search of answers. The fruits of his labors are recorded on his web site: http://www.bullock.at/tl_files/texu748.pdf.

His research took him to every Veterans organizations in America, numerous government departments, including the Secretary of the Air force, the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, The Maxwell Air Force Base Military Records Office, Veterans Administration for the Records of living and deceased Veterans and other branches of government.

He compiled records containing many Missing Aircrew Reports (MACRs) and a listing of more than seven thousand heavy bombers shot down over Europe during WW II; he visited many crash sites and was instrumental in determining the names of the men KIA or survived, and those who were POWs in Germany. He recorded eyewitness accounts of downed bombers; he has traveled to many church cemeteries to try to find any record of the airmen KIA. And he contributed closure and peace to many American families.

And so, Keith Bullock, may you rest in peace.

NOTE: Chrome's Translator app does a passable job in translating Bullock's web site pages.
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