My life did not depend on my father’s surviving World War II; I was already born. Who I became and am today did depend in some un-measureable degree on his survival; miraculously and still mainly mysteriously, he returned – from the Alps and the German Prisoner of War camp where he spent the ending months of the War. The Germans deserted the camp as they heard Allied forces nearing. He spent his 30th birthday, May 9, 1945, wandering around the small town near the camp with a friend, looking and begging for food. Then he came home.
Military service and war affects families in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. Separation from mothers and fathers currently serving in the military is one of the reasons – highly underreported and understudied – that grandparents are raising or keeping grandchildren. Separation from my father because of war was my story for the first two years of my life.
Sociologist and executive director of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, Christine Carter, decided to put her research on raising happy children to practical use in Half Full: Science for Raising Happy Kids mentioned in Spittin’ Grits’ previous post.
Here are two of the five items she lists as results of a father’s interaction in a daughter’s life:
In general, kids who have dads that actively participate in their care and that interact with them a lot are more likely to:Having received his wings in 1942, Dad spent a lot of 1943-44 in training at various posts, in and out of mom’s and my life. In late 1944 he boarded a naval transport ship in New York to cross the Atlantic, enter the Mediterranean, and land either in North Africa or southern Italy, where the P-51 Mustangs were based as part of the 15th Air Force.
1. Be smarter and more successful in school and work.
2. Be happier. Children with positively involved fathers are more likely to be happier and more satisfied with their lives over-all. They experience less depression, distress, anxiety, and negative emotions like fear and guilt.
On February 22, 1945 he took off on yet another mission into southern Germany to fly with the bombers and do as much damage to rail lines and other targets as possible. As it turned out, this was a historic turning point in the War. The headline and body copy in a United Press report from London printed in newspaper I can’t identify, said:
“9,000 Planes Pound Nazi Rail Lines: Greatest Air Fleet of War Deals Kayo Blow. In a massive coordinated attack, planned and mapped to the last detail, warplanes from all the air forces in the European theater blasted rail lines in western German and [other sites]. . . One Air Force spokesman said the unprecedented strike was aimed at ‘crippling German communications’. . . . Every kind of plane at the disposal of the Allied air chiefs was thrown into combat.”The article notes that when the Russian Red Air Force planes over the Eastern Front were counted, the total in the air that day would be closer to 11,000 planes.
The remaining three items from the Half Full blog are:
3. Have more friends and better relationships. Children whose fathers are positively involved have better social skills; they tend to be more popular and better liked. They have fewer conflicts with their peers.Hitting the Silk
4. Have happier, healthier mothers. When fathers are emotionally supportive of their children’s mother (whether or not they are married), moms are more likely to enjoy a greater sense of well-being.
5. And they are LESS likely to get into trouble, or otherwise engage in risky behavior.
My dad’s first problem that February afternoon was that he took flak and had to turn back toward home base. The officer for whom he was wing man, Capt. R.H. Zierenberg, was accompanying him. He watched the whole thing. Dad’s second problem was that his P-51 engine conked out, and by now they were over the Tyrolian Alps. And his third problem was that he had to bail out onto a 10,000-foot mountain peak in one of Europe’s coldest winters. (The Battle of the Bulge began in late December 1944.)
In April, Capt. Zierenberg wrote my mother a long letter telling her everything he knew about dad’s bailout. At the end of the letter, he hand drew a map of the area where dad went down (pictured below). That was all he knew.
Then dad’s problems really started. It was 5 degrees below zero. For three days he walked down, down, down. Then he met up with some Germans who took him prisoner. He was transported to Moosburg camp in Bavaria. When he finally got back to the U.S., he was about 60 pounds thinner, which would have meant this six-foot three-inch man weighed about 125-30 pounds.
Al Martino’s version.
I’ve always been awed and inspired by his story, but researching information for the Father’s Day post, Part I, kicked it up a notch or ten. When he was driving me home after I graduated from The University of Alabama, he told me that my education was the best gift he could ever give me. It was the second best; his influence on me is by far the greatest gift he could ever have given me.
It’s a day late, but not too late, to take the advice of Christine Carter’s Half Full:
So this Father’s Day, pat the involved dad in your life on the back—or better yet shower him with scientific evidence of his importance by forwarding him this posting. And if YOU are the engaged dad in the picture, sit back and relish your profound importance. There may be no greater way that you can contribute to the greater good than by being positively engaged in the lives of your kiddos.