“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.

January 28, 1945: A Cold Day in Italy


Today I can say with the clearest perception of reality and un-metaphorically (out, out damned cliché) that I am snowed under. Another wad of Arctic air has shoved its way into the U.S. all the way to the Gulf Coast. Right now I'm looking out my window at snow falling, and the temperature is about 20 degrees (F) with a wind chill that makes it seem like 10 degrees. My 9-month-old all-black kitten, who was rescued from a city culvert last June, is berserk, not knowing whether to fly out the cat door into this unknown white land or run around the house, stopping at a window or two to chase her own tail.


To many people in the U.S. and around the world, this kind of weather is less than no news at all. But it's news in Alabama. Traffic is stalled everywhere from here in Tuscaloosa to the coast. We’re waiting for Joanna Leigh’s #40 school bus to finally get her to the bus stop after the school system dismissed classes because of the weather.


News value aside, it's a good day to think about this day 69 years ago, when my father, Lt. John T. Cravey, landed at San Severo Airdrome, Italy, in 1945. January 1945 was still the in the throes of the coldest winter on record in Europe, and the famous Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes was only a month-old memory. Those troops who managed to survive that battle would never forget it. In these last 69 years, that World War II conflict has become a legend and a symbol of the Allies' determination to prevail.


I don't know how cold it was that January 28 at San Severo Airdrome, but records show that the US Army Air Corps personnel did a lot of playing in the snow, having serious snowball fights, in January and February. P-51 sorties were at a minimum. It was likely muddy or frozen mud, so there wasn't a lot of flying over the Tyrolean Alps into Austria en route to Munich and the surrounding area to bomb targets, mostly railroads, oil depots, factories, and any infrastructure that the Third Reich was barely holding on to at that point in World War II.


Way Across the Pond


in flightDad as an instructor at Key Field before leaving for Europe in 1945

We are not sure when dad left Key Field in Meridian, Mississippi, to be transported someway -- we aren’t sure how -- to New York, where he would board an unknown ship, cross the Atlantic, enter the Mediterranean, and land somewhere -- we’re not sure where -- and get to the San Severo Airdrome to begin his tour as a P-51 Mustang fighter pilot flying tactical and escort missions over the Alps into Germany to finish off the Nazi War Machine. He must have spent Christmas somewhere en route to his destiny. The trip to the air bases in Italy took a month or more.


Our scrapbook indicates that my mother never heard from him after he left her until Western Union called her in June with the telegram from him saying he was in New York and would be home in a week or so. He must have been a sight – having lost about 50 or 60 pounds off his 6-foot, 3-inch frame. None of the other communications, including letters from the POW camp or his commanding officer, arrived in Montgomery, Alabama, until after he returned home. Skinny but alive.


As he stepped onto the muddy ground in San Severo, he was not likely wondering what his future was going to be. He was there to do his job. Besides, the guys were probably in a major snow fight. The rain of the past several days had turned to snow.


Unbearable cold, snow, ice, and near starvation awaited him. About three weeks after he arrived at San Severo, he would take off from the pierced steel “runway” as the wing man for Capt. Roger Zierenberg, head for the Munich area, bomb and strafe, head home, and not be able to get back.


Fortune was standing on the top of Zuckerhutl alpine mountain, calling him down. How he survived that bailout, treacherous descent, transport to Balzano (Bozen), Italy, then to the POW records unit, his wintery march southward to the camp, and the starvation conditions he and the others faced is still a mystery to us. The odds said he should not have survived.

Dad’s POW photo taken at the POW distribution center

Cravey (2)




Found: A Cravey

About 18 months ago, I got the initial cold-contact e-mail from an unknown Austrian man who had been looking for a Cravey family member for some years. When I finally decided it was not a hoax e-mail and responded, he sent the next e-mail telling me that he and some other mountaineers/hikers had found dad’s crash site on a glacier in the northern Italian Tyrol. About ten years earlier.


The production plate from his P-51 peeking out of the snow and ice led to the identification of the plane’s being dad’s Mustang. That incredible and shocking e-mail has sent me, my sister, Susan, and our first cousin, Emory Kimbrough, on our own journey searching through records, the Internet, scrapbooks, pictures -- everywhere we can think of – to piece dad’s story together. We will succeed. Dad’s story will be told.


IMG_0786Left: The crash site debris field in the Alps. Below: Dad’s P-51 production plate.Ridnaun Mustang p51


Now, Roland (the Austrian), other crash site “archaeologists, U.S. family members of other survivors, historians, and others communicate regularly. Roland has become a dear friend.

I am hoping to get to Lienz, Austria, this summer to see the place where dad’s story played out.


Meanwhile, Joanna Leigh’s bus finally arrived about an hour late. She came in, threw her backpack down, put on boots, and headed for the snow. That lasted about 10 minutes. We’re slurping hot chocolate with marshmallows.


How dad survived in something like -20 degrees for two or three nights on a mountain in the Alps seems like the plot of a fantastical myth. It was, however, reality to the max.


See also: http://spittingrits.blogspot.com/2013/02/wont-you-please-come-home-for-reasons.html and http://spittingrits.blogspot.com/2013/11/veterans-day-2013-saluting-two-lt.html


Closing the WOTY Season Because Words

The WOTY Season ends today, January 4, 2014, and I’m simply exhausted because WORDS. The language blog Wordnik.com outlined a roundup of all the WOTY activity yesterday, but it only scratched the surface. The McMillan Dictionary blog offered its take on the activity in December.

Yes, the Word of the Year winner is “because” because The American Dialectic Society, which has the Last Word on WOTY. Late yesterday the rarefied group announced its winner. Ben Zimmer, chair of the ADS New Words Committee and language columnist for the Wall Street Journal, said in a press release:

“This past year, the very old word because exploded with new grammatical possibilities in informal online use,” Zimmer said. “No longer does because have to be followed by of or a full clause. Now one often sees tersely worded rationales like ‘because science’ or ‘because reasons.’ You might not go to a party ‘because tired.’ As one supporter put it, because should be Word of the Year ‘because useful!’”

“Because” beat out contenders like “slash,” “twerk,” “Obamacare,” and “selfie” because votes. Not to worry, however. The Oxford Dictionaries named “Selfie” its word of the year because numbers:

Language research conducted by Oxford Dictionaries editors reveals that the frequency of the word selfie in the English language has increased by 17,000% since this time last year.

Nevertheless, the ADS pick carries the most weight because age and influence. The society, organized 125 years ago by linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, grammarians, historians, researchers, writers, editors, students, and independent scholars, announced their first pick, “bushlips,” in 1990 and soon became the Mother of All (the society’s 1991 pick) WOTY competitors. In addition to the overall WOTY, the society has other categories: Most Useful, Most Creative, Most Unnecessary, Most Outrageous, and others.

The various WOTYs are kind of fun and kind of revealing. Everyone’s nominated words probably say something about the society that uses them (not that I can figure out what they say about us). For those reasons, I think they all missed the real WOTY for this year and for this newest generation – Generation Z, a lazy and horrible sobriquet, in my opinion.

Is the Word, Is the Word, Is the Word
 To understand why my pick has groove and has meaning, we have to time travel back to 1974, when not only did a word sweep the country and define a generation, it became an entire musical that reruns and reruns and reruns year after year. It had groove, it had meaning. Remember this?

Could you make a whole musical out of “Because”? Or “Selfie”? Not.

You COULD make a whole musical out of my pick for WOTY. And rename Generation Z, a really awful choice as the last letter of the alphabet, to reflect the pick.

It’s Flash Mob. Why? Watch this:
More than 1.6 million viewers have watched this Flash Mob video of the U.S. Air Force Band in the Air and Space Museum on the Smithsonian Mall just before Christmas.

This Generation Z (ugh) embraces those kids born from 2000 to the present, and it’s shaping up to be quite a group.

According to Dr. Jill Novak of University of Phoenix and Texas A&M University, we have in the U.S. six living generations:  “As a generalization each generation has different likes, dislikes, and attributes. They have had collective experiences as they aged and therefore have similar ideals. A person's birth date may not always be indicative of their generational characteristics, but as a common group they have similarities.”

According to Novak, this most recent generation is going to be huge and is currently made up of two sub-groups, the Tweens and the toddler/elementary school-agers. This group, says Novak, is not merely tech-savy; they will have never known a world without cell phones, computers, laptops, pads, and all the high-tech gizmos. She says:

  • With the advent of computers and web based learning, children leave behind toys at younger and younger age. It's called KGOY-kids growing older younger, and many companies have suffered because of it, most recognizable is Mattel, the maker of Barbie dolls. In the 1990's the average age of a child in their target market was 10 years old, and in 2000 it dropped to 3 years old. As children reach the age of four and five, old enough to play on the computer, they become less interested in toys and begin to desire electronics such as cell phones and video games.
  • They are Savvy consumers and they know what they want and how to get it and they are over saturated with brands.
The Flash Mob is an invention, and a creative one, of their generation. My prediction is that this newest Generation will make Flash Mob performances their own. The first ones occurred on the streets of Manhattan in 2003, and the term Flash Mob, according to Wikipedia, entered the 11th edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary on July 8, 2004, which defined Flash Mob as an “unusual and pointless act” separating it from other forms of smart mobs such as types of performance, protests, and other gatherings.

I take issue with “pointless,” but history can be that judge.

One Flash Mob videoed in 2009 has become “historic.” It was the first one I watched and it has captured 14 million viewers:

This November 2010, Food Court Christmas Flash Mob, captured 43 million views:

This April 2011, Union 6-7 Grade, Mrs. Clark, 2nd Period Flash Mob is an especially creative one and shows the limitless possibilities of the genre. It lists 16,000 views: On YouTube search for Power Words Flash Mob.

I hope I’m in the right place at the right time to see something like this November 2011, Denver Airport, creation: 

Pointless? I don’t think so.

My granddaughters are two drops in Generation Flash Mob, and two creative examples embody the spirit of the Flash Mob and my wish for the lives of this newest Generation: First the USAF Band Christmas performance (seen above).

And this one videoed in Summer 2012 in front of the Banc du Sabadell, Germany. Notice all the little drops of this new Generation, especially the little girl who initially puts coins into the hat and never moves from her spot, and the one who climbs the lamppost to hear Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. This Flash Mob performance has thrilled and uplifted 3.5 million viewers worldwide: 

Now I'll be watching for the Flash Mob musical.


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