At the end of January, General George Patton’s Third Army crossed the Our River. The Allies by this time were in push-back mode, and it would not be long until World War II would be on its way into history.
The U.S. Army Air Forces were finally on the offensive, and February ended with what would soon become the Allies’ victory in Europe.
On February 22, George Washington’s birthday, seventy years ago today, my father left San Severo in Italy in his P-51 Mustang as wingman to the flight leader, Capt. Roger Zierenberg. It was a fateful day for him -- and his family, including two yet-to-be-born children. That story is here.
An almost unbelievable twist of fate occurred twenty years ago, in 1995, when Anton Volgger, living in the South Tyrol in northern Italy, went exploring on the Übertal Glacier in the Stubai Alps above his village of Ridnaun (Ridanna in Italian). He stumbled onto the crash site of dad’s plane. It was about almost a decade later, in a second twist of fate, that this exploration came to the attention of Roland Domanig, part of a group of air crash archaeologists, in Austria; then it was another half-a-decade and another twist of fate before he found me and sent the cold-contact e-mail in September 2013 asking me to replay if I were indeed the right person. (That story is here.)
Dad survived and returned home in 1945. Several years later he was stationed in Munich, Germany, as part of the Allied Occupational Forces that were sent to help Germany rebuild itself. It appears that one of the first things dad and mom did, maybe it was 1949, was to return to the village where dad ended his descent from Zuckerhutl, where he landed in his parachute.
In looking for and finding the 35mm slides that dad took during his assignment in Munich, we found many that he took in Ridnaun/Ridanna. One of them is this, of my mother leaning on the Woodie and looking down into the Ridnaun Valley. The 11,000 foot Zuckerhutl is the center peak in the distance. Others photos can be seen here and here.
|My mother leaning on the Woodie that she and dad rode in|
on their trip into the Ridnaun Valley in 1949.
The day dad went down, he was several months away from his 30th birthday on May 7. He would spend that birthday wandering the streets of Moosburg begging for food. General Patton liberated his POW camp only a few days before, April 29, 1945. Today he would be several months shy of 100. That story is here and here.
Below are several sites for posts dealing with 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
* The details of his February 22, 1945, mission are housed at the Air Force Historical Research Agency at Maxwell AFB, in Montgomery, Alabama, which holds more than 500,000 historic Air Force documents: http://www.afhra.af.mil/. I drove there to see these original records on microfilm after e-mailing in advance a request for mission reports from that date. The staff had made copies and had them on the reading desk when I arrived. I am especially grateful for their help and support. [AFHRA’s IRISNUM call numbers for these documents were 00248401 and 00248402].
The AFHRA database is searchable on the web at: http://airforcehistoryindex.org/
The Lt. Col. John Thomas Cravey WWII USAAF and USAF Careers Collection© is the copyrighted property of Joanna Cravey Hutt and Susan Rebecca Cravey for their sole use. The collection includes but is not limited to the contents of three scrapbooks displaying letters, pictures, icons and other visual matter; 35 mm slide transparencies contained in the original storage tins; black and white photographs related to Lt. Col. Cravey’s USAAF and USAF careers; e-mails and letters donated to, given to, or addressed to the owners regarding the careers; private records; and other visual and audio materials.