They Called Him Sky King…

My father, now in his eighties, is suffering from the pains brought on from barbaric, strategically directed radiation treatments needed due to a cancer in the soft pallette of his throat.  His courage and strength humble me. But it won’t be the first time he was faced with excruciating pain, discomfort, loss and a real test of fortitude. 

At only 20 years young, he became a prisoner of war in Germany in World War II after being shot down from his Flying Fortress (B-17), dragged through the streets by the local townspeople, and almost hanged. But some soldiers stepped in and decided, since he was an officer, he would be put to better use by being interrogated. Lady luck had stepped in. But he remained in a prison camp for a year after being shuffled through miles of wintery confinement in a cattle car – standing room only – for days, and was simply reported missing in action to his mother and sweetheart (my mother). Although finally rescued, his suffering would resurface in years to follow and his fortitude tested time and time again. 

My father logged most of his prison days in a journal. His “blog” was scratched down on paper provided by the Red Cross with nubby pencils, broken pieces of charcoal and homemade ink.  It is probably the last of many diaries that we will be able to touch and feel and smell. 

It makes me sad to think that our blogs and text messages will go into a big black abyss, never to be recorded or saved.  Yellowed, faded pages with leafs used as bookmarks will never be touched and felt by younger generations; stories of heroism will become obsolete; and our fathers’ bloodstains will be washed away without empathy or recollection.

He is now mostly deaf from the din produced from constant flying. He is wracked with macular degeneration of his eyes. He watched my mother succumb to cancer, and had to have mail read to him telling him he will no longer be allowed to fly his beloved airplane which he has had since I was a young child.  These are just some of the setbacks besetting this man of incredible dignity. Yet his spirit soars, he is relentless about living and is glad every time his feet hit the floor every morning.

These heroes won’t be around for much longer.  Their stories of sacrifice, tales of friendships made, persistence through the worst environmental conditions a human could endure, will never be fully appreciated by most of us.

The lines at the voting centers in a few days will be long.  People will complain.  Babies will cry.  Eyes will roll. Tempers will flair. And people will forget. They will forget what strides were made – and what liberties were taken away – by a few, in order to provide them all the luxury of choice.

– Artwork and poetry by Alexander King

2 Comments

Filed under Politics

2 responses to “They Called Him Sky King…

  1. Modown

    Ah Sky King. Such a father, grandfather and great grandfather. When “Popi” would come over for dinner, the grandkids used to say, “tell us a story about the war Popi.” We were lucky that Popi would expound upon the details of his beloved B-17 being blown apart with him in it, then the 10 days that he evaded capture and the horrific conditions as a POW. He has shared his stories, as well as his “War Log” with countless people. In this diary he recorded books that he read while a POW, recipes, poems, rules on bridge, and many other trivial facts that were so important to him at the time. But his drawings in the book are what is so precious to our family; some cartoons of POWs that were loved by all, different types of aircrafts, some scenes of B-17s being hit with gunfire, some drawings that one of the German guards modeled for. He is just an encyclopedia full of his experiences during WWII. Our family is blessed that he can share these stories with us, letting us experience that part of his life as a 19 year old “big” man.

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  2. Louie

    Your dad’s a true hero, King. I never knew he was a POW in WWII…so was my uncle. These men defended our freedoms in an era when their service was appreciated. These men were not only heroes, they were the last generation in our country who ever had to sacrifice whether it be due to war, a depression, or moral fortitude. I spent so much time being afraid of “The Colonel” that I never knew he had a softer side, nor did I ever thank him for his service to our country. Please give your dad our deepest appreciation from the Patton family. And, thank you for sharing these initmate details. Is this where you get your artistic side?

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