My father, who will turn 89 in a few days, left high school early for the U.S. Army, six months before Pearl Harbor.
Though none of them were born in this country, four of the seven Galloway brothers would scatter themselves across the globe during World War II. Dad was the youngest, and the only one to carry a sketch book.
He’s the only one left.
As an Air Corps mechanic, he started in north Africa, then moved on to India for flights across the Hump into China.
The cartoonist Bill Mauldin was something of a hero. Lined notebook paper would do in a pinch. Above is a rescued drawing from Dad’s return trip in ‘45. That lump in the background is the Rock of Gibraltar.
In the upper right hand corner are traces of a laundry list written on the other side — a brief catalog of one young warrior’s requirements for conquering the world: Four undershirts, four shorts, two handkerchiefs, two dress shirts, four pairs of socks, and two coveralls.
He was an amateur photographer, too. We found this shot of his compadres under his bed not long ago, a timeless portrait of young boys with guns, taken at a training base before they had any inkling of what real war might be like:
Dad seldom talked about his adventure. But he once told me that he had a vague memory of, shortly after he finally docked at home, running up and down the hall of a hotel in the wee hours — drunk, liberated, and screaming “God damn the colonel!” at the top of his lungs. This from a future elder of the Red Oak, Ga., Christian Church.
If I were a betting man, I would name Nov. 25, 1945 as the date of that celebration. That was the day of his discharge, and the day before his birthday. He had spent four years, five months and 14 days in uniform, traveled half-way around the world and back, but hadn’t turned 22.
Yet the imprint remains. We moved Dad to California two years ago, to a place not far from Los Angeles. Shortly after his arrival, he pointed my sister to the distant shaded hills. The Atlas Mountains, Dad declared.
But it is the San Gabriel range that skirts the City of Angels. The Atlas Mountains stretch across the top of northwest Africa — spanning Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. They stand opposite the Rock of Gibraltar.
Have a thoughtful Veterans Day.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider