On the road…again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Remembering our Patriots
Memorial Day weekend, 2011 and time to carry on a recent custom of thanking veterans who served the United States, especially those who fought in bloody combat. All one has to do is to go to a shopping mall and spot the veterans; go up to them and shake their hands. There still are many.
This time, the Footloose Forester is also proud to be a name dropper when he mentions a few of the people he has known who went into dangerous places and did incredible things. Although he has only a handful of signatures in the notations section of his copy of the book, The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw, a couple of those signatures were offered by people who were a lot closer to one another during World War II than even they imagined. One of the signers was Tony Longo who the Footloose Forester knew as a weekend driver at AVIS Rent-a-Car. Tony landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy in June 1944. He told the Footloose Forester that after fighting his way across France, his was the second tank to enter the city of Cologne, on the other side of the Rhine River. Tony said that the city was almost virtually destroyed, save for the magnificent cathedral in the center of the city. The Allies had spared it, although there was some minor damage done during bombing raids.
Joe Fodor who still lives in Imperial, Pennsylvania was one of those involved in Allied bombing of German cities. On the first day of the current Memorial Day weekend, he told the Footloose Forester that, after bombing in Frankfurt during October 1943, his B-17 was shot up so badly that all of the crew members who survived the strafing by an ME-109 Messerschmitt bailed out; but he and the co-pilot decided to stick with the plane and try to nurse it back to England. They got as far north as Cologne when the plane burst into flames and could not fly further, and they both bailed out. Joe said that he feared having his parachute being snagged on the spire of the cathedral; he had come so close to it. Germans on the ground later said that both he and the co-pilot came very close to being snagged on the main spire.
Joe Fodor (center) with B-17 crew members before they were shot down
Joe Fodor's interrogation photo, taken in Frankfurt, Germany after his capture. Joe Fodor spent the next two years as a prisoner of war of the Germans, in Stalag-17B .
Fellow AVIS employee and good friend Stuart Born also landed in Normandy in June 1944. Stu waded ashore at Utah Beach, and although he made it to shore in one piece, he spent the next year fighting his way as an infantryman into Germany and ended his war years in a German house after the victors rousted the enemy. He showed no bitterness when he told his story to the Footloose Forester, perhaps because he was not wounded.
On the other hand, Ben Rossin, another AVIS employee, was wounded in action and spent over six months in a veterans’ hospital recovering from a burst from a Japanese fighter plane that crippled his B-29 east of Guam in 1945. The pilot was killed but Ben and the badly wounded co-pilot managed to land the crippled bomber at their home base in the Northern Marianas. Ben could not confirm the name of the island where he was posted; such was the nature of a need-to-know restriction imposed on soldiers at that time. Subsequently, and based on the information since personally supplied by Ben Rossin to the Footloose Forester, that island was Tinian, from which Paul Tibbetts later flew the Enola Gay to Hiroshima and dropped the atomic bomb.
Not all stories are so dramatic or historically important, but thinking of the past fighting men that the Footloose Forester has had the privilege of knowing makes Memorial Day a special time to remember. So, he is proud to be a name dropper, and also include mention of Brigadier General Bill Curley who he knew in Hawaii; Colonel Richard Womack, who died in 2008; and a number of still-living individuals who have been personal heroes. Captain Emil Seman, who flew P-46s over Germany; Korean War veteran Dick Foster; and KIA native of Netcong, New Jersey Billy Koster. Others come to mind.
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