A few years ago I watched a fine feature-length documentary on WWII. Produced by the National Geographic Channel, "Inside WWII" overviews, in the hyper-speed mode so typical of info-dump docs made these days, the 20th century's largest conflict.
Some of the interview subjects explain why they joined the war. I remember the day in 1984 when I finally got around to asking my own father why he enlisted and why he chose RAF Bomber Command:
"I was pissed off. I was doing poorly in school and my mind was on the war overseas."
His rationale for joining the bomber force as a gunner was expedient:
"You got overseas quickly that way . . . It was an eight-week air gunners' course in Montreal."
(He knew that flying as "aircrew" in Bomber Command was dangerous work. Many young men, men too young, got "The Chop".)
As was the norm at the time in this neck of the woods my dad was sent to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) grounds for dispersal. From that famous Canadian site began the process of getting "shipped overseas", but as this was wartime it wasn't quite that easy. German U-boats prowled the North Atlantic in search of prey, and a steamer loaded with fresh faces was a prime and highly-prized target.
I will stop here: The above bits and pieces are stressful enough, never mind the few combat stories my dad did let out over the years. (While on one of my trips to England, as part of my ongoing research on RAF Bomber Command I spoke with historian Martin Middlebrook and he gave me some sage advice which I understood too well: "Don't ask your father. He won't tell you anything.")
A few years after the war ended he reenlisted with the RCAF and enjoyed a long career with Canada's finest service.
I left the best for last; the big "and" part of my dad's explanation for wanting to see action overseas:
"... And I wanted to get the Germans."
(A childhood friend did not come home; he died when his bomber was shot down over France. Kinda sobering, ain't it?)
Passions of the time, those were.
My father loved Germany and the Germans. We moved to West Germany in October of 1966, just twenty-one years after he flew in a Lancaster bomber doing a job he felt he must do.
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