Seize The Memories

06/19/2011

 
Picture
Sgt. Paul W. Capps
After tossing the last load of supplies into the back-end of the plane, Paul slid into the cockpit, buckling his helmet and flipping a switch overhead. Waiting for the pilot and another soldier to board, Paul scanned the large control panel, checking the instruments and running each through a sequence of tests. Intuitive and well-skilled at the mechanics of the plane, he was meticulous in each detail, preoccupied with perfection. But Paul's expert eye could not foresee what would soon lie ahead for the three World War 11 Army Air Force soldiers.

Paul's two platoon buddies jumped into the plane and the small crew headed the large C-47 down the airstrip, off to a familiar mission: flying the 'Hump'. It was a weekly run made from their Army Air Force base out of Chauboy, India and though seemingly routine, the flight was laden with danger. Their mission was to jump their plane over the Himalaya Mountains and plunge down over enemy lines; quickly dropping food and supplies to the American troops.

On this particular day, nothing was out of order. Every operational detail was normal; another run, another mission. Swooping over the large, majestic mountains, the plane dipped its belly close to the ground. As the men found their target area, one soldier swiftly pulled open the large side door and both began kicking the supply bags to the ground. But suddenly, the sound of bullets from Japanese soldiers was heard ricocheting off the side of the plane and Paul began to blindly fire his pistol from the door. And then with little warning, the plane's belly hit bottom, crashing behind enemy lines.

The spellbinding story of my father, Sgt Paul W. Capps, was a small piece of his total war experience during World War 11. But it was never heard until a few years before his death. A man of few words, stories such as these were buried deep within his soul, concealed from view.

A few years before my father died, I presented him with a Father's Day gift: a journal. Explaining I had always longed to hear of his experiences of the war, perhaps he could finally feel comfortable writing them down. But what I was unconscious of at the time was there were few memories left: The evilest of enemies, dementia, had seized his precious memories of days past.

Weeks later the journal was returned, pages filled with stories of the war, but to my dismay, my mother had composed them. Attempting to provide me with some of dad's memories, mother did her best to rewrite the stories he had told her so long ago. I cherish the journal but much of the details, the little precious nuggets of his experiences, were never told.

The story of my father and fellow soldiers sweeping their plane behind enemy lines was described briefly, hidden within a journal of mostly mundane stories. Fortunately, he survived the crash without injury or enemy capture, but I was stunned to learn of such a life changing adventure. And I long for more details to fill in the missing pieces of the stories of his war years.

On this Father's Day, grab the moment to discover all the details of your father's stories. Whatever his great adventures were, they were unique to him. And a hundred years from now, your father's descendants will be probing for records and searching for stories. Visit with your grandfather and father and help them write their stories. Seize the memories before they are stolen from them; so their stories will not be left for others to complete.

Keeping searching for answers,

Cheryl
**Here's another tip: Put together a memory box of your dad's records; military, medals, letters, etc and search through Ancestry.com and other sites for draft records, and other documents. His descendants will be forever grateful.