Earlier this week I received several emails and phone calls from friends asking if I had heard the news that Major Dick Winters had passed away. He was the person whose service in WWII the original Band of Brothers was based on. Major Winters passed away January 2nd at the age of 92 and had requested that no word of his death be announced until after his funeral. His way of protecting his family in their time of grief. Then a day later the notes arrived from Boulder asking if I had heard that Col. Bill Bowers had passed. Bill was the pilot of B-25 #12 that left the deck of the USS Hornet on April 18, 1942 and joined 15 other Doolittle Raiders on the first air strike of Japan after the attack at Pearl Harbor. I had the pleasure of spending an hour one afternoon with just me, Bill and a cameraman and he shared his story from start to finish. Later we went to meet a group of students and he was the swashbuckling aviator we all remember from the movies. Good Looking, full of confidence to a point of cockiness and sharing tales that were AWESOME!!
Major Winters and Colonel Bowers are the latest of a grand generation that's leaving us. It underscores the importance of capturing as much of their history as possible. In as short a time as a decade we will lose all of our first- person knowledge of the WWII era. If you were a 17-year old serviceman in 1945 when the war ended, you're 83 today. We should all have some urgency to gather up recordings, printed materials, photos and other items that document that era before it ends up in the hands of children or others who don't understand the value and simply throw it away. I'm afraid that already happens more than we care to know. It has fallen on our generations to carry the torch and tell their tales. They are not gone until they are forgotten and I don't want to be the one to let that light extinguish. This December 7th marks the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the first time the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association will not conduct an official reunion. A couple years ago the 10th Mountain Division WWII veterans held their last reunion. Time is doing what the enemy couldn't, taking our WWII living history from us. I can see day soon where we take their seats at the bar and continue the tradition of storytelling. But instead of telling war stories, we'd tell war hero stories and recall their exploits as if they were our own. I think they'd be happy to know we had been listening. God Bless You Dick Winters and Bill Bowers. May we never forget you were here.