Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Heroes make me cry

I've cried many times for the men of the 359th Fighter Group, shedding tears for men who were killed in action 70 years ago. Capt. Wayne N. Bolefahr is one such man.  Capt. Bolefahr flew with the 368th Fighter Squadron from April 1943 through 10 June 1944, when he was KIA.  Last week I posted this text on the 359th's Facebook page:

"On this early 10 June mission, the only claims were an electric loco and several goods wagons strafed by Fogg and his flight. But this was the opening of an eventful day. The only mission actively resented by the pilots as “a suicide job” came up next: escort on the deck of four PRU (Photographic Reconnaissance Unit) P-38s to the Antwerp area. The PRU pilots said they had not been able to get any planes back from the heavily defended Lowlands. The 368th was ordered to take them in. Colonel Tyrrell, briefing, warned of the flak and told the pilots they could do little good attempting to intervene: keep the enemy off the PRU and let them brave the flak.

"But the compulsion of the West Pointer’s code of duty, honor, country led Captain Wayne Norbert Bolefahr, beau ideal of the 368th, to do more than that. As the squadron swept in over the Scheldt with the four P-38s they came under a staggering barrage: there were automatic weapons emplaced everywhere along the winding coasts and the railroads, the heavy guns were in motion at extreme slant ranges. Bolefahr, slim, dark, kindly, courteous, a soldier in whom the sense of duty replaced the killer instinct he totally lacked, felt compelled to intervene. He was there. The Air Force wanted the pictures. So all along that blazing route he flew in the van, firing at every emplacement, drawing the enemy flak while the camera-Lightnings went off to the side, making their low obliques. It was magnificent; it was also death. “Bo” survived until 1410, four miles N of Antwerp, when his aircraft flamed under a hail of hits and augured in from 100 feet. Tom McGeever’s P-51 was badly clobbered, too, but he got back to Manston. All four PRUs came home with, the group hoped, the pictures of whatever it was they wanted. On the way back, four locos were destroyed and another damaged, but it was a saddened group of pilots who sat numbly in the lounge at Wretham Hall that night, and the impact of Bo’s loss fell heavily on every man and officer on the ground side who had known him." ~ Excerpt from the June 1944 359th Fighter Group History report dated 4 July 1944.

"Bo" gave his life for all of us, for freedom for the world. Yet that costliest of lessons seems to have faded as people run faster (from home to coffee shop to work to the gym or school and back), talk or text constantly, and rarely pause to reflect on life, to cherish their myriad opportunities. I could easily rant about the evil that seems to promulgate itself in this world of ours, but instead I'll shed a few more tears and continue to quietly work on my manuscript while also sharing photos and stories about the men of the 359th Fighter Group.

I do hope, though, that the story of Lt. Bolefahr's actions that day made a few of you cry. After you've wiped your face dry, but before you pick up your phone, read another blog, or jog to the coffee shop, please take a moment to step outside and gaze at the high, blue sky. Then send a word of thanks to "Bo," and to all heroes.

~ Janet Fogg
    Fogg in the Cockpit


  1. Thanks for the reminder, Janet. We owe so much, the least we can do is take a moment in gratitude.

  2. And how sad that we don't seem (since Vietnam) to pay enough attention to the sacrifice on behalf of the U.S. Sure there sympathy for those who lost limbs and families who lose loved ones, but not quite the connection to how important the reason for fighting and putting them in that vulnerable position. It feels, often, that the fear of war has more recently separated patriotism from the sacrifice that is our side of the battle. That was pretty muddy, but I suspect you know what I mean.