Gratitude · history · Inspiration · Leadership · legacy · Living · Politics

Death of an A-20, An Ultimate Sacrifice

1/Lt. James L. Knarr, on the left, and S/Sgt. Wilson J. Metcalf, his crew chief, stand in front of Knarrʼs A-20. (Edgar R. Bistika Collection)

The other day, I saw a post on one of the Facebook World War II aviation groups I follow.  It’s a photo I’ve seen before, but always comes as a stark reminder of the fragility of life. 

In the series of photos, an A-20 Havoc (WWII medium bomber) is on an attack run against a Japanese sea plane base in New Guinea.  The aircraft is struck by anti-aircraft fire, banks sharply to the side, and plunges into the bay.  Low level attack missions were extremely dangerous, especially for these types of aircraft.  If hit, pilots had little time to understand the nature of the problem and had no ability to bail out to safety. 

1st Lieutenant James L. Knarr, on his 70th combat mission, and gunner Staff Sergeant Charles G. Reichley, on his 46th, were killed seconds after being hit.  The series of pictures capture the moments of being damage, the sharp bank, and the impact on the water.  In a blink of an eye two young men with hopes and dreams lost. 

When I see or read about battles or conflicts, inevitably there’s references to the amount of causalities.  A price that was paid by each side, along with inevitable civilians caught in the middle.  At first glance they are numbers on a page, but we cannot just leave it at that.  We must take the time to remember these were individuals.  They were sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.  They are never just numbers.

Today is Memorial Day, 2021.  Things are slowly returning to a somewhat normal state.  News stories are about Memorial Day topics, but also coverage about traveling, grilling, and getting out and about.  It’s a great time of year to get out and do something, especially after the past year.    

We also need to take a moment to remember those lost.  To understand their sacrifice.  We must realize that they never had a chance to have a full life.  They would not be able to see children grow up, or be grandparents.  They wouldn’t have a career.  Maybe they would have been celebrated artists or musicians, leaders of business, or a writer.  Whatever the future path in their life journey, they never had the chance to experience all the stages of life.

It’s the least we can do to honor their memory, not just on Memorial Day every year, but every day.  Take time to learn about the past, both the good and bad.  Honor those who try to make a difference.  Try to do the little things in our daily routine that make a difference.  Work towards bringing people together, not trying to put your own beliefs on others.  Work to make changes in positive ways.  It’s the least we can all do for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. 

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