CHARLES E. CARY|
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
January 4, 1988
My thanks to you for my being one of the first to receive a copy of your 44th Honor Roll Book. Your consideration in my behalf is deeply appreciated.
It is as though you have written the concluding chapter in that part of our lives, which shall never be forgotten. Your book and the untiring efforts of you and Irene will stand as a perpetuating memorial and tribute to our fallen brothers. My heartfelt thanks and congratulations to you both. Rather than merely names inscribed in the beautiful memorial book at the library in Norwich, you have chronicled mission by mission, the acts of heroism, dedication and sacrifice of these brave and unselfish young men. Your contribution in their name and to the reputation of the 44th will live in history long after we have all folded our earthly wings, thanks to your explicit documentation.
May I further congratulate you on becoming the new editor of the 44th logbook. How fortunate we are to have you at the helm of our fledgling news journal. Thanks are in order form all of us that seem content to ride along on your coattails.
At this writing, I must report to you the passing of a 68th squadron mate, Charlie Deurell. Charlie was my roommate and buddy at Shipdham. He was a transfer from the R.C.A.F. and joined the group about the time that we returned from Africa. We had a nice visit with Charlie this past spring. He died November 22nd at his home in Knoxville, Tennessee after suffering a massive heart attack. I shall miss him. This was the first Christmas without our usual greeting and correspondence since 1945.
Virginia and I hope to travel to Shipdham this year if all goes as planned. We attended Joe Warth's 44th memorial reunion in 1983 when the stone was erected in the churchyard. While we were there we had dinner and were squired around Norfolkshsire by a delightful young English couple, a Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Howson of Shipdham. I think it was love at first sight for us all as we have been corresponding regularly since then.
We are hoping to arrange for some type of housing in he Shipdham area so that we can stay awhile. There is one airstrip left, I think it is 210 and I am hopeful that I can take one more flight from there just for old times sake. Funny thing, I could hardly wait to get home in 1944. This will be our third trip back as the nostalgia of the place keeps calling. I'm thankful that Virginia is such an understanding lady. You know she must be as we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary last November 28th. I guess you might say I was one of the lucky ones.
We hope to see you and Irene in Riverside come this May. Nice to have the reunion in our own back yard. Thanks again for all that you do for all of us.
Cheers and all the best, Chuck Cary
CHARLES E CARY
World War II
January 24, 1985
Letter to Will Lundy
At last a reply to your letter of December 18. It was not because of disinterest I assure you that I have been remiss in answering you sooner.
My last couple of months have been out of town undergoing radiation treatments for a cancerous prostate. With that behind me and feeling fit. I'll get the show on the road.
The Lt. Stahler you refer to in your information request was indeed my first pilot. We arrived in the United Kingdom July 10, 1943 as members of the Col. Crowder provisional group that was formed April 1943 at Davis Monthan Field, Tuscon, AZ.
We left Prestwick, Scotland after a few days for Cheddington the CCRC and after processing there were assigned to the 44th and thence to North Africa via ATC under dealed secret orders to join the group which has preceeded us by a few weeks. The crew besides Stahler and myself consisted of Lt. H.J. Ballard, Navigator; John J. Buckholtz, Bombardier; Archie Clemmons, Engineer; Mullins, Radio Operator; Bessie and Simmons, Waist Gunners; my recall fails me as to the tail gunners name. I remember I called him (junior) as he was only 18 and I was an old man of 26 and he followed me around as though I was his father. The name escapes me although I still see his face. Perhaps some records will come forth to refresh my memory.
In the meantime I 'll go through what records I have and endeavor to come up with anything that may be of help to you in your quest for information.
I hope this information has been of some help.
Cheers and All the Best,
CHARLES EVERETT CARY
World War II
Memories and Biography
Taken from an article out of Press-Telegram June 13, 1995.
A Moment that Defined a Lifetime
Most of us can't point to one defining moment in our lives, a sudden flash of clarity that changes our life forever. I believe Chuck Cary's moment came on a day of absolute horror in the skies over Europe.
It left him with a simple, easy-to-follow philosophy of life that made him the happy, cheerful, friendly guy he was ever afterward. He had told me about it one day some 20 years ago, and I have thought of it often since. The most recent reminder was when I saw his photo in last Thursday's Press-Telegram.
Half a century ago and half a world away, Charles Everett Cary was flying B-24s from an air base in Norwich, England. In those days of "maximum effort" bombing, an air crew completed its tour of duty in 25 missions - but life-expectancy for the crews was less than that. It was a lucky airman who finished his hitch with the same men with whom he began it.
Chuck flew 32 missions, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Stars and several Air Medals. On one of those missions came the moment that changed his outlook and his life forever.
It was a massive raid, with B-24s flying the low group position and B-17s flying above, at very high altitudes. Something went wrong that day, as something can when there's that much explosive power massed in a scuddy sky.
Into the bomb run, Cary saw his wingman's bomber blow up. Then another, and another. In a fatal combination of botched signals and poor visibility, the high-group B-17s were dropping their bomb loads into the B-24 formation! (Such a thing was not unheard of in World War II, but it was the only time it happened to Chuck Cary).
His airplane escaped the "friendly fire" (to use the military oxymoron) and he brought it back with crew intact. Between the Luftwaffe fighters, enemy flak and the miscued B-17s, there wasn't much left of his bomb group. (When he came home after his 32 missions, his crew was the only one left of the original group).
"I knew on that day that I should be dead," he had told me. "There was no good reason why we were spared and the others all around us were not. Just luck, chance, good fortune - but I knew that I had been given a great gift. The whole crew had.
"And I knew that every day after that was a bonus day I wasn't entitled to. Every new day would be one I wasn't supposed to have. And I've thought "another bonus day" every morning of my life since then. Today, for instance: "I'm not supposed to have this, but I've got it."
I can remember Chuck's words as if he had said them yesterday, but I don't remember them nearly often enough. When I do think of them, I feel grateful.
I thought of them again on Thursday, when I saw Chuck's photo in the paper near the word "Obituaries."
He had died of cancer at 78, cheery and joking to the end. He had enjoyed more than 50 years that he measured one day at a time as "bonus days."
And he had been married to his wife, Virginia, for 57 years. They had been married more than 35 years when I knew him, and he invariably referred to Virginia as "my bridge."
I remember why he had told me that story: I had asked him one day how he kept his cherry outlook on life, an attitude that endeared him to just about everyone he met, from old codgers to the little tikes who rode his Kiddieland Rides at the old Pierpoint Landing. (At least as many kids rode free as paid; that little weekend hobby business of Cary's was one of the biggest joys of his life.)
Well anyway, I asked him about his sunny demeanor and he told me about That Day.
As I said, I've thought about it many times since - particularly times when I needed it the most. Not all of us have been in peril of such dramatic proportion, but all of us can think the same way Chuck always did, with perhaps the same happy effect.
For all of us, there have been close calls in traffic, perhaps, or at the head of a flight of stairs. Indeed, there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of times when each of us has been in imminent danger of death, and we have not even known it.
That's Chuck Cary's legacy to us all: Every day is a bonus - a day we weren't supposed to have.
The fact that Chuck knew precisely when his bonus days started doesn't change the basic truth and the simple reason for gratitude in our own lives.
We won't all become as cheerful and friendly as Chuck was. But we can remember how he got that way, and that will help. It even helps a cynical old newspaperman. And I forgot to say, "Thanks, Chuck."
(George Robeson is a Press-Telegram columnist.)