February 20, 1988
Yesterday I came into one of the best gifts of my lifetime. During WWII, I was an aerial gunner with the Army Air Forces in England with the Eighth Air Force. We were flying B-17 missions over Germany in the fall of 1944 and winter of 44-45. I was issued an Air Force cold weather flying parka called a B-9 parka. It kept me comfortable flying in sub zero temperatures at five miles up in an unpressurized airplane—which folks were shooting at from the ground. We were over Nuremberg, Germany on February 20, 1945, the anniversary of which I celebrate today, on my near sixty-fifth birthday. Our aircraft was struck by anti-aircraft fire and we parachuted out of our burning bomber over Nuremberg marshalling yards which we had been trying to blow up, and did a fair job of doing…I was taken prisoner and the first thing taken from me was my B-9 winter parka…in which the label stated that it was made by Eddie Bauer, Seattle, Washington…I was sorry to lose it as it was a prized possession—not to speak of a very warm and comforting coat…The years have gone by…forty-three of them to be exact and I had not forgotten that day or losing my parka…Yesterday as if in a prepared gift I was in a thrift shop in a town not far from where I live—the day before my anniversary—and what do I spot hanging on a rack but a winter cold weather parka in the unmistakable green of the Army Air Forces jackets…I am standing there with it in my hands…it’s in perfect shape, as if it had just been off your production line. I look at the cost wanted by the thrift shop—twenty dollars—and I have ten one dollar bills in my pocket. I look at the label in the neck and it reads:
AAF Procurement Only
Order Number W11 107AC72(35)
Property Air Forces
There is no way I am going to leave that place without my parka. I have it clutched in a death grip, with a few tears dripping onto its green fabric, so familiar to me. The years fall away and I can again hear the roar of four Wright whirlwind engines, feel the blast on my face and snuggle again into my parka while crouching over a .50 caliber machine gun deep in Germany, five miles up. My cold weather jacket had been returned the day before the forty-third anniversary that I lost mine. The lady let me take it home with me for the ten one dollar bills that I had in my billfold, with a promise to send her the other ten…
As I celebrate that momentous occasion in my life today…I have on my Eddie Bauer parka now and I wish to thank you and the ones who put every stitch into it for the comfort they and you provided for those of us who shared very little comfort in those far away dark days; a gift of love and life from the beautiful good ol’ U.S.A.
Thank you from a nineteen-year-old aerial gunner and a sixty-five-year-old man with wonderful memories.