On Sunday, May 27, Louie Anderson slipped the bonds of Earth and flew to be with his beloved Barb.
He and Barbara enjoyed 71 years of marriage and because they lived close to my home, I got to spend quite a bit of time with them.
The photo below watched over me from my filing cabinet as I wrote War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation.
It shows Louie and his flight crew looking impossibly young and irrepressibly confident. Their 22-year-old leader, first pilot Louis Anderson sits on his haunches in the front row, far left. The photo was snapped as the 10 young men prepared to depart for Chelveston, England. It was May 1944 and the crew of the G-model Flying Fortress eagerly anticipated getting their licks in against the enemy.
Thirty-five missions later, Louis returned home, having lost only one of his original crew. Amazing because he said, “There was only one mission that we didn’t get shot at.”
Below is an excerpt from their chapter, “Keeping Time.”
“A ship in our left wing got hit,” Louis said. He and his men watched in dismay as the ball turret gunner fell from his turret and hung suspended by his foot. Many B-17 crew members considered the ball turret the worst position on the aircraft. The gunner was confined in a sphere fastened to the underside of the plane.
Louis cleared his throat. “I had to explain to the fellows that he was no longer with us.” After 45 seconds the gunner fell from the aircraft.
“We had quite a bit of difficulty talking the crew into getting back in the plane to fly a mission the next day,” he continued. “We had to have several conferences with the chaplain to explain that the gunner hadn’t been hanging there, suffering.”
When Barbara died in November, Louie’s already declining health, worsened.
He just wanted to be with her.
And he got his wish, but not before he was awarded a special Quilt of Valor made by the quilting group at Fairwood Retirement Community. Barbara was an avid quilter and she would be delighted to know of Louie’s gift.
He received the quilt, Saturday. He passed away Sunday.
And on Memorial Day I will be thinking of them both.