My parents grew up during the Great Depression in rural New England towns. They learned how to survive off the land, growing huge gardens, gathering wild fruit for juice and jelly, hunting for meat and gathering wild herbs from the fields to cure any ailments. My mother often told the story of how their clothes were made from used grain sacks. My Dad told the story of getting up at 3:00 in the morning to help the neighbors milk the cows before getting the school bus.
When they graduated from high school, they would be asked to serve their country in one of the deadliest wars in history. Wally and Marion were WWII sweethearts having met at the wedding of their brother and sister. Shortly after they began dating, but were soon separated when my dad enlisted in the Air Force where he trained as a pilot of the B-17 bomber called the Knock-out Dropper. He would fly 31 combat missions each one recorded on the back of his sweetheart Marion’s picture – each one bringing him one day closer to home. “I’m glad I participated in the War,” Paton said. “I don’t feel like I did anything extraordinary. I did my job like every other American.”
Woman also played a significant role in America’s war effort. Mom moved back home to Sudbury, Massachusetts and worked in factories making parachute cords and boots. “I’m pretty sure she made a pair for me, ” Paton said with a sly smile. “The boots I received were a tight fit.” – Nogales International Times
The Knock-out Dropper was a flying fortress. Capable of flying over 250 mph, with a range of 2,000 miles, it was designed to withstand considerable damage, yet continue flying. Each plane could carry 17,000 pounds of bombs and was equipped with 10 machine guns. Of the 1.5 million tons of bombs dropped during World War II, the B-17 dropped 640,000.
“Along toward the end of my flying, the Germans had a psychological trick they used to pull on us. Because the anti-aircraft were set up in a battery of four, you’d see one shell go off, two shells go off, three shells go off; they would hold up and they wouldn’t shoot the fourth shell, but you’d sit on pins and needles waiting for it. That was probably the longest minute or two of your life waiting for that fourth one. That was a winner, that one was.
And they used to chase us around the country with that thing. This one day down in Saarbruken they caught us after we hit the ball bearing factory. They caught us good. That’s the day we came back with 343 holes in the plane.” – Wally Paton