Monday, May 29, 2006

In Memory

of those who have fallen.

Including my great-uncle, Major Harlan E. Stewart, 15 Jan 1915 - 25 Feb 1944, who died after being shot down in the Bougainville area of the South Pacific. He was a Marine fighter pilot, a month away from getting married.

From the hometown newspaper:
"Enemy landing craft was sighted the day of February 25. The flight officer asked Major Stewart to send two pilots up to strafe these enemy craft. Instead of sending two, he sent only one--he, himself, chose to be the other. His plane was struck by anti-aircraft fire. Sparks were seen in his plane. He continued to send information by radio, but was unable to receive. He radioed first that he would have to make a forced landing on land--then, later, on sea. The plane was recovered and Harlan's body lies on Bougainville island. It is said that the place where he lies is like a national cemetery."

He was posthumously awarded the Air Medal a year later, as well as a Purple Heart and American Defense Medal. His body was brought back to Wisconsin five years later, and is buried with the rest of the family in the local cemetery. He was my grandma's big brother and she was very close to him, from all accounts a handsome, easy-going, decent man. I have a scrapbook she kept with all of his letters, his photos (he really was quite good-looking), his awards, medals, and all the condolence letters sent to the family. Some things you never do get over. I also have his ceremonial sword stashed away, until my brother, a Navy veteran, has a more permanent place to live and keep it.

Here's to all the men and women who did their duty and died for it.

1 comment:

Dana said...

Here Here!