Against All Odds – The Story of Lenora and Chuck

I have to give a very casual (natural sounding) entertaining speech based off of a true story for my Communications Class and it’s so inspiring, that I wanted to share. Not due for a couple of weeks, but getting it done early so my brain can catch up, lol. I hope you enjoy…

Grandma’s Story

My grandfather broke the ice cold surface of the North Sea, clearing the plane just as it sank. He looked around frantically, thinking he was the only one to survive when suddenly he heard a voice calling him.

“Charlie! Charlie!” Stover called.

“Where is everybody?”, Grandpa asked.

“They’re in the plane, Charlie….they went down in the plane…they didn’t make it.”

Flashback!…

The year is 1943 and it’s wartime, Big Bands are swinging, liberty curls and pageboy hairstyles are all the rage, and Rosie the Riveter is at the height of her popularity. It’s summertime and grandma and grandpa are dating. Only they were never really all by themselves. There were always other people around because that was the times. My grandma is the oldest of 3. Her mother worked afternoons in the Hoover plant (she was a Rosie).

Her brother Junior was 9 could be left at home with her dad, unwatched. But her youngest brother Jerry was only 3…and men didn’t babysit back then. So, my grandma had to take my Uncle Jerry with her on her dates with my Grandpa…and he went everywhere with them.

They usually went to a Drive-IN called Spotless Spot. One night, they were coming home from their date and my grandpa missed the street. So, he went down to the next one and made a quick turn. Uncle Jerry is sitting in the backseat and he goes flying onto the floor because they didn’t have seat-belts back then! He gets up and says to my grandpa, “Whadderya tryina do, Cuck?” Grandpa just laughed.

Because it’s war-time, gas is rationed. So, they didn’t go “out” out too often. Most of the time they would just sit out on the front porch or go down to the corner where the street light was and congregate with the other kids and talk. (Grandma noted, “People really talked to each other back then!”)

So, Grandpa leaves for Army service training in October, decides he doesn’t like it and switches to the Air Corp because he always wanted to fly. Thinking of his sweetie back home, he buys an engagement ring where he’s stationed in Texas and mails it back home to her before they ship him off again to St. Cloud, MN for more training. He comes home in March of 1944 and they get married in the pastor’s home, just after my grandma’s 17 birthday!

But the hum of the fighter jet engines would soon take my grandpa much further away to fight for his country…or France actually. And she would not see him again for another 15 months.

He had 25 missions that he had to complete as a tailgunner. It’s the day of his 3rd mission. The guy across from him in the plane stands up, looks out the window and starts running towards the radio room in the center of the plane.  Grandpa stands up, takes 2 steps and that’s all he remembered. He was knocked unconscious. My grandpa didn’t know they were going to crash …and he doesn’t know how to swim. He comes-to and wakes up inside the plane…he’s floating on water. He had his life-vest on and when he fell, it inflated.

The plane was filling with water. He saw a hole down in the side of the plane, so he went down through the hole and came out on the other side. And that’s when he sees his friend Stover who let’s him know they are the only survivors. 

Stover was a topgunner and when the plane crashed, the hatch popped open and threw him out into the water. Two of the engines were on fire and they think that one of the engines came off and came through the windshield killing the pilot and co-pilot because they never radioed back that they were going to crash. 9 men went down with the plane that day. There were only 2 survivors. Stover and my grandfather, something that would pry on his mind for the rest of his life. Grandpa would not tell my grandma how bad it really was until years later.

So, there they are floating on water, shark repellent, etc. and my grandpa thinks he’s a goner because the water is so extremely cold. A plane happened to come out looking for a different plane entirely and happened to spot them. 45 minutes later, a boat came out and picked them up. This was in August and they said that if it were any other month, they would have frozen to death. BUT…IT WAS THE COLD WATER THAT SHOCKED HIM OUT OF HIS CONCUSSION WHEN HE WAS TRAPPED IN THE PLANE. SO, THE VERY THING THAT COULD HAVE KILLED HIM SAVED HIS LIFE.

The boat came up to them and threw the ladder over, grandpa started to crawl up the ladder, but as soon as he got out of the water, he started to fall back b/c of the weight of his uniform and equipment being water-logged. 2 big arms came up over the side of the boat and pulled him up. They removed his uniform, put him on a cot and threw a blanket over him and then a layer of hot water bottles and then another blanket and another layer of hot water bottles…3 layers total, and he was still freezing.

Then he started to thaw out and was getting hot and said “Take these off of me! I can’t stand it!” They said, “Oh, no, no, no. We take them off one layer at a time. Took of the first layer and waited and then the second layer and waited and then the 3rd layer when his body temperature was regulated.

They both went into the hospital for about a month and then went back to base and were cleared again to fly..PTSD and all (Grandma says they didn’t have time for that!).

The other guy could never fly again. He said “I’ll stay in the service, but I’ll never fly again.” He refused (he was done). They said, “If you don’t fly again you’ll have your stripes taken away.” He was a staff sargeant like my grandpa. They took his stripes and sent him to another base. Grandpa asked him to keep in touch, but never heard from him again, he was so angry. (didn’t have Google back then to look him up!)

But Grandpa still had 22 more to go…so he continued to fly until his remaining missions were complete. But he puked every time he flew after that. So…they’d give him a shot of whiskey and say, “Here, drink this. That’ll fix ya.” So…not sure if he threw up out fear or from the whiskey!

Meanwhile, back home, Grandma is getting kicked out of school for getting married at such a young age…the principal thought it would corrupt the other students. Her entire class went to the principal and appealed to him on her behalf, so he changed his mind and let her back in.

She graduated in June of 1945 and then he came home 2 weeks after that, had a leave, and came back again at the end of October, when they would then buy a house, start a family and the rest is history.

God had a very specific purpose for my grandpa… because THE VERY THING THAT COULD HAVE KILLED HIM SAVED HIS LIFE. Normally we think of this as hot water…in Grandpa’s case it was cold.

And as Grandma says…”this pie is good”…well, no…actually, that’s what she said when she was done talking!

 

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