Our son-in-law, Brian, turned 50 on January 30, 2022! Our daughter, Jennifer, first introduced Brian to us 31 years ago. Our introduction to Brian’s father, Bill, (who happened to be 50 years old when Brian was born), gives way to an amusing story.
Jennifer’s dad, Bob was on call at Maryland’s Forestville Volunteer Fire Department when an alarm call came in for a nondescript single auto accident at the center of our town’s industrial park (Parston Drive). Upon arriving at the scene, Bob sighted a late model Pontiac station wagon with its nose dug into what appeared to be a defective manhole. In fact, the rim of the manhole was angulated up and caught the front of the station wagon’s undercarriage. The force of the impact apparently caused the station wagon to bend in half from front to back. When Bob approached the driver (Bill), he seemed dazed and his forehead was slightly bleeding. Bill said he thought he was okay. Bob responded with; “Well, we can do this the easy way or we can do it the hard way.” Bill looked quizzically at Bob (still not knowing each other) to try to understand what he meant. Bob’s “easy way,” was just opening the door and helping Bill’s feet safely touch the ground. His “hard way,” would have been to wait for a tow truck to remove the car from atop the defective manhole before removing him. Bill opted to go with “the easy way.” Bob cleared the scene and they both went on their ways.
Bill arrives home and is still shaken by the incident, so he pours himself a glass of bourbon. Brian arrives home shortly after Bill and asks his dad; “What’s up with a glass of bourbon in the afternoon?” Bill responded: “It’s been quite a day!” Next, he recounts to Brian his bizarre accident and makes reference to “the Clown,” who came to assist him.
A few days pass, Brian comes to our home to visit Jennifer, and the parent-to-boyfriend small talk begins. Bob starts relating the story of this old man’s odd accident with an open manhole. Brian immediately realizes Jennifer’s dad was “the clown,” that helped his father. Apparently, Brian says his dad used the term “the clown” often to describe others he found anal or amusing–including Brian.
November 6, 2022, would be Bill’s 100th birthday. In his memory, I’d like to share some of his far more sobering moments and memories. This story is about the harrowing events of Bill’s World War II experience. He was a fighter pilot who flew one of the U.S. Army Air Corps P-47 Thunderbolt planes in the Pacific Theatre. The single-seater plane was equipped with a 2,000-horsepower radial engine and eight .50 caliber machine guns. This combination of a robust engine and heavy armament made America’s P-47 Thunderbolt a feared ground-attack aircraft. Indeed, during WWII, the P-47 “Jugs” hit the Germans hard in the air and on the ground.
Truly, if you knew Bill, you never would have suspected that his life as a young man was tormented by the battles, capture, and tortures that he endured while serving as a Second Lieutenant in the Pacific Theatre in World War II from 1943 until 1945. Genuinely, Bill was a quiet and soft-spoken gentleman, originally from Evanston, Illinois. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps at age 19 while attending the University of Iowa and in later years he played piano in regional jazz and country bands.
The Chicago Tribune published an article on October 22, 1945, titled: “Mock Execution by Japs As Told By Flyer.” The following is the 77-year-old story that recounts veteran First Lieutenant William Lyle McDaniel’s (Nov. 6, 1922 – Feb. 13, 2006) plight during the ending days of the war.
On August 14, 1945, then 2nd Lieutenant William McDaniel’s P-47 Thunderbolt crashed in Seoul Harbor, Korea. The military promptly listed him as “missing-in-action.” He was captured by the “japs,” one day after the war ended while flying low over Korea. His right wing gas tank was set afire by enemy bullets. He flew his plane higher into the sky to try to kill the flames, but he was forced to bail out at one thousand feet above the harbor. He inflated his life raft and paddled to a rock. The next morning a Japanese fisherman sighted him and in the afternoon he was picked up by a “jap” patrol boat. The next day he was marched into a “jap” prison camp. There, on the day after the war ended, he was blind-folded and led into a courtyard. His legs were chained and he was forced to kneel.
A firing squad marched into the courtyard and he heard the action of the bullets being loaded into the firing chambers. “Jap” officers fired their guns and a volley of shots rang out. Bill was unscathed but the rifles were reloaded and the “Jap” officer again shouted to his squad, “Fire!” This was repeated two more times. Then he was led from the courtyard, placed on a truck and taken to the Keijo prisoner of war camp, where he joined 158 Australian and British troops that had been captured in Singapore. There he also found the pilot he had been searching for–1st Lieutenant Dallas G. Yeargain. Lt. Yeargain had arrived at the prison a few hours earlier and had been similarly tortured except that his mock execution was performed with a beheading sword which was stayed each time it touched his neck.
On September 9, 1945, one week after the war had officially ended, the men at the Keijo Camp were freed by troops from the U.S. Army’s 7th Infantry Division. Lieutenants McDaniel and Yeargain were two among the five Americans that had been held in Seoul at Camp Keijo. Three Americans that had been captured earlier in the war died there, they were: PFC Paul B. Chandler, who died on 6 Jan. 1943; Water Tender 2nd Class, Orin C. Mc Creedy, who died on 6 Dec. 1942; and, Pvt. Derrill F. Rogers,USA Combined Arms Center, who died on 13 Dec. 1942.
Lieutenant McDaniel, we thank you for your dedication to your country and your family. You remain with us in our hearts. May you rest in eternal peace.