To my father, a World War II veteran

A Memorial Day ‘thank you’ to dad and all veterans

Mort Joslin with “Becky Jo.”

By Mike Joslin

At war

He was working outside on his 1929 model A Ford in Tacoma, Washington when his father rushed from the house, exclaiming that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. It was December 7, 1941 and America was at war. Mort Joslin was a 17-year old young man, a freshman at the University of Washington. And just like that, life changed course.

Like many young men of that era, Mort was eager to drop everything and enlist to fight for his country. At 17 he was too young to join the American Armed Forces, so his thoughts quickly turned toward the Canadian Air Force, which he’d heard accepted younger men. A firm “no” from his father squelched that idea, so Mort was forced to wait until the following year before he could enlist in the US Army Air Corps Air Cadet program.

Mort is my father.

Difficult memories

He went on to become a captain, a fighter pilot for the 5th Army Air Force, 49th Fighter Group. But for all the years he spent flying fighters over the Pacific during World War II, it wasn’t until he was in his late eighties that he began to speak openly of that time.

I have observed that same reluctance to talk about the war years in many veterans. Such reticence is understandable given the harrowing times and the tragic loss of life, in particular, of wartime friends. Buddies they drilled with, ate with, shared their letters from home with. One day they were joking about the powdered eggs they suffered through for breakfast and the next day that friend was painfully, permanently absent.

Something bigger than themselves

But that determination to be a part of something bigger than themselves, for a cause they believed in and a country that they loved, spurred multitudes of servicemen and women to forsake the safety and comfort of home and family and put themselves in harm’s way. While my father thankfully survived his many missions over the Pacific, the handle that he still has from the rip cord he pulled when forced to jump from his malfunctioning plane, attests to the stark truth many veterans faced every sun up. Today could be the day they died.

War is hard. On everyone.

During a 10-day leave in 1944, my dad married my mother, Alma, his high school sweetheart. A couple years later, with an ocean between them, she gave birth to their first child without him, a common enough occurrence for soldiers and their wives. Dad didn’t meet my sister, Becky Jo, until she was 13 months old. My spunky little 21-year old mother boarded a ship in Seattle and sailed to Tokyo, Japan, with toddler in tow, determined to see her man and introduce him to his daughter.

War and sacrifice are bedside companions.

Thank you

Today my father and mother live in a retirement community. At 92, dad is still as sharp as ever and recalls his World War II years with other veterans in that community. In fact, just a couple of months ago he and another World War II compatriot there, Colonel Merle Fister, (a veteran B-24 bomber pilot for the 454th Bombardment Group in Italy) regaled a group of our clients with their wartime remembrances. I think we were all amazed at the detail they could pull up as they described their incredible experiences, as if they happened yesterday.

With the World War II generation aging, the numbers of surviving veterans are dwindling. I’m grateful my dad is still around so I can say, ‘thank you,’ face to face.

To my father and all the veterans of the armed forces who willingly gave all they had to protect those at risk of forcibly losing all they had, thank you.

We remember. And we are grateful.


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