The P47 Pilot in the Ken Burns Documentary Has Made His Final Sortie

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by syscom3, Jan 1, 2009.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Luverne WWII flier Aanenson dies

    By BEN COHEN, Star Tribune

    December 30, 2008

    Like many of the men who fought and survived World War II, Quentin Aanenson anguished about what he had done and wondered why he had lived when so many of his comrades had died.

    But unlike many of America's World War II veterans, Aanenson, a fighter pilot who grew up in Luverne, Minn., put his recollections and feelings before the world as one of the principal participants in Ken Burns' powerful TV documentary "The War."

    Aanenson, an elegant and articulate son of the Midwest in the film series, died of cancer on Sunday at his home in Bethesda, Md.

    He was 87.

    "Death and love" marked Aanenson's considerable contribution to Burns' exhaustive, seven-part PBS documentary, reported the Washington Post, on the September 2007 day that the film debuted.

    He narrowly escaped death on more than one occasion, including once when his P-47 Thunderbolt' s cockpit caught fire after the plane was hit. He crash-landed, suffering cracked ribs and a head injury, but was back in the air a few days later.

    "On another mission, Aanenson caught a column of German soldiers along a roadside. Opening the Thunderbolt' s eight .50-caliber guns, he saw bullets tear into the men with such force that their bodies went flying. When he returned to his base in Normandy, he was sickened by the experience.

    Then, he tells Burns' cameras, 'I went out and did it again and again and again and again,'" reported the Washington Post.

    His hope, like so many combatants, was to return to loved ones, including his wife to be, Jackie Greer, who he met while training in Baton Rouge, La. She, too, played a prominent part in the Burns film.

    In Burns' documentary, Aanenson, who flew 75 missions and was awarded a chestful of medals, narrated a letter that he wrote, but never sent, to Jackie. He had struggled to describe his experience after her questions about the war. The letter said, in part:

    "I still doubt if you will be able to comprehend it. I don't think anyone can who has not been through it.

    "I live in a world of death. I have watched my friends die in a variety of violent ways. ... Sometimes it's just an engine failure on takeoff resulting in a violent explosion. There's not enough left to bury. Other times, it's the deadly flak that tears into a plane. If the pilot is lucky, the flak kills him. But usually he isn't, and he burns to death as his plane spins in.

    "So far, I have done my duty in this war. ... I have lived for my dreams for the future. But like everything else around me, my dreams are dying, too.

    "In spite of everything, I may live through this war and return to Baton Rouge. But I am not the same person you said goodbye to on May 3."

    At the urging of his family, he set out in the 1990s to make a video to show his family what his war was like in the skies over Europe.

    It was a kind of therapy to make the video, and he wanted his family to know the horrors of war.

    His video became much more than a home movie.

    The documentary made by Aanenson, his wife and other family members was first aired across the nation on PBS in 1994. After Ken Burns, the documentary filmmaker, saw the Aanenson production, it spurred him to include Luverne as one of the four cities in America that anchored "The War." And the decision to include Luverne led to Al MacIntosh, who was editor of the Rock County Herald newspaper during the war. His heartfelt columns from the homefront provided another perspective on the war.

    Lori Ehde, editor of the Rock County Star Herald recalled Aanenson as articulate, and a person who "had a keen sense of awareness of his place in the world."

    Before the war, Aanenson had attended the University of Minnesota. In 1948, he graduated from Louisiana State University.

    He went to work for Mutual of New York insurance, and after working in New Orleans, New York and San Antonio, he moved to the Washington area in 1955. He rose to become an officer in the firm, responsible for the Middle Atlantic region.

    He retired in 1987.

    "He was so much more than this American hero. He was just a wonderful family man," said his son, Jerry, of Boyds, Md.

    In addition to Jerry, he is survived by his wife of 63 years, Jackie, of Bethesda; daughters, Vickie Murphy, of Ellicott City, Md., Debi Pyers, of Schaumburg, Ill.; 10 grandchildren, a brother, Curtis, of Minnetonka, and a sister, Mavis Porter, of Rock Rapids, Iowa.

    Services will be at 1 p.m. Sunday in St. Andrew's Methodist Church in Bethesda.

    Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington at 3 p.m. Feb.
     
  2. Eurofighter

    Eurofighter New Member

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    Several weeks ago I watched the rerun of "The War" on PBS in which Quentin Aanenson thells his experiences as a P-47 pilot and how deeply he was touched by the horrors of war seeing his friends dying one after another and his enemies getting killed under his guns. May the soul of this great pilot rest in peace.
     
  3. Timppa

    Timppa Active Member

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    "Those were the years this airplane, the P-47 Thunderbolt, was to be my main weapon of destruction. It has been a traumatic experience for me to go back through all this. But perhaps, in other ways, it has helped purge some of the devastating memories that have haunted me for almost 50 years. So this is my story"
    Title: A Fighter Pilot's Story
     
  4. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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  5. Micdrow

    Micdrow “Archive”
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  6. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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  7. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    was this former Jug pilot in the 404th fg ? if so I called this chap up many many years ago, a pure delight very free with his information
     
  8. Geedee

    Geedee Well-Known Member

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  9. MikeGazdik

    MikeGazdik Member

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    Some incredible stories on the website. I must see that show!
     
  10. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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  11. fly boy

    fly boy Member

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    why are all the WW2 vets dying before i can talk to them
     
  12. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    :rolleyes:

    Deradler will love that comment.
     
  13. ToughOmbre

    ToughOmbre Active Member

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  14. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    And so another has 'slipped the surly bonds of Earth'. R.I.P.
     
  15. aflyer

    aflyer New Member

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    The short answer is: "Because they are old and it is their time to go." And the question that pops into my mind is: "Why are you not talking to them before they go?"

    I'm kinda new here, and my intention is not to offend anyone this early in the game (there's plenty of time for that ;) ) nonetheless, I feel like I will risk it, and respond to this posting because I asked myself that same question in the late '70s about WW1 vets as their obits showed up more and more often in the paper. (Olden days...before internet.)

    Consider this: Even though it is true that WW2 vets are dying before you talk to them, the other side of that truth is that you have been choosing to not act before they pass. The ones who are left are not hanging about waiting for you/me/us to work up the gumption to talk to them, they are simply living out their allotted time. It is up to us to take the initiative if we want to hear their stories. They have valuable things to offer, and believe it or not we probably have something to give them in return. (Keep reading and you'll see what I mean.)

    Back then, I noticed after awhile that I was becoming annoyed at them for dying before I was ready/willing to seek them out. They could have been more considerate and hung around a bit longer until I got my courage up, dammit!

    Truth be told, I was reluctant to approach WW1 vets back then, and it was because I was afraid of imposing on them, thinking I might offend them, or it might bring back memories they didn't want stirred up, or I was only going to be taking from them, not giving anything in return; and since I was just a callous young pilot there would be nothing much about me that would appeal to them.

    It took awhile, but seeing how silly the framework of being annoyed with them actually was, when it was really just MY lack of action, it allowed me to open myself to the possibility of seeking some of them out. My only regret today is that I didn't connect with more of them sooner - they are all gone now. :salute:

    As it happened, at the time, I was involved with a local newspaper and was assigned to interview a couple of Sopwith Camel (ex-Royal Flying Corps) pilots. Even though remnants of the fears remained, I saw it as a decent excuse to knock on their doors. At least I had an "official" reason as a reporter, and if I was rejected, well... I was used to having folks not like reporters, so I wouldn't have to take it as a personal rejection.

    Afterward, it surprised me how much they were willing to share. They showed me pictures, log books, memorabilia, all kinds of fascinating stuff. It surprised me even more when, from their respective wives, I learned that they loved that someone like me (young and callous) was interested in what they had done, and was actually interested in hearing old men tell their stories. It seemed that (not that uncommon) family members, their children particularly, had little interest in hearing "dad's" stories, and for a young person (to them) to be interested enough to listen was a great treat for them.

    For me, I was so honored to be able to listen to them that it never occurred to me I might be giving them something in return.

    My dad is a WW2 and Korea vet. I grew up as an army brat around him and his comrades, pretty much all veterans, and I didn't pay much attention to them when I was younger. Now I go out of my way to listen and honor them. They are in their 80's and their obits are showing up pretty regularly these days. They do not last forever, as evidenced by this thread.

    If you don't want to be beating yourself up in 20 years (like I did) start talking to them now... they won't be waiting around too much longer for you to find the right time. No matter where you live there are veterans nearby.

    And with that, I not only salute the ones who have passed, but those who are still with us. :salute: :salute:

    Kerry
     
  16. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    aflyer .... nice post!
     
  17. Thunderbolt56

    Thunderbolt56 Member

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