Through an astonishing series of circumstances, I will be joining Pat and Cherie on their second trip to Yap. I am utterly ecstatic and blessed to have this opportunity. Here's how it happened:
1) My father, Sgt. William E. Crowley, was killed while on a bombing mission near Yap on 15 July 1944. His plane (Diederich Crew, # 42-73119) collided with another B-24 in another formation (Sylor Crew, # 44-40555). I was ten months old. http://www.missingaircrew.com/307/diederichcrew.asp
2) In late 2001 when I was 58 years old, I learned about (and quickly joined) American WWII War Orphans Network (www.awon.org), which prompted my research about this man I had never known. One of the first things I learned was that he was memorialized on the Wall of the Missing in Manila. I was directed to the American Battle Monuments Commission site (http://www.abmc.gov/search/wwii.php ), filled in the information for a search, and there appeared his name across my monitor! He was real to me for the first time. With the little bit I was learning about him, I wrote a tribute to him on the AWON website. http://www.awon.org/awcrow.html
3) In early 2002 I someone suggested I post on the former HeavyBombers forum (now www.armyairforces.com). I heard from some of men of the 307th Bombardment Group, and some had actually witnessed the collision. One man, Tom Wiley, wrote that his brother Dean (Kizer Crew) had crashed on the same date, on the same mission, but was one of five who survived that crash. Tom and I continued to correspond and have become close friends. In the ensuing years, I have emailed, phoned and even visited some of those other men who wrote early on from the HeavyBomber forum.
4) In November of 2002, through AWON, I learned my father was entitled to a headstone or marker, and I arranged with the VA for a granite marker to be placed at Ft. Rosecrans Nat'l Cemetery here in San Diego. His marker faces the Pacific Ocean where he anonymously rests, and that is where I visit with him. http://www.awon.org/crowley/
For the next few years, I explored ways to learn more about my father. I received his IDPF and medals. I created a timeline to help me put some pieces together, but I basically learned very little more about him. So I closed the box of documents and photos and memorabilia and enjoyed the interaction and fellowship with other war orphans through my AWON affiliation.
5) In March 2005, Tom Wiley directed me to Pat Ranfranz's Missing Air Crew site. He said there was information posted about my father. I looked at the information about my dad's crash and gave the site only a cursory scan, but probably because I was distracted by my upcoming St. Patrick's Day wedding.
6) Tom reminded me again at the beginning of 2006. By now I had learned that the 307th Bombardment Group was having their reunion in Seattle in August. I noted that Pat Ranfranz was a presenter! I was on my way to San Antonio for an AWON conference, but I wrote Pat to introduce myself and say I'd like to meet him at the reunion. Off I went to San Antonio for the Memorial Day weekend.
7) By coincidence, while in San Antonio, my husband and I visited a woman whose husband was killed on a mission over Yap 10 August 1944. He was the pilot of plane # 44-40571 (Anthony Crew). When we arrived, she hurried us into her office to show us an email she had just received from her son. He was telling her that the Anthony plane had almost certainly been located, and the man who had located it was going to Yap in September in search of his own uncle's plane (Coleman Crew). Not sure why I should have been surprised that the man was Pat.
8) I wrote Pat immediately upon our return from San Antonio. In two quickly exchanged emails, he invited me to join him and his wife on the trip he was making in September. Imagine me going to Yap Island in three months!
I have been somewhat wishful I could be like many of the others of my war orphan brothers and sisters who can go to cemeteries to visit their fathers. My father was somewhere in the Pacific -- way out of my reach. But now, by a miracle of miracles, I was going to my father's "cemetery," and Pat was telling me we would hold a memorial service for him over the approximate site of the crash! (He had done the same thing last year for his uncle, T/Sgt John R. McCullough.) To be able to honor my father in that way is beyond my wildest dreams.
My cousin Kathy (my father's niece) is also coming. Her mother and my dad were exceptionally close siblings. We will be both able to thank him for his sacrifice and to say goodbye to the Crowley family's war hero.
Do you suppose this amazing sequence is really a trail of breadcrumbs my father's been leaving for me right from the start?
Sharon Crowley Connor Proud daughter of SGT William E. Crowley
Posts: 13 | From: San Diego | Registered: Jun 2006
| Logged: 184.108.40.206
You are THERE! We are all so happy for you. Having just read your message, my eyes are too teary to write much now. Hope the weather is kind to you, too! Love, Dianna
Posts: 1 | From: Santa Barbara, CA | Registered: Sep 2006
| Logged: 220.127.116.11
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