My paternal grandfather, Clifford William Roelle Jr, served as a gunner on planes in the South Pacific during World War II. I wish I had heard more of his stories, but he wasn’t a big storyteller that I remember. When I was old enough to ask he would sometimes struggle with words – a lingering effect of an early stroke – and didn’t often talk at length.
I do remember one story, however. He was flying a mission one day, looking out the window, much like in this picture of his – when the wing of the plane disappeared. It took a moment to react, but only a moment, and he quickly prepared to go down. They crashed into the sea below. Soon, an American ship appeared over the horizon to pick them up and rescue them. They were happy and grateful to be pulled from the drink. And in the nick of time, too, because a Japanese ship, perhaps even one that had some responsibility in their crash, was just over the other horizon, ready to grab some prisoners of war.
Update: Just found a note: Papa Roelle was a Staff Sergeant in the 65th Bomber Squadron. I have a list of what I think are campaigns or battles: Bismarck, Archipelago, Burma, China, Luzo, New Guinea, and S Phillipines.