Bourbon, Wine and a Toast
On Veterans Day, I toast my father. Second Lieutenant. Geroge T. Wark fought in World War II. He was born in 1919. He died in 1979 when I was 16 years old. Cancer. But, were he still alive at 99 years old and were we to be sitting together with his grandson Henry Geroge, his daughter in law Kathy and myself, he’d surely raise a glass with me. We in honor of him; he in honor of his comrades in arms.
As I’ve mentioned here before, as a bourbon drinker, it seems unlikely he would perform the toast with a glass of wine despite the profession his son entered. I don’t ever remember him ever lifting a glass of wine. Ever. But, he drank bourbon, high balls and manhattans daily.
At the toast it’s also unlikely he would have much to say about his time fighting in Europe. When he lived he said little. When I was young I remember he’d return from prison camp reunions and all I remember gleaning about his war days was listening to him tell my mother who was there at the reunion. I asked a few times what it was like, to fight in a war. I never got an answer. All he ever told me was that the prison camp was in Germany was cold in the winter and that he liked the chocolate that came from the red cross. I love chocolate.
What I did learn of my father’s time in World War II has come from documents he left behind. And those were few. He enlisted and wanted to be a army medic. Instead, he wound up in the Air Force. Lieutenant. Geroge T. Wark was a member of the 386th Fighter Squadron. He flew P-47s the entire war. He was taught to fly stateside, then he was sent over to England where most of the action he saw was escorting bombers, strafing ships and supporting troops and killing the enemy during the D-Day invasion.
I knew he spent a year in a German prison camp. But all I knew about that was the winter temperature and the chocolate. And all I knew about how he got there was that he crash landed in France on June 7, 1944 and was captured. Then I came across a book: “Hell Hawks: The Untold Story of the American Fliers Who Savaged Hitler’s Wehrmacht”. That book has the following passage:
On June 7 Near St. Lo the Jugs caught and wrecked more than a dozen trucks and three trains…2nd Lieutenant John B Fitzsimmons rolled in on a group of German soldiers pinning down a platoon of American soldiers. He dropped so low during his strafing run that he blasted his thunderbolt straight through a crown of some trees. Both his propeller and leading edge of his wings were damaged badly and he limped back to Beaulieu.
Fitzsimmons’ near fatal tree trimming didn’t deter low flying 2nd Lieutenant Geroge T. Wark, who burst through another line of trees near Isigny. Wark was unhurt but his P-47 was so badly crippled that he bellied in a mile west of the town almost on top of the troops he’d been strafing…Wark scrambled to cover in a neighboring woodlot. The Germans quickly scooped up Lieutenant Wark, who remained a prisoner of war until the fighting ended in May 1945.
All this would have been something for us to raise a glass of wine and bourbon. He never told me this part. What I know however is that after being liberated from his prison camp and returning to the United States he was offered a plum job flying for Pan Am. He turned it down. He didn’t want to ever return to the pilot seat of an airplane again.