My husband’s grandfather, Lamar Partée was a tail gunner in WWII.
At the outset, Lamar was told that once he had completed a certain amount of missions, he could go home. So he signed himself up for mission after mission, going out again and again, trying to reach that number as quickly as possible. When he reached the quota, they told him that he had completed them too quickly and that he still owed them more time. So he went out on yet more missions. He never went down.
My husband’s mother recently showed us the small diary that Lamar had kept during the war. A few early entries were about him being scared, and not wanting to do it. Later, how rough the fighting was getting, the heavy amount of action, and that he was ready to go home. There were notes about dates and locations and the people who had died that day.
In the pages, there were photos; photos of young men’s faces with a name or initials on the back that read “went down over ____” or simply “died, 5/43” or a picture of plane that flipped to read “Jimmy’s plane, went down over ____ died 1943…” And just like that, their young lives disappeared. I can catch a glimpse of those lives and more intimately feel the weight of their sacrifice only because Lamar Partée took a moment to remember them.
In 1944, Lamar Partée was awarded the purple heart for his service. On his way back home to Georgia he accidentally left it at the airport. He didn’t go back for it.
Lamar Partée; on reverse: This is me cleaning the guns