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On Memorial Day

 

Jimmy Cochran
Columnist

  In my Dad’s memoirs, he described growing up during the late 1920’s when “days were bad, really bad. Daddy and a lot of people had lost their jobs, so we moved to the country to farm. Times were really tough, but we made it and learned a lot about living off the land. I learned how to hunt and fish from Mama’s brother, Charles. We set a lot of rabbit boxes that we checked every day. The rabbits were to sell and some to eat. During this time, the Government started a program for getting people to work. They were building a road in front of our house and my Mama would make a little money by making lunches for the workers. It sure helped us out.”

  After high school, my dad began to work in Hampton at the Henderson Foundry and Machine Shop which later became the Southern States Equipment Company. It was there, on December 7, 1941 that he heard of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He was eighteen years old and, in his words, “when I heard that horrible news, I knew my future had changed.”

  My dad, Bo Cochran, was sworn into the Army Air Force on January 21, 1943 at Fort McPherson.

  At this same time, across the Atlantic Ocean, in the small English village of Halesworth, a young boy named Paddy Cox was in primary school. Living in northeast England, Paddy had not known what it was like to live in a world without war, to live in fear of German invasion. The War in Europe had begun in 1939 and was spreading rapidly toward Western Europe and Great Britain. An airfield was already being built in Halesworth for the defense of England and this had captured the attention of all the young boys in town. They spent most days after school and weekends watching the activity and knew that this field would help protect their homes from invasion.

   On D-Day, June 6, 1944, my dad was in Stone, England waiting for his final assignment to an Air Force base in England. He was a member of the 8th Air Force, 2nd Air Division, 489th Bomber Group and the 845th Squadron. He was assigned to the airfield at Halesworth and on July 6, 1944 his crew began flying bombing raids over Germany and France as the war spread closer and closer to the English Channel, and Great Britain. He remembers as the planes would take off and land that there was often a group of boys hanging on the fences around the field watching the airmen’s every move, counting the planes that took off….and the planes that returned. Paddy Cox was one of those boys.

  In June of 1984, my mom and dad returned to Halesworth to revisit the airfield, long abandoned, and the village where he spent time during the war. Travelling by themselves, they were hosted by a group of Brits called “Friends of the 489th.” Their leader, Paddy Cox, took them around the village, to the airfield (now a turkey farm) and some of the abandoned buildings still there. The emotions ran high as my Dad recalled those days, but especially when Paddy thanked my Dad and the airmen who were there for saving their country. In Paddy’s words, “it was you airmen that saved us from our fall to a German invasion.” My dad responded with tears, “I didn’t even know that anyone knew we were here. We were just doing our jobs and never thought about anyone viewing it as a significant event.”

  After their return home, Paddy sent an email with the following quote from Winston Churchill that he has always remembered, “Our two countries, parted long ago by war, were brought together again by war. In a unity and understanding such as we have never known. Through long years of endeavor and endurance we shared all things and, though we lost so much, we found a lasting friendship. We shall never forget those gallant American airmen who fought with us. To those who did not return, the best memorial is the fellowship of our two countries, which by their valour they created and by their sacrifice they have preserved.”

  Paddy continued, “Thankfully, we still as countries nail our colours to the cause of freedom.”

  Our family is still in touch with Paddy Cox and talk of Halesworth and the surrounding area very fondly. I hope someday to visit there myself, to meet Paddy Cox and see the place where the fight for freedom was fought on a most personal level.

  On this Memorial Day, I thank all those men and women who have sacrificed their lives in the fight for our country and her freedom. I also am mindful of their families who endured the loss here at home. May we be proud of their courage and may God Bless America. And England.

 

 

 

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