Join us at the National D-Day Memorial on Saturday, September 21 at 11 am for "Never Forget," a powerful and moving ceremony to honor those American who served our county and are still missing. Air Force disc jockey Adrian Cronauer, who while on the air at Armed Forces Radio Saigon woke American troops in Vietnam each morning with the shout of "Goooooooood Morning, Viet Nam!," will be our guest speaker. Cronauer was portrayed twenty years later by Robin Williams in the major motion picture, "Good Morning, Vietnam!" Meanwhile, the real Adrian Cronauer was honorably discharged and continued as a broadcaster in Southwest Virginia for about a dozen years. He later moved to New York, become a lawyer, practiced communications law for a dozen years, and then, was appointed by President George W. Bush as Special Assistant to the Director of the Pentagon's POW/MIA Office. His speech "Accounting for America's Heroes" will highlight POW/MIA issues. There will be a wreath laying during the ceremony. Admission is free until noon. For more information, call (540) 586-3329 or visit our website at www.dday.org. This event is generously sponsored by Harley Davidson of Lynchburg.
We hope to see you at the Memorial on Saturday for POW/MIA Awareness Day. Below is a POW story from WWII. I apologize for the length of this post; however, this in an incredible story. I now present to you Clair Cline's remembrances from his time as a POW in Stalag Luft I as he wrote for the Guidepost Magazine in January 1997.
The Prison Camp Violin by Clair Cline*
|Clair Cline and his violin|
The camp was a dismal place. We lived in rough wooden barracks, sleeping on bunks with straw-filled burlap sacks on wooden slats. Rations were meager; if it hadn't been for the Red Cross care packages, we would have starved. But the worst affliction was our uncertainty. Not knowing when the war would end or what would happen (we had heard rumors of prisoners being killed) left us with a constant gnawing worry. And since the Geneva Convention ruled that officers were not allowed to be used for labor, we had little to keep us occupied. What resulted was a wearying combination of apprehension and boredom. Men coped in various ways: Some played bridge all day, others dug escape tunnels (to no avail), some read tattered paperbacks. I wrote letters to my wife and carved models of B-24s.
The long dreary months dragged on. One day early in the fall of 1944, I found myself unable to stand airplane carving any longer. I tossed aside a half-finished model, looked out a barracks window at a leaden sky and prayed in desperation, "Oh, Lord, please help me find something constructive to do."
There seemed to be no answer as I slumped amid the dull slap of playing cards and the mutter of conversation. Then someone started whistling "Red Wing" and my heart lifted. Once again I was seven years old in rural Minnesota listening to a fiddler sweep out the old melody. As a child I loved the violin and when a grizzled uncle handed his to me I couldn't believe it. "It's yours, Red," he said, smiling. "I never could play the thing, but maybe you can make music with it." There were no music teachers around our parts, but some of the old-timers who played at local dances in homes and barns patiently gave me tips. Soon I accompanied them while heavy-booted farmers and their long-gowned wives whirled and stomped to schottisches and polkas.
I thought how wonderful it would be to hold a violin again. But finding one in this place would be impossible. Just then I glanced at my cast-aside model, and a thought came to me: I can make one! Why not? I had done a little woodworking before I was in the service. But with what? And how? Where could I find the wood? The tools? I shook my head. I was about to forget the whole preposterous idea when something caught me. You can do it. The words hung there, almost as if Someone had challenged me. I grew up on a farm during the Depression, and had learned about resourcefulness. I remembered my father doggedly repairing hopelessly broken farm equipment. "You can make something out of nothing, Son," he said, looking up from the frayed harness he was riveting. "All you've got to do is find a way...and there always is one."
|Barracks at Stalag Luft I|
Weeks went by in a flash. I shaped the curved sides of the body by bending water-soaked thin wood and heating it over the stove. My humdrum existence became exciting. I woke up every morning and could hardly wait to get back to work. When I needed tools, I improvised, even grinding an old kitchen knife on a rock to form a chisel. Slowly the instrument took shape. I glued several bed slats together to form the instrument's neck. In three months the body was finished, including the delicate f-shaped holes on the violin's front. After carefully sanding the wood, I varnished the instrument (that cost me more cigarettes) and polished it with pumice and paraffin oil until it shone with a golden glow.
A guard came up with some catgut for the strings, and one day I was astonished to be handed a real violin bow. American cigarettes were valuable currency, and I was glad I hadn't smoked mine.
Finally there came the day I lifted the finished instrument to my chin. Would it really play? Or would it be a croaking catastrophe? I drew the bow across the strings and my heart leaped as a pure resonant sound echoed through the air. My fellow prisoners banished me to the latrine until I had regained my old skills. But from then on they clapped, sang, and even danced as I played "Red Wing," "Home on the Range" and "Red River Valley."
|The violin Cline carved as a POW|
|Cline with his violin|
*Story from http://www.merkki.com/violin.htm. Clair Cline passed away in September 2010 at the age of 92. Most recently the violin has been on display at the National WWII Museum as part of an exhibit on POWs in WWII.