August 23, 2010

The B-25 Heart

Our picnic on August 10th yielded a number of wonderful stories and experiences.  I invited my friend, Alan, that shares a love for aviation history to the picnic. Alan and I used to work at Thomson together.  He pulled this lovely trinket out of his pocket and proceeded to tell me the story behind it.  I asked him to write up the story in his own words.  Here's the photo I took - and Alan's story:

    Sometime in late 1943 a B-25 Mitchell bomber was severely shot up over Papua New Guinea.  The crew managed to get her back to the airstrip outside Buna but she never flew again. Towed to a spot alongside the runway she became a parts supply to keep the other B-25s flying.

     In early 1944 Theodore (Ted) Francoeur was at a field hospital next to the airstrip near Buna waiting to be evacuated back home. He had spent the year before with the 32nd Infantry Division, along with an Australian division, crossing the Owen Stanley Mountains on foot from Port Moresby to drive the Japanese out of Buna. That effort took the better part of a year and when it was over only 3,700 of the 15,000 men in the 32nd were left standing. Ted was at the field hospital recovering from starvation, malaria, dysentery, and a number of other jungle related ailments.

     To pass the time he did what many of the other men in the hospital did, they made little items to send back home to loved ones.  In Ted’s case he took a small piece of a window from that B-25. Using a pen knife to shape it and a piece of wool to polish it he fashioned a small heart. He sent that heart to his sweetheart Ilene Summers in Michigan. When he returned home in late 1944 they married.

     The picture you see here is that heart made from a tiny piece of that B-25 Mitchell. It’s a little bit of WWII history, a little bit of the B-25’s history, and a little bit of my parent’s history.    
                                           Alan Francoeur