Lloyd Bentsen’s letter to dad

I thought this letter was pretty touching and thought I would share.  It make me want to write more letters, not emails or type-written letters, but actual hand written letters.

The following letter was circulated among mourners attending the memorial service for Lloyd Bentsen, the former U.S. senator laid to rest Monday.  Bentsen wrote this letter to his father during his service as a World War II bomber pilot.  It is dated August 13, 1944.  He was 23 years old.

Dear Dad-

Today, Sunday, August the thirteenth, I attended church services 20,000 feet about the blue Mediterranean.  We were tuned in to the Overseas Broadcasting Services during their morning ceremony.  I visited St. Peters in The Eternal City and thought it the most magnificent church I had ever seen, but this morning St. Peters became just another work of man in comparison to our place of worship.  Even Michelangelo would have bowed to the beauty that was ours.  A deep blue sky arched above us, the sun slipping through the clouds below us covering the earth with ever changing shadow mosaics.  A line of towering cumulus clouds ahead to remind us of the white robed choir in the church at home.  Our pew was in the first row, a B-24.  The congregation – ten silent, thoughtful men one a mission to bomb targets in Occupied France.

 

The minister finished his sermon and then over The ether waves we heard “onward Christian Soldiers,” never could a song have been more appropriate or more closely listened to.  Every word was weighted, searching for that assurance that what we were about to do was just and that we are on God’ side.  The pastor then gave a prayer for the success of the Allied cause.  I am certain the others must have silently joined in the prayer and then added with me a request for Christ’s blessing.  By then we had to change to other frequencies as we were nearing enemy territory.

 

Thoughts on this combat mission well, I suppose mine are the usual ones – my wife, Mom and Dad, our baby in October, the kids, home.  Then the target draws nearer and thoughts of survival seem to blanket our all others.  that bail out procedure, r.p.m. and manifold pressure OK< then a voice over the interphone, "waist gunner to bombardier, fighters at 3 o'clock high."  You tighten the formation until the wings interlace.  A few seconds later, "Those beautiful P-51s."   Approaching the bomb run, our flak suits and helmets receive a last minute check.  Here it comes - you pull your neck down into the flak suit until you resemble a turtle who has just retired into his shell.  Hands a bit moist, although it's 15 degrees below outside, buttocks tight, and now flak, nothing to do but sweat it out.  Will that bombardier ever say bombs away so we can get the hell out of this place?   "Bombs away," now its heel over and make a run for it.  The interphone barks, "B-24 just exploded over target, 5 o'clock, low" just that, nothing more.  A hasty check of the formation, no, not one of our group.   Finally out of their fighter range, let's lose some altitude and get these oxygen masks off.  Believe we can slip between those clouds and he mountains.  Let's have some music on that radio, tilt the seats back, how about some hot coffee?  The fellows begin to loosen up and joke over the interphone, another milk run.  A BBC announcer cuts in , "Today Allied aircraft attacked targets in Southern France, twenty-eight planes are missing from the day's operation."  You wonder at  the speed of news dissemination.   There's the field, I got by another mission.   There it is, a few tense jam packed minutes, then to the other extreme.  No glamour, no heroics, just a job.   Dad, I haven't told Beryl Ann and Mom about my flying combat because with Don and me both in it, I'm afraid it would be too much.  Beryl Ann has too much to worry about now with the baby expected in October.  Just in case anything should ever happen to me, I want you to know how things stood and make them understand.  Dad, nothing will happen, it just couldn't' to a fellow who has the finest family in the world waiting for him.  This morning, another day nearer to my return home.   Your eldest, B.

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