JAMES GOODSON'S WARTIME RECOLLECTION
Each night after a mission, without fail, Mike performed a solemn rite. He would take out a large black-
-paged photograph album and painstakingly print in white ink, the events of the day. Whenever posssible the narrative was illustrated by photographs, which coverred every phase of his service life: the planeshe had flown, people he had known, and mission he had accomplished. Each time he had destroyed an enemy aircraft, either on the ground or in the air, he included a combat report, culminating in his fifth, when he wrote in letters;
‘To-day I am Ace!’
One night, he seemed to be taking longer than usual.
‘For God’s sake come to bed. We’ve got an early briefing tomorrow. You can do that any time!’
‘No,’ he said in his slow deep voice. ‘This is important.’
‘What the hell is important about it?’
‘My family and friends in Poland don't know where I am, or what I’m doing. It’s OK for you gays. Every time you shoot one down, or get promoted or decorated, it’s in your local newspaper. As far as my people know, I just ran away. That’s why this is important. I’ll show it to them after the war!’
‘I’m sure your family don’t think you goofed off!’
'No, but they don’t know I’m a captain in the leading fighter group in the US Air Force.’
Then. after a pause,
‘Besides, ther’s the girl I’m going to marry. I want her to see all this!’
‘If it’s that important to you, maybe you’d better give me her name and address, just in case.’
‘No,’ he said with conviction.
‘I know I’m going to survive this war. I know!’...
...It was in the dark morning hours of 6 June 1944 that Mike and I dressed for our part in the invasion. As I waited for Mike at the door, he put his precious album on my bed, and handed me a scrap of paper: It contained a name and an addres in Cracow, Poland. I looked at him. He shrugged his shoulders and smiled. It was the last time I saw him...
...I thougt of what Mike had once said to me when I talked of the succes of the Russian army. ‘Poland,’ he said, ‘has always been attaced by Russia to the east or Germany from the west. Both aggressions have been brutal and vicious, but we Poles know that, of the two, the eastern enemy is by far the worst.’ As I looked around at the confusion, misery and fear pervading post-war Poland, i understood. I felt it as I sat in the drab cafe in Cracow. The girl had been hard tontrace and harder still to persuade to come to a meeting. When she finally came into the cafe, she was ill at ease. She recognise me easily by my clothes, and came to my table. Her English was poor, so we spoke in German. Almost her only comment was:
‘Don’t speak german so loud.’
She may have been nervous, but she showed little emotion of and kind. I told her Mik’s story. I explained his desire for her to know about it, and went throught his album page by page. Before I had finished, I saw her lookin around. She obviously
wanted to leve. I closed the book, stood up and handed it to her. She shook her head. ‘Es ist alles vorbei! - It’s all over!’
‘Yeas, and we won!’
'No,’ she said.
‘You won your war, we lost ours!’...
James Goodson 'Tumult in the Clouds'