Veterans share memories
Harry VandeLinder remembers watching hundreds of airplanes fall from the sky during one of the largest air battles in World War II.
He watched it from the B-17 he was flying with during the battle over Merseburg, Germany, in 1944.
VandeLinder did more than just pilot the aircraft. He managed to capture the battle in color photographs from the B-17.
Now almost 60 years later, VandeLinder will show his photographs to the public for the first time Thursday at a World War II Evening Of Memories — Operation Lasting Impression in Coleville.
VandeLinder, who was a second lieutenant in the Eighth Air Force of the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, will also share memories of the war along with other veterans and family members.
VandeLinder joined the Army when he turned 17 years old and when he was 18 he was stationed in England to fight the war.
“It was the first time I had ever really been away from home,” he said. “I have four boys and at that age I wouldn’t even let them use the car alone.”
VandeLinder will talk about the 35 missions he completed during the war. He remembers the terror of what it was like to dodge bullets while flying a bomber plane over Germany.
“It was a perfect random sampling,” VandeLinder said. “It didn’t matter how good you were or how bad you were. Where you were in the sky is what would either save your life or not. It was just plain old luck.”
Thursday evening will be the first of what organizer Teressa Tucker-VandeLinder said she hopes will be many more evenings of war memories.
She said her ultimate goal is to create a book, with up to 800 stories from World War II, and an interactive, digital exhibit with audio recordings and pictures of veterans, which she would like to have on display at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“It’s not just a tribute, it’s a living history project,” Tucker-VandeLinder said. “It’s not to relive the gore and the horrible things, but to remember and get an understanding of who we are today because of them.”
The evening will feature at least two main guest speakers, including Harry VandeLinder, her father-in-law, and several other people who would like to share stories about World War II. Tucker-VandeLinder said the evening will run like an open-mic night, and anyone who wants to share memories can just show up and be prepared to speak. There will also be display tables with World War II mementos for people to view.
IF YOU GO:
What: World War II Evening of Memories — Operation Lasting Impression
Where: Antelope Valley Methodist Church, Highway 395 in Coleville
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Information: Call Teressa Tucker-VandeLinder at (530) 495-1897 or (530) 495-1194.