Sunday, December 22, 2013

THE SPIRIT OF SHACKAMAXON

It was with great sadness when I learned in December 2013 of the passing of one of my dad's dearest friends, Bob Martin of Roanoke, Virginia. Bob and my dad met when they were cadets in training in North Carolina to fly on a B-24 during WW 2.
They continued their training in Omaha, Nebraska and then were sent to Tucson, Arizona where they met the rest of the 10-member crew to train together and get ready to assemble and fly overseas on their B-24, called the Shacksmaxon.



Bob was the last living member of that daring 10-member crew.
I once asked my dad about the name of their plane and he told me he was the one who came up with it.
For those of you unfamiliar with the name Shackamaxon here's a brief history on it's origin.
Shackamaxon or Shakamaxon was a historic village along the Delaware River inhabited by Delaware (Lenape)Indians in North America. It was located within what are now the borders of the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From the Lenape term Sakimauchheen Ing (pronounced Sak-i-mauch-heen Ing) which means “to make a chief or king place”; called “Shackamaxon” by the English, Dutch, and Swedes. It's where the Lenapi "crowned" their many family sakima (chief) or their three clan kitakima (big or clan chief) of the Lenape Nation. It is modern Frankford-Kensington, Philadelphia, and there is a monument marking its relative location.

In 1682 William Penn reportedly signed a peace treaty with the leaders of the Delaware village under an ancient elm tree.

In the 19th century, the territory of Shackamaxon was developed as part of Port Richmond, Fishtown, and Kensington sections of Philadelphia. Today there is a Shackamaxon Street in Philadelphia which runs through those neighborhoods. My dad grew up in South Philadelphia and had many friends that lived in those parts of Philadelphia. No doubt that name stuck in his memory and meant something special to my dad. As they flew a B-24 also known as the Liberator, the name Shackamaxon perhaps represented to the men who flew her that their plane would indeed help to liberate the people in Europe and establish or make a new "Chief's" place to replace the Nazi regime.

Tucson, Arizona was a very hot place to train as my dad would recall many years later. One of his favorite stories was that all the soldiers had to remember to shake out their boots in the morning in case scorpions had crawled into them during the night! (it seemed they liked the cool damp interior of army boots!)
                

Later in the summer of 1943 my dad, Bob along with the rest of the crew of the Shackamaxon flew to Europe and settled in a tent camp in a olive grove outside of Foggia, Italy where their air base was set up.(ironically the village of my dad's father's birth in 1894 and who came to the U.S. at the age of 4).


These young men answered the call to duty for their country as so many of their "Depression age" generation did.
What must have gone through their minds as they sailed far away to face a enemy bent on conquering the world by forcing an ideology of domination through tremendous terror, the destruction of entire villages, towns, cities and countries and the whole-sale murder of countless millions who stood in their way? What courage these young men, in their early twenties, had to leave their families, friends, jobs and in the case of my dad and Bob-their fiancee's- and knowing they may never see them again.

They were members of the 451st, 15th Air Force Bombardment Group that flew over Europe on bombing missions to destroy roads, bridges, train depots and oil fields to deprive the Nazi army and their allies of supplies. 

                               


On one of their 22 missions, on April 1945, with their landing gear shot out from underneath them, they were forced to crash land in Yugoslavia. 

Luckily, none of the 10 member crew suffered serious injuries and were rescued by Tito's underground army (who were allies of the west), kept safe until they were picked up by a rescue plane and returned to their air base.

Years later their pilot, Gates Christensen, told us at a 30 year reunion of the 451st,  that he never had a doubt that they would survive that day. He gave the crew a choice to either parachute out over enemy territory or stay with the plane. The crew unanimously voted to stay with the plane praying and trusting in his skill to land the plane safely. He said he did not feel alone in the cockpit but that something of divine nature was with him at the controls. Miracle? If they all died that day I wouldn't be here-so I'll go with that explanation.

            

But unfortunately the mighty B-24 Shackamaxon was left behind,another victim of Hitler's War but had survived intact to protect it's crew.

It wasn't long after that victory was declared in Europe on June 5th 1945 and soon after my dad and Bob with their mission accomplished, returned home to civilian life, married their sweethearts, ran successful business, raised families and each celebrated over 65 years of marriage before they passed away. These men lived lives of integrity, honesty and devotion to duty and we their descendants are so proud of them. No wonder they are called the greatest generation!


So on this Veterans Day and all other holidays honoring our service men and women, may we all remember those who cannot be with us especially those who have served our country and will never be coming home. Their spirits remain in our hearts and memories for all that they represented that was good in our lives and our country. May they all rest in peace in our Savior's loving embrace for all eternity.

To Shackamaxon and her crew who have flown into the history books I say, "Mission Accomplished! All of your crew has come home!"



UPDATE: Thank you to all the loyal readers who have made this blog one of then most read with over 1400 views!  If you like my writing then you may enjoy my book Estate of Horror a true story of my ghostly encounters: www.estateofhorror.com and my upcoming sequel Dark Transference coming out in September 2016!  You can visit my Facebook page for more information. www.facebook.com/darktransference
God Bless!

2 comments :

  1. I loved reading this and seeing the photos, so thank you for sharing. My father in-law, Irving 'Izzy' Daum, was also a radio operator on a B-24 during WWII, what a coincidence!

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  2. Thank you for sharing that. We were so lucky to have such brave men in our lives!

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