Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen


Guest Writer
Guest Opinion


‘Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

Those were the words of Lou Gehrig during his commemorative day of retirement at Yankee Stadium in 1939.

Lou was dying of ALS. He held the record for consecutive baseball games played until that was broken in 1995 by Cal Ripken Jr.

Having seen the movie “The Pride of the Yankees” many times, I have thought of those words through much of my life.

I share the thought and consider myself lucky to have been living during the time of the “Greatest Generation” in the greatest nation ever to exist on the face of the earth.

As a volunteer at the Pima Air & Space Museum, I am continuously reminded of the wonderful men and women who united to face the Axis powers during World War II.

At a time when we, as a nation, were not prepared to fight a war of any kind, much less a war on two fronts, these people mobilized a war effort like never before experienced in history.

The stories of sacrifice are endless. I am a docent in Hangars 3 and 4, which house WWII aircraft, such as the B-24 Liberator (more than 18,000 manufactured); the Mitchell B-25 (flown by Jimmy Doolittle and 15 other crews to bomb Japan five months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor); the C-47 “Gooney Bird” (one of the most reliable cargo and troop-carrying airplanes ever built and still in service around the world); the F4U-4 Corsair of “Pappy Boyington” fame; and the B-29 Superfortress responsible for bringing the war in the Pacific to an end.

In these hangars, I rub shoulders with some WWII veterans who share their war experiences with interested visitors to the museum. Further, I am amazed at the number of museum visitors with relatives who were crew members on many of these airplanes. They were fathers, brothers and uncles who served their nation with quiet aplomb. These people were patriots and great Americans.

In the span of 10 minutes, I met the daughter of a B-24 pilot whose father’s airplane was shot down over Romania and spent the remainder of the war in a prison camp; then a brother of a B-24 pilot who experienced the same plight. They are very proud of their kin. This is a regular occurrence.

I meet women who built the machinery of war. Others who had mothers, sisters and aunts doing the jobs needed to win the war. They were exemplified by “Rosy the Riveter.”

Aircraft were flown by the women who were ferry pilots, moving airplanes from manufacturing plants to Air Corps bases around the nation. The women of America kept the home fires burning and were the backbone of our nation in those difficult and challenging times.

These men and women valued their freedom so much that they were willing to make huge sacrifices to be sure their families would continue to enjoy their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As I chat with visitors to the museum, I find myself reminded that, prior to the beginning of WWII, the U.S. military had about 800 first-line combat aircraft and a like number of qualified pilots.

By the end of the war, the U.S. military had built more than 125,000 aircraft and trained more than 150,000 pilots.

More than 15 million men and women were inducted into the military services. Nearly 6,000 ships were built, and huge numbers of other equipment were manufactured.

In just over four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Doolittle raiders bombed Japan. U.S. citizens moved immediately to save our republic.

This happened because the citizens of the America united for a common cause. They were behind the war effort and, as such, the United States of America prevailed in winning the war.

Could this type of united effort happen again in America? I think not! Our citizenry is not of the same spirit as it was then. Our leadership in Congress is incapable of such decisive action.

These are not the times of great statesmen. They are guided by narcissism, subterfuge and dissimulation. In short, they are disingenuous. This fact is evidenced by the 14 percent approval rating of Congress by the American public.

And, the minority of detractors in this nation would make every effort to stand in the way of solidarity.

It is not likely that our grandchildren will experience true greatness of leadership. It is unlikely that theirs will be a great generation to match those of the WWII era.

I treasure having had the opportunity to be reared during a time when America was a great republic! I wish I could offer my grandchildren that same opportunity.

Don Severe is a full-time resident of Green Valley. He is a retired president and chief executive of an insurance marketing company and a retired U.S. Air Force pilot.

These people mobilized a war effort like never before experienced in history.

The stories of sacrifice are endless.

Our Digital Archive

This blog page archives the entire digital archive of the Tucson Citizen from 1993 to 2009. It was gleaned from a database that was not intended to be displayed as a public web archive. Therefore, some of the text in some stories displays a little oddly. Also, this database did not contain any links to photos, so though the archive contains numerous captions for photos, there are no links to any of those photos.

There are more than 230,000 articles in this archive.

In TucsonCitizen.com Morgue, Part 1, we have preserved the Tucson Citizen newspaper's web archive from 2006 to 2009. To view those stories (all of which are duplicated here) go to Morgue Part 1

Search site | Terms of service