Archive for the ‘Father-Son Relationship’ Category

INTERACTING WITH THE COMMUNITY OF MAREEBA

October 31st, 2016 by Ken & Phyl Bledsoe
This photos is possibly of Fay Cooper, Vernon's Aussie Friend

This photos is possibly of Fay Cooper, Vernon's Aussie Friend

The citizens of Mareeba did their best to plan relaxing activities for the men of the 19th BG. Most of these events centered around church socials and community dances. Vernon jokingly compared the dances to barn dances and seemed very proud that he and the other “Yanks” were the ones who taught the Australian women about rhythm and swing.

He became very good friends with Fay Cooper, a young widow from Atherton, a town near Mareeba.

They probably met at one of the community dances and remained friends throughout Vernon’s stay at Mareeba. Fay even wrote to Grandmother Elder, and a couple of her letters were found among Vernon’s letter collection.

This friendship with Fay always raised questions for me. Does Fay still have relatives that live in the area, and who might have known Vernon? Just how close did she and Vernon become?

Echoes From an Eagle: a book, a journey

March 8th, 2016 by Ken & Phyl Bledsoe

This US flag flew over my father's grave on Memorial Day 2007.

When I was four, my parents divorced; and I had limited contact with my father, Vernon O. Elder, a decorated WWII veteran from La Junta, CO. After his death in 1973, I found a shoebox full of letters written in 1942 to Grandmother Elder. There was also an old scrapbook of pictures and newspaper articles chronicling the exploits of the 19th Bomb Group, 30th Squadron, in the SW Pacific.

Through his letters, pictures, and articles, I began to piece together Vernon’s harrowing wartime experiences as a tail gunner on a B-17 and to understand how this traumatic year shaped the remainder of his life. He survived a crash off the coast of Australia, but lost his best friend, Houston Rice, a native of Ordway, CO. A month later, his other Colorado buddy, Lt. Paul Lindsey (a student at CSU before joining the Army Air Corps), also died in a tragic crash. The three had been drawn together by their ‘Colorado connection’ and flew many missions together, always watching each other’s back. Vernon was the only one of the three to come home, and he never recovered from their loss or the horrors of war.

After 10 years of painstaking research, Ken Elder Bledsoe Author, Echoes From an Eagle, Windsor Colorado book signing at the American Legion, I finally located where Vernon’s plane crashed and where his life changed forever. So I traveled 10,000 miles and dove down to discover the remains of his bomber lying off the coast of Australia. This adventure allowed me to honor the father I never really knew and to ‘walk in his steps.’

This blog will describe my journey of discovery and will include pictures and information about the 19th Bomb Group not included in the book, Echoes From an Eagle. I will also provide resources that may be helpful to those families still researching their WWII veteran’s stories. Most of the men are gone now; but if the families continue to document their stories, the contributions and sacrifices made by the brave men of the 19th BG will never be lost. Lest we forget!