Friday, August 23, 2013

Writer's Block, the Civil War and WWII Baseball

Wow!  I never realized how difficult it can be finding something worthwhile to write about without a specific narrative available to guide me.  With the resumption of "the letters" being a full 8 months away and my pathetic attempt at keeping this blog alive until then, I am finding it increasingly difficult to find pertinent and unique items to write about.

I guess I could write about the same old, same old, that has been written about by countless writers and Civil War enthusiasts, but most all of those musings are better written, better researched, and more heartfelt, so what's the point?  With the 48th PVI having spent the better part of early 1863 bivouacked in Kentucky on provost duty with little action except for the occasional parade or bar fight, I have little to pontificate about other than that which is written in various accounts already published.  So....what to do....well....I think I'll write about World War II baseball....

What!?  What does that have to do with "the letters" or the Civil War at all?  Well...really nothing...but here's the logic I used....

American soldiers during the Second World War would frequently play the national pastime during down times in the war...between battles, air sorties, etc...  It didn't matter if they were stationed in the European theater or the Pacific theater...American boys loved their baseball.   Likewise, during the Civil War, americans boys had begun their love affair with the game that was relatively new on the  sports scene.  It was an easy game to set up and play, especially in the early days of baseball when there were no gloves or other equipment.  All you needed was a ball, a sturdy stick or bat, a few sacks or pieces of rock or wood to use for bases and a bunch of guys willing to play.  So, throughout american conflict history, our soldiers have loved playing the national sport...providing stress relief from the battlefield.

World War II Airfields in Lincolnshire, England
So, my story starts in England in 1998 when I was assigned to work a program for my company.  My family came with me and we lived in southern England for 3 years.  During that time, my wife made many friends and essentially we all all became part of the local, dining, school life, etc...blending in with our English friends.  In our small village of Stubbington, my wife's regular hairdresser, Kim, loved to talk about her family and particularly her father, who loved Americans based on his interaction with them during World War II.  Her father was a teenage boy who lived in Lincolnshire, a county north of London.  The boy lived in a village close to one of the airfields used by the USAA 8th Air Force, and spent a lot of his time "hanging out" with the GIs.   Kim was kind enough to share her family stories and one of them caught my attention.  I thought it was absolutely touching and something that would wonderful to convey to others.  Fortunately...we have the internet...and it is a effective way to get information out into the public domain.

The story goes like this (from a letter written by Kim to my wife Laura)....

Dear Laura,

At long last, one baseball bat!!!

The story of it is this: -

In 1944 on a Lincolnshire airfield a squadron of American bomber pilots arrived.  They had their baseball, and the English pilots had their cricket.  One day the Americans decided it would fun to make the cricket bat disappear.  The English retaliated likewise, and the Americans baseball bat disappeared as well.
    The local village wainwright's assistant, who was only a young lad, thought the Americans were wonderful.  So he made them a baseball bat.  When the Americans finally when home, they gave the bat back to the young lad who made it.  It's a nice little story.......

The young lad was her father.  Her father always cherished the bat and the memories that it brought back to him of a time when life was uncertain...and a bunch of American pilots entered his world.  he always had an affection for America after the war and his trophy bat reminded him of an exciting earlier time in his life.

The Bat!

After her father died, Kim wanted the bat to go back to America, and asked if Laura would be willing to accept it.  Of course she said yes.  Now...I need to find a rightful home for the bat and will be working soon to contact the various groups that represent the WWII American pilots who were stationed in England.  Stay tuned for that progress....

Jim D.

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