The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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Recorded at an SBYF workshop in Allentown, PA.  Nate told me how, after failing his initial Air Force eye test, he sneaked back in the facility at night, memorized the chart, re-took the test, aced it, and went on to fly over 60 combat missions in World War II.

In 2009, he was awarded the French Legion Medal of Honor.

It begins in a sterile white medical examination room.   I'm 17 years old.  The nurse hands me a thing that looks like a popsicle stick with an eye patch glued on top of it.  "Cover your right eye," she says.  "Read from the top down."

I recite the first four columns easily...but then it's all blurry.

Months later, I'll be part of what the Air Force medical staff will believe to be a minor miracle.  To everyone's surprise but my own, I'll walk into the same examination room and take the same test...and ace it.  Not long after, I'll see a tide of Allied soldiers smashing the shores of Normandy...from high above in a B-26 called "Luckey Lady."  We'll drop eight 500 lb. bombs on a German railyard...then the hard part...we'll have to get out.  I'll be all the way in the front of the plane (I'm the "bombadier navigator"), charting our course with a map of France between my legs.  We'll be taking fire...and then woosh!, some flak, like a meteor flying up instead of down, will burst up through the nose of the plane, straight up between my  legs.  Funny enough, I won't be scared...I won't have time to be scared...none of us will...I'll be mad that the darn thing shredded my map!

But that's all in the future.  Right now, I've just failed the first eye test, and I'm gutted.  Heartbroken.   What the hell am I gonna do if I can't fly?

 

The Blur of War

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Recorded at an SBYF workshop in Allentown, PA. Nate told me how, after failing his initial Air Force eye test, he sneaked back in the facility at night, memorized the chart, re-took the test, aced it, and went on to fly over 60 combat missions in World War II.

In 2009, he was awarded the French Legion Medal of Honor.

Decade: 1940s
Rating: 1
Recorded by Matthew Ross Smith on September 29, 2015
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