In an earlier post I made reference to my grandfather's role in the Dutch Underground during World War II, including how he helped rescue shot down Allied pilots to get them back beyond enemy lines. This was very important to the Allied war effort at the time, because although shot down planes could easily be replaced it was the skilled pilots and crew who were not so easy to come by.
Anyhow, that previous blog post ended up triggering an Internet search which, in turn, put me in touch with a fellow named John Casall who lives in Texas. It turns out that Casall is the relative of a man named Col. David Gaston Alford, who during WW2 was an American pilot who ended up successfully crash landing his plane in a field near my grandfather's village of Groenlo.
I spoke to my father about this, and he said that as a boy he remembers seeing maybe 30 or 40 plane wrecks in and around his village but there was only one intact plane that had managed to make a crash belly landing in a field. This was quite likely Col. Alford's plane.
Wow, what a small world, eh?
Without the Internet how would we ever share and discover this kind of information?
Below I have cut and pasted a copy of the invitation to celebrate the life of Col. David Gaston Alford.
A Loving Tribute to Col. David Gaston Alford.
Distinguished Flying Cross recipient and a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, Colonel David Gaston Alford (USAF Ret.) died on Monday, May 20, 2002 of complications related to his recent struggle with bone cancer at the Health Care Center at Air Force Village II, where he had
resided for the past 13 years. He was born in Rising Star, TX on May 29, 1917, attending Daniel Baker College in Brownwood, TX where he earned a B.S. in education, and East Texas State College in Commerce, TX where he received an M.B.A. in accounting. He became an Army Corps Flying Cadet in 1939 and graduated from flying school as part of Class 40E at Kelly AFB in August 1940. Col. Alford began his military flying career as part of an Atlantic patrol to search for German vessels. Col. Alford is best known for his heroism while serving as Group Operations Officer for the 91st
Bomb Group when his plane was shot down while leading a raid on Frankfurt, Germany in February, 1944. While under heavy flak attack, his B-17 bomber caught fire, and, after bailing out, his crew discovered that his parachute was on the floor of the plane; however, he managed to safely land it in a cow pasture near Groenlo, Holland. Thanks to the kindness of Dutch families whom he has never forgot, and with the help of the Dutch Underground, he was hidden by patriots who risked their lives to hide and feed him for more than seven months. With their help he evaded the enemy, traveling, as he frequently recalled with much delight, as a deaf and dumb typewriter repairman and was picked up south of Liege, Belgium by the U.S.
Army as they overran the area in battle in October 1944. On returning to the States, he was part of a B-17 training organization in Tampa, FL, which was followed by duty as an Air Force liaison officer to the Army at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, TX. Col. Alford returned to action with the outbreak of the Korean War where he flew 35 missions in a B-29 bomber. One of Col. Alford's fondest military memories was his 3-year tour in Greece as Base Commander with his family. It was in Greece where he became active in the Masonic Lodge, rising to a 32nd degree Mason and Shriner. Col. Alford's final base command was at Sheppard AFB, Wichita Falls, TX where he retired from military service in December, 1965. For almost 14 more years, he worked in the public sector with the Wichita Falls city government and finally with the area planning commission. His final retirement brought adequate time to devote to his passion for golf and his fondness for traveling with his beloved wife, Dorothy. His last 13 years he lived at Air Force Village II in San Antonio, TX with his wife Though his health took a turn for the worse just several weeks prior to his death, his memory was still sharp, said his family, and he could recount a story with remarkable detail. In spite of his illness, Col. Alford managed to keep his sense of humor as he smiled, laughed, and he recounted his stories. In addition to his wife of almost 30 years, Dorothy Jean Burkett Alford, Col. Alford is survived by his son, Michael Alford and his wife Bernadette of Framingham, MA; his daughter, Patricia Lanier and her husband Jerry of Shawnee, OK; three grandchildren, Chad Lanier and his wife Melissa, of Kaufman, TX, Lea Alford of Framingham, MA and Lori Lanier of Shawnee, OK; a great-grandson, Jacob Alford Lanier of Kaufman, TX and a stepdaughter, Dorothy Dee Phillips of Stuart, FL. A Memorial Service will be held at the High Flight Chapel in the facilities of Air Force Village II on Wednesday, May 29, 2002 at 10:30 A.M. to fittingly celebrate the life of Col. David Gaston Alford on this, the 85th anniversary of his birth. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Texas Scottish Rite Home for Children, 2222 Welborn, Dallas, TX 75219 or the Air Force Village II Health Care Center, 5100 John D. Ryan Blvd.,
San Antonio, TX 78245. By John Casall (firstname.lastname@example.org)