01 June, 2017

Reprise: Requiem for the Unsung; John DeBerg "hitched a ride" West...

Who do you want to make your hamburger?

Who do you want to fix your car?

Who do you want to remove your appendix?

Who do you want to write your Business Insurance policy?

I know who— the best one at the job.

There is nothing—nothing—more attractive than being excellent.

A couple years ago, I drew "Mary Pat," a B-17F assigned to the 385th BG.  At the beginning, the project was rather novel as I wasn't drawing it for any of the Flight Crew but for the Crew Chief; in essence, the airplane's chief mechanic.

John DeBerg never physically flew combat on the Mary Pat.  However, he undoubtedly participated in every one of the aircraft's 59 missions over Germany; 59 flawless missions over Germany.

Here—have a read of what the U.S. Army Air Force wrote about John's work:



JOHN R. DEBERG, 17037566, Master Sergeant, Army Air Forces, United States Army.

For meritorious achievement in the connection with military operations against the enemy from 17 July 1943 to 25 August 1944.  Through Sergeant DeBerg's proficient service, performed under many adverse conditions, his aircraft completed fifty-nine (59) consecutive operational missions against the enemy without having to return because of mechanical difficulty or failure.

This enlisted man, by courageously and wholeheartedly devoting his skill to a vital task, has made a noteworthy contribution to the successful record in combat established by his group..The initiative, resourcefulness, and devotion to duty displayed by Sergeant DeBerg reflect highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United Sates.

Put another way, DeBerg's service is the equivalent to...

...never screwing up the hamburger.

...never having the car break down.

...never botching the surgery. 

...never leaving a customer exposed.

And, just to be clear, DeBerg's work wasn't during the comparatively "easy" missions of late 1944/45, when Hitler's broken bones were justly pulverized.  Instead, John's birds flew the toughest—the ones where scared flight crew learned their trade, enemy flak and fighters were at their fiercest and manufacturers like Boeing were scrambling to improve their machines based on the urgent lessons learned from continuous combat.

So, now that there's some context here, did you whisper, "Wow..." under your breath?

So did I.

I like how John signed this print of Mary Pat at work.
Photo: The DeBerg family
Anecdote—having coffee with John, he produced a little hand-held gizmo and placed it on the table as a physical representation of his days.  It's called a "Disk Speed Indicator" and was used to measure anything that relied on precise rotary motion, be it the gyroscopes in a bombsite to the crackling rumble of an idling aircraft engine.

"I got to the point where I could hear what an engine was doing," he said, tapping the device.  "But I used this to check anyway.  We had to do it right, you know?"

What struck me was the man's sincerity.  He stated his concern as if he were still sweating out the return of 'his' airplane, knowing that if the flak and fighters didn't hurt the crew, sloppy workmanship would just as easily.

It's days like this that I feel so lucky in circumstance and inspired to be a better human.

And it's days like this that I wish would be more common.

But they aren't.  But they should, you know?

Anyway, last year, on 28 October, John DeBerg died.  However, it was only a few days ago that I found out; where had the time gone that I would have missed such news for six months?!  Did I miss an email?  A voice mail?!  (sigh) Regardless, the detail was lost on me.  Ugh.

In the end, the man was 98 years old and left behind a legacy of impeccable workmanship to machine, community, family and friend alike...

...and a welcome inspiration for the future.

And if you're interested in that kind of inspiration, Click.

John DeBerg's  Disk Speed Indicator and Bronze Star.
The chunk in the middle is a piece of German "flak" that did it's damnedest to  take Mary Pat out of the war.