12 May, 2021

Profile 150: Boeing B-17G-20 as flown by (Shhhh) of the 390th BG, 569th BS


Wait wait!  Don't look at the above yet!

Let's do some History Learnin! 

Trigger warning!  This graphic may offend lazy Jedi™ gym coaches.

(clears throat)

How many WWII veterans are alive today (12 May, 2021)?

Let's figure it out!

According to the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, at the end of September last year* (2020), there were 325,574 WWII veterans alive; roughly .001% of the total U.S. population of 333,000,000.

So, that means, last year, in a community of 100,000 Americans, 100 will have been (statistically) WWII veterans.  

However, the National WWII Museum did a little mathwork and came up with the graph below.  Assuming they used middle-school level statistical analysis, they predict that about 25% of that 325,574 will have passed into eternity by the end of September of this year (2021), leaving approximately 242,000 WWII veterans alive.

Have a look.

More here.  Gotta love the National WWII Museum! 

Considering that we're splitting the difference, let's say that this means today, 12 May, 2020, in a community of 100,000 people, about 85 will be WWII veterans. 

Next question.

How many living WWII veterans are combat veterans?

Well now.  That's a completely different question! 

I remember spending time volunteering for "Honor Flight" (a program providing WWII veterans a trip to see the Washington D.C. monuments to their service).   The number of veterans that fulfilled administrative, non-combat roles were high.  I met a LOT of typists, clerks, messengers... of course, their service was absolutely important to the 'war effort!'   But, when it comes to the visceral imagery of "war," the imagination only visualizes the tip of a very long, complicated spear.  

Starting with today's generally accepted percentage of 10% of military service people actually get deployed to a combat zone, the number who experience mortal combat is mercifully low.  However, in WWII, a much larger number of personnel were deployed overseas - about 75%.  So, let's say 66% of those deployed overseas were actually deployed in a combat zone.

Going back to our hypothetical community of 100,000, of the 85 WWII veterans alive, let's figure 56 will have been combat veterans.

Next question.

The most influential person in my career, WWII fighter (triple) ace, Clarence "Bud" Anderson. He not only gave me my start as a writer/drawer/filmmaker, he's alive and well at 99 years of age!

If you know who he is, you know he's an absolute American hero of the highest order. If you don't know who he is, click here.

How many living WWII veterans are combat pilots?

Hmmmm.  Ok, this is getting challenging!

But, if we take the USAAF (United States Army Air Force) the number of service people who made the grade of Pilot was 200,000 — of course there were more Navy/Marine pilots but for right now, let's just use USAAF.

Figuring 16,000,000 Americans served in WWII, that means .012% were USAAF pilots.  Figuring that today (12 May, 2021) about 280,000 WWII veterans are still alive, about 3,000 of them are pilots.  Using 66% as our 'combat' number, that means 2,000 pilots are combat pilots. 

Going back to our hypothetical community of 100,000, of the 85 WWII veterans alive, the number of combat pilots in that number is practically ZERO.

* break break *

A few years ago, a Vietnam War veteran answered my question, "So, why did you publish your memoir?" with the darkly poignant reply, "Because my kids tell me that when an old man dies, a library burns."

Chilling quote, eh?

If you're like me, the data analysis is one thing but it takes the notion of seeing the value of a life's experience burn up in flames to really appreciate history!

So what's the value of a library?

My Challenge Coin.  If we ever meet, you will have a 20% chance of getting one.  

Thanks to Vietnam War F-4 pilot Richard Hilton for
the phrase and thanks to the "Geezers" of the Friday Pilots for printing a book
featuring their Life Wisdom.  The hard copy is SOLD OUT.  But the digital version
is in mercifully infinite supply (as long as the power stays on).

Hmmmm.  THAT is probably the best question to consider!

We'll start here.  Have a look above at my opening pencil sketch of a Boeing B-17G "Flying Fortress."  It's been commissioned to honor (the statistical improbability of) a living WWII combat pilot.  

And even rarer, the man, nearing 100 years of age, still holds down a job.  Gads, 'that generation' is a humbling one, don't you think?!

There's a push to get the art done in order to honor the man in a public ceremony; I will be working late and starting early to get the art done (as accurately as possible), printed and delivered on-time.  I'll try to get two, maybe three more posts here showing progress on the artwork as well see what we can learn from the man who flew it.

Until then, here's your library card, serial number 42-31603.

It's time to check out the life of... (stay tuned)