Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review July 25, 2000 / 22 Tamuz, 5760

Bob Greene

Bob Greene
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Arianna Huffington
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Cathy Young
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

'If we didn't do it, no one else would' -- IN TERMS of getting news coverage -- which they richly deserve -- their timing is probably lousy. But, then, these guys were never much for seeking the spotlight, anyway.

Next Saturday is going to be their big moment. But next Saturday, all of the leading journalists -- the news anchors, the columnists, the bearers of the famous bylines -- will be in Philadelphia, getting ready for the beginning of the Republican National Convention. The airwaves and front pages will be jammed with political news.

And these guys -- these old men -- will be somewhere else. They will be across the Atlantic Ocean, as they were more than half a century ago. That's where their big moment will take place.

You -- those of you who read this column -- had a lot to do with getting them there. So next Saturday, you might want to be thinking about them.

On Aug. 2, 1944, 16 American pilots from the 383rd Fighter Squadron were flying a mission over Nazi-occupied France. Above the French village of Remy, the pilots, flying P-51 Mustangs, saw a German munitions train under heavy camouflage. The Americans -- pilots in their 20s -- made five strafing runs. They hit the 18-car train, which exploded with terrifying force -- there had been rocket components inside the train.

The village of Remy suffered severe damage because of the train explosion. Most of the houses had their roofs blown off. The 700-year-old Church of St. Denis had its lovely stained-glass windows shattered.

A young American pilot died. Lt. Houston L. Braly, 22, of Brady, Texas, was knocked out of the air by the shock waves from the explosion of the Nazi train. The wings and tail of his P-51 gone, the burning wreckage of his plane came to rest against a house in Remy.

Some of the villagers pulled his body from the plane and hid it from the occupying German forces. They wrapped Lt. Braly's body in his parachute, and tried to conceal it in a stable. The villagers brought flowers from their gardens and covered Lt. Braly's body with the flowers as a show of thanks and of respect.

The German command was outraged; the Germans ordered the French villagers to bring no more flowers for the American combat pilot. The villagers defied the Nazis; they held a funeral for Lt. Braly at the Church of St. Denis. At great risk to themselves and their families, the people of Remy piled the gravesite high with flowers in memory of the American who had given his life for them.

If this story sounds familiar to you, it is because a year ago I told it here. It had been told to me by Gordon A. McCoy, now 78, who was a fighter pilot with the 383rd Squadron. "Lt. Braly personalized the war for those villagers," McCoy told me. "[He] had come all this way from the United States to give his life in an effort to free these people. So they were going to take care of his body."

What does this have to do with next Saturday?

Last year, Gordon McCoy told me about a remarkable thing that he and the surviving members of the 383rd were trying to do.

They had found out that the stained glass in the Church of St. Denis had never been replaced. After the train explosion in 1944, the beautiful, intricate stained glass had been replaced by plain plate glass, which had remained for all these years.

The old fighter pilots -- men in their 70s and 80s -- wanted to do something about that. Grateful for what the villagers of Remy had done for Lt. Braly, the men of the 383rd vowed that, more than 50 years later, they would attempt to replace the stained glass in that church.

"We just figured that if we didn't do it, no one else would," McCoy told me. They had blown up the train; now, nearing the ends of their lives, they wanted to replace the windows the explosion had shattered.

Their fund was well short of what was needed. But you helped -- you read the column, and from all over the U.S. you sent contributions, and soon enough there was enough money to commission the design and construction of new windows for that church in France.

Next Saturday, the windows of Remy will be dedicated.

The surviving pilots of the 383rd and their wives -- those who can still travel -- will be there. So will almost 100 of you who contributed.

Saturday will be a day-long celebration and commemoration. There will be a parade, with American and French military vehicles. There will be a memorial service for Lt. Braly. There will be a band concert, and the release of courier pigeons, and songs from the Remy children's chorus.

After a dinner in the town, after nightfall, the new windows in the old church will be illuminated.

"We are most grateful to everyone who helped us do this," Gordon McCoy said.

Grateful? The men of the 383rd are grateful?

We will never be able to thank them enough. For this, and for everything. For showing us what being an American can mean.

JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


07/24/00: The executioners who walk among us
07/20/00: On Main Street, signs of the times tell two stories
07/18/00: Have the choices changed, or have we?
07/14/00: Gable, Hepburn, Zanuck--you wouldn't find them at HOJO's
07/13/00: The Great Lie about political conventions
07/06/00: If this is victory, what would defeat feel like?
06/29/00: A bright moon and a missing person on Orange Ave.
06/26/00: They're not singing our song
06/22/00: The name game
06/07/00: It's like knocking on a revolving door
06/06/00: Steven who? A close encounter of mistaken identity
06/02/00: Of summer days, summer nights and pebbles in a jar
05/31/00: The best laughter, the truest voices, will never fade
05/25/00: Of distant visions, close views, and Bobby Knight
05/24/00: 'The luckiest thing that ever happened to me'
05/23/00: 'It's funny how you remember the little things'
05/22/00: 'The whisper of a generation saying goodbye to its children'
05/19/00: The place to find life is not a keyboard
05/18/00: A problem of suds but no duds
05/17/00: Are those lazy, hazy dot-com days fading?
05/16/00: The truest things in life require not a single word
05/15/00: 'Evidently he didn't like the way she dusted the house'
05/12/00: Why news executives are hoping this 'woman' is a hit
05/11/00: Ted Koppel, Hitler, Mellencamp . . . and words of love
05/10/00: Maybe it's time for the right people to hear our cheers
05/09/00: The lesson that they always learn late
05/05/00: 'Excuse me, but there seems to be something in my water'
05/05/00: When your first dream turns out to be your best dream
05/04/00: Even baseball couldn't make light of this superstition
05/03/00: The ringmaster who looks back from your mirror
05/02/00: There they go, just a-yappin' down the street . . .
05/01/00: You must remember this (Unless you don't)
04/24/00: Now that casino ads are allowed to tell the truth . . .
04/13/00: The man in the seat across the airplane aisle
04/11/00: A star is born, but do you know where it's @?
04/06/00: Through the eyes of Norman Rockwell
03/21/00: 10 good reasons to avoid making this list
03/21/00: 'I tell myself that they've gone on vacation'
03/21/00: Monday Night Football memories
03/02/00: This report card deserves an 'A' in every subject
02/29/00: What really happened on New Year's eve
02/23/00: Of paste pots, Denver sandwiches and finding Dr. Sam
02/17/00: What would you like to stay exactly the same?
02/04/00: Politics: When did the stagehands step onto the stage?
02/01/00: An awesome idea to make you sound better
01/26/00: Y3K already? We haven't yet recovered from Y2K
01/21/00: Watching the pot that always boils
01/19/00:The story behind the men on the museum steps
01/13/00: Here's to the students who never hear a cheer
01/11/00: The oh-so-sweet sound of modems in the morning
01/04/00: The person in your mirror just got wiser
12/31/99: A lesson -- and a memory -- to last a millennium
12/29/99: Racing the clock, even when it's running backwards
12/13/99: The right to bear coffee
12/08/99: From teen idol to ink-stained wretch: Can you Dig it?
12/02/99: Human 'search engines'
11/30/99: Here's looking at you -- now hand over the cash
11/23/99: Who'll say 'I'm sorry' to the other Decatur students?
11/18/99: "From bad things, good can come"
11/16/99: The man who didn't know the meaning of 'whatever'
11/12/99: Is this progress? We have made the weekend obsolete
11/09/99: Today he would probably be called Kyle Kramden
11/04/99: And you thought the IRS was heartless
11/02/99: When it's free, what will the real price be?
10/29/99: The tissue-thin decisions that define who we are
10/26/99: One way to cut road rage down to size
10/22/99: Asking all the right questions takes a special pitch
10/18/99: The signs are talking to you; Are you listening?
10/12/99: Even Capone would be disgusted
10/08/99: Don't ever look your neighborhood bear in the eye
10/06/99: Land of the free and marketplace of the brave
10/04/99: German warplanes in American skies
09/30/99: While you fret, something is sneaking up on you
09/28/99: In these busy times, why not bring back a certain buzz?
09/24/99: The storms whose paths no one can track
09/21/99: Who's minding the store? Oh . . . never mind
09/17/99:Here's another place where you can't smoke
09/14/99: As certainly as `lovely Rita' follows `when I'm 64' . . .
09/09/99: Why is patience no longer a virtue?
09/07/99: Once upon a time, in an airport close to you . . .
09/03/99: The answers? They are right in front of us
09/01/99: Up the creek with a paddle--and cussing up a storm
08/30/99: $1 Million Question: How'd we get to be so stup-d?
08/27/99: Fun and games at Camp Umbilical Cord
08/25/99: How life has been changed by the woodpecker effect
08/23/99: If you don't like this story, blame the robot who wrote it
08/20/99: A four-letter word that has helped both Bob and Rhonda
08/18/99: They have picked the wrong country
08/16/99: From paperboy to stalker--how the news has changed
08/12/99: Why wasn't anyone watching his brothers?
08/10/99: Come to think of it, stars seldom are the retiring type
08/05/99: The national gaper's block is always jammed
07/29/99: 'Can you imagine the gift you gave me?'
07/27/99: A view to a kill -- but is this really necessary?
07/23/99: Some cream and sugar with your turbulence?
07/21/99: When your name is JFK jr., how do you choose to use it?
07/19/99: The real world is declared not real enough
07/15/99: The real victims of cruel and unusual punishment
07/13/99: A 21st Century idea for schools: log off and learn
07/09/99: Are life's sweetest mysteries still around the bend?
07/07/99: Of great minds, cream cheese and Freddy Cannon
07/02/99: The perfect spokesman for the American way
06/30/99: 'He's 9 years old . . . he trusts people'
06/28/99: A $581 million jackpot in the courthouse casino
06/25/99: A nighttime walk to a House that feels like a cage
06/23/99: At least give men credit for being more morose
06/18/99: On Father's Day, a few words about mothers
06/16/99: If work is a dance, how's your partner doing?
06/14/99: Should a dictionary ever tell you to keep quiet?
06/10/99: A story of Sex, the SuperBowl and your wife
06/07/99: Take a guess where "California Sun" is from
06/03/99: Of summer days, summer nights and pebbles in a jar
06/01/99: Putting your money where their mouths are
05/27/99: Pressed between wooden covers, the summer of her life
05/25/99:The lingering song of a certain summer
05/24/99:We could all use a return to the Buddy system
05/20/99: Now, this is enough to make James Bond double-0 depressed 05/17/99: It's midnight -- do you know where your parents are?
05/13/99: And now even saying "thank you" creates a problem
05/11/99: The answer was standing at the front door

©1999, Tribune Media Services