Sunday, May 5, 2013

Timeless Memories

                           NSB Mom (me), Ed Safford & Samantha Hicks

I had the pleasure of sitting down with World War II Veteran Ed Safford last week at his home in Edgewater. Ed has some fascinating memories of his life, both growing up and living most of his life in the same house in Grosvenor's Corners, NY to his time spent serving our country in the Army.

Ed was a Radio Technical Sergeant in the Army Air Corp (what is now known as the Air Force). He flew 32 missions in 1944 and 1945 over enemy territory. The stories he has to tell are incredible....I learned first hand how these young men who had never met came together to train in Ardmore, OK. They were divided into air crews, assigned planes and flew off to defend the US in World War II.

Ed laughs as he tells me how his crew shipped out and soon after leaving their stopover in Goose Bay Labrador they lost an engine, then they lost a second engine. Happily they were not past the point of no return and sent out an SOS, Greenland answered the call and got them back to Goose Bay. Ed remembers,  "I was thinking this was not a good sign we did not make it very far and had plane troubles."

In those days a tour of duty was 25 missions, shortly before Ed and his crew reached 25, the number changed to 28, then 32. Much like the enemy they were defending against it was an elusive target. All in all Ed flew 32 missions, medical missions, weather missions and bombing missions over Germany and the Balkans.

                              B-17 picture courtesy of Dick Reynolds

Only once did he and his crew have to parachute out of their plane. They were flying a weather mission...suddenly the "bail out bell" went off. Ed thought to himself,  "they better turn that off or we will have people jumping out of this plane." He headed to the cockpit and sure enough the plane was on fire.Their flight engineer's parachute had burned up, luckily for him their pilot always made them carry an extra chute. Ed remembers his friend was still reluctant to jump. So Ed pushed him out of the plane, surely saving his life.

During his time in the Air Corp, Ed flew on several planes, after being shot at by the Germans with 88 mm shells the B-17's were filled with flak holes and had to be repaired or replaced. Ed's last aircraft was a more heavily armored plane than it's predecessors. After they took it up for a test flight, the captain said "it flies like a tank with wings." They named it the General Sherman after the Sherman Tank, Ed still has a picture of a tank with wings hanging in his living room.

Ed's last mission was as a "spare", in other words he was filling in as the Radio Officer with another crew. Being the spare was always a concern, a bad omen, Ed remembers "our Navigator flew his last mission as a spare, they were shot down and he was killed." Ed told me, "I jumped out of that plane after that last mission, got down on my knees and kissed the ground"

                           pictured: Dick Reynolds (my Dad) & Ed Safford

Ed is a member of The Old Soldier's Club which meets at the Timeless Wings and Wheels Museum in New Smyrna Beach. He recently participated in the Veterans in the Classroom program and spoke at Coronado Elementary School to elementary students about his experiences in World War II.

Interested in meeting Ed or some of our other local Veterans? Check out the monthly breakfast at the Timeless Wings and Wheels Museum. It is held the 3rd Saturday of every month from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. You can get more information here.

Take the opportunity to take a walk through history!