10 @ 10 Blog
Bob Pedigo: WWII Veteran Remembers Those Who Didn't Come Home
I have heard it many times, the broadcast of Edward R. Murrow after he flew on a Royal Air Force bombing run into Germany, at a time when Allied victory was still in doubt during World War II. The "orchestrated Hell" broadcast. This masterpiece was put together after the harrowing experience of almost being shot out of the sky. As Murrow noted, two of the four reporters who accompanied the flights that evening did not return, along with the crews of airmen alongside them.
Something I hadn't noticed before on this broadcast struck me this time around; the calm Murrow described inside his bomber. The calm of the crew as they spoke to each other, giving and acknowledging commands, as German search lights illuminated the night and bounced off their wings, and as the flak from anti-aircraft guns popped like angry popcorn in front, next to and behind the plane. Why and how were they so calm? "We were scared stiff, that's why," was Bob Pedigo's explanation.
Mr. Pedigo would know. The 92-year-old flew aboard B-24 bombers for the Army Air Corps, part of the mighty 8th Air Force that augmented the English bombers and, eventually, decimated Germany's war factories. Many of those bombers were lost, and Mr. Pedigo knows that only luck, repeated luck, helped him emerge alive rather than become one of the thousands we talk about every Memorial Day. "It was kind of like walking the last mile," Pedigo's description of climbing into a bomber before takeoff, laughing about it now. "Years later, I was chatting with my pilot on the phone, and I told him 'you don't realize how much respect the rest of the crew had for you. They thought you were a gutsy guy.' And he told me 'gutsy hell. If you had been up there with me, you'd have seen my teeth chattering."
Pedigo and his pilot are the only two of his crew still alive. Fewer than 10-percent of those who served during World War II are with us today. But as they fade slowly, their thoughts on Memorial Day turn to those who were gone in a flash, the "kites going down" as the crew of Ed Murrow's bomber talked about during that December 1943 run. Pedigo and everyone who flew aboard a bomber knows that could have easily been them sacrificing themselves for the goal of defeating two tyrants.
Enjoy Mr. Pedigo's stories - we probably could have killed a couple of hours with them. But like him and those who came home, at the very least take a moment today to think about those who didn't, regardless of the war.
Mr. Pedigo was one of a dozen World War II veterans featured in the 500 Festival Parade. The Army Air Force veteran has a lot of stories, including those about remembering his fellow soldiers who didn't come home.