by Jim Boyle
Lt. Col. Lyle Bradley, a retired Marine combat pilot during WWII and Korea got choked up giving the Memorial Day address on Monday at Lion’s Park in Elk River.
“I get sentimental about this airplane,” he said holding a replica model of the Corsair he flew. “I sat in one in Oshkosh, Wis., a few years ago, and I had tears streaming down my face. So many things happened, and I flew this through two wars and didn’t get a scratch.
Bradley highlighted during his talk how he felt it was a team effort the country used to win World War II. He saluted “veterans of all stripes.”
“By that I mean veterans that have worn uniforms and those that have not worn uniforms,” he said. “The key with all the service was a togetherness and teamwork to get the job done.
“In four years the United States went from the poorest defended country to the best. In order to do that, it took a tremendous amount of cooperation on the part of everyone.”
That meant farmers. That meant factory workers. That meant others.
Bradley’s thankful for many things, including the airplane designers and makers who built the Corsairs he flew off aircraft carriers. He wrote them after the wars were over to explain how well they had done in their jobs.
“They were wonderful for providing protection from ground troops,” he said. “You could fly at 40,000 feet and shoot down enemy planes and you could also (fly low to) help the guys on the ground.”
When the war was over, he thought he would do battle again with a Japanese soldier who glowered at him from across a bar at a railroad station overseas.
The man got up out of his chair and came over and asked “in perfect English, better than mine, what I flew.”
Corsairs, of course.
It was the start of a beautiful friendship, one that survived the discovery that Bradley had shot down one of the Japanese pilot’s sqaudron members.
They shared stories. They compared notes about the planes they flew. They met for dinner with their wives in tow.
Bradley encouraged the several hundred people in attendance to unearth war stories and put them down in writing, so when future generations ask about their grandparent, there’s something to go back to.
He said the key is to be specific in their questioning and not general. He suggested that might require some research. It might require a more thoughtful approach. But he suggested it was easier than people think.
And when you find success, write it down.
“When you write things down, it puts a different perspective on things,” he said.