Sunday, May 27, 2018

In Memory of 1st Lt. George F. Keller. A Memorial Day Tribute

The view from Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California near the Cabrillo Lighthouse National Monument.

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day, a day to honor Civil War soldiers who'd died in that war.

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.
The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.

This Memorial Day blog honors our veterans--particularly those who did not return from their service alive. Too often in today's society, our military personnel fail to receive the respect and gratitude they deserve. I hope this glimpse into the past will remind you of how many individuals like George Keller contributed to our freedom.

I never met George Keller, either before or after he joined the Army. I could never have met him. I was born in 1950 to Burdella and Owen Downing. Lt. George Keller died in 1945 as described below.

I first learned of his existence in 1967—22 years after his death. I was thumbing through my grandmother’s family Bible. I found my mom and dad’s marriage listed on the family tree page. But my mom, Burdella Felts, was listed as Burdella Felts Keller.
I learned bits and pieces over time. But, until my dad died in 2002, I really didn’t know the whole story of my mom’s first husband. Below is a brief telling of George’s story. 

I recommend the book I quote from. A soldier, not a writer, wrote it. For that reason, the sentence construction is eclectic, and the editing could use some cleaning up. I did not adjust the grammar on anything I quoted. Walter’s words deserve to be read in his own style.

However, the book is not important because of the sentence structure. The book tells a story of a handful of regular men who determined to live.

I am proud to be able to bring this to you in honor of Veteran’s Day.

All quoted material is from the book, Courage Beyond the Blindfold – The Last P.O.W.s of WWII, written by Walter R. Ross, the bombardier on Keller’s B-29 Crew.

* * *

Burdella Felts, my mom, met George Keller at Harvester Avenue Missionary Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. They were married in 1944.

George was already in the Army by the time they married. The couple spent time in Florida. They moved to Nebraska as part of George’s pilot’s training. George and Burdie’s final American station together was in White Sands New Mexico. It was there that now 1st Lt. George Keller was named as Air Commander for a B-29 Crew.
George (back row center) and his B-29 crew in 1945.
George was deployed to Tinian Island, located between Hawaii and Japan, where he and his crew were assigned to the B-29 they named the Sad Tomato. Keller’s crew flew 15 successful bombing missions in the Sad Tomato.

Due to an engine failure in the Sad Tomato, the crew was assigned a newer plane for their 16th mission.
For security reasons, there were no radio signals available to assist us in navigating the plane. We had to rely on dead reckoning and/or the sextant.
The purpose of this mission was to eliminate Yawata’s capability to produce steel. A successful bombing mission could shorten the war.
We left Tinian at 0313 carrying a bomb load of 24 m-17 amiable clusters of 500 pounds each for a total of 6.3 tons of incendiary bombs. We headed for the assembly with the target to be reached in seven hours at 1030.
Page 67
It was en route to their target, the rumors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima was confirmed.
Just as the pilot [Keller] notified the crew that we were approaching the target area and to be on the lookout for enemy planes, our radio operator, Martin Zapf, picked up word that the Americans had dropped a new type of bomb. Although the information was sketchy, we learned that this bomb was carried by a B-29 and had totally destroyed a Japanese city.
Page 67
Keller’s crew successfully completed their bombing run.
As our plane approached the target, we observed a plane ahead of us in another formation going down in flames. We watched the parachutes unfold as we all expressed our sorrow and dismay knowing how prisoners were treated, especially airmen. It became a night I will never forget.
Prior to dropping our bombs, the pilot was having difficulty holding his place in the formation. We were lagging behind the other planes. This made us vulnerable to fighters. Keller could not hold his position for reasons not known to me. I could hear Holden yelling, "Pull up into formation, we're falling back!" I was too busy preparing for my bomb run, but I heard Keller holler back, "I can't. I'm losing power!" By that time, everyone in the front compartment was getting into the act, knowing a lone plane out of formation was vulnerable. In spite of our lagging, our bomb run was progressing as planned. The bomb bays were opened and I released our bombs at about 1120. To add to our plight, four bombs failed to release. They were hung up on the bomb rack in the bomb bay. Correll, the navigator who was closest to the window in the bomb bay entry door, saw them and yelled the information to me. That's all we needed, but we did have some luck. During this run over the target when Zeros targeted in on us, our P-S1 fighter planes from Iwo Jima started dogfighting with them, at our three o'clock position, but as the Zeros were driven off flak began bursting all around us. We were engaged in combat against the enemy. I am not sure if any of our gunners got any shots off, probably not, for fear of hitting one of the bombers or fighters. During all of this confusion, I was desperately pulling on my bomb salvo release level without success. Finally, I yelled to the pilot, Release your salvo lever." It worked. The bombs dropped.
Page 73
Unfortunately, mission #16 was to be the last for that crew.

Just as the last bomb dropped, the right gunner, Sergeant Traverse Harman, yelled over the intercom, “The right wing is on fire, we have been hit.” …
Under normal conditions, we could land the plane into the water with, with wheels up and skim the plane on its belly to a stop…
During standard ditching operation, each crew member removes his chute and life raft, assumes a sitting position facing rear with his back supported against a sturdy (upright) panel in the plane. He braces his head and knees to reduce the chances of injury.
When Keller commanded, “Assume positions,” the crew began scurrying around…
Meanwhile, I could not close the bomb bay doors from my position, my closing mechanism had been damaged when we took the hit…
I could stay and die or risk my life by jumping. I wrapped my hand around the ripcord, rolled over and went out. I must have closed my eyes because the next thing I knew I was gliding toward the sea.
A hero to the end, Keller stayed with the plane until everyone got out safely. He even waited for me as I worked in the bomb bay. I am not sure I would or could have jumped without Keller. I owe my life to him.
As the final member to leave the plane before George Keller, I was the last person to see him alive. Gilding down, I looked up just as I hit the water and saw him [Keller] with is chute partially open. He hit the water about the same time as the plane hit and exploded. Burning debris littered the ocean area where Keller entered the water. No one saw him again.
Pages 74-76
George Keller was killed as he ditched his plane after all his crew successfully bailed out. The crew spent several days in the ocean with minimal food and water and not enough lifeboats. They were captured by Japanese fishermen and turned over to the Japanese Army.

Two significant events occurred during their month-long stint as POWs. The first was the miraculous appearance of a Christian Japanese officer, Lt. Fukui. This enemy soldier spoke English. It was he who convinced his commanding officer not to kill the prisoners as it would only bring more serious repercussions to the Japanese after they surrendered.

The second significant event was their visit to Hiroshima days after the bombing. They were the first American POWs to be taken on a tour of the city. The group was combined with a smaller group of POWS who’d been incarcerated just outside of Hiroshima and were already dying of radiation poisoning. This is the entire test that Ross includes about that visit.
While looking over the city, I was witnessing the results of the bombing we had heard about on our radio while on our way to bomb Yawata. Unfortunately, we had gotten there before any other American troops, not our plan, but that is the way our mission ended.
The place looked like a giant steamroller had rolled over it, like a vacant lot in the U.S. when all of the buildings had been torn down and then bulldozed. I was viewing what remained of a city destroyed by an unknown bomb, to me. There was no noise, not even a dog barking, not a sound, only quiet. Silence. There were no people. No fires, except one here and there. Nothing green. Just complete desolation as far as the eye could see in the darkness of night. There was destruction everywhere.
Page 118

1st Lt George Keller received the Purple Heart and a commendation for his heroics. In late 2014, the VFW presented my mom with an unofficial version of the Distinguished Flying Cross. The crew and their families have been working toward getting this award, comparable to the Silver Star, for Lt Keller since 1945. They are hopeful that it will be officially presented soon.

I’ve never served in our military. 

Even with my imagination, which is pretty extravagant, I cannot imagine what these men went through. War takes good men and women and puts them in evil situations. I am not grateful enough for their service and sacrifice. I don't know if it's possible to be grateful enough.

George F. Keller lived less than 26-years. Although he was married, he died without children. As of 2018, I know of only two living relatives. This is the deepest tragedy in war. When George's nephew and niece die, no family member that knew him will be alive. His selfless, heroic legacy will fade away.

I hope this blog post encourages you to intentionally remember those who served our country. No one who sacrifices their life should be forgotten. Ever.

From my view of life, they are all heroes—as were the Japanese soldiers and soldiers from other nations who died defending their homelands.

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Monday, May 21, 2018

Traveler's HOT L. Vol 2. 2nd Ed. C. R. Downing's Book Tour. Book #5

I'm having a sale on the e-book version of  Traveler's HOT L - Volume 2. 2nd Ed.
It's only 99¢
But, the sale runs ONLY from 
Oct 22 through Oct 29
Due to Amazon policy, this is the only week this book will be 99¢ before the first of the year. Regular Kindle price is $3.49.

Book #5:

There is a link to Amazon for the title book in each blog. Additional links are provided to original short stories involved in the development of the title book.

Elevator Speech
Volume 2 of Traveler’s HOT L series presents six trips through time using Traveler’s HOT L. These stories are longer than those in Volume 1. The conclusion of Volume 1’s cliff-hanger, Battle for The Far Planet closes the book.

The idea of a Traveler’s HOT L series was planted while I was writing the first book. In fact, the first edition of Volume 2 included a cliff-hanger as its final story. I pulled that story, egamI esreveR, from the book while—

I need to provide some embarrassing background information before continuing.

The first edition of Volume 2 was completed in haste. The preliminary writing and editing were good enough. What I failed to do was take the time to do what is now my standard practice. I call it the final painful edit. That edit is followed by clean up and proofreading. I’ll never put out another book without sufficient editing.

As a result of my rush to press, early reviewers remarked on the number of typos, grammar errors, and other editing errors. I made nearly 100 edits early on. About a year after the release, I took the manuscript with me on a trip to present at the National Science Teachers Association’s conference in Chicago.

Bottom line. I ended up making nearly 400 additional corrections. In addition, I pulled the last story from the book and rearranged the sequence of the remaining stories.

The Cover
The similarity of Vol 2’s cover to the original Traveler’s HOT L is not a coincidence. Talented artist Reed Steiner, now a teacher at Elsinore High School in California, created both of them. I sent him a very rough idea. The result is spectacular.
Here’s the description of the place from the original Traveler’s HOT L, page 2.
[Shaina] got out of her parked car, grabbed her small suitcase from the back seat, and studied the building in front of her. A red tile roof protected thick, textured stucco walls. She could see a patio through arched openings in the front portico. Most of the place was two stories. Only the lobby area seemed to lack a second floor. It looked like a run-down, Ma-and-Pa hotel whose lifeblood had been sucked away when the Interstate opened. It was smaller than she’d imagined—she estimated only 30 or 40 rooms.

For this cover, Reed decided to include the building that houses the overlapping time pits. While the building is hard to see as background of the back cover, here’s what it looks like au naturale.

Thoughts on three of the stories in this book follow. Only one is linked to an original story written years ago.
We Come in Peace (and Quiet) is the opening story in this volume. It was not originally a time travel story. However, I doubt that anyone would know that without reading the original version, which you can do if you follow the link in the title above. The original story was published in Point Loma Nazarene University’s annual literary journal in 2004.
In a nutshell, the story is about a linguist who wants be the first to experience an alien language. The original story begins with a pilot and a linguist landing on a distant planet. There is no evidence that they are humans, although they are humanoids.
In this version, the two main characters approach Chronos and Eternity, proprietors of the Traveler’s HOT L, with different agendas. The pilot is looking for a thrill. The linguist is in search of fame in her field. As it turns out, each ends up paired with another Traveler’s HOT L customer from a different century—each other.
I had great fun linking the female linguist, Heather, and the male adrenaline junky, Owen, on an eleven-month hyper speed journey to the solar system that’s home to the planet Rotar. It turns out that the language of the Rotarrans can best be described as unanticipated; so different from even her wildest ideas that Heather dashes her own dream.
Dry humor and a hint of romance highlight this tale of a most unusual method of communication.

Color, Clarity, and Cut finds Private Detective Phil Mamba back in action. This story didn’t start out as a time travel story. But, I wrote myself into a blind alley. Check out the PDF linked to this title. There was no way to end the story without massive re-writing. It sat unfinished for over five years.
It turns out that time-travel solved the plotline problem. The villains do most of the time traveling as they attempt to steal a fortune in diamonds. They are, in fact, ready to complete the heist, when warning lights begin to flash is the alien brains of Chronos and Eternity. Time synchronizers Tempus and Epoch are dispatched to recruit Mamba to foil the plans of the jewel thieves.  
Mamba is reluctant to help. He was promised that he’d performed his time fabric adjustment service at the end of Cold-Blooded Murder in Volume 1. He meets with the Bekkers, South African diamond mine owners, and his interest is piqued.
It takes what appears to be a chance circumstance that leads to a meeting between Mamba and the bright but undisciplined Kiara Robinson to fully convince him to help. The teenager and her friend ultimately collect the key piece of intel needed to crack the case.
The life lessons learned by two inner-city teenagers--and Phil Mamba--are as fulfilling as the recovery of the stolen diamonds.

One Too Many – Transcript/Q&A and An Unauthorized Trip were written expressly for this anthology. Together, two subtitled sections, italicized above, present two sides of the same coin. There is an Epilog associated with this story as well. The transcript is of an interview of Chronos on a television show. Well, it was supposed to air on TV, however, due to the necessary censorship of Chronos’ answers to the host's questions, the interview never aired. Undaunted, Chronos continues the Q&A without a host. The reader is free to speculate on the points where Chronos’ answers have <TEXT REDACTED>.
The point of the transcript of the Q&A session is to answer questions asked by readers. Having fun while writing this part was also a goal, which I achieved.
The story, An Unauthorized Trip Along the Fabric of Time is a 4,000-word time travel tale written specifically for this situation. I’m not sure it can stand alone outside of this book. But, then, it doesn’t have to.
The short story is based in San Diego, California. Two travelers end up there, although only one booked a trip. The story emphasizes aspects of my time-travel mechanism.
          If you’ve read any of the Traveler’s HOT L series, you know
          ·      You come and go from the same spot.
          ·      You can’t take anything with you, coming or going.
          ·      If you’re in the past or future for twelve days, you lose twelve days in
              your “own time.”
There are other restrictions, but if you don’t know them, you’ll have to read one of the books!

That’s enough for this post. In another Book Tour blog, I’ll look at the other three stories in Volume 2; The Knob, A Clubhouse and A Kiss, and the conclusion to the cliff-hanger in Volume 1, Battle for a Far Planet- Terminus.

You've reached the end of the this Book Tour 2018 blog post. Tune in next time for the inside scoop on the three remaining stories in Traveler’s HOT L Vol 2 2nd Ed. More Tales from the Time Traveler’s Resort.

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