The Final Flight of a Navy WWII Patrol Bomber
by Gary D. Cooper
I love the random way books can come into our lives.
I was having lunch with a dear friend at her retirement community—a place with as much bustle as my college campus had—when a friend of hers, Nels, joined us. As conversation will do when I’m involved in it, we got around to books. Since I had just finished reading “Best True Stories of World War II,” Nels told us about book concerning his wife’s uncle.
Maurine Unrath’s uncle Edward Calhoun was killed in the Pacific near the end of World War II. Many stories of the war make me very sad, but I find the losses in the last few months of the battles tend to get to me even more. So close, I think, to coming home. Yet, things happen—bravery and heroism were strong and apparent right up until the last mission.
The author, Gary D. Cooper, eloquently tells the story of how his quest to write this book started. A suitcase, abandoned with the rest of the sidewalk garbage, catches the eye of a woman. She takes it inside, glances through the detritus of someone’s life, then tucks it away. Eventually, the find makes it’s way onto Mr. Cooper’s path and, as a retired Navy Commander, he is immediately intrigued.
He sets out on a long journey, tracking down family members, using military sources, and his own understanding of conversations likely to take place between men on dangerous missions, and weaves a compelling tale.
My great uncle Lloyd Naugle was killed in the D-Day landings at Normandy beach. Or so we were always told. I eventually got as far in that search as to discover that he was injured during the assault, but hung on for sometime before finally passing away. A dashingly handsome young man, I always wished I knew more about his time in the service and how he met his end.
For me, then, reading this book was a must.
Eddie Calhoun was from McKeesport, Pennsylvania. He served under DeLand Joseph Croze, Patrol Plane Commander, as the Junior Radioman aboard their PBM-5. They were shot down by Japanese forces near Borneo. All eleven US Navy men were brutally, horrifically killed by the Japanese.
In addition to their loss, three Australians servicemen were killed while trying to save them.
Knowing the ending ahead of time didn’t make the anticipation of reading the story any less exciting. Mr. Cooper, wrote a plausible narrative of events he wasn’t privy to and brings to the light a story too long shut away in the confines of a metal suitcase.