Something I had to do

This project is a labor of love manifested in a lifelong father-quest. It is, simply, something I had to do.

As war-babies whose fathers never came home to us, we received instead a yearning for something missing but ever-present. To that I added a burning desire to know my father.

I interrogated everyone in my life who had known him and a few who didn’t. Those who did: his parents, his sister and brother, and my mother, who lost more than I did, wrapped me in the story and informed my life with his memory and assurances that I was loved. It wasn’t until I was an adult woman with a clear vision of finding him and bringing him home, that I realized the measure of the man who was my father. Substance replaced mythology, certainty trumped wishful thinking, my father became real to me and to all who learned about him with me.

I partnered with the his fellow-pilots of the 474th Fighter Group; the German air historians and others in Germany, Belgium, Holland, and Ireland; a German documentary film crew; literally hundreds active and retired U.S. military members who made all the arrangements, opened all the doors, and arranged for all the practical magic with grace and careful attention; the dedicated team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii; my siblings from American War Orphans Network; my doctoral committee who helped me make this scholarly so I could gain credibility and cool jobs; my family, friends, cousins, aunts, uncle, and more supporters than I can thank in one lifetime.

But mostly, this is about learning to fly with the wings I was given in exchange for a father whose living voice I would never hear. My legacy is thousands of pages of letters sent between my parents, more proof of passion and big love than most of us ever realize about our living parents. Though my parents time together was painfully brief, this is about their last meeting in the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel in 1944 just before my father left for war in Europe, and my subsequent birth in March of 1945.

This project is about honor and sacrifice, another way to be a daughter, and a tribute to the eternal spirit of father-love across time and reality.

 — Sharon Estill Taylor, Ph.D.