Monday, January 16, 2012

Unhappy Coincidences

In the nineteen-fifties, my summer job was with the federal Department of Transport, Air Regulations. All of the inspectors in the office had been pilots during the Second World War.

One of them told me he never returned from a mission with a load of bombs, the danger of explosion on landing too great. The usual recourse was to drop them in the English Channel. This inspector said he preferred to drop them anywhere on German soil.

Sitting in a coffee shop recently, I got into conversation with an elderly woman. She told be she had spent the war in her home town in northern Germany, a place of no strategic value. The locals got so used to the allied aircraft, they could tell from the sound of the engines if it still carried a load of bombs.

One night, they heard a aircraft returning from an abortive raid on Berlin. The sound of the engines told them it still carried bombs. The bombs were dropped on a nearby town, killing, she said, several thousand people who became part of the 400,000 civilians killed by Allied bombing during that war.

Another such coincidence occurred at a house party in Toronto in 1984. One guest told us that it was on this very night forty years earlier that Canadian bombers destroyed her city. A few minutes later, in another room, I saw a friend I knew flew a bomber during the war. He said he was sad because it was on this very night forty years earlier that his best friend was killed in a bombing mission over Germany.

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