Remembering Captain Bradley Gene Cuthbert

Captain Bradley Gene Cuthbert (Photo by Elizabeth Harper)

It can be frustrating when you spend several hours searching for someone online and can’t find them. We’re all so used to easy access to information, but what if you spent your whole life searching and wondering.

Captain Bradley Gene Cuthbert went missing on November 23 1968 during a flight over North Vietnam. It was his 28th birthday.

When agreements were reached and the POWs came home, Captain Cuthbert was not with the survivors. According to information I found online, it seems he was declared dead based on two teeth, a dog-tag, and differing tales from witnesses some as old as 21 years after his plane was shot down.

Two teeth were repatriated and his military file was closed.

His daughter, Shannon Cuthbert Sassen believes he may still be alive somewhere.

I’d like to think we wouldn’t leave a solider behind and that all efforts to find him were exhausted, but 45 years is a long time and it seems unlikely that her father will be returned to her now.

After reading his story and her comment with it, I tried to find her online to give her a copy of the image above. I took the photo of the POW bracelet with her father’s name on it during a trip to Washington D.C. when John and I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The long dark wall is a powerful memorial to loss and suffering and like many memorials, people sometimes leave mementos behind. Placed along the wall are personal touchstones left by people connected to someone whose name is etched on the reflective wall of war dead.

A lasting memory from my childhood, the POW bracelet caught my eye placed as it was in front of the wall next to an American flag.

I tried to find Captain Cuthbert’s daughter through a variety of search routes before giving up. I hope this post finds its way to her so she will know that her father is not forgotten and that I too, will be thinking of him today.

I’ve written more than a few words about Memorial Day over the last few years and you may be interested in those stories as well.

Saving For The Future – Yellow Gold

Daffodils remind me of my great-grandmother. She always referred to the golden beauties as Jonquils, a name you’re more likely to hear in the American south, and one which actually refers a variety of the Narcissus flower. I think she would have been very impressed with the mix of daffodils growing in and out of the Cornish hedges. For the longest time I thought that like many flowers they had hitchhiked their way to the hedges, forgetting that they are bulbs and as far as I know, must be planted.

John watched a television program the other night that explained why there are so many different types of daffs improving the views in our narrow lanes. Before WWII, loads of daffodils were grown in Cornwall and exported for sale with bright fields of different varieties harvested each year by hand.

The picture below is one from the National Trust website for Cotehele and shows the harvest.

Photo Credit - National Trust

From Field to Hedge

During WWII, Britain’s food was mostly homegrown so the daffodil fields were quickly changed to fruit and vegetables. When the bulbs were taken out of the soil to make room for something more edible, the farmers didn’t want to waste them so they put them into the hedges where many varieties from before the war still grow every spring.

While it’s not the kind of gold that can fund your retirement, I’m going to enjoy the blooms that much more knowing the history of how they came to be there.

Pub Crawl Failure – My First Taste Of Guinness

I’m a woman who believes in marking an occasion and while I’m not a big drinker, when I learned I’d be spending a weekend in Dublin, I decided it would be a perfect opportunity to have my first taste of Guinness in the place it originated. I spotted the sign above on the day we arrived and briefly and I do mean briefly, considered doing the tour, but decided since alcohol consumption was the implied expectation, I’d be a dismal failure.

We squeezed in loads of sightseeing during our Dublin experience, but it wasn’t until our last day that I had an occasion to make good on my plan to have a taste of Guinness. By Sunday afternoon we were trying to find a pub with live Irish music for David and a Guinness for me. Michael was happy leaving the choice to us and having read the reviews for the Oliver St. John Gogarty pub, we chose it for a late afternoon rest stop.

It was our only pub visit and as it turns out, the best choice I think we could have made. Having researched the man the pub is named for, I discovered Oliver St. John Gogarty was the contemporary of a many literary figures of his day and served as the inspiration for several important characters as this snippet from Wikipedia revels ” His most famous literary incarnation, however, is as Buck Mulligan, the irrepressible roommate of Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s Ulysses.”

I left the pub that evening assuming he’d been a publican, but discovered later that he was medical doctor, published author, playwright, and poet who was involved in Ireland’s fight for independence along with Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins. 

The Gogarty pub was so much more than I’d expected and the music and atmosphere alone would have made it worth talking about, but the fish and chips … were the best I’ve ever eaten! The tartar sauce alone was good enough to make a southern woman weep.

There’s a saying I’ve heard somewhere that goes like this, “Southerners like to think that God invented fish just so there’d be a vehicle to eat tartar sauce.” Can anybody help me out with the proper quote and the origin? It sounds like something Paula Dean would say.

You can see the musicians in the distance by the windows. They provided a perfect accompaniment to the fun we had and I was well pleased with the whole experience especially the one in the photo below.

You must know by now that I like to document a lot of my expat experiences and having a taste of Guinness in Ireland is worth a snap or two. I’d heard a great deal about the taste and what to expect and I was prepared to find it too strong based on its consistency and color, but I thought tasted a bit like coffee in a way only sweeter than the black coffee I drink. It was heavier than a regular beer and felt richer like a milk smoothy in a health food bar.

While I photographed a pint, I only drank a half. That’s me as you can see having my first taste. I look a little apprehensive, but I was all smiles later. Remember … I barely drink so a few sips in and I was feeling it.

There’s one last thing I wanted to share about Gogarty and it was one I would not have expected. When his return to Ireland was delayed by WWII after completing a lecture tour in the United States, Gogarty applied for and was granted American citizenship and spent most of the rest of his life in New York where he wrote for a living after giving up medicine.

So while we skipped the literary pub crawl and our consumption of Guinness was pretty limited, we still managed to choose the one pub with something for all three of us. Without knowing the history of the man that Gogarty’s was named for, it seems a happy coincidence that a doctor (David), a published author (Michael), and a (now) Guinness loving expat (me), chose this pub to round out our Dublin experience.

Until next time … Cheers!

My Dublin Inspired Irish History Lesson

Photo Credit - Elizabeth Harper - Dublin 2012

It was the angels that made me want to cross the street for a closer look. All four of them seemed almost identical with the rough surface of the sculpture looking almost like someone had made it of papier-mâché before casting it in metal.

It took me ages to discover any information about the angels even though there was a clue in the words, A Nation Once Again written in the stone wall surrounding them. The statue of the man in the background is Thomas Davis, a revolutionary Irish writer who died at 30 in 1845. There’s a snippet of information about him in the Wikipedia quote below.

“He himself was a Protestant, but preached unity between Catholics and Protestants. To Davis, it was not blood that made a person Irish, but the willingness to be part of the Irish nation. Although the Saxon and Dane were, Davis asserted, objects of unpopularity, their descendants would be Irish if they simply allowed themselves to be. “

Irish Independence 

He wrote the famous Irish rebel song, A Nation Once Again. ” The song is a prime example of the “Irish rebel music” sub-genre. The song’s narrator dreams of a time when Ireland will be, as the title suggests, a free land, with “our fetters rent in twain.” The lyrics exhort Irishmen to stand up and fight for their land: “And righteous men must make our land a nation once again.”

Photo Credit - Elizabeth Harper - Dublin 2012

In searching for information on the angels almost at his feet, I found little except they’re considered to represent the four provinces of Ireland: Leinster, Ulster, Munster, and Connacht. I’m hoping for a little help from my Irish friends, Maria and Gina to fill in more details about the angels and the fountain and I’d be interested to know the name of the artist as well.

Photo Credit - Elizabeth Harper - Dublin 2012

I found two other photographs online to add to mine above. One gives you a visual of how the angel fountain and the statue of Thomas Davis look in the middle of College Green and the other shows you a larger view with people filling the street around both while they wait for a visit from Barack Obama in 2011.

Internet Photo

Photo Credit - Lawrence Jackson

I have to admit that I was a bit embarrassed to discover during my Dublin trip how little I actually knew about Irish history and how much of that has been influenced by movies I’ve seen rather than books that were historically accurate.

For instance, I had no idea that Ireland was neutral during WWII. Did I just sleep though that part of class?

Eating, Sleeping, & Walking On A Jersey Holiday

I’m back with a bit more about our trip to Jersey. Due to John’s daughter having moved last year, we stayed in a B & B this visit. Rachel has a loft/attic room that will eventually be added space she can use for company, but given she’s moved to a seaside location, I think a slightly smaller home is a good tradeoff for being steps from the sand.

The photos just above and below are pictures of Undercliff, the B & B where despite having the best bed ever, I managed to have busy dreams each night. John and I agreed that it was great value for the money. Our room very clean and spacious and only a short walk to the sea. With a tasty breakfast each morning and strong and plentiful coffee, we felt so well looked after by Ida and Richard Huson that we’d recommend Undercliff without hesitation.

Here’s a shot John took from a hill nearby of Undercliff now. It looks as if it’s grown some since the black and while photos below were taken. We had breakfast everyday in the room with the big fireplace shown in the bottom left photo of the four below.

These black and white photos were a series of framed photographs showing Undercliff during or shortly after WWII. As Jersey was occupied by the German military during WWII, John and I decided the terms below for staying at Undercliff were probably after the war because people were not coming to Jersey on holiday when it was occupied. Ration cards are mentioned in the terms below and John said they were using ration cards for some things as late as 1954 in Britain. We stopped rationing in the US in 1946.

This is what you see when you follow a path near Undercliff. It takes you right by the sea and onto the coast path.

John was standing on a rock trying to take a similar picture to the one I snapped just above this one.

There are steps in some places to help along the coast path, but sometimes they seem to go on and on making you wonder if you’ll ever reach the top.

If you look closely at this photo, you can see something that looks like a castle on the piece jutting out near the broken off looking point on the left. We explored the area on our walk and I’ll have close-up images of what we discovered in tomorrow’s post.

We walked about two and half miles to meet Rachel and Jersey Baby Girl for lunch in Rozel which is home to the famous Hungry Man! The food is great and mostly fattening, but a trip to Jersey is not complete without a visit here for lunch.

The best part of lunch was not the yummy bacon-burger I enjoyed, but having a chance to cuddle the little sweetie below.

Making Gifts From Photo Memories

I used to make large and unusual photo collages to give as gifts to mark special occasions. I began doing it about 25 years ago when I became frustrated with the amount of photographs I was taking and the lack of ways to display them. Albums seemed tedious and too many framed images felt more like clutter than a way to share a memory.

I came across a photo in my files of one collage I made and thought some of you might be interested. It was a gift for my step-mom’s aunt Margaret who served in the Navy during WWII and stayed in long enough to retire.

Born in a small town where everyone knew and loved her, her desire to see a bigger world and the courage to venture into places where women from small towns usually didn’t go, would have made her my type of role model when I was growing up. I put this together for her 80th birthday about eight or nine years ago. It’s not my best collage, but it is one of my sentimental favorites.

It’s smaller than most of the collages I’ve done in the past, only about 24 inches tall and 14 or so wide. I didn’t have as many photos to work with as I normally do. I’m used to having loads to choose from, but because it was a surprise I had to work with what Cullene had on hand.

Knowing that the Navy was such an important part of Margaret’s life, I enlarged a V-Mail letter and envelope from my great-uncle Hugh who died towards the end of WWII. I used it as a backdrop and tried to position it so that it would not be obvious that he was writing to his parents.

I wanted to project a feel for that time during her history and thought it was a good stand-in since I didn’t have any written by Margaret. I made photo copies of the old photos Cullene gave me and tore the edges before gluing them on with rubber cement. I like to use different textures normally and this was actually a bit too glossy for me.

Personalized Party Favors

I also made little party favors (memory items) for each guest at the 80th party to sit at each of the place settings. I based it on a story Cullene told me about how in those days small happenings made the newspaper in the close-knit community where she and Margaret grew up.

Since she broke her arm playing on bales of cotton, I decided to make mini bales with a laminated photo copy of the news clipping attached to it. I can’t help thinking how nice it would be to live in a place where a little girl’s broken arm during play was part of the news.

 

Memorial Day Memories In 2011

For much of my life remembering the war dead on Memorial Day has been about those lost during WWII or the Vietnam War. It was easier when I was younger to balance a plate of barbecue while watching a parade of war veteran’s marching to honor fallen comrades. It was more distant then, less personal.

There were stories of course like those I heard about my great-uncle Hugh Lee, who died in France during WWII, but nothing close enough to affect me personally. Having died years before I was born, it was my father and my great-grandmother who talked about him the most and made him more to me than just a name on a gravestone in the family plot.

Gratefully, he was the last in our immediate family to die in service and while my father and I both spent time in the Army, neither of us were faced with military conflict.

At fifty, I struggle to read the news reports of war related deaths especially when I see that some of the people dying are my daughter’s age or younger. I can’t imagine their parent’s grief. I don’t want to know how that feels.

What I do know is how important the stories we share are no matter if they happen at the cemetery or over a plate of barbecue. I won’t be doing either today, no visits to war memorials and no family gatherings with food or conversation, but I will remember and not just my family.

I’ll spend some time today with the stories I usually can’t bear to read because this is a day for remembering and for acknowledging the loss that some people can never forget.

Here’s one of my stories from last year. If you have a link to one you’d like to share, feel free to leave it in a comment below.

 

Memorial Day – Because Sometimes We Forget

Captain Eleanor Grace Alexander died on November 30 1967 in a plane crash in Binh Dinh, South Vietnam. I did not know anything about her until I made a point to find out who she was and how she died after seeing her name at the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. Eleanor Grace Alexander was one of eight active duty women who died during that war. She was 27 and unmarried.

Born the same year as my mother she would have been 70 on September 18 had she survived. Having read first hand accounts from people who knew her and several who served with her including Rhona Marie Knox Prescott who wrote this moving letter which is part of the Veteran’s History Project in the Library of Congress, I am grateful there was a record so that some of my questions could be answered.

As an American child of the sixties, it was the Vietnam War that was the backdrop of my daily life with body counts and war updates delivered each night by men like Walter Cronkite of CBS news. Sadly we are still at war, still fighting, and still burying the dead. Although we do battle in different countries now, the result is the still the same for many and unless your life has been touched directly by loss it can be easy to forget why we recognize Memorial Day, why it’s more than a precursor to summer fun and pool side parties. I’m guilty of forgetting in the past, of treating the three-day weekend that leads into Memorial Day as a much needed respite from a too full life. What I hope to never forget is that I’ve had a chance to live the life I have thanks in part to men and women who died in wars long before I was born.

I plan to take a few minutes today to think about Eleanor Grace Alexander and my great uncle, Hugh Lee Stephens who died in WWII.

Is there someone today that you need to remember … I only ask because I know from experience that sometimes without meaning to, we forget.

June 6, 1944 – Surviving To Die Another Day

 

HUGH LEE STEPHENS

HUGH LEE STEPHENS

While June 6, 1944 is a day that many will gather to remember the 65th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion and the wartime sacrifice of human life, in my family there is another date that we remember someone lost to us on French soil in 1944. Like many other families it’s more personal than just another breaking news story where they bring out the oldest surviving vets and listen as they recount the horrors of that horrible time.

Stories are powerful, they shape opinion and leave a lasting impression on how we view the world around us. I grew up hearing stories about my great uncle, Hugh Lee Stephens. He was one of only two children born to my father’s maternal grandparents in a time when families were usually much larger, when more children in families like ours meant more hands to work the farm and fields. On the day my family learned of Uncle Hugh’s death, his mother, my great-grandmother, had what I believe was first of several heart attacks she would have throughout her life. She was 53. She forever mourned her dead son acting in some ways as if her life ended with his. By the time I was born she almost seemed like a frail reflection of the sturdy woman I saw in family photographs before 1944.

My father was only a few days away from his 10th birthday when he heard the news and spoke often of how he’d looked up to his uncle who at 18 years his senior, was in many ways like a second father to him. My grandmother Clara Mae, his only sibling, told the kind of stories one might expect from a someone still clinging to the unfinished business of sibling rivalry…choosing to hold onto old hurts instead of feeling the pain and finality that comes with death. Each one had a different story…each one the truth for them. As for his father, my great-grandfather, I cannot ever remember him sharing any stories of his lost son… almost as if it was too much to remember what must have been to painful for him to recall.

Hugh Lee, as he was referred to by his mother and father also left behind a wife who loved him. When he died at 27, he was just a simple Georgia boy in a foreign country. He found himself in a country he never imagined he’d be growing up as he did on a rural farm in the south. A place across the ocean where he’d struggle to find his footing and fall dying as he did beside his fellow soldiers, the sons and fathers and husbands we still remember 65 years later.

Because I had served as a soldier in the U.S. Army, when it came time to pass Uncle Hugh’s flag to the next generation for safe keeping my father offered it to me, the eldest of his three daughters. I took this photograph in Georgia just before I passed it on to my daughter Miranda who while only 21, was appreciative and eager to accept it into her care. While packing up the small amount of things that I value most to send over to England, I made the decision to leave behind the flag that draped the casket at his military funeral not because I did not value its meaning or because there was no room, but because I believed my great uncle Hugh’s American flag should stay in the country he called home.

IMG_1206

The reflection of the empty chairs in this photograph of his flag reminds me of the family and life experiences he never got to have. Leaving no children of his own, his story exists now only in a few genealogy notes, this flag and the memories we share.  I honor his service and sacrifice in the best way I know how by sharing his story with a group larger than the boundaries of our little family and hope that he like so many others who gave their lives on the battlefield , will never be forgotten.