A Cir­cu­lar Bit of His­tory

Flight Journal - - CONTENTS - By Budd Davis­son

Cos­mic Con­nec­tions

It was the night be­fore last Thanks­giv­ing, and I was eat­ing a pizza in bed watch­ing tele­vi­sion with my wife. My phone made its in­sis­tent you-have-a-text sound, and as I hit the but­ton, I didn’t know that one of the more un­usual mini episodes of my life was about to come full cir­cle.

“Is this Budd?” an un­known tex­ter asked.

“De­pends. Who is this?” a wary pizza eater said.

“My name is Ju­lian. I found an ar­ti­cle that you wrote on­line. I be­lieve you have my great-grand­fa­ther’s knives.”

I sat up in bed. I was just a lit­tle star­tled. I knew who this had to be but didn’t be­lieve it! I needed proof.

“What was his name, and where was he from?” I knew the an­swer but wanted to see it.

“Sec­ond Lieu­tenant Ar­lyn Linde. He flew B-24s in WW II and lived in Fond du Lac, Wis­con­sin.” A mes­sage in a jour­nal­is­tic bot­tle that I had launched some six years ago had found its way into the right hands. I ab­so­lutely couldn’t be­lieve it!

Some back­ground: I have a bad habit of binge­ing on eBay, fo­cus­ing on odd­ball items that in­ter­est me but are ig­nored by most of the world. The re­sult is that I have a com­plete set of colo­nial hew­ing axes in my of­fice. And a 3-foot, 33-pound open-end wrench. And the com­put­ing gun­sight from a B-17 ball tur­ret. You get the pic­ture. One of those binges fo­cused on “theater knives.” In ev­ery WW II theater of op­er­a­tion, com­bat troops, both aerial and ground pounders, would of­ten have custom knives made by rear-ech­e­lon mainte- nance types who had ac­cess to ma­chin­ery. Each knife was unique to the crafts­man and var­ied from be­ing crude to lethally artis­tic, but all would per­form de­fen­sive du­ties, if it came to that.

One of the frus­trat­ing as­pects of those kinds of knives is that you never know who made them or for whom they were made. They may have played a role in his­tory, but they just lay there, re­veal­ing noth­ing about their past. It’s mad­den­ing! You wish they could talk. Then I saw a list­ing for two knives that had the owner’s name, Lt. A. Linde, and his ser­vice num­ber, O-930832, on the sheaths. It took only a lit­tle com­puter sleuthing to find out that he had been copi­lot on

B-24s in Italy as part of the 55th Bomb Wing, 456th Bomb Group, most likely Tavoliere in the Fog­gia com­plex.

The per­son I bought them from was an an­tique dealer in Wis­con­sin, and she said that she had bought a foot locker at an es­tate sale that con­tained Linde’s per­sonal mil­i­tary ef­fects, in­clud­ing his dog tags and uni­forms. I was aghast that any­one would sell some­thing so iden­ti­fied with their an­ces­tor. And I said so in no un­cer­tain terms in an ar­ti­cle in a gen­er­alavi­a­tion mag­a­zine where I wrote about the im­por­tance of fam­ily his­tory. Per­son­ally, I’d walk through fire to find some­thing with unas­sail­able prove­nance like that that tied any ar­ti­fact of any kind to my blood­line. I felt so strongly about it and used such firm ver­biage that it ir­ri­tated the young great-grand­son. I was as­sail­ing his fam­ily, and he didn’t like it.

I to­tally re­deemed my­self, how­ever, with the last para­graph of the piece. It said, “If there are de­scen­dants of Ar­lyn F. Linde, Lt. USAAF, read­ing this and you can prove your fam­ily con­nec­tion, con­tact me and the knives and clip­pings will be on their way to you, free of charge! They be­long in your house. Not mine.” Young Ju­lian, him­self an Army vet who had been de­ployed, was surf­ing the Web, read the ar­ti­cle, in­clud­ing the last para­graph, and was tak­ing ad­van­tage of it. He was ab­so­lutely ec­static.

It took only a few bits of con­ver­sa­tion with Ju­lian to dis­cover that he and his fam­ily held Lt. Linde in high re­gard. Some wires had got­ten crossed, how­ever, and all of his

WW II ma­te­rial had been sold in a yard sale. The young man said that he was try­ing to re­trieve as many ar­ti­facts as possible that have his great-grand­fa­ther’s DNA at­tached to them and bring them back into the fam­ily fold. And now he has.

A Pri­or­ity Mail pack­age con­tain­ing two knives, some news­pa­per clip­pings about Ju­lian’s great-grand­fa­ther, and pho­tos of his dog tags left here a cou­ple of days ago. Lt.

Ar­lyn Linde is, in some ways, back with his fam­ily—as it should be.

Theknives were ei­ther made by or made for 2nd Lt. Ar­lyn Linde while fly­ing B-24s in Italy.

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