A Circular Bit of History
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.