Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day, again--

My slim, tall father would somersault backward out of the tail...

Memorial Day with marching bands on Main Street, and I am thinking of my father, Hubert L. Youmans. A Georgia sharecropper's child, he joined the Army Air Corps (aka our Air Force) at seventeen and flew as tail gunner out of RAF Bassingbourn in the B17 Incendiary Blonde (91st Bombardment Group, 322nd BS) during World War II. The crew lost just one man--on the very last day that the position of mid waist gunner was used in the war, a piece of shrapnel killed mid waist gunner Blaine Corbin. In the picture below, Corbin is missing. Some day I'll make a site for my father and include his notes on the day his friend died.

Later, my father served stateside in Korea, and he retired as a major in the reserves. He attended Emory and LSU and worked as a research chemist and as Professor of Analytical Chemistry. He is an example of how sheer drive and tenacity and the desire to learn and to make something of a life can take a human being far.

Back Row - Left to Right 2nd Lt. Ivar Hendrickson, Bombardier; S/Sgt Bufford Brown, Engineer; 
S/Sgt Paige Paris, Radio Operator; S/Sgt Edward Fitzpatrick, Ball Turret Gunner; 
S/Sgt. Hubert L. Youmans, Tailgunner  Front Row - Left to Right
2nd Lt. Otto Bremer, Navigator; 2nd Lt. Bill Snipes, Pilot; 1st Lt. Glen Crumbliss, Co-Pilot

I also had six uncles who served in World War II, five of them my mother's brothers. (I don't know that much about where each was stationed, though several were in the Pacific theatre. My father's younger brother was in Germany and France, at least part of the time, and married a Frenchwoman.) Many times I was told that my maternal grandmother--Lila Eugenia Arnold Morris, a small-town matriarch, a woman who had faith that she already lived in the Kingdom of God, a woman of strong will--spent hours on her knees every night, praying for their safe return. All five of her boys came marching home.

It would be interesting to know more about the military past of my family. I know the names and something of the history of a few Georgia Confederate soldiers in my mother's family (my eldest, when small, always asked why we were on the wrong side of the war.) Col. James Washington Hance died at Gettysburg, leaving behind a family of little girls. I wonder how they fared in the wretched aftermath in the South--would be curious to know how they grew up in that time. I don't really know much about my father's family during the Civil War.

Probably I know more about my earlier military ancestors. My direct ancestor, Col. John Thomas, came to this country from Wales and founded the Spartan Regiment in upstate South Carolina. He and his wife, Jane Black Thomas, are regarded as notables in the history of the American Revolution, and they produced a mighty clan of children, also notable in Revolutionary history--as were their sons-in-law. (For a colorful account of Jane, see "Three South Carolina Sites Associated With Revolutionary "Feminist" Jane Black Thomas (1720-1811." She also has a Wikipedia page here.)

I wonder how feisty my ancestors were, the ones who lived elsewhere. While I think of myself as a mild and peaceable person, clearly I am a sprig on a militant tree. And that tree is watered by blood.

The body of Colonel Hance is mentioned
in this graphic account.

I made this little post in memory of my father and in honor of my cousin Frank Morris, now retired from a life of service to the Navy. He'll probably tell me if I've made a mistake, at least on the maternal side of things! But of course Memorial Day really belongs to those who died in war. We still have plenty of them to remember, known and unknown.


  1. A superb tribute.
    I have this paradoxical thought: too few and too many people really know and understand war; if more knew and understood, then the many would not have to experience the horrors. Will there always be war? Perhaps. But my military experience tells me that more people need to understand it.
    My father was in North Africa during WW2. He never talked about it. He knew too much. I only barely understand what he know.

    1. Many of us have those fathers who didn't talk much about their wars. I have thought about it a good bit; I suppose that's why I wrote my third book, which historians have said is accurate, whatever that means.

    2. And that would be _The Wolf Pit_?
      Our fathers may not have talked much about war, but so many contemporary battered warriors remind us that war is not an abstraction that affects only others.

    3. It would definitely be! Yes, reminders are everywhere. As they are always, I suppose--I certainly grew up in a landscape that was still one of postwar change and recovery. Evidently it takes a long time for wounds to close and heal.

  2. This deserves far more time than I can afford to give it. I've just finished the Hay Festival ("the Woodstock of the mind" said Bill Clinton when he spoke there) and now we're off to strike-torn France. Your fact-studded approach pleases me and I'm always touched by details about those did the fighting and the dying. When I arrived in Singapore in 1956 to repair RAF radios during the so-called emergency, the war against the communist insurgents was almost over and my "combat" experience was limited to a few nighttime hours on a small concrete tower, armed with a loaded rifle and manipulating a searchlight. Nothing to write home about although I no doubt did. I'll be in touch. Cheers.

    1. Oh, how was the Hay Festival? Enjoy France--I expect with strikes and recent terror events, the hordes of tourists will be smaller.

      I am sure those hours were significant to a young man. I would write home as well!


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.