If you were in the right place at the right time, in summer 1943, you could have caught glimpse of my grandfather in the uniform of the U.S. Army Air Corps. His term of service began in June 1943. I think he was conscripted. He would have been passed over in the first waves in 1942 due to having a dependent wife and son and his occupation (farmer). He spent most of the period from later 1943 to the end of the war (May 1945) in England, fixing airplanes, or so is my understanding. When the war was over, he returned to farming in Iowa, as he and his family had been doing for several generations (except for a brief stint in Colorado).
J. would, himself, serve in the U.S. Army some six decades after our grandfather (the 2000s). I haven't seen much of J. recently but I remember him telling me, after his discharge from active service some years ago, that he hadn't really liked being in the army. I have heard similar things from a lot of people. Sometimes they also add something like "well, but, you know, it was a great experience to have gone through all the same."
I saw my grandfather often when I was ages 0-13 or so, but don't now recall him saying anything about his military service.
My grandfather died in 2007. I don't recall how I came to find these photographs. I think I came across them in 2014, probably in the possession of my father.
Some letters my grandfather wrote to my grandmother at this time survive. He would have written them while stationed at some airbase in England as a U.S. Army Air Corps mechanic. They remained at the house in Iowa until they died. Seventy years after their writing, I had the chance to read one of these letters. It was nothing special, in fact; just saying 'Hi,' really. He talked about on-base friends he had and that the big pastime was going to the movies on off-time. He wrote the name of a movie he'd recently seen. He was never near any active fighting that I know of.
(On the custom of writing letters by hand, on paper, and mailing them. It makes me think what it takes to ensure something you write survives into the distant future. A lot of it may really be luck, hence our use of the phrase "[this document] survives," as everyday life constitutes a constant storm of destruction of small things like small letters; most of what we do ends up discarded or otherwise lost, sooner or later. Losing what we've written may actually be more of a risk under higher technology: The great majority of my own digital correspondences, since about the late 1990s when I was first online as a child, are now gone without a trace. Early email accounts, passwords forgotten or deactivated with little or nothing saved; instant messenger programs, long lost; school email accounts, inaccessible to students upon graduation; and so on. I can only hope that the contents of this humble blog are not lost too easily.)