Quentin Aanenson: A Fighter Pilot’s Story
April 21, 1921 – Dec 28, 2008
This web site is dedicated to preserving some of the personal history of World War II. Some of my own experiences that do not appear in my film, “A Fighter Pilot’s Story,” will be told here, as well as stories of other fighter pilots of World War II. We hope you will find this site to be of interest, and that you will share it with your friends.
I guess in one sense you can say we are an endangered species. But unlike the spotted owl or the whooping crane, there is no legislation that can be enacted to save us. We are rapidly disappearing off the radar screen, and soon all that will be left is what we have written, what we have recorded, and some old, fading photographs. Our voices will be forever silent, and the untold “first-hand accounts” of our experiences will remain untold.
We are the boys of World War II. We are dying off at the rate of 1,500 a day — that’s 45,000 a month. That number will steadily increase until the unyielding laws of mathematics give us an increasing rate of deaths, but a decreasing number of deaths — the remaining pool will have become too small.
Taps is just one sunset away.
But in our lifetimes, we made a difference. We had the good fortune to live during a time when honor, patriotism, and character were important. We stepped up to defend freedom, and put our lives on the line for the “cause.” It was a moment in history that may never occur again.
“It was 1944. I was 22 years old. And I was a combat fighter pilot in World War II. Along with thousands of other young Americans, I had been trained to be an efficient killer, and the deadly skies over Europe were my battlefields. The events of those violent and bloody days are difficult to comprehend, or even imagine. The story you are about to see is the result of the urgings of my children. They have wanted to know — in specific terms — what my life was really like during those critical years….those were the years I left college and joined the Air Corps, and met the girl I later married. Those were the years this airplane, the P-47 Thunderbolt, was to be my main weapon of destruction. It has been a traumatic experience for me to go back through all this. But perhaps, in other ways, it has helped purge some of the devastating memories that have haunted me for almost 50 years. So this is my story. It is being told so the children and grandchildren of those who were involved in this mortal storm, can have a better understanding of what our world of war was really like.”– Quentin C. Aanenson
Those words above provide the opening to my personal war experiences, as told in my video and television program, A Fighter Pilot’s Story. This was a story I had written, narrated and produced for my family. It also attracted the attention of national PBS, and was first broadcast in June 1994 on more than 300 PBS stations across the United States. It was repeated in 1995 and 1997. It is estimated that more than 30 million people have seen this program.
World War II was the defining moment of the 20th Century. For millions of young American men, it had an impact on them that would forever be a part of their lives. Their personal experiences defy description — the trauma and tragedy they experienced would be theirs alone to endure.
I flew most of my combat missions with the 391st Fighter Squadron of the 366th Fighter Group. The 391st Fighter Squadron still exists as a part of the U. S. Air Force. Their nickname is “Bold Tiger,” and is worn on the right shoulder patch of their flight suits. I have incorporated this name into my e-mail address: email@example.com
On November 17, 1944, the 391st Fighter Squadron of the 366th Fighter Group flew what was perhaps our worst mission of the war. A major ground offensive had begun the day before along…
This was the first of several intense periods of war we had throughout the last six months of 1944 and the end of the war in Europe in May 1945. For the pilots of the 366th Fighter Group, it was an especially brutal time…
When World War II began, American boys by the millions enlisted or were drafted into the military, and the transition from civilian to soldier was set in motion. I was age 21 at the time I enlisted in the Air Corps in August 1942 with the hope that I could become a fighter pilot. Because…
Ken Burns, the outstanding documentary film maker, broadcast his great epic documentary, entitled “The War,” on PBS beginning September 23, 2007. I was honored to be involved in many episodes of this show.
For information about Quentin’s personal documentary, “A Fighter Pilot’s Story,” you can email Quentin’s daughter at his boldtiger address (firstname.lastname@example.org).