Im not sure if military history is the exact spot for this story but some of the article is historically infomative. Aside from that..its a great story IMHO.
The last time Edmund Grzywinski and Alvin Kundert saw each other, it was 1945, the big war was over and they were scarcely older than high schoolers, their whole lives ahead of them.
They met again on Friday, two 85-year-old flyboys separated by time and distance but bonded by memories of "Good Deal," the B-29 Superfortress that saw them through 28 bombing missions in the Pacific.
Mr. Grzywinski, a retired Allegheny County mechanic, and Mr. Kundert, a retired insurance adjuster who lives in Minnesota, embraced at Mr. Grzywinski's home in Harrison.
It was an ambush reunion of sorts orchestrated by Mr. Grzywinski's son, Bob. Mr. Grzywinski, who turned 85 on Tuesday, had no idea that his son had flown Mr. Kundert to Pittsburgh on Friday as a birthday surprise.
The men had talked on the phone once last year but hadn't seen each other since they parted ways 65 years ago, when Mr. Kundert went into the hospital for treatment of an eye infection and Mr. Grzywinski headed home to Pittsburgh.
"We never even had the chance to say goodbye," said Mr. Kundert, a native of Fargo, N.D.
After picking up Mr. Kundert at the airport, Bob Grzywinski drove him straight to Ed Grzywinski's house on Argonne Drive, knocked on the door and told his father he needed help carrying in his birthday present.
When Mr. Grzywinski stepped out onto the porch, there stood his war buddy, along with his son, Kye, 48.
"Junior!" said Mr. Grzywinski, using Mr. Kundert's nickname from the war. "Oh, my God almighty. Oh, man. Unbelievable."
"Good to see you," said Mr. Kundert.
They are the last surviving members of the 11-man crew of "Good Deal," a 20th Air Force B-29 that flew out of Tinian under the control of Commander Jack Carland of Midland, Beaver County, on bombing missions over Japan.
Mr. Grzywinski, an enlisted man, was a gunner, and Mr. Kundert an officer and navigator.
"How many years has it been, Junior?" said Mr. Grzywinski.
"Sixty-five," Mr. Kundert replied.
"We're still alive," Mr. Grzywinski laughed.
Bob Grzywinski, 54, an electrician from Ohio Township, recorded the event with a video camera.
"I just wanted to do this for my dad out of respect for him and all veterans," he said. "I respect what that generation did for us."
The reunion wasn't all that he arranged.
Earlier this month, he approached his employer, Lamar Advertising, about putting up a billboard on Freeport Road in his dad's honor, complete with old photos, a happy birthday wish and a thank you to all veterans. He tried to pay for it, he said, but his boss at Lamar tore up his check.
The billboard will stay up until Dec. 5.
Mr. Grzywinski saw the sign the other night and was thrilled, naturally, but reuniting with Mr. Kundert was a treat neither they nor their sons will likely forget.
"I still can't believe it happened," said Mr. Grzywinski.
Friday wasn't the first time Mr. Grzywinski has been honored with a surprise visit from an old crew member. For his 50th wedding anniversary, Bob Grzywinski flew in Paul Vleck from Maryland, who has since died.
Ed Grzywinski and Mr. Kundert were the youngest members of the crew -- Mr. Grzywinski was 17 when he enlisted in 1943 and Mr. Kundert just a year older. They met in training in New Mexico and grew close during their service on Tinian, even though enlisted men and officers don't normally fraternize.
"It's different in the Air Corps," said Mr. Kundert. "We were a crew. We were a team."
They were also a part of the longest air mission of World War II.
In July 1945, the plane and two others left Tinian, stopped at Iwo Jima and flew on to occupied Rashin, Korea, where they dropped mines by parachute into the harbor to disrupt Japanese shipping. Over the target, wrote co-pilot John Henningfeld in a 1995 account, "shells pinged off our props and ricocheted off the fuselage; tracers zinged across, above and below our nose. Without announcement a round shattered one pane of glass above (Mr. Carland's) head, and powdered glass sifted about the cockpit."
They made it through and back; the trip took 25 hours.
Before they left Tinian, Mr. Henningfeld said, he and Mr. Carland had been given plastic pouches, each containing $13,000 in cash, for use if they were shot down.
When they landed, an airman greeted them with one curt line: "I need the 26 Gs."
"Somehow I expected, 'Welcome back, guys, good flight?' " wrote Mr. Henningfeld, who died last year.
Mr. Grzywinski and Mr. Kundert don't talk much about combat with family or friends, but they saw plenty of action.
As part of the 504th Bombardment Group, they faced anti-aircraft fire or Japanese fighters on every mission.
"You got so scared sometimes that you couldn't think straight," said Mr. Grzywinski.
Over Tachikawa, "Good Deal" bombed an aircraft parts factory and took heavy fire that knocked out an engine, forcing an emergency landing on Iwo Jima. Over Yokohama, searchlights caught the plane in a crisscross, making it a fine target until Mr. Carland increased the air speed enough so that the anti-aircraft shells exploded just behind the tail.
"The tailgunner was screaming the whole time," said Mr. Kundert.
Mr. Grzywinski also remembered that the crew dropped leaflets above Hiroshima two weeks before the atom bomb obliterated that city on Aug. 6, 1945, warning the residents to get out because something terrible was going to happen.
As is typical with veterans everywhere, the men recalled a tale or two about the foolishness of their leaders. Their plane, for example, was adorned with the image of a shapely young woman on the nose, like most Allied bombers. But when a new commanding officer took over, he ordered the artwork removed from all the planes because it offended his sensibilities as a born-again Christian.
"We paid a Marine $35 to paint that," said Mr. Grzywinski. "We were mad."
In their later years, he and Mr. Kundert have grown nostalgic for their old plane.
Both have climbed aboard Fifi, the only B-29 still flying. Mr. Grzywinski visited the ship when it came to Pittsburgh in 2008, and Mr. Kundert boarded her in Fargo in 2002.
After the war, the men got on with their lives, going to work, getting married and raising families. Mr. Grzywinski became a mechanic for the county and a Harrison commissioner for a time. Mr. Kundert earned his private pilot's license and gave flying lessons while working in the insurance industry.
The two also share the pain of tragedy -- both have endured the deaths of two children. Two of Mr. Kundert's four sons died in their 40s. Mr. Grzywinski, who reared seven children with his wife, Theresa, lost a daughter at 18 and a son at 50.
That experience further cemented a connection between them.
But it was the war that was on their minds on Friday. Bob Grzywinski planned a banquet today at a Banksville restaurant for 40 friends and family. An honor guard will be on hand, and an admiral was expected to present Ed Grzywinski with commemorative medals that the younger Grzywinski purchased to go with the decorations he earned in the war, including the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Mr. Kundert was especially excited about the weekend because he wanted to review Mr. Grzywinski's extensive war records and photo album. Mr. Kundert lost all of his in a 1970 house fire. Now is his chance to restore the gaps in his memory with a friend from a lifetime ago.
"We've got a lot of catching up to do," he said.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10324/1104775-51.stm#ixzz15rXVstxp