Living History and the last parade

Filed under: , , , by: Krystal

Yesterday, Dana and I went to pay a visit to Clifton and Ginnie Dohrmann. Nearing 90, Clif is a local Pearl Harbor Survivor. When he was in high school in the late 30's, he had to be part of a debate for English class in which he had to defend the Russian position against the Nazi position. He did a great deal of research to make sure he understood both sides. This convinced him that another war was inevitable and that both positions were going to aggressivly come after the United States.

Clif and Ginnie at their Las Vegas Home

So at 16, he lied about his age to the recruiter and joined the Iowa National Guard. As tensions flared over seas, he knew he had to enlist. He joined the Navy and was in boot camp being trained in ground warfare, watching the old movies from WWI on mustard gas and trench warfare. (He quickly decided maybe he didn't want to be calvary, after all.) He did get a bit of a surprise one day when he was pulled out of line to see the commanding officer, who was not too happy that Clif was A.W.O.L. from the Iowa National Guard! He had completely overlooked this small detail in his fierce desire to serve.

Clif also told us about about his PBY Catalina aircraft going down in the Pacific off Hawaii in the early part of 1941. While on patrol, his amphibious plane with a crew of 9 aboard sprung an oil leak and they had to set down in open water. Clif fixed the leak and they radio'd for help. They didn't have enough engine oil to get airborne again, but the plane was otherwise okay and floating on the water. A passing squad of PBYs on the way from San Diego to Pearl Harbor answered their distress call and notified the base to send out rescue. They were in the water for three days before a US destroyer showed up on the horizon. They were over 700 miles from shore. They offloaded some of the crew onto the destroyer, but there was no reason to abandon a perfectly good plane. Clif used gun cleaning oil from the destroyer to refill the oil tank. The ship's skipper then pulled up behind the downed plane and used it's wake to give the plane enough of a push to get it airborne and they returned safely to Oahu.

Despite these early hiccups, Clif went on to serve throughout World War II. On the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was stationed with his PBY aircraft crew at Kanehoe Bay. He related that he spent much of the war away from home. Ginnie said he came back once for a month or so, but otherwise was in battle zones for over 5 years as the fighting raged. He reenlisted in the middle of the war and served 8 full years.

Although we really enjoyed hearing Clif's stories, the purpose of our visit was to speak to Clif and Ginnie about the upcoming Vet's Day parade in November. At the last meeting, Dana was told that the Survivors here feel it will most likely be their last Veteran's Day parade as many of them are in poor health and all are over 80.

In years past, they have gone in their own cars with the windows up as it can be a bit chilly in November. They wave to the crowd, but it is difficult for the crowd to see them and unless they are near the reviewing stand and can hear the announcements, no one knows WHO it is they are seeing. After observing how the Survivors in San Diego and other parts of the country attend parades, it's not the parade going experience we feel that they deserve. In those cities, Survivors are usually driven in some kind of trolley, seated on a flat bed truck, driven in convertible classic cars or ride on military vehicles with a walking escort of flag bearers, serving troops, R.O.T.C. or Reserves.

Mustering for the 2009 4th of July Parade in Cornado, CA, the Cub Scouts prepare this float with a replica of the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, while uniformed Navy Corpsmen prepare to provide a walking escort for John W. Finn.

In San Diego, Old Town Trolley generously donates the use of their trolleys and drivers to the Survivors for just about every parade they attend.

One of the San Diego Pearl Harbor Survivors is driven in a classic car while the trolley behind is filled with more Survivors.

Dana and I would like our local Survivors to really have the chance to enjoy this last parade with no concerns for logistics or driving and most importantly, be able to have this experience with friends they haven't seen in months or years because they have been unable to attend meetings or visit them at the nursing home. Several of the Survivors cannot drive anymore. With the blessing of Clif and Ginnie, who do most of the logistics for them to attend parades, we're speaking to several local sources to see if we can secure a comfortable, open air vehicle(s) for them and their spouses (about 20 total) as well as transport to and from the parade for those who can't drive. We'll keep you all posted on our progress.
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