"I do want to let you know that those planes were a welcome sight to us. We watched them on their way toward Germany and later, on their way back toward England, the stragglers which obviously had been hit and were trying desperately to reach England. I want you to know that I watched those wounded planes many times and my wishes and prayers followed them as they disappeared toward the horizon."
These words came from a note written by Marguerite Knisely to an American bomber pilot who some 63 years after his service received a Flying Cross Award. Marguerite watched the flights because she was trapped inside Belgium, where since 1940 the German army had occupied Gembloux, the town where she lived with her parents. In 1945, Marguerite met Bill Knisely, an American soldier in a railroad battalion who was in Gembloux for a short period of time. Marguerite and Bill became very close, and before he left her town they decided to become married. For three hours one recent evening she showed me the V-mail letters that Bill Knisely sent home, and she shared her photograph album from the war days and afterward. More than anything, she told me the stories of living in a war zone, fleeing the German invasion into France in 1940 and living under German occupation. When she later left Belgium to marry Bill, and when she got off the boat in New York in 1947, she thought at first that there was some kind of emergency, because she had never seen so many cars on the streets and people going everywhere in a hurry.
That was the United States in January of 1947.
On to New Orleans. Maple Street Bookshop, Wednesday, 5:00 PM on.