August 19, 2016 - Dubrovnik

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August 19th 2016
Published: August 21st 2016
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In the early afternoon of April 13, 1944, a flight of B-24 Liberator bombers were loaded with over 10,000 pounds of bombs, fueled, belched smoke from their engines as they started, made the difficult taxi to the main runway at Giulia airfield near Foggia IT, and took off into the clear air. As the flight formed up, they headed on course of 2440 true, a course that would take them over Yugoslavia and on to their target of Budapest. At least one never made it. Coming in over the Yugoslavia coast it was hit by antiaircraft fire, and began to lose altitude. Three men made it out with parachutes, including the right waist gunner, the navigator, and the tail turret gunner. All the others died when it crashed about 15 miles from the coast in what is now a plowed field. Among those killed was young sergeant Waymon Steakley, leaving behind a grieving widow who would not know for some time whether he was alive, and a daughter he had seen but who was only 14 months old. The young widow was my mother, and the infant was my older sister. We are started today's journey buying flowers and taking them to the crash site. All that can be seen is a vineyard and a plowed field. The bodies of the dead crew were recovered, but could not be well identified and were buried in a common grave in a military cemetery in St. Louis. To my knowledge, my mother never visited there.

Then it was on to Dubrovnik. The name evokes mystical dreams of a fabled destination. In truth, Dubrovnik in August is substantially less fabled and substantially more crowded. The old town, the only part worth visiting in my mind, is enclosed within a very thick 2 km surrounding wall, and walking the ramparts is one of the must-do things in Dubrovnik. The ramparts have been used as a setting in Game of Thrones, and a part of Star Wars VIII was filmed in Dubrovnik in March 2016.

In August, everyone in Europe is on vacation, and I think most of them were in Dubrovnik. Cruise ships deposit thousands of passengers daily, and the locals complain since the passengers tend not to spend much money. But despite all that, it is a city worth visiting, although preferably at a time of lower numbers of people and cooler temperatures.

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