Place: Fredericksburg, Texas, and the Nimitz Museum; Book: Westdale’s Blue Skies and Thunder
If you find yourself in Texas Hill Country, please stop at The National Museum of the Pacific War (the Nimitz Museum; Admiral Nimitz grew up in Fredericksburg and his family’s old hotel houses part of this fantastic resource on the war). The sprawling grounds and exhibits are gripping (I teared up reading about a woman who lost five sons at once in one of the Pacific battles). They showcase a personal history of the admiral, a peace garden given to the museum by the people of Japan, and installations of original war equipment, including a Japanese “midget submarine” and numerous planes. Toward the end of the exhibit pathway, we felt a chill looking at a mural of the Trinity test site and realizing we’d been in White Sands just days ago. And that all the atomic action there and over Japan happened almost exactly seventy-five years ago—July 16, 1945, for the Trinity detonation and August 6 and 9, 1945, for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. Simply, the museum’s multimedia displays really make the war come to life and humanize history. And travel to historic sites brings things home in ways that little else can.
Given the nature of the day’s adventure, the corresponding book choice was pretty easy to make: Virgil Westdale’s Blue Skies and Thunder. This folksy, self-published account of Westdale’s time as a Japanese-American soldier in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and then in the 522nd Artillery Battalion takes readers from a boyhood on a Midwestern farm to rescuing the “Lost Battalion” in France to liberating Dachau. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of meeting (even dancing with!) the heroic Mr. Westdale, who received a Congressional Gold Medal and a French Legion of Honor Medal for his service in the War. Pretty cool indeed to have spent time with this man. And he can really dance!
After the museum, and a stop for ice cream, we hit the road, heading back toward Galveston Bay and the boat. We’d be putting this new RV into storage, and The Bosun would be returning to work, and I’d be getting my little teardrop trailer out for a solo journey north (her last before we’d sell her—no one needs two campers!). The problem was we didn’t have a reservation for a storage space ... or anywhere to park the RV for the night. Because we hadn’t been sure about our plans, we hadn’t firmed up reservations anywhere. And late afternoon on a Friday meant I couldn’t raise anyone—I couldn’t reach the storage facility where I’d made tentative plans to store the RV, or even contact any new options. Nor could I reach any campgrounds. Voicemail everywhere (except for one campground that demanded I get “pre-approved” for a one-night stay by sending pictures of the motorhome—out of principle, I passed on that place.)
Work stress, fatigue, and nine unanswered calls to storage facilities and campgrounds around Galveston Bay and I cracked.
“@$&$! Doesn’t anyone want to do business at four o’clock on a Friday?” I shouted. Immediately, I felt bad I was soiling our trip with ire.
“Just get us a camping spot. We’ll figure it out in the morning.” The Bosun kept his eyes on the road as he offered his advice.
“I’m trying. They won’t answer either. Unless we want to send pictures of our ‘unit.’”
“Pictures?” The Bosun glanced at me quickly. Clearly, he’d not been listening to my struggles on the phone.
“Yeah, I know. Ridiculous. For a one-night stay. Stupid.”
I finally found a camping spot (not cheap either!) and settled down to try to work, only to have my phone cut out constantly and the work-related apps crash violently and repeatedly.
Sigh. It was time to unplug for a little while.