The 36th Mission
He spent his tour of duty bombing German cities and made it home only to discover he could never leave the war behind him. Then, a lifetime later, he found a way to make peace.
May/June 1995 | Volume 46, Issue 3
“We stood along Schlossstrasse watching the Americans march in. The population waved to the soldiers in a friendly way, and I thought, now the war is really over.”
I wish you and your family all the best, and peace to us human beings on this earth.
Kind regards, Gerda Lemke
Frankenthal/Pfalz Federal Republic of Germany August 6, 1987
Dear Mr. Clark,
. . . I can assure you, dear Mr. Clark, that in spite of some trouble in Europe concerning anti-American demonstrations, caused by incorrigible scatterbrains, the vast majority of reasonable and influential people in West Germany, belonging to my generation (I was born on January 29, 1933), has friendly and grateful feelings toward the U.S. We certainly don’t forget what your country did in favor of us right after 1945—above all, the grand and generous support of Berlin during the dark months of the 1948/1949 blockade by the red Huns—and how you so often stopped the communist monster from trying to realize its sinister sort of appetite. . . .
When I read Mr. Bremicker’s letter inviting me to Germany, I didn’t think anything would come of it. Then he sent me air tickets.
All the best from your friend Franz-Günter Kötter
Osnabrück December 15, 1987
Dear Mr. Clark:
. . . The mayor of Paderborn is bowing his head over your change to apologize, but also reflecting the horrors committed against many other countries and people by German soldiers.
But was there still any reason to the battle and bombings by soldiers against women, children and old people, for example, the horror attacks against the cities of Lubeck, Koln, Hamburg, and Dresden?
“But” there are always objections: What happened here and there, in Danzig, in Poland?
I repeat the words of your great President Lincoln, “Stand with anybody that stands right, stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong.”. . .
However, my letter ought not to be a dispute about the past. I would like to tell you that I am glad to hear from the other side, everything done was not always done right. . . .
With friendly greetings Werner Eisert
Gerhard Stapf Abendzeitung Nürnberg Federal Republic of Germany August 28, 1987
Dear Mr. Clark:
. . . As an editor, born in 1948, your letter affected me deeply. It doesn’t happen very often, especially among us in Germany, that someone apologizes to the victims for deeds he has done; too many people would rather hide behind the orders given by their superiors. . . . That’s why I find the step you took before the public all the more courageous. I hope that this will make people give thought more often as to how they should be made use of by their governments. This applies just as much for “the kingdom of evil,” which President Reagan suspects to be located in Moscow, as for the “power lusts of capitalism,” which his colleague Gorbachev suspects to be located in Washington. But the beginning must be made, in my opinion, not so much with these two gentlemen as with one’s own self and in his immediate surroundings. This is why I consider your letter to be so important. This is why we have also printed it practically in full.
With kind regards, Gerhard G. Stapf
July 23, 1987
Dear Mr. Clark/dear Frank,
. . . You need the excuse from the people of Paderborn, on one hand; on the other, I think your letter was the best idea which a former bomber crew member could have in trying to bridge possibly still existing mental reserves among our nations. In general, being confronted with their failures, people tend to say: “But the others have done. . . .” Although we Germans practiced awful relations to our neighbors & to many of our own before & during WW2—and you certainly know it—you prefer thinking (or have to think) about what the bombs released from your plane over that small German city had done to those on the ground. Please accept my deep appreciation for your honorable attitude, probably in the name of many other Germans.
I am sure that very many who read your letter will have good thoughts for you, possibly even such people who lost relatives in these bombing raids over Paderborn or other cities in our country.