I never got to know my maternal grandfather. He died when my mom was in ninth grade and she never talked about him a whole lot.
Turns out he was the strong silent type (kind of like my dad is now) and despite having earned several honors serving in the Army Air Force in World War II, he didn’t talk about his experiences.
We have a family Bible that lists where he was stationed and other places he had been, but my family knew nothing else about his service.
Recently, my mom tried to get in touch with some guys from my grandfather’s squadron. She heard back about a week later from a man whose father knew my grandpa.
The first thing I learned was that everyone called him Vince. His name was Clarence Carl Vinslauski, but Vince was used as a nickname.
The next thing we learned is that he served with a guy named Orville Moderow. Moderow’s son, Mark, sent us a few stories about my grandpa and Orville.
Apparently the 460th, including Moderow and my grandpa, used to carry a monkey named “Moko” from base to base. I’m not sure where they got the monkey, but I’m sure the little guy made for some entertaining times.
Another story Mark Moderow told us was a bout a scrape my grandfather and his dad were in. As Mark said, “They ended up in the middle of a flight of Japanese Zeros by mistake and then escaped through fire from both the fighters and Japanese ships in the ocean below the cloud bank. Their intelligence on the troop convoy led to a successful follow-up raid by the rest of the 460th, although they couldn’t accompany them due to extensive damage to their P-47s in the dogfight and from the ships.”
I’ve always enjoyed history and have often been curious about my family’s past.
The stories we’ve learned about my grandfather are priceless and give character to somebody I knew only as a name. I’ll keep the stories forever and, maybe someday, tell my kids tales of Moko, Moderow and Vince.
Kristen Czaban is managing editor of The Sheridan Press.