Author's Journey to Bastogne Milestone 1
My journey to Bastogne began in 2002, when I shared a long car ride with Dr. John (Jack) T. Prior. At that time, he was a member of the board of directors of the American Lung Association of Central New York, and I was the executive director. Prior to that day, we had a professional relationship only. When the state office required a board member to accompany me to periodic meetings in Albany, Dr. Prior volunteered. With failing sight, he rode shotgun. We struck up a conversation about what we were reading at the time. I described my renewed interest in World War II since I had learned more about my father’s service with
the Army Air Corps in the South Pacific. The story my father told during my childhood was that he was a weatherman. About fifty years later, a reporter in Watertown, NY, captured a conversation at a veterans’ reunion initiated by a man unknown to my father: something along the lines of ‘I have always wanted to meet one of you guys. You saved my ass a number of times.’ It turns out he was a bomber pilot who was guided by my father’s weather, routing him around violent weather that could have knocked his aircraft from the sky. The catch, it turns out, was that my father and his colleagues could forecast the weather far beyond the reach of our weather observers, because they had broken the Japanese code and were reading enemy weather reports. They knew what the conditions were all the way to and from distant targets. My father was a cryptographer. In turn, Dr. Prior told me about his experiences in Europe when he served in the 10 th Armored Division in Patton’s Third Army. When the Germans mounted a massive counteroffensive on 16 December 1944, Dr. Prior’s unit was rushed to Bastogne, Belgium, to block the Germans who were bent on controlling the town and its web of seven hard-surfaced roads. At first, he cared for wounded in Noville, just north of Bastogne and then set up an aid station in Bastogne where two Belgian nurses who were home for the holidays volunteered to assist him. He couldn’t say enough about how grateful he was for their help, nearly 60 years after the war. It was there in Bastogne that Dr. Prior’s life was saved by a chance occurrence. I found Dr. Prior’s story so compelling that I offered to produce a documentary film of Dr. Prior revisiting Bastogne and reliving his wartime experiences. Once Dr. Prior screened the three documentaries that I had produced in the 1990s, he agreed to make the journey with me and ace cinematographer Scott Shelley. Sadly, Dr. Prior passed away in 2007 before the documentary project could get off the ground.
Dr. Prior describing the action in Bastogne to the Ivers boys, Kyle, Glenn Jr. and Ryan (left to right).