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Book ReMarks: The Diary of One Now Dead

Tom Drodge's "The Diary of One Now Dead."
Tom Drodge's "The Diary of One Now Dead"

On Dec. 10, 1942, the B-26 Marauder Time’s A Wastin’ departed Greenland en route to Goose Bay, Labrador. The plane didn’t reach its destination. It crash-landed north of Goose Bay in the vicinity of Hebron.

The six-man crew survived the crash without serious injuries.

Yet ultimately, all six men perished.

Tom Drodge’s book "The Diary of One Now Dead" [Flanker Press] is an account of the Time’s A Wastin’ tragedy. Details of what happened to the six men after the crash come from pilot First Lieutenant Grover Cleveland Hodge’s diary.

Drodge has built his book — piece by piece; layer by layer — around the diary’s contents like an oyster building a pearl around a speck of grit.

Drodge begins with some history of the Battle of the Atlantic, a recap of sorts that provides some perspective regarding the reason Time’s A Wastin’ was in Greenland and why it took off for Goose Bay. It was flying from one American air force base to another.

Discussion of the Battle of the Atlantic has triggered this aside. Although WWII was history — so to speak — 10 years after Time’s A Wastin’ crash-landed in Labrador, lingering fear of German U-Boats was still alive and well in my bay-boy community. It wasn’t unusual for someone to report that so-and-so had seen a German submarine out in Random Arm.

Or, at least, someone saw the periscope of a German sub scanning the cove.

Or, saw garbage that could have been dumped only from a German submarine floating on the Arm.

Oh, and another thing. Tom Drodge includes the lyrics of Johnny Horton’s song “Sink the Bismarck,” a song that’s filed away in a special fold of my noggin. I was a Birthday Boy living in a foreign province when Granny gave me an LP — an LP! A Long-Playing record! — featuring Johnny’s song. It was one of the first LP’s I owned.

Speaking of song lyrics. Drodge also added the lyrics of Ellis Cole’s song “Diary of One Now Dead,” a musical nod to the Time’s A Wastin’ tragedy.

And guess what?

I’d never heard tell of the song.

So guess what?

I hie-dee-hoed off to YouTube and called up this gem-dandy tune and made everyone in the house listen to it.

Something else I’d never heard of — Borden numbers.

(B’ys, do you think I ought to get out more?)

Borden numbers are used to assign special locations on a map. Because of the crash site’s Borden numbers, Time’s A Wastin’ is part of this province’s archaeological inventory. This means the site is protected.

What?

What about Lieutenant Hodge’s actual diary?

In late spring 1943, the men who recovered the crew’s bodies found the diary among Hodge’s belongings: “Upon reading the diary they had found lying close by, written by the pilot, First Lieutenant Grover C. Hodge, Jr., they learned that there were three other officers who had left by boat to try and find help.”

Presently — as far as I know, anyway — the diary is located in the 5 Wing Goose Bay Museum.

Obviously, Tom Drodge researched his subject. You can bet a loonie he knows a whole lot more about B-26 Marauders than I do. Sure, he remembers all the particulars. Next week, I’ll likely have forgotten the details I know today.

Mind like a sieve.

This tidbit about the design of the plane’s gun turrets struck my macabre funny bone: “The turret was equipped with firing interrupters, which prevented the guns from firing when pointed at any part of the B-26.”

Well, I should hope so, eh b’ys?

Actually, I’ll prob’ly remember that bit for ages.

Here’s a design detail for the claustrophobic: “There was a tunnel in front of the co-pilot’s seat which allowed the bombardier to enter and exit the nose section.”

It gives me the yim-yams to think of a man crawling into and squatting down in the nose of a bomber, stuck out there in a bubble, the first one to face incoming fire.

But get this. “The B-26 Marauder had the first all-Plexiglas bombardier’s nose.”

Imagine.

On a number of levels, Tom Drodge’s book adds important historical content to physical library shelves — alright, okay — and digital shelves somehow strung up in the clouds.

At the end of his book, Drodge frightens the whoopsie out of me with information that will haunt me if I ever fly again. In “Appendix E” he lists and describes the 10 worst air crashes and disasters of all time.

Like I need that.

Thank you for reading.

— Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville, in the only Canadian province with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at ghwalters663@gmail.com.

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