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VIDEO: WWII Pilot Shares Personal Account of War

Mike McPhate

World War II fighter pilot Quentin C. Aanenson, who died of cancer Dec. 28, fought an incredibly dangerous war.

Ninety of the 125 pilots in his 366th Fighter Group died. Of the 20 pilots who had trained with him, 15 were dead or missing and two wounded within the first 10 months of their deployment. So many died that he stopped making friends with the replacements.

In addition to the time he crash-landed his burning P-47 (at 170 mph), his plane was hit twice on Nov. 17, 1944 by German artillery and tanks just behind the front lines. Gunners hit most of the 12 planes in his squadron and two of Mr. Aanenson's three tent mates were killed. Assigned to a ground job of coordinating close air support, a man died next to him while he called in strikes on enemy tanks

His story illuminated Ken Burns's 2007 documentary, "The War," because of this quiet man's throughtful, serious consideration of what war means. Below is a clip from the film, during which Aanenson talks about his personal torment over killing men.

By Mike McPhate  |  December 30, 2008; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  Patricia Sullivan  
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