My Uncle Charles Austin Pennington killed in WWII

My cousin Don Bell put all the following on Facebook. I was named for the one referred to here as Uncle Charles. I grew up hearing about him. I can’t believe all that so many families have suffered as their children died in war. I am posting these here more for myself than any of you that will read them. I never want to forget this man or my grandparents and all they must have gone through in World War II.

I challenge the young men I work with to consider the high price so many have paid for our country. I am shocked at the character you will see exhibited in these letters.

The following is Carl explaining how he came to put all this on facebook.

Letters Home to my Grandparents from my Uncle Charles, a WW-II Air Corps bomber turret gunner, killed over Italy, 1944

Charles Pennington (Right) on Christmas Day, 1943, in front of the house of a friend in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The following letters were kept by my Grandmother and were copied for me by my Aunt Martha Pennington Gidcomb. Photographs and certificates will be coming later. I have typed the letters here verbatim to keep alive the memory of my Uncle Charles Pennington, for the benefit of my family and for all of the members of the Greatest Generation who faught with him for freedom.

In World War II, thousands of bombers flew over Nazi Germany, using millions of tons of bombs to reduce the German military industrial machine to rubble. In each bomber, a man sat in a glass bubble hung below the fuselage, his hands on the controls of an anti-aircraft gun designed to protect the planes from attacks from below. “Flying the ball,” as the men who manned these exposed guns called it, was one of the most dangerous assignments of the war. But it was also essential to the survival of the bombers and-ultimately-the Allied victory. My Uncle Charles lived about five months on the battlefield before his ship was brought down by the exposion. His remains were not returned from Italy until May of 1949. Please don’t be confused by the apparant discrepancy in the dates. It took a long time to get the remains returned to the United States. He is buried at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.

Uncles Charles was credited shooting down at least one German Messerschmitt ME 109. That was documented in an accomodation that he was granted.

Nobody knows exactly how my Uncle Charles died; but the common story within the family was that the entire bomber exploded over Italy. Some of my other uncles speculated about sabotage from the ground crew. However, that is not as likely as the bomb load being hit by shrapnel from Anti-Aircraft guns or one of the bombs detonating when the fuses were armed in the bomb bay. Regardless, when all of the struggles have ceased, we all expect to see him in heaven!

More to follow!

About the author

Austin Gardner is pastor of Vision Baptist Church in Alpharetta, GA. Previously he was church planting missionary in Peru for 20 years.

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