The best Christmas story I ever got to tell

This was the type of bomber 1st Lt. Enoch Perkins flew to Europe in December 1944. Photo/Wikimedia Commons
This was the type of bomber 1st Lt. Enoch Perkins flew to Europe in December 1944. Photo/Wikimedia Commons

Seven years ago, I helped tell a Christmas story that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I shared it with my students earlier this month, and I now I’m posting it here.

I’d spent months working with my former boss Mike Pride to interview dozens of local World War II veterans for a series of stories that would eventually become this book. The project focused on the memories of people still living in our community, but we also pulled a handful of narratives from journal entries, poems and letters left behind by veterans when they died.

Such was the case with 1st Lt. Enoch Perkins, who took command of a new B-17 bomber in the final weeks of 1944. Perkins had died about a year before we started our work, but his daughter had a copy of his journal, and she wanted to share some of it with our readers. Perkins was a great writer, and he kept a careful, vivid account of his travels – including an unexpected stopover at Grenier Field in Manchester, NH

Before I go any deeper into the act of human kindness that makes this tale so special, here’s a bit of backstory:

Many of the heavy bombers that helped the Allies win the war were assigned newly-trained flight crews at air fields in the Midwest. Those crews would hopscotch the planes across the U.S., then north to Canada’s east cost. From there, they’d fly to cold, remote airstrips in Iceland and Greenland, eventually landing in Scotland. One of the last places these crews would land on American soil was Grenier.

Perkins remained in Manchester for several days longer than planned because his copilot needed to recover from an ear infection. While he waited, he worked with a few Red Cross volunteers to make sure his crew and, as it turned out, dozens of other airmen would experience some holiday cheer thousands of miles from home.

Here’s the full story as it appeared in the Concord (NH) Monitor. Please take the time to read; you won’t forget it, either.

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