Courage Before Every Danger, Honor Before All Men

Courage Before Every Danger, Honor Before All Men by Joanne Pfannenstiel Emerick, (Hoxie, KS: Joanne Pfannenstiel Emerick), 2010.  ISBN 978-0-9845343-0-2 (sc); 978-0-9845343-1-9 (hc); Library of Congress Control Number: 2010928033; 421 pages.

Emerick dedicated this book to her father.  She wrote: In memory of my father, Wendell E. Pfannenstiel, 31st Bombardment Squadron (H) Medical Corps, 1942-1945. This is for you, Daddy, followed by a photo of Pfannenstiel.

Courage Before Every Danger is a documentary of the lives of the people who served in the 31st Bomb Squad (H).  A reader will find the importance of the book within the “Foreword” section written by Norah Davenport Pratton.  “When that old veteran faces the reality  of the final days of his 90 years and has only one request – to hear the unfinished manuscript of Joanne Emerick’s book – there is no doubting that manuscript’s importance…….Roy Davenport passed from this world into the next a few hours after the reading of this special manuscript.  He was so satisfied with what Joanne had written – with the truth, the harsh reality, the beauty and all of those voices of his fellow warriors telling the stories that would now be passed down to the next generation and the next. ‘Don’t forget me,’ he told us again and again.  ‘Don’t forget me.'”

While family and friends may never forget those who served in the 31st Bomb Squad (H), others have never heard of them.  Why is that?

This year is the 70th anniversary of the beginning of WWII for the United States.  Three to four generations have joined those old veterans and with each new generation, WWII becomes less of a conversation around the dinner table.  That is unless you are related to someone who served in the war or you are studying the war in school or as a history buff.  Even then, the common veteran’s name is unknown because not all could hold the high commanding jobs such as Eisenhower, Patton and Marshall.  For the common veteran’s name to become known it takes people like Emerick doing research – tracking down the veterans or their family and reading through thousands of documents, letters, diaries, etc. to find that special story.

Courage Before Every Danger is told in the veterans’ own words.  Twenty chapters tell stories of where the veterans were from, what they did before becoming a part of the 31st and what they did during the war.  Most of the veterans became a close knit family during the war.  After the war, some remained friends and others grew apart as they were reincorporated into their own families’ lives.

It took Emerick eighteen years to complete this masterpiece.  One of her most moving times was when she attended the funeral and burial service of William Wyatt Patton, Jr.   On a mission to Munich, Germany, Patton, flying a P-51 Mustang, encountered fog and disappeared.  On February 22, 2001, near Longueville, France, a farmer  digging a ditch found some metal which turned out to be the P-51 Mustang and there in the cockpit was Junior Patton, wearing his flight jacket and dog tags.  Fifty-six years later, on November 9, 2001, Patton made it home and to his final resting place in Springfield, Missouri.

There are other touchy, feel-good stories in this book: some may bring tears to the eyes of the reader.  But, mostly, the stories will give you a glimpse into the lives of the 31st Bomb Squad (H) stationed in the Pacific islands during WWII.

The book itself is pleasant to look at and is easy to read.  It has several pages of endnotes for those who want to do their own research, an index to help locate a certain name and/or place, acknowledgments, maps, photographs, poems, excerpts of diaries/journals, and direct quotes from the living veterans.

I would recommend this book to high school and college history classes, to all WWII history buffs, and to others who have that curiosity to dig into the past of other people.


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