Collateral Death and Damage in the War on
It all ended October first, 1946 with a
hellacsious thunder storm at Buffalo Valley, Nevada - a place nothing grew
taller than your bare ankles, withered, dried and scratching at any skin
exposed. As far as the eye could see barren, hot with an eerie air that
tried to suck every happy memory right out of the mind. No wind, no birds.
The plane crash.
This is the site that took down a mighty
B-29 with eleven WW II battle-seasoned veterans aboard, wounding everything,
scathing the ground in a long, wide path leaving only part of one engine and
no other pieces larger than a young but full-grown man's hand. Lives lost
forever, not lived and lives yet to be born of this world all intertwined
with justice still hanging in the empty air as a ghost bird.
This was both the end and the beginning of
a journey walked still today in the year 2003. After the B-29 Super Fortress
went down Imogene Adamson, a Army Cadet Nurse at St. Francis School of
Nursing in Grand Island , Nebraska - the same town the B-29 had it's
training base, ran to the Base seeking information. The Army gave no
official statement, although in a small town where the Army Air Corps base
plus the Veterans Hospital was the center of life rumors abounded.
The next day October 2nd, 1946 the
newspaper published the names of the young men lost forever and Sgt. Donald
Oliver Finnell RA1 5 066 567 was among them sending her into deep mourning.
He had been her boyfriend, lover and family friend, buddy to her brothers
and welcome guest to her parents. A man she had told her brother Earl
Adamson that they had secretly married in Kansas at a Justice of the Peace.
Now he was gone, so back to the base she went to look for answers that would
not be released.
I was born seven and a half months
after the death of my father on that crash - still asking, still seeking and
running square up against a heels-dug-in-the-sand Veterans Affairs.
Women came out of the woodwork all
claiming to be his wife or have his children- three women all with two
children, one with two illegitimate children said the children were his
including a long-since divorced wife with two of his children.
All is right and fair with all the women,
their children who receive WW II Orphan benefits and WW II Orphan Education
benefits- even his Mother got benefits.
What is not right or just or correct is
that my mother and myself did not plus the fact that the Army Air Corps (now
the Air Force) and the Veterans Administration will not release his service
record during WW 11 nor his medical records to my family, nor benefits.
What the V.A. did release after
fifty-seven years was the crash report and his service dates plus the crash
report which is incomplete. The crash report was complete enough, though
that I organized a memorial service 50 years to the day and hour of the
death of all these young men. Finally it was released as to the exact
location of the crash, not just "40 miles SW. of Battle Mountain,
Now all records need to be in his family's
hands so he may go into the WW II Memorial. Now what needs to happen is that
his last daughter must receive benefits given all the other children, even
the two girls that were born out of wedlock.
On my Mother's death bed I gave my word to
keep working. Never is a long time but it is the time period put on working
on this. I will never give up until Justice is given, freely or not.
Yes, this has gone through the courts,
Regional V.A. to B.V.A. to U.S. Court on Veteran Appeals to a Federal
Circuit Court and was sent back to the Regional Office.
Imogene Finnell was forced to leave the
un-married program at St. Francis School of Nursing so she enrolled at the
University of Oklahoma, taking a maternity leave but completing her
Registered Nurse Degree. Sgt. Finnell's daughter was given to her parents to
raise. On my birth certificate Donald Finnell is listed as my father and my
mother worked a number of years with a social security card in the name of
In 1959 Imogene re-married to Leslie
Hanson, also a WW II veteran and he encouraged her to keep trying for
benefits. The V.A. turned her down, saying "all moneys in this account
had been used" although her daughter was only 13 at the time, missing
out on the free medical, dental and six years of college to say nothing of
the monthly stipend to Mother and daughter.
As the decades have slowly passed with the
scales of Justice unbalanced my resolve has hardened, not fading, not
growing dim. The Claim number on Sergeant Donald Oliver Finnell with all the
records is XC 6 914 523.
It is the request of his decedent that all
records be flung open fully-that Justice be set right so the scales hang
even and he rest in peace knowing his youngest child even though through
hardship has obtained his records and gotten benefits long over due.
Anyone who would be willing to help me please e-mail me.