Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Better Late Than Never

I'm not sure what you call the father of an aunt who married into your family - something like a co-step-grandfather-in-law, maybe? Whatever it is, Paul Toomey was mine. And today in Washington, he's receiving some overdue recognition for something he and some pals did in the crazy, carefree days of their youth. Specifcally:

"...for a mission they flew over the Ploesti Oil Fields on 15 July 1944. During the mission their B-24 was damaged by anti-aircraft fire. The plane lost an engine and lost contact with their squadron. Although their aircraft took on significant damage, the crew managed to evade enemy aircraft, complete its bombing mission and return to Pantanella, Italy from the outer edge of the bombing range."

For this, SSgt. Daniel Paul Toomey is to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross at a special Air Force ceremony. Sadly, the award is being given posthumously and, as you might have noticed, nearly 62 years after the end of World War II. Why the delay?

"This recognition was delayed as a result of an administrative oversight due to the fact the crew was shot down the very next day after the Ploesti mission and were held as POW's for the remainder of the war."

Now, as excuses for bureaucratic screw-ups go, it's somewhat unclear to me why his year-long stay in a POW camp would cause the War Department administrators to lose the guys' medals. Accountability is not exactly the hallmark of today's Pentagon. But it's probably safe to say that, no matter who you are, you will probably never have a 48 hour period as action-packed as Paul Toomey did on July 15-16, 1944.

Amusingly, the award was almost delayed even longer because apparently the US Marshalls were simply unable to locate anyone named Toomey - in Boston, in town with only sightly fewer Toomeys than Dublin (including a relative of Paul's who works in....wait for it...the US Marshall's office there.) Further proof that they just don't make 'em like SSgt Daniel Paul Toomey anymore.

Update: Air Force press release here. That's Aunt Eileen at far left.


Anonymous said...

It would have been so nice if he were here to recieve it but Eileen and the rest of the family are so very proud of him. He is probably just shaking his head and saying " that's the military for you".

God Bless!!!


Julie Perillo said...

Thanks for the tribute, Frank. I emailed every media outlet in Boston, but it took you to pick up the story and honor my grandfather in print. Apparently the custody of Anna Nicole's baby is more interesting than long overdue honors for some true American heroes.
Touchingly, however, was the fact that it was hard to tell who was more moved and honored in D.C. -- the families and crew members receiving the recognition, or the military and political officials overwhelmed with gratitude at the chance to honor those brave men.