What does an interpretive program cost?
Needless to say, we are confronted by this question whenever any of us sits down to assess the needs of a new program and event. Often we find ourselves looking at grants, sponsors, benefactors, and budgets as our first step in planning and evaluating the first steps in programming. Even as individuals we have to analyze what we need for props, support media, and programming whether it is for a power point program, campfire talk, or costumed historic interpretation. These still might run into the thousands of dollars for media support, computers, materials, or historic costuming. So, it is exciting when you can find something inexpensive, and yet, exciting for for a program.
I work part time for and antique store in Loveland, Colorado. We regularly discover items that provide the tangible existence to stories often long lost or fading in memories. Some of these artifacts include a series of 1901 and 1902 photos of opera stars. These initiated a search that allowed us to find on line recordings of the listed performers which delighted the purchaser when we played them from the internet. Sitting in one booth are a series of photo albums recording the Hawaiian service of a woman who was in the Women Air Rad Defense corps during WWII, a group of women whose service was kept secret until the 1960’s. Images, coins, artifacts, tools, furniture, all with stories that explain their wear and tear as well as their individual importance to their prior owners. Each of these have prices varying from a few dollars to the thousands.
Most recently one of our vendors came upon a photo that caught her attention. Joyce loves to purchase photos of young soldiers from various time periods. She refers to them as her , “ young heroes”. The image she recently came upon was of a good looking young man in WWII flying clothes. On the front corner of the image was written, “Our “HP” togged out in all his gear”. On the reverse was a name, George Weisfeld. As a military historian I was intrigued by the subject matter and the unfamiliar term, “Our “HP”…. It is a term I do not know. So the search began.
The name produced a wealth of information. George N. Weisfeld was a co- pilot of a C 47 (DC-3 as a civilian air craft) that delivered and dropped supplies to troops from 1943 through late 1944. He also towed gliders of troops and supplies. On Decemeber 27, 1944,during the Battle of the Bulge he was severely wounded when flying with the 9th. Air Corps, 91st. Squadron, 439 Troop Carrier towing supply gliders to troops of the 101st. Airborne at Bastogne.
The plane that Weisfeld and his pilot, Joe Fry, were flying was seen by Curtis Smith, a medic with the 101st. Airborne.
“The whole back of the plane was engulfed by flames and trailing behind it a cloud of thick black smoke. I saw one man jump out through the flames of the open door of the plane. Another man, I presumed the pilot, climbed out over the hatch above the cockpit. As the pilot crawled on his hands and knees toward the rear of the plane, he slid off its side and hit the rear horizontal stabilizer. The pilot’s parachute immediately deployed over the stabilizer as he fell underneath it. Then, with the shroud lines wrapped around the stabilizer, the pilot frantically pulled and jerked at his shroud lines as he tried desperately to free himself as he dangled behind the burning C-47. Watching, I thought to myself, ‘My god, he’s going down with his plane!’ Just at that same moment the plane exploded and the pilot was blown free to safely land on the snow nearby. I quickly ran to his aid as he sat dazed on the frozen snow, and I could clearly see the small burns on his face and his smoldering flight jacket caused by the melted aluminum burning off the plane. The pilot’s first comment was, ‘Did my buddy make it out OK?’ “
Nearly six decades later, Smith would discover the pilot’s and co-pilot’s names: Joe Fry and George Weisfeld.
When the plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire from the German lines, Fry continued to pull the supply laden glider for miles in an attempt to get it to the Allied positions at Bastogne. Ordering his crew to bail out, Fry and Weisfeld stayed with the burning plane until they could cut the glider loose over the Allied lines. 1
George Weisfeld recuperated from the burns and wound, though the scars would damage his good looks and the pain from the wounds would be with him the rest of his life. He later married and it is reported his bride made her wedding dress from the very parachute he used when he bailed out of his plane in December, 1944. the marriage would last for 59 years until George’s death in 2004. His wife, Belle, would pass in 2014.
In 2011 his daughters donated the dress to the National Museum of Jewish History.2
Here was a Jewish American serving his country, severely wounded and who risked his life in order to supply troops surrounded in one of WWII’s most famous campaigns,
Quite an amazing story and one that I am going to add to my training sessions and interpretive programming.
The cost: One hour of research $75.00
The photo of George N. Weisfelt .50
A small investment for a great return.
As to the “HP” on the front of the photo; I still have not found a definite answer to its meaning. Does it stand for “Hebrew Pilot”, “ Hot Pilot”, or…who knows.