Max K. Graham was born June 19, 1924, in Dallas, Texas. One of the few things his mother (my grandmother) told me about him was that he liked Juicy Fruit Gum, hamburgers, and, more than anything else, flying. He took flying lessons even as a teenager. He graduated from Adamson High School in 1942 and wanted to be a pilot. A teacher at Adamson High School knew two of the boys from my dad's class and my dad were going to war. He gave each one of them a souvenir silver dollar and told them to bring it back to him after the war. He received only one back.
My dad enrolled at Southern Methodist University for the fall semester but was never a serious student. By the end of 1942, he was stationed at the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center. His sister Betty introduced my mother, her roommate at college, to my dad. He fell in love with my mother, and they married.
They only had 3 months together before he went overseas, arriving July 26, 1944. That was the same date another young second lieutenant arrived, 2nd Lt. George W. McInis of Mattapan, Massachusetts.
These two young men were flying the same mission on August 13, 1944 to Rambouillet, France. My dad's Thunderbolt was hit with flak. It was reported that Lt. McInis was seen escorting him to a beachhead strip when his own airplane was hit. My dad's plane crashed in St. Germain-des-Grois. I was fortunate enough to secure a picture of the crash taken by someone who had witnessed it and saved the photograph when my dad was honored by a very beautiful and elaborate ceremony held at St. Germain-des-Grois in 2010.
Lt. McInis's plane crashed and burned near Jouars, Pontchartrain that same day.
These two men were brothers in arms and brothers in death, doing their patriotic duty, preserving the liberty of the United States of America.
Both these young men's bodies were shipped home at the request of their parents. Lt. McGinis's wife remarried before his remains were placed in a Massachusetts grave. My dad's name was never mentioned except when I brought up the subject. My mother burned the letters he sent her daily from overseas in front of me when I was about 6 years old. She threw away his footlocker and all the contents, including pictures of his burial in France, when she remarried.
It was not until Jean-Marc Bonnet of Association Normande du Souvenirs Aerien 39-45, Orne-Maine, decided to spend 6 years of his life to find any descendants of Lt. Graham to honor him at a ceremony in St. Germain-des-Grois. He was assisted by Robert Stuard of the Lacey-Davis Foundation in locating me. Thanks to Jean-Marc and Robert Stuard, I was reunited with my dad's family in Dallas, Texas. They gave me a small, blue suitcase containing his baby pictures and letters from my dad to his mother while he was training and other documents from his life before he married. The suitcase had been saved for twenty years. My cousins took me to see my dad's grave in Dallas that I had not seen for 60 years. I cried so much because I could remember attending his re-burial funeral as a child and the sounds of the guns' salute. At the funeral, I picked up a shell from one of the rifles, still hot from being shot and ejected, and managed to keep it. The best blessing of all was that I finally had a family who loved me and my dad and a connection to my dad whom I had missed for so many years.
Robert Stuard helped me find information on Lt. McInis. I found a niece-in-law of his through a genealogy website. She had heard of Lt. McInis. However, all the family who knew him were gone. I have not heard from her to forward the sacred records of Lt. McInis to her.
American World War II Orphans (AWON) has helped with gain a sort of closure. For almost seventy years I have longed for a father. It was not until I saw the photograph of his crashed airplane that I accepted he was dead and would never hold me in his arms. I do not know what kind of father Lt. Graham would have been. What I know of him is from the letters he wrote his mother and the few letters he wrote my mother before they married that somehow survived her destruction. I remember especially his writing to his mother asking for one dollar so he could buy something because his pay packet had been delayed. She never sent the dollar. I wonder if she remembered that after he died.
I wish I had my dad. I wish Lt. McInis had been able to come home. I miss both of them so much even though I did not know either man. I hope they are together in heaven and know I remember them and honor their memories every day of my life.
– Maxine Olson –