LT Paul Gerhardt Schroeder
U.S. Naval Flight Surgeon
USS Bunker Hill
KIA 11 May 45 in a Kamikaze attack off Okinawa
-- Patricia Leith, Thomas G. Souders, and Charles P. Souders --
On 11 MAY 1945, Mothers Day, events happened on the Aircraft Carrier Bunker Hill (CV17) which caused almost 400
mothers to grieve.
The ship was hit by two Kamikaze's and stayed afloat only by the heroic work of its crew, attending ships, and a daring maneuver
ordered by its Captain. During the fierce battles: one to repel the incoming suicide planes, and the other to save the burning ship,
my father, Lt. Paul Gerhardt Schroeder made the Supreme Sacrifice.
As a boy, I asked about him and was told very little, and that in hushed tones by my grandmother. I sometimes wondered if it was a
matter of shame that he died. It was not until his sister "found" my family in the 1960's that I came to know many things about him.
My memories as a boy include only a few "snapshots of the mind" because I was so very young when he went to war. I know that when he
was in flight training in Illinois, he took me to an airfield and gave me a ride in a fighter plane. I have thought of him when I have
taken my children (and now grandchildren) on a ride in one of the fire trucks. I was told that he suffocated below deck, with other
sailors, during the attack. That was all.
Recently, my younger brother contacted one of the surviving sailors who knew him. This man reported that our father was above deck,
administering morphine to the injured, and that when he ran out of medicine, he went below deck to get more. I would like to know more.
As I was reading others' accounts of the loss of their fathers, I realized that feelings, which I have secretly harbored all these years
have been common to many others! It is strange to realize that just seeing the pictures of the other fathers, and reading the stories
and accounts which accompany them, can give me a feeling of comfort and comradeship. For there are other people who have wondered,
wondered, wondered what their fathers were like, what it would have been like to have them during those years of youth. If maybe there
had been a mistake and he was really alive and would walk through the door one day.
The deep and aching pain of the heart, which only can be understood by another who has been through a similar loss.It is my wish that
schools would assign the "Our Fathers" page of AWON to their classes for an assignment. Until 11 SEPT, we lived in a pampered and
aloof part of the world, with deprivation, rationing, and fear of attack non-existent. It is still largely that way for a generation,
which has known no hardship. It would be good for these people to have an idea of the sacrifice made on their behalf. Possibly some
of the problems torturing our society would be solved if people could appreciate the huge price which has been paid for our precious
freedom.Thank you to all who fought for our Country!