By Billy Liggett, Campbell Today editor
“War isn’t hell. It’s worse.”
It’s an answer I’ll never forget, delivered to me earlier this week by Keith Finch, a 1941 Campbell graduate and former ace fighter pilot and instructor during World War II. Now 94, Mr. Finch still lives in his hometown of Dunn, and he’s still a supporter of his alma mater.
He’s also gifted with a vivid memory, and it was a treat for me to sit and listen to him recall stories of his pilot training and, eventually, his time in the war. The memory that stuck with me most happened before the war — he survived a crash near Stone Mountain, Ga., by jumping out of his P-40 fighter plane as it grazed the tree tops on its way to the ground. He showed me pictures of the charred plane, and 70-plus years later, he still considers himself lucky to have gotten out of that alive.
Not that the war was a piece of cake, by any means. According to Mr. Finch, his line of work put him at a 70-percent casualty rate. He’s battled German and Japanese pilots, and during the war, he lost many friends.
I’ve been a journalist since my early 20s, and I’ve been fortunate to have interviewed about 10 World War II veterans in the past 15 years. I know we’re not far away from losing “The Greatest Generation” forever, and I feel honored to have not only met these men and women, but to be the one who shares their tales.
Mr. Finch will be featured in this spring’s Campbell Magazine, which should be out next month. The edition honors Campbell’s ROTC program and the University’s rich military history.
I hope the edition leads to more awareness and appreciation of the men and women who serve our country.