Time is relative. That's what Einstein postulated. Philosophers surmise we develop a better sense of the present by knowing well the past, and that the future becomes tangential as a result. But are some of us so taken with questions about how we got to be where we are that knowing the past takes on a fervor that dominates the present, so much so we cannot even think about the future because the path that got us to the present is barricaded ...
Time is relative. That's what Einstein postulated. Philosophers surmise we develop a better sense of the present by knowing well the past, and that the future becomes tangential as a result. But are some of us so taken with questions about how we got to be where we are that knowing the past takes on a fervor that dominates the present, so much so we cannot even think about the future because the path that got us to the present is barricaded with unanswered questions?
Enter Steven Amato, a young man who is beholden to the past, namely the legacy of his World War II hero John Waldron, a Navy pilot who died with his entire squadron save one, leading them in an attack on a Japanese aircraft carrier during the climactic Battle of Midway. Questions have raged for years if Waldron's death was a matter of battle risks, an outdated aircraft, or malfeasance on the part of his commanders.
Amato learns to fly before he can drive. A gifted student and athlete, he spends much of his time restoring World War II aircraft along with Navy veterans. He speculates on the death of Torpedo 8 and learns more about Waldron than any other living human being. His World War II memorabilia collection grows almost daily. He learns to fly a TBF torpedo plane that his World War II veteran friends own in their collection. The one plane he would love to fly is one of the few remaining TBD Devastators in existence. The plane, though pristinely restored, will not turn its engine over no matter who tries.
Amato attends the United States Naval Academy. His senior thesis on the Battle of Midway causes admirals to debate the tragic deaths of the torpedomen. Car dealers descend on Annapolis to sell the graduating ensigns the hottest automobiles in the world, but Amato engages a salesman to find a car from the World War II era he might restore. The salesman takes him to an estate to meet a wealthy but mysterious old man who offers Amato his son's car, a 1939 Ford convertible. Covered with a canvas tarpaulin, the car is worn by time. It was never moved from where his son Raymond parked it when he left with the USS Hornet on its first combat cruise in early 1942 – as one of the pilots of Torpedo Squadron 8.
When he picks up the Ford from the restorer the mechanic who did the work hands him a damaged Hamilton Chronometer he found stuffed under the front seat . It was engraved:
"Dearest Raymond, from Mom and Dad – Christmas, 1941."
He knows the watch was popular among pilots for its durability and accuracy. A jeweler in Newport News immediately recognizes it as the watch his father sold to Raymond Moore's father.
Steve Amato's witnesses the brutal death of a friend at the hands of Libyan interceptor. Ordered not to return fire, he has a crisis of faith. The Hamilton watch, however, gives him the chance to meet a hero whose own faith was inflappable-John Waldron.
Author Bio: Benedict Baglio has published two novels of historical fiction, and is working on two others to complete a four-book saga of World War II, a period of time with which he is fascinated. He has also written a book on educational reform. He is a retired school administrator, adjunct faculty member, and educational consultant. He holds a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies. Though he maintains a keen interest in educational issues, the title he favors these days is "grandpa."