Sam Caddle, who I knew for 57 years, passed away this week at 91 years old. He had served two terms as County Supervisor here in his adopted home of Fairfield, Calif.
I first met Sam at Hickam Field, Hawaii in 1955 where he was a pilot in my headquarters squadron. We became friends when he would bring his son out to our softball games.
When war broke out in 1941 he tried to join the military, but was turned down because of a heart condition. He and two friends went to Canada to volunteer with the Canadian Air Force. He told me that he felt he had to be in the war, one way or the other.
In Europe, he flew 67 missions, including 25 as the only American with the elite Pathfinder Group, flying at night through enemy territory to identify and illuminate targets for bomber squadrons that followed. His squadron flew in Operation Manna, dropping food to starving Dutch families, and collected British POWs liberated after the war.
During the war, Caddle met and dated a European woman known to family and friends as ‘Vee.’ The relationship did not survive the war.
After the war, Sam transferred to the U.S. Army Air Corps, where he flew Air Transport Aircraft in my squadron for the next 15 years, overseas and stateside .
My friend and I both retired in 1972, he from Travis Air Base, Calif., and I from the Pentagon.
I came back to California as the manager of the printing department at Syar Industries, and Caddle bought a ranch in Fairfield and raised cattle. His focus turned to civic involvement, and he joined and later chaired the Solano County Taxpayers Association and became a government watchdog. The company I worked for helped get him elected.
After his wife died in 2000, he took steps to track down his sweetheart during World War II. He reached out to newspapers in Cambridge, England, and an item ran in print asking for help in tracking down ‘Vee.’ Lo and behold, the phone rang one day and it was ‘Vee.’ Caddle visited Vee in Europe and she came to meet his family in California.
This story of Caddle looking for his wartime sweetheart brought back memories of when my wife died in 2007, and I started thinking about my first love and told my daughter about her. She started looking for her on the computer, and after a couple of months, she found her.
I got a phone call from my first love’s daughter, telling me her mother wanted to talk to me after 63 years, where we had been so in love. But my first love is in ill health, and we will never be together again. How sad.
Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfi eld, Calif.