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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Anybody else like Google Earth?

Read this blog for more info. Also see: Google Maps Mania - An unofficial Google Maps blog tracking the websites, mashups and tools being influenced by Google Maps.

Recently, we had a pleasant visit from my uncle Ian R. MacDonald who came to Ottawa to see us and also to take in the Canadian War Museum for the first time. If you remember from a few years ago I had scanned and created a CD of the war letters that he had written home during his internment in a German prisoner-of-war camp from 1943 to 1945.

Ian traces the flight path south towards Stuttgart that fateful night in 1943. Note the distance flown into enemy territory.

As he expressed an interest in Google Earth, I had asked him about the morning he and his crew took off in his Halifax bomber from Leeming, North Yorkshire airbase on a bombing run over Stuttgart, Germany. Ian was a bomb-aimer and his position was looking out the nose of the airplane and relay the information. It must have been quite a site flying at 19 thousand feet and see the earth ablaze with nothing but a convex dome of glass between him and the hell below. We used Google Earth to measure the distances and re-trace his route southward, over the English Channel and then eastward to the mission's target.

Ian reminisces with a fellow vetran at one of the exhibits.

It was amazing to use the Google Earth program in this way and virtually fly to where his plane was eventually shot down over Saint Quentin, France - after being chased a full 275 miles from the target city being shot at by a Junkers 88 and also from ground anti-aircraft fire. One by one, three of the four engines were shot out and the plane eventually succumbed by fire. All but one of his crew survived the bailout. Unfortunately, this poor fellow was presumed drowned in a canal in Saint Quentin. If being shot down, evading the SS for several months afterward, eventually being interred in a prison camp wasn't enough - Ian had survived 13 bombing runs by "friendly fire" during his imprisonment in German camps. Humorously, he claims now that it's no wonder he's partially deaf from all those blasts at close range.

This past July Ian R. MacDonald turned 84 and is alive and well.


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