Journalists tend to disparage obituaries because many of them had to churn them out as young reporters. But few forms of writing are so rewarding. After all, unlike many stories, obits have a beginning, middle and an end. They trace the arc of the subject’s life, and try to put it into some kind of frame and perspective. It was a great weekend for martial obits – a key developer of radar, as well as a hero of the Pacific theater during World War II, got lavish treatment in their New York Times goodbyes.
On Lee Davenport:
“It appeared to me that this project was the most complex system that one could ever dream of for knocking an airplane out of the sky,” he recalled in a 1991 interview with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. “It required a combination of radios and computers and guns and all sorts of paraphernalia,” he said. “As far as I was concerned, you ought to be able to aim a gun at an airplane without a big computer and shoot it out of the sky. Little did I know.”
And of Joseph Carmichael:
It was midmorning on May 11, 1945, near the Japanese island of Kyushu when the Bunker Hill, an aircraft carrier with dozens of planes and vast stores of fuel and ammunition on its flight deck, was struck by two kamikaze planes in suicide attacks within minutes of each other…Commander Carmichael, who would receive the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism” in keeping the Bunker Hill afloat that day, but who would never forget the loss of many men under his direct command, died on Monday in Manhattan after a long illness, said his wife, Jeanne. He was 96. His actions, and those of his men, are credited with helping to save not just the ship but nearly 2,800 crew members as well.
Two extraordinary men whose exploits generated amazing sendoffs.