New Jersey Man Honors Father and the Greatest Generation

Every Father’s Day, I scratch my head and wonder about all the different gifts children give their fathers. How many of us gave our fathers a hideous tie or that useless whatchamacallit? Whatever the gift may have been, it always came from the heart. Our fathers always found a way to make it seem like it was the greatest gift ever.

As the years pass, so do our progenitors. Some of us are fortunate to still have them among us, while others must live with the memory of the man that was. For one New Jersey man, his father’s memory and past, is his present and future.

Scott Culver smiles – Photo by Richard J.M. Souza, Zulu X-Ray Photography

At an air show a few years ago, I walked around aimlessly killing time in between acts. I would photograph anything that moved….and didn’t move. Airplanes, people, you name it, if it was there, it was a target. As I approached a SNJ-4 Texan, I noticed a tall man sporting a vintage WWII Army Air Corp flight suit, head gear and all. It is not unusual for reenactors to be at air shows. With hundreds of reenactors present, this would not be out of place if not for the fact that this man was alone, attempting to take a picture of himself and the aircraft with the aid of an old rickety tripod. Recognizing a target of opportunity, I quickly point my lens at the man striking a pose. Not the best picture in the world but it was “good enough for government work”. The man looked at me and smiled. We exchange nods and we both went our merry way.

The story starts with this shot – Photo by Richard J.M. Souza, Zulu X-Ray Photography

A few weeks later, at a different show in a different town, I spotted the tall man in the same get up….Mae West and all. We recognize each other from that quick snapshot weeks earlier. We extended our hands and introduce ourselves. I learn that his name is Scott Culver and there is a reason for the period attire. The reason goes something like this:

S/Sgt. Henry “Hank” Culver – Photograph Courtesy of Scott Culver

Scott is the son of S/Sgt. Henry “Hank” Culver, Sr. His father was a veteran of World War Two. Like many vets, when they returned, little or nothing was ever said about their time in the service. Scott has two older siblings. This is significant because as a child, Scott recalls his father telling him about his experiences during the World War Two. This was something his father had never done with his older siblings. Scott grew up with these stories and as a result develop a love for history. Scott retained these stories and meticulously archived them in his brain. Everything happens for a reason. For every story told, there are a thousand and one stories that are not. Scott is ensuring that his father’s story is one that is told.

The Crew of the B-24 “Hap Hazard” – Photograph Courtesy of Scott Culver

During the war, S/Sgt. Culver served in England with the United States Army Air Corp 8th Air Force. More specifically, with the 445th Bomb Group, 703rd Bomb Squadron. “Hank” was an aerial gunner on board a B-24 Liberator. Scott is quick to point out the Commander of the 703rd was a Major James M. Stewart…… most of us would know him as the actor Jimmy Stewart.

Major James M. Stewart- Photograph Courtesy of Scott Culver

After High school, and like his Father, Scott served the United States Air Force. Following basic training, Scott served in the Military Airlift Command and had the opportunity be around aircraft like the C-5 Galaxy and C-141 Starlifter. Even though these aircraft don’t carry the mythical status of the B-24 Liberator, an aircraft is an aircraft. Being around aircraft just added to the connection Scott had with his father’s past.

Airman Culver – Photograph Courtesy of Scott Culver

Following the service, Scott obtained a degree and became an Educator. As an Educator, Scott taught American and World History. Somewhere between then and now, Scott began not only teaching history but living it as well. He says that during the school year, he would show up in class wearing an Army Air Corps uniform. He certainly caught the student’s attention just as he did mine.

Scott Culver tracing his Father’s steps in Chicago – Photograph Courtesy of Scott Culver

Scott began tracing his father’s footsteps. Or as he calls it…….following his father’s flight path. From the moment his father reported to basic training, to the boat ride home on board the Queen Mary, Scott has made it a point to take every step and go to every place his father had been. While he was able to board the Queen Mary in Long Beach California, some spots are just an empty field. What matters is that Scott knows that his father once stood on that ground.

Scott Culver tracing his Father’s steps boarding the Queen Mary – Photograph Courtesy of Scott Culver

Remembering the stories his father told him years before, Scott tracked down and interviewed his father’s surviving crew mates. Word for word, S/Sgt. Culver’s brothers in arms confirmed and validated the facts and details of every story and every mission.

Scott Culver tracing his Father’s steps in the UK – Photograph Courtesy of Scott Culver

It is common for people (like me) to ask Scott, why the uniform? Scott is only happy to take the time and explain. That is what makes Scott’s journey so unique. He dresses the part. Scott has walked the streets of Edinburgh, Scotland in World War Two dress uniform. His attention to detail can be seen in every photograph he takes of himself, striking a pose exactly the same way his father did 70 years ago. In some cases, in the exact same spot. Where some people pull out pictures and say “let me tell you about my grandkids, Scott will pull out a photo album and say “let me tell you about my father”.

Scott Culver talks the scene over with his producer – Photo by Richard J.M. Souza, Zulu X-Ray Photography

Scott recounts his father’s experiences as if they were his. He comes alive as he gives a history lesson through the eyes of “Hank”. Scott is the perfect blend of a reenactor and story teller. There is one thing that Scott cannot hide. Anyone who meets him can’t help but notice the smile and how he lights up with pride as he recounts the events that shaped the life of a young “Hank” Culver.

Scott Culver and the film crew enlist the help of Reenactors with Treadheads and their Tiger Tank – Photo by Richard J.M. Souza, Zulu X-Ray Photography

When our paths crossed that first day, Scott was working on writing a book, Since then, Scott has published “Nine Yanks and a Jerk” recounting missions in the B-24 under the command of Major Stewart. 2017 will see the release of “Daylight Raiders” which is the Henry Culver story. Scott has been active with speaking engagements around the country and has teamed up with a producer in an attempt to bring his father’s experience to the big screen.

Scott Culver posing in front of “Yankee Lady” – Photo by Richard J.M. Souza, Zulu X-Ray Photography

There is a time and place for every story. Now is the time and here is the place. This is my story and I will leave the story of S/Sgt. Henry Culver to Scott. This Son-of-a-Gunner has preserved the memory of his father and that of the Greatest Generation. What greater gift can a father ask for?

For more information on Scott Culver and Sonofagunner Productions, please visit http://sonofagunnerb24.com

 

Scott Culver, The Son of a Gunner – Photo by Richard J.M. Souza, Zulu X-Ray Photography

Scott Culver strikes the official pose – Photo by Richard J.M. Souza, Zulu X-Ray Photography

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