Topeka WWII veteran forgives pilot who mistakenly bombed ground troops

Local News

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – At 96, Darrell Humphries has quite the memory.

He can recall specific dates and stories about his time selling real estate, stories about his wife Bernice or memories he shared as an “adoptive” grandpa to four children who grew up next door.

That was his life after the war.

Like many people his age, Humphries fought in World War II. He was a stenographer stationed throughout Europe. Many of those memories are too hard for him to forget.

“There’s some (memories) I don’t like to think about,” said Humphries. “But our human minds seem to remember all this stuff that I wish it didn’t.”

A memory that is vivid in his mind is the 1944 Battle of St. Lo. One summer day, bombs fell from the sky just feet from where Humphries was standing, but those bombs didn’t come from enemy forces.

“We heard planes behind us and our first thought is that they might be German planes,” said Humphries. “But it turned out to be American planes.”

American pilots mistakenly dropped bombs on fellow American troops on the ground. The bombing killed more than 100 troops, according to reporting by the Washington Post. Historians say the bombing was caused by a mix of bad weather and miscommunication.

Humphries doesn’t talk about the story often, but one day over lunch at his retirement home, he found himself talking about his time in the war with two fellow veterans. As he described what happened at St. Lo, a man at a table nearby overheard the conversation.

Lane Ruehlen, himself a World War II veteran, approached Humphries after the other men left.

“That’s when he broke down and he said, ‘Darrell I want to tell you,’ he said, ‘I was the lead pilot,'” said Humphries. “And he just went all to pieces and I said, ‘Lane I just want to tell you I was not hurt out of that deal and I knew you’d been given the wrong coordinates or something and I forgave you guys, all of you.”

Ruehlen died just a few days after his conversation with Humphries, with a burden lifted from his shoulders. It’s an encounter that Humphries said was nothing short of a miracle.

“I’ll have to admit it brought tears to me,” said Humphries. “It was 73 years between when that happened between then and when we had this story. You know in the word of God it tells us to wait upon the Lord and I believe that’s what we did, 73 years, for Lane.”

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