In Memory of Captain Lawrence E. Rafferty — American Hero

On our blog, we have all been enriched by the commentary and insights of Larry Rafferty. Larry is an attorney from Chicago and, despite being a White Sox fan, I asked Larry to be one of our weekend bloggers after reading his uniformly civil and insightful thoughts on legal and political issues. I was not aware until recently about Larry’s father and his disappearance after World War II. Last week, the Chicago Tribune ran a story about Larry’s father, Air Force Capt. Lawrence Rafferty, who was buried at Arlington this year. Mark Esposito and his wife were in attendance representing our community with the Rafferty family and friends. Larry’s mother, Frances, 89, (shown below) was present to see her husband given the honor that he so richly deserved. Captain Rafferty now has a place with other American heroes at Arlington and I wanted to share his incredible story with members of our blog.

Captain Rafferty had completed 50 missions in three months starting on D-Day and received a medal of bravery for one of those missions. He disappeared in 1951.

Frances recalled that she was coloring Easter eggs on Good Friday with her four children when servicemen came to her home to deliver the telegram that her husband’s plane has disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean. Captain Rafferty was only 29 and a passenger on a plane going to the British Isles. The plane was never located and the mystery remains enduring as to what happened on the flight of the C-124 transport aircraft.

Larry recounted this history in a blog entry:

When ships accompanying the USS Coral Sea finally made it to the scene some 19-24 hours later, the life rafts and the men were nowhere to be found. The official accident report that was fully classified for some 50 years, states that there was some debris found in the area, but there was no sign of the crew or the passengers.

The search went on for several days and Western Union telegrams were sent to the families of the men on board detailing the extent of the search activities and efforts. But the searches were unable to turn up any evidence of what happened to the 53 souls on board. The only evidence that the men were there was a valise that was found that had the name of one of the passengers on it. The valise belonged to my father, Captain Lawrence E. Rafferty, who had also been a veteran B-24 pilot in World War II with 50 bombing missions to his credit.

Our Larry recounts in the article below that “My loss was never knowing him. In a sense, it was like he never existed. Now there is a permanent marker to remember what he did and what he gave up.”

It is equally tragic that Captain Rafferty never knew the man that we have come to know and respect on this blog. Larry would make any father proud, but would be a particular source of pride for a man who fought so hard for freedom in World War II. Larry honored the service of his father by fighting as a lawyer and a blogger for the rights of all Americans. We are so grateful to Captain Rafferty for his sacrifice and for his son.

I expect that Captain Rafferty took solace in the fact that he was leaving his children with a woman of clearly extraordinary wisdom and strength. It was wonderful to see pictures of Frances and the rest of the family. She is still a beauty and overcame much to raise Larry and his three siblings. She and Captain Rafferty now have 17 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren to their credit.

Finally, Happy Birthday to Frances. The grande dame turned 89 this past Wednesday!

Thank you Larry for sharing this service and these pictures with your friends here on the blog. Our sincerest condolences and thanks to the Rafferty family.

Source: Chicago Tribune

31 thoughts on “In Memory of Captain Lawrence E. Rafferty — American Hero”

  1. Thank you for this follow up to the initial story, my thoughts are with you Raf, and your family.

  2. Thanks to all and my prayers to you Dredd for your loss. And thank you to all of the other patriots from WW II and Korea.

  3. High Flight
    Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
    Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
    You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
    High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
    I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
    My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

    Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
    I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
    Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
    And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
    The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
    Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

    — John Gillespie Magee, Jr

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story Raff,

  4. rafflaw,

    Thank you for your earlier posting, and JT, thank you for this one.

    Raff, thanks also for sharing this aspect of your life with us, and I hope your mother and yourself find consolation and pride in your father being so honored.

  5. rafflaw, My father served in World War II also. Thank you for sharing this amazing story.

  6. rafflaw: Our nation honors you and your family. My father served in WW II in the Army and all our servicemen and women deserve our respect and appreciation. Please express our gratitude to your family. Frank

  7. A fitting tribute for a man who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to others – namely us. Admiration and appreciation of your brave action is without doubt. We are as honored to share in your family’s remembrance as we are saddened by their loss. Thank you, Capt. Rafferty.

  8. My father died recently.

    It brings out the ubi sunt in us doesn’t it?

    There is a lot of anti-religion talk on this blog from time to time, so ubi sunt is probable the more noncontroversial subject available in that context.

    Here is a very simple but moving tribute to all our veterans which I really liked:

    (A Soldier Died Today)
    by A. Lawrence Vaincourt
    He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast
    And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past,
    Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
    In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.
    And tho’ sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
    All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
    But we’ll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
    And the world’s a little poorer, for a soldier died today.
    He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
    For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.
    Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way
    And the world won’t note his passing, though a soldier died today
    When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
    While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
    Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young,
    But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung
    Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
    A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
    Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
    Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?
    A politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives
    Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
    While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,
    Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.
    It’s so easy to forget them for it was so long ago,
    That the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know
    It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
    Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys
    Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
    Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?
    Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
    His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?
    He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
    But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
    For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier’s part
    Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.
    If we cannot do him honor while he’s here to hear the praise,
    Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days.
    Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
    Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.

    © 1987 A. Lawrence Vaincourt

  10. Appreciation, admiration, sadness, and joy … thank you Capt. and Mrs. Rafferty.

  11. There were about 80 people in attendance at the service. Some of them were Capt. Rafferty’s friends and fellow pilots who came in from around the country to attend, bringing along some of their families. Our Larry’s mom and aunt, well into their golden years,made the long ride from Chicago to be there and our Larry’s son made it despite his current service in our armed forces.

    It was an inspirational affair with all the reverence you would expect: Color guard, caisson-led procession through Arlington, Air Force Band, and a 21-gun volley. Capt. Rafferty left behind a wonderfully strong family and numerous devoted friends – a tribute to the character of the man they lost.

    My wife and I were quite honored to be included among the invited guests. One enduring memory for me was the procession from the old Administration Building to the grave site. It was a windy, brilliantly lit day and there were scores of tourists at the national cemetery. My wife, Suzanne, and I were towards the rear and talking about all the sacrifice that spanned centuries. As we passed near the Tomb of The Unknowns, i spotted a little boy who couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 waiting patiently for the caisson to pass. Spontaneously the child whipped his right arm up into an impromptu salute.

    There’s something in our human DNA about altruistic sacrifice that commands respect — even among those not old enough to understand the words. Those of us that do should always remember that.

  12. Larry, I am still most regretful I could not make it. There are some things in my own life that are far too raw at the moment. I don’t think I could have managed to listen to the three volley salute and hearing Taps again this soon.

    I want to share a music video with everyone that expresses some of my feelings as an aviator and for those who have Gone West. Several of the old gentlemen in the video are some of the greatest aces of WW-II, and some have passed on. I am proud to call some of them my friends.

  13. Raff, since I’m not reading the blawg as often as I should, I missed it when you posted the amazing story about your father. I send you and your family my condolences.
    But I also want you to know I am proud of your father for his service. I can’t even imagine what it takes for a young man to fly 50 missions. I’m also proud of your mother. To raise four young children without their father has to be especially difficult. The tragedy of the way you lost your father has to have compounded the sorrow and grief. In you she raised a man who is intelligent compassionate and honorable. And I assume that your brothers and/or sistershave the same qualities.
    In telling us the story of your father we are now able to honor him as well. Thank you

  14. Thank you Prof. Turley for sharing my Dad’s and my Mom’s story. Thank you to all for your heartfelt comments. I am on my way to my Mother’s 89th birthday party and this article and your comments are just one more gift! Thank you.

  15. You know that this is as emotionally feeling as it was the first time I read it…. Finally a hero recognized for doing his duty….. Prof… You have a bunch of good folks writing here as well as blotting……

  16. JT,

    Thank you for the pictures and for this story. Larry has certainly been one of the best contributors here for many years. The story of his Father, the mystery surrounding his death and its impact upon the family left behind is one that should resonate with all who read it, as it did with me. After 60 years it is a blessing that the family could receive a modicum of closure.

  17. “Larry would make any father proud, but would be a particular source of pride for a man who fought so hard for freedom in World War II.”

    I agree! And I think Larry’s mother must be a truly remarkable woman. I’m sorry that I was not able to attend Captain Rafferty’s memorial service.

  18. raff:

    Words could not express how I would feel if this were my father so I can only imagine your feet have probably not touched the ground after this story being told about your father.

    My condolences and my admiration.

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