Raymond F. Schaaf, a 93-year-old World War II veteran who grew up in old Animas City, now part of Durango, recently published a book about his life called “Time Flies: Memories of One of the Last Veterans of World War II.”
Schaaf and his wife Carolyn Stark, who live in Round Rock, Texas, said he spent nearly two years writing the book, which tells a biographic account of his experience with Durango, active duty in the U.S. Army Air Corps and Air Force during WWII, an extensive military career, family life and his later years.
“It starts in Animas City and Durango. I lived there until I graduated from high school – Durango High School – in 1933 and left when I joined the service,” Schaaf said.
His parents, Alvin and Edith Schaaf, raised five children before and during the Great Depression in old Animas City. Schaaf, the youngest, was born April 24, 1925, and left at 18 years old when he enlisted in the Air Corps. Stark mentioned some local truths about Schaaf’s life in the Durango area, such as a sister of his who married a member of the Folsom family, most recognized as the namesake of Folsom Park in the Riverview neighborhood.
He served in WWII from 1943 to 1945 as a gunner during 35 bombing missions, an experience difficult to forget.
“All the historical information on WWII and the 386th Bomb Group is from memory,” Schaaf said. “I flew B-17s over Germany.”
After WWII, he briefly left the military, but returned to the Air Force to serve during conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. He was discharged in 1970 as a lieutenant colonel after 26 years.
Schaaf is a husband and father of four; a career officer in the Air Force; a fuels and missile expert; and a retiree who now enjoys hobbies, friends and traveling.
The book speaks a first-person perspective from one of the last surviving members of the WWII generation, which is disappearing at a rate of about 487 per day nationwide. Of the 16 million veterans in service during the war, only 80,000 are alive today.
Schaaf has several relatives who remain in the city. He and his wife still visit Durango every two to three months and can usually be found “holding the fort down” in the Diamond Belle Saloon at the Strater Hotel.
“Time Flies” was published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform and is 146 pages, available for purchase through Maria’s Bookshop, https://bit.ly/2L4cJNT.