One last hug: James Pinkerton's final mission

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Grasping a fist full of pound sterling, 87-year-old James Pinkerton hailed a taxi outside London Heathrow Airport, insisting the driver bring him directly to the Cambridge American Cemetery by the quickest and most-direct route.

It had been more than 50 years since Pinkerton, a Purple-Heart veteran, executed orders and undertook missions supporting the 11th Airborne Division during World War II. Still, according to the taxi driver and cemetery staff, Pinkerton was definitely a man on a mission May 19.

According to conversations he had with Michael Green, Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial superintendent, Pinkerton served in the Pacific Theater during World War II, however, his brother served in Europe and Cambridge was his final resting place.

Green has spent 14 years working at American Cemeteries and Memorials and said it's people like Pinkerton who continue to move, inspire and make him feel blessed.

"On this day [Pinkerton] was on one last important mission - to visit his brother who is forever on duty at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial," said Green, a former Marine. "He grew up with his brother, joined the military at the same time as his brother, and had not seen his brother since they both went off to defend our country."

Green recalled the emotional scene when Pinkerton finally reached his brother's headstone to say a long-awaited 'hello,' and final 'good bye.'

"We arrived at his brother's marble headstone and [Pinkerton] gently rubbed the sand while explaining that the sand comes from Omaha Beach, [Normandy, France]," said Green.

Soon after, Pinkerton placed British and American flags on his brother's headstone, then rose to his feet for the playing of taps.

"As soon as taps was over, he bent down and hugged his brother's headstone with an embrace that showed how much he loved his brother," said Green. "As I wiped the tear from my eye, he stood up and spoke to his brother, saying, 'I forgive you for socking me in the throat when we were kids.' It was as though he needed to let his brother know he was forgiven."

That very day and with his taxi still waiting, Pinkerton set off back to London without even having made a hotel reservation.

Worried that at 87, Pinkerton may be too weary to find his own hotel in London, the cemetery staff arranged a hotel outside the airport and assisted in changing his flight itinerary.

"Mr. Pinkerton arrived home safely," said Green, explaining that the cab driver had taken his telephone number and called him in Columbus, Ohio, the next day to confirm he made it home.

Though Pinkerton came to England on a solo-mission, his compelling tale inspired many people who then stepped up as his wingmen, ensuring the final stages of his mission were completed safely.