Pete Bang was proud to talk about his days as a “knuckle busting” mechanic. He’d talk about how he kept his home and yard in perfect condition and that he’d rather live in Spokane Valley than anywhere else.
He might have mentioned that he’s a World War II veteran, but he probably wouldn’t talk much about it. He wouldn’t have mentioned his time working on supply lines in India. He wouldn’t talk about the two brothers he lost in fighting three weeks apart in March 1945. Or about his sister who passed away in an accident a few months after.
He wouldn’t talk about his Lutheran religion. He didn’t say much about his politics. Even his good friend Ray Arnot didn’t discuss those topics with him even though they went to lunch every Friday for over 60 years.
He died on September 11 at the age of 91 from pneumonia. He was buried at the Washington State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake.
He was the final surviving child of Sarah and Martin Bang. They had a large but close family. They sent five members of their family to serve in WWII.
Peter was a private in the US Army. He served in India and Burma driving trucks to supply troops on the front line in China. He was sent home to support his family after two of his brothers were killed in the war.
Sidnie Bang was a corporal in the Army. He served in a tanker battalion and was wounded three times before being killed on the front lines in Luxembourg.
Melvin Bang was also a corporal in the Army. He filed saws for the troops building bridges in the Philippines.
Irene Bang was a radio operator for the Navy.
John Bang served on the USS Carter Hall for the Navy. He was sent home from the war when his brothers died.
It wasn’t until later in life that Bang realized that his work during the war was not just important, but it was appreciated.
“He was proud of his military service and his family’s military service,” said his daughter, Christie Strozyk.
Once his children had grown up, Bang began to organize military reunions. In 2010, he took an Honor Flight to see the WWII memorial in DC.
The experience moved him as did the letters he received from school children to thank him for his service.
Bang met Arnot when they both worked at McCollum Motors. That’s when the two friends began their weekly lunch tradition. They last had lunch three weeks ago.
The two talked about a lot of things, without ever straying to politics, The Spokesman-Review reported:
“We talked about things we had done, things we wanted to do, things we planned to do and things we wish we had done – that sort of stuff,” Arnot said. “When we were younger, it was ‘What are we going to do next weekend?’”
Bang left McCollum to run his own service station. Eventually, Arnot left to start his own auto repair shop, as well. The two shared some customers.
The last two people who visited with Bang before he died were his long-time companion, Dee Taylor, and her great-grandson.
The humility of this World War Two Veteran’s life, and the part he played in the great events of history is a lesson to us all.