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Fighting for a New Cause, War Hero Sells His Medals

November 11, 1988|DEBORAH CHRISTENSEN

War hero Peter Townsend, who was romantically linked to Britain's Princess Margaret in the 1950s, has sold his medals at auction to raise money for child war victims. Townsend, who will be 74 on Nov. 22, was the first British pilot to shoot down a German plane in World War II. He described the 1940 air fights of the Battle of Britain as the "greatest spiritual and human experience of my life." Later, he served as an aide to King George VI in Buckingham Palace and met the monarch's younger daughter, Margaret. They fell in love but the queen refused to let them marry in 1954 because Townsend was divorced. The following year Margaret publicly renounced Townsend and later married Lord Snowdon (whom she divorced in 1978). Townsend was not present for the auction at Sotheby's in London, which sold the 12 medals and Townsend's original flying log books to an anonymous Canadian collector for $39,380. Townsend's interest in child war victims was sparked by his work with Vietnamese boat people.

--A centenarian regarded as the last survivor of the Spanish-American War era is celebrating Veterans Day today by sending greetings to U.S. military personnel around the world. Nathan Cook, 103, gave up a 50-cent-a-day job at a Kansas City packing plant at the age of 15 to enlist in the Navy after seeing a poster that beckoned: "Join the Navy and See the World." His 44-year career began with training at the tail end of America's war with Spain and included service in both world wars. Cook, who lives in a VA nursing home in Phoenix, said he will tell the 500,000 men and women who will receive his message, "you can be proud of your military service." His greetings will be sent to 21 bases and numerous American warships on active duty.

--Former Mayor Frank L. Rizzo made his debut as a radio talk show host on WCAU in Philadelphia and was deluged with phone calls--most of them from Rizzo fans. The first hour of the afternoon program drew more callers than any other hour in the station's history. Rizzo, a Democrat who jumped ship for the GOP, spent a lot of time discussing the presidential election, praising President-elect George Bush and slamming W. Wilson Goode, who defeated Rizzo in his comeback mayoral bid last year. Hizzoner said of his performance: "I think I'm more interesting than any guest, if I can brag."

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