A member of my Disabled American Veterans group, a retired pilot that I served with overseas in the Military Air Transport Service (MATS), was just awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross medal (DFC), nearly 70 years later.
This young second lieutenant was assigned to a bombardment squadron at an RAF base in England during World War II. He flew 25 bombing missions over Germany during the war.
He was awarded for his piloting prowess while landing a crippled B-17 bomber upon returning from a bombing mission to Germany in 1945. The B-17’s undercarriage and landing gear were damaged by flack from anti-aircraft gunfire.
Somehow he was able to make a hard right turn upon landing in order to clear the runway for approaching aircraft, saving the lives of his crew members and fellow bombers in the process.
If you could imagine the airfield, it’s just a concrete runway. Aircraft maybe 30 seconds in trail, all of them low of fuel because there was no extra weight on those aircraft to travel. So any problem on the runway probably meant aircraft ditching or trying to divert or significant problems for the aircraft behind.
It’s not often in one’s career, and for most careers it never happens, where you have the opportunity to learn so much about a group of men and women who literally changed the world. A group of men and women who became known as the world’s greatest generation.
I’m so proud to have served with these people. At that time, the U.S. Army Air Corps was the world’s greatest airpower.
Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.