Clifford Hill, a former resident of Englewood, who now lives in Venice, Fla, flew a P-47 Thunderbolt and later a P-51 Mustang fighter plane in Europe during World War II. He was a member of the 318th Fighter Squadron, 325th Fighter Group of the 15th Air Force in North Africa and Italy. This is his…
There weren’t suppose to be any enemy surface-to-air missiles in South Vietnam, but they were there. Maj. Tom D’Andrea, executive officer of Marine Attack Squadron 211, got an up close and personal look at the telephone pole-size missiles one day in 1967 while flying his A-4 Skyhawk fighter-bomber on a mission.
The target: A major bridge over the Po River near Pavia in northern Italy used by the Germans in World War II to move men and equipment south to the front line. The mission: 50 B-26 “Marauder,” twin-engine, attack bombers struck the span. Each carried four 1,000 pound high explosive bombs.
It was All Souls Day, Nov. 2, 1944, Francis Murphy remembers most about his 26 combat missions as tail gunner in a “Flying Fortress,” over Germany late in World War II.
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, when tens of thousands of Allied troops were storming the beaches of Normandy, France, Staff Sgt. Wilbur Butler was flying as nose gunner aboard a B-24 bomber called “Boobie Trap” on a mission to bomb the Ploesti oil refineries in Romania.
In 1940, Ralph Bates, of Port Charlotte, Fla. was 18 when he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. Before he completed flight training in Canada, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The young aviator requested a transfer to the U.S. Air Force.
NOTE: I received this story from Thelma Miller of Venice,Fla., widow of Al Miller Jr., who flew as a copilot aboard the B-24 “Liberator” bomber in the Pacific during World War II. He wrote the story before he died two years ago. Miller flew 30 combat missions including: the Marshall Islands, Maloelap Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Truk…
Bernard Knoll of Port Charlotte Village mobile home park in Port Charlotte, Fla. flew 104 combat missions in a “P-47 Thunderbolt” fighter plane during World War II. On one mission, he shot down a German fighter in a quick but deadly dogfight. In another, he led a squadron of 16 P-47s that destroyed an enemy…
Ernest Erickson flew a “Flying Fortress,” four-engine bomber dubbed “Lili of the Lamplight,” from a base near Ipswich, England on 35 combat missions over Nazi-occupied Europe in 1943 and ’44 during World War II. It was one of thousands of B-17s flown by the 8th Air Force that devastated Germany.
It was the height of the Cold War in the 1960s. Maj. Nick Firda was flying a secret Strategic Air Command mission in a B-52 bomber loaded with atomic bombs across the Atlantic Ocean to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina when an oil pressure problem caused him to shut his first engine…
On an overcast April night in 1943 a lone B-17 bomber dubbed “Hotfoot Two” flew from Newfoundland to Greenland on its way to Scotland, Ireland, England and the war zone in Europe. The “Flying Fortress” was destined for the 8th Air Force to became one of the thousands of American, four-engine, heavy bombers to wield…
Almost 63 years after a bombing raid in a B-24 “Liberator” over German oil refineries in Romania, former Tech. Sgt. Jay T. Fish of Englewood, Fla. received the Distinguished Flying Cross in an elaborate award ceremony in Washington, D.C. on April 24, 2007 along with the other eight members of the bomber’s crew.
Buried in a box of old pictures and military records tucked away in a chest of drawers in Vincent Durand’s Port Charlotte, Fla. home is a medal from long ago.
First Lt. Adam Kubinciak was the pilot of a B-24 “Liberator” bomber named “Miss Liberty,” part of the 706th Bomb Squadron, 446 Bomb Group, 8th Air Force stationed at Bungay, in southwestern England, during World War II.
On one of the 160 missions he flew over “The Hump,” Lt. Col. Tom Baxendale ran head-on into a flight of Japanese Zero fighters. He was piloting an unarmed C-46 twin-engine transport loaded with 55-gallon drums of gas.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Ron Dudley of Waterford subdivision in Venice, Fla. flew a “Hercules,” C-130A, four-engine transport plane full of troops or supplies on hazards missions to the front lines during three Vietnam War tours.
Ret. Staff Sgt. Linwood Brown of Punta Gorda, Fla. was tail gunner in “Leggy Lady,” a B-25 Mitchell medium attack bomber, part of the 10th Air Force flying bombing raids in the China, Burma, India Theater in Burma, China and Thailand in late 1944 and almost until the end of World War II in ’45.
Wally Weber of Burnt Store Country Club didn’t have to sweat the draft during World War II. His father was the chairman of the local draft board in the little town in Oklahoma where he grew up.
“We were flying over Rabaul at 15,000 feet and went into a dive in our (Douglas Dauntless) SBD dive bombers. Suddenly, I saw this Japanese Zero coming toward me. The pilot looked right at me as I started firing,” former Sgt. Mel Clark recalled six decades later.
Jimmy Stewart taught former 2nd Lt. Nick Radosevich of Englewood, Fla. how to fly a B-17 and B-24 bombers during World War II.
Like a lot of other young men his age, Ed Lukach wanted to be a pilot when he signed up at 19 for the Army’s Aviation Cadet Program in 1942 near the start of World War II.
Warrant Officer Mike Goff never saw “The Valley of Death.” He wasn’t one of the 400 soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Division surrounded and attacked by 2,000 North Vietnam soldiers at the La Drang Valley in mid-November 1965.
More than 60 years ago, former Sgt. Robert Martin of Englewood, Fla. was a back seat gunner in a Douglas Dauntless SBD single-engine dive bomber flying against Japanese fortifications on Bougainville in the New Georgia Islands in the Pacific during World War II. He was a member of Marine Dive Bomber Squadron 234.
1st Lt. Ken Stetson, was at the controls of a B-29 “Superfortress” the crew named “Tanaka Termite” when it was attacked by Japanese fighter planes while flying in formation over Mount Fuji on their first of 30 combat missions to Japan.
Bill Schultz flew from a field in Foggia, Italy, as the pilot of a B-17 “Flying Fortress” in World War II. The 87-year-old North Port, Fla. resident, who lives in the Lazy River manufactured home park, was a member of the 301st Bomb Group, 419th Bomb Squadron, 15th Air Force 65 years ago.
Ed Scarff had a 30 year military career that spanned two services and three wars. He enlisted in the Navy in WWII as a teenaged machinest-mate and ended up joining the Air Force’s Aviation Cadet Program and flew jet fighters in Korea and Vietnam.
The cheap, cerise-colored, aluminum bracelet on her right arm was battered and worn. Every day for the past 25 years, Vera Creed of Port Charlotte, Fla. has had it on.
Bill Lutgen of Venice, Fla. flew 378 combat missions in an A-37 fighter-bomber in Vietnam, received three Distinguish Flying Crosses and 19 Air Medals for his efforts and retired from the Air Force after 20 years in the service.
Lt. Chuck Hofelich was a “Thud” driver and proud of it. He flew an F-105 “Thunderchief” supersonic fighter-bomber, he and his jet jockey buddies called “Thuds” on 79 combat missions over North Vietnam.
Before he dropped the world’s first Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima in a B-29 Super Fortress named for his mother, “Enola Gay,” Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets flew a B-17 Flying Fortress over Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.
It was Ensign Woody Lindskog’s lucky day. The Navy pilot was plucked from Wasile Bay off Halmahera Island in the South Pacific by an Army Air Corps Catalina flying boat, right under the nose of a Japanese gun emplacement and thousands of enemy troops after his Hellcat fighter was hit by an antiaircraft flak and…