A B-17 Gunner Series: Episode III

HE'D ALREADY RECEIVED a unit citation for downing a German Fockewulff 190, and on July 22, 1943, he was in position and ready. They were attacked repeatedly by the Italian Macchi 202s and the Fockewulffs, but most of the hottest fire was coming from a squadron of highly maneuverable ME-109 Messerschmidts. The enemy Messerschmidts seemed to be coming from every direcĀ­tion, one after another, each laying down heavy fire. Red followed them, getting each in his sights and firing repeatedly. Finally, he made a direct hit and downed one the ME-109s. His crew was credited with downing a total of seven Messerschmidts. During this 45-minute battle, one crew member was fatally wounded-the bombardier, the crewman in the most vulnerable position.

The Stardust was severely damaged, with over 50 holes in her fuselage, and the enemy had blown off much of the front and left landing gears. On approach back at Navarin, the crew sensed there would be trouble and they braced themselves for a crash landing. The remnants of the left and front landing gears descended, but the B-17 spun off the runway and pitched forward. In what could have been a deathtrap to the crew, not one member was injured in the landing mishap. Red was proud that the craft they had flown and survived in was one of the B-17s that he had helped build during his two years working at Boeing Company in Seattle.

After the crash landing, the crew was rotated back to the states. Red was assigned back to Gowen Field, where he helped train new recruits. He received his second unit citation for downing an enemy aircraft. Red also received the prestigious Presidential Medal and the esteemed Air Medal with eleven oak leaf clusters.

And when Red had his next one-week leave from the air base, he returned home to Pleasant Valley in the north of Whitman County, Washington State via Spokane. While in Spokane he visited a pawn shop where he spent all his savings on an impressive ring, size 8. After visiting his mother and his youngest brother, Red visited Agnes. He had thought of nothing but the beautiful strawberry blond, small town girl since he had seen her during his radio training. Red proposed, they married, and Agnes returned to Gowen with her happy husband. Within the year they brought a little baby girl into the world. She was cheery, cute, and you guessed it, she had auburn red hair.

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