Honoring Veterans and A Vintage B-17 Flight

Lt. Gordon B. Dodge, Co-Pilot

My Uncle Gordon Dodge flew 35 B-17 bombing missions over Germany during WWII. A few years ago, we took him on a vintage B-17 flight at a Florida Air Show – his 36th mission. (Scroll down to section below). He passed away at age 97, the last surviving member of his crew. 

U.S. Eighth Air Force, England - Rattlesden AFB; 447th Bomb Group, 709th Air Squadron. Crew photo below taken before their first B-17 bombing mission on November 9, 1944.

Front Row, L-R: Joe Trambley, (Tail Gunner); Max Shepherd, (Ball Turret Gunner); Olaf Larsen, (Radio Operator); Jim Shannon, (Engineer); Harold McKay (Armorer); Back Row - Standing, L-R: Gordon Dodge, (Co-Pilot); Wes Pitts, (Navigator); John Rosiala, (Bombardier); Ralph Minker, (Pilot).

Pilot Lee Minker wrote a detailed description of the crew's later bombing mission on January, 8 1945. Click on the button below to read it.

--- 447th Bomb Group Insignia: "Fiat Justitia Ruat Coelom" ----"Let justice be done, though the heavens fall."

Lt. Ralph Lee Minker, Pilot

After completing the required 35 B-17 bombing missions over Germany during WWII, Ralph Lee Minker signed up to fly additional missions. His family saved all his wartime letters. Before his death, Lee and his wife Sandra wrote a book based on the family correspondence, entitled: An American Family in World War II, which gives a compelling view of life during WWII.

Sandra O'Connell Minker in the Pilot seat; I am in the Co-Pilot seat, in the cockpit of the restored B-17 bomber: "City of Savannah" on exhibit at The 'Mighty' Eighth AF Museum, Savannah, GA.

Memorial tablet placed by Sandra O'Connell Minker in honor of Ralph Lee Minker and Uncle Gordon Dodge's B-17 crew. Tablet is located in the Memorial Garden of the 'Mighty' Eighth Museum. They flew a bomber called the "Blue Hen Chick" - named by Delaware native Ralph Lee Minker, after Delaware's state bird, the 'fighting' Blue Hen (a mascot that dates back to the Revolutionary War.)

The book based on Ralph Lee Minker's family correspondence and WWII experiences.

Gordon Dodge's 36th Mission in a Vintage B-17 Bomber

Uncle Gordon and Me during the flight.

Uncle Gordon Dodge talking to the other riders before our flight - answering questions about piloting a B-17 during the war. He declared: "I'm going to enjoy this flight because nobody will be shooting at me."

Honor Flight with WWII Veteran

My Honor Flight to Washington, DC with Bernard Hails, WWII U.S. Navy Seaman, First Class - on the USS Mount Baker.

Bernard Hails was born and raised in Montgomery, AL, and he enlisted in the Navy when he turned 18. He served on an ammunition supply ship, providing critical supplies to Admiral Halsey’s Pacific fleet during the decisive naval battles of 1944-45. We enjoyed touring several war memorials in Washington, DC, including the impressive WWII Memorial.

A Vietnam War POW who came home

This POW bracelet bears the name: Capt. Joseph Milligan. I kept it on my wrist and prayed for him every day, for over 2 years. I was overjoyed when I read that he was one of the few who survived and came home. I wrote to him, and below is his letter to me. He and I have reconnected and are now Facebook friends.