One regal old eagle, my Uncle John died last night, out in California, where he and my Aunt Ruth lived for many, many years, not far from Yosemite National Park.
They were New Yorkers when they met, before the Second World War took him overseas as a pilot for the 15th Bombardment Squadron, part of the Twelfth Air Force. The 15th had the honor to inflict the first American bombing attack on Hitler’s Fortress Europe, during a daylight raid over Holland on the 4th of July, 1942.
They were then sent to Algeria to support the invasion of North Africa, where he flew level missions against enemy naval forces, piloting a three-man Douglas A-20 Havoc. As a stateside trainer of new crews, he flew many other famous aircraft of the WWII and post-war era.
His window also flew during the war, installing autopilot systems on Avenger torpedo bombers for Grumman, which had to be done in flight.
She joined him in Germany after the war, where he was one of the pilots on the Berlin Airlift, when Stalin blocked all land routes to West Berlin in an effort to get the other Allies to abandon the city to his forces.
By the time he retired from the Air Force he held the rank of Lt. Colonel, having spent many years commanding SAC’s first squadron of KC-135 in-air refueling supertankers. He then applied his management skills to various civilian occupations, including an avid golf game.
Four or five years ago, he hit a hole-in-one at a local course when he was 90 years old, and took home the cash jackpot that had been accumulating at the clubhouse. And until quite recently he was still piloting his own automobile.
A very full and useful long life among the Greatest Generation.