After 70 year absence, a 94 year old WWII vet dies upon his return to England.
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Melvin Rector long carried Britain in his heart after he helped defend it during World War II, but 70 years passed without him stepping foot in the country.Story here.
The 94-year-old finally decided to leave his home in Barefoot Bay, Fla., to visit Britain earlier this month. The National World War II Museum in New Orleans conducts a travel program through which interested parties can visit certain sites of the war. He signed up for one, in hopes of visiting the Royal Air Force station Snetterton Heath, in Norfolk.
He served there with the 96th Bomb Group in 1945 as a radio operator and gunner on B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, flying eight combat missions over Germany during the spring of the war’s final year. On four of these missions, his plane came under heavy fire. One almost proved catastrophic, and the plane returned to base with holes dotting its wings.
Rector was excited for his return to the place that made this great plane famous.
Note: In the early 1970's I worked with a dispatcher who was a B-17 tail gunner during WWII.
Airman Bill Hart's B-17 was shot down in early 1944 on only his second combat mission; he spent the rest of the war in a German POW camp.
I asked Bill about his experiences and he said the Germans didn't treat the Americans and Brits too badly; the German prison camp guards didn't have it very easy either due to food and fuel shortages. But what they did to the Russian POW's was terrible.
Bill was an easy going soul, very conscientious worker but his health was poor. He blamed it on the prison camp and died several years after I worked with him.