On Veterans Day in 2007 our local high school invited vets to come to the school and talk to the kids about their miltary experiences. Most of the vets were from the Vietnam Era. One however, was a WWII B17 pilot. Bernie Kellenyi was 87 years old and he came with his Army Air Corps hat and radio headset. While the vets were on stage talking to the hundreds of kids we had slides running of different events during wars. You could hear a pin drop. Bernie decided to tell them about his most dangerous of 30 missions over Germany. They left England and went into formation over Holland or France.
The target was Berlin, the most heavily defended target in Germany. As the approached the German border Messerschmitts came from everywhere and anti aircraft guns opened up as well. They were flying at 25,000 feet and were on oxygen with heavy coats and light armor. On the Messerschmitts came at them head on and shot out the nose cone, bomb sight and wounded their bombadier. Cold air was coming in the plane and they dropped to10,000 feet to keep from freezing and get more oxygen. They dragged the bombadier to the rear and gave him first aid. His flak jacket saved him. They had a load of bombs and fuel and no bomb sight or bombadier.
They let their load of bombs go wherever and hobbled back to Holland and made an emergency landing. The B17 was full of holes but the crew was OK except for the bombardier and he eventually recovered. Bernie said that in 30 missions they never lost a man or a plane, but they always came back with holes the plane. The flying fortress. Our grandmothers built 12,000 B17s and our grandfather flew them. We lost 4000 planes and crew.
I urge all the posts in the USA to speak to the high school kids on the next Veterans day. The teachers remarked they had never seen the kids so quiet and attentive. 1000 kids will remember Bernie forever and his mission over Germany.
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Paul Sniffen, USN, AMVETS, American Legion, Marine Corps League