Friday, May 27, 2016

Rest in peace, Sir. Mission accomplished.

I don't mind admitting that this report brought a tear to my eye.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Melvin Rector ... served ... 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.

. . .

On May 6, Rector stepped foot on British soil for the first time in 71 years. The group first visited RAF Uxbridge in the London Borough of Hillingdon.

Rector toured Battle of Britain Bunker, an underground command center where fighter airplane operations were directed during D-Day. After climbing back into the sunlight, he told Jowers he felt dizzy. She grabbed one of his arms, and a stranger grabbed the other.

There, just outside the bunker where Winston Churchill famously said, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few," Rector died quietly.

"He walked out of that bunker like his tour was done," Jowers said.

. . .

Before repatriating his remains to the United States, a small service for the fallen hero was planned in Britain. It did not remain a small service.

"They just wanted something very simple. And when I found a little bit of background out about Melvin, there was no way we were going to just give him a very simple service," Neil Sherry, the British funeral director in charge of Rector's service, told ITV London News. "I wanted it to be as special as possible."

Though Jowers expected no more than four people, word of Rector's war record reached the American and British Armed Forces. The American Embassy donated a flag to drape over his coffin, and the room filled with servicemen and women and London historians who had never met Rector but wanted to pay their respects to their spiritual brother in arms.

There's more at the link.  I highly recommend clicking over there and reading it in full.

Here's a British news report on MSgt. Rector's funeral.

May MSgt. Rector rest in the peace he earned the hard way.



Bob said...

An incredibly moving story. Thank you.

Old NFO said...

Amen to that.

juvat said...

Rest in Peace, Sergeant. You earned it.