LOCAL NEWS

Dad is just one hero on this Veterans Day

Nov 11, 2022, 9:53 AM | Updated: 10:20 am
WWII Veterans...
My father (back row, second from the left) with his squadron. (Photo courtesy "A Dying Breed" by Neal Dillon)
(Photo courtesy "A Dying Breed" by Neal Dillon)

Dad was a war hero. No doubt about that.

All who serve are heroes.

I include those who were in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, and Afghanistan. I believe those who know they may put their lives on the line at any given moment to defend freedom are considered heroes.

My dad served in the Eighth Air Force.

A book was written about him and his squadron, A Dying Breed: The Courage of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, by Neal B. Dillon, was the only way I knew about his service.

He died more than 50 years ago.

As Dillon wrote, “World War II Army Air Corps flyers were an elite group, all young volunteers, specially recruited and trained to perform highly skilled combat jobs.”

Pilots “fought a type of war in the air that the world has never experienced and would likely never see again,” he continued.

All Over The Map: World War II Kirkland yearbook mystery

My father was born in 1919, the son of Ukrainian parents. He enlisted in 1941.

The 547th Bomb Group, led by dad, had trained with his crew in Moses Lake.

In the war, Lt. Kaczaraba was based at Grafton-Underwood Air Base in England.

On one mission over Breman, Germany, my father’s squadron was taking flak and his plane was hit three times. Another B-17 was hit and spiraled downward. Four of the crew bailed out. Six others would die. Other B-17s in the squadron were crippled.

The standing order is that no aircraft will leave formation to aid others that can’t keep up. The reason: breaking formation would weaken the squadron as a whole.

As the remaining planes were trying to escape, one crew member radioed to Lt. Kaczaraba, “We must go back and help.”

My dad questions the crew, “Is that what each of you want to do?” All say yes.

Kaczaraba immediately throttles back and banks up to form-up with the crippled aircraft. The squadron is now taking on 25 German fighters.

The air fight lasts more than three hours. They fired 5,000 rounds.

Finally, the Germans give up and begin their return to base.

My dad’s squadron, smaller than when they began, can now see the English Channel. But now fuel is low.

All unnecessary equipment is thrown overboard.

The squadron made it home to base… barely.

However, it was not a warm welcome for dad.

“Lt. Kaczaraba, today you and your crew disobeyed the rule of formation by going to the aid of two crippled bombers. I could, and should, have you court-martialed,” the base commander told him.

“However, in view of the fact that your crew saved the lives of 20 airmen and two aircraft, I am giving you a verbal reprimand only.”

On Tuesday, January 4, 1944 my dad’s plane was shot down over Denmark. He survived the crash, but was captured by the Nazi’s.

He and his crew had flown a dozen successful missions over Germany. This one was not.

Eventually, dad and his crew were taken to Stalag Luft I in Barth, Germany, where they were imprisoned until the end of the war 18 months later.

In WWII, American POWs could not be considered passive victims, grounded and inoperative. Every POW was briefed and trained to understand that, if captures, he was to consider himself an active resistor and distract captors through escape efforts.

Dad took this to heart. At Stalag Luft I, digging tunnels was an everyday occurrence.

So were the beatings and torture.

Dad left the war as a proud war hero, but a broken man. He returned to his family crushed by the evils of war.

All this to save freedom as we know it.

Bill Kaczaraba is a Digital Content Editor for MyNorthwest.com.

The information, quotes, and photo in this article are from A Dying Breed: The Courage of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, by Neal B. Dillon, published by Hellgate Press.

Local News

...
KIRO 7 News Staff

11-year-old injured in suspected road rage shooting on I-5 near Tacoma Mall

The shooting, which took place on northbound I-5 south of 38th Street near the Tacoma Mall, was reported at about 2:20 p.m.
1 day ago
snow...
Frank Sumrall

Lowland snow looming for Seattle region early next week

Washington is expecting anywhere from eight to 18 inches of snowfall in the passes from Saturday through Sunday night.
1 day ago
(KIRO 7)...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Nearly 2 dozen people forced out of Tacoma apartments after Thanksgiving fire

Smoke and flames were seen on the second- and third-floor decks of one building and flames had spread into the attic.
1 day ago
Chris Wesolowicz (Photo courtesy of Wesolowicz Family GoFundMe)...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Details emerge about man shot and killed in Southcenter parking garage

Mary Wesolowicz told KIRO 7 her husband was selfless, always putting others first, and in his final act, he did everything he could to save her.
1 day ago
(KIRO 7)...
Colleen West, KIRO 7 News

Federal Way gun owner charged after 8-year-old shoots 9-year-old brother in head

LeAnthony J. Todd, 18, was charged on Nov. 15 with first-degree community endangerment due to unsafe firearm storage.
1 day ago
plane crash...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Victims identified in Friday’s plane crash near Snohomish

Four people were killed last Friday after a small plane crashed into a field and caught fire near Snohomish.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
Dad is just one hero on this Veterans Day