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For 30 minutes, former WWII pilot flies back in time
St. Petersburg Times ^ | January 30, 2010 | Bill Stevens

Posted on 01/30/2010 3:47:08 PM PST by greatdefender

Lt. Nick Radosevich had his orders. Soon he would ship out to England and begin bombing targets deep inside Nazi territory.

He sought an edge, a good-luck charm. He met a girl. They had some drinks and dinner. Her cocker spaniel had recently delivered puppies.

"That's it,'' the handsome 26-year-old pilot said.

He picked out a jet black female and named her Penelope — Penny for short. He attached a small metal cylinder to her collar that contained contact information in case Penny should get lost.

2/Lt. Nick Radosevich, 734th Squadron, 453rd Bomb Group.

For the long trip from March Field near Riverside, Calif., to Old Buckenham, Radosevich fashioned a bed for Penny between the pilot and co-pilot seats. He made a harness and small parachute to fit the dog in case of emergency.

B-24 pilots named their planes. Radosevich chose his before leaving California.

Lucky Penny.

Nick Radosevich, one of four sons to a steel worker, had never been aboard an airplane when he volunteered for the Army in 1940. He and another young man were the first to join from their hometown of Amherst, Ohio.

He stood only 5-feet-7 and weighed 135 pounds, but Nick was a solid, hard-nosed amateur boxer. And his high school education separated him from most of the other men who reported for duty at Fort Hayes in Columbus. He could read and write.

Soon his superiors saw other qualities that led them to send him to California for officers training. He wanted to fly fighter planes, but his leadership skills made him best suited to command a large crew. He would get bomber training at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho.

Radosevich, now a second lieutenant, walked into headquarters on Day One. His squad commander looked up from his desk.

"I just started laughing,'' Radosevich recalled.

"I get that a lot,'' said 1st Lt. Jimmy Stewart. The famous actor had earned his position as an ace pilot. He would lead Radosevich through combat and many years later become a general in the Air Force Reserves.

• • •

Feb. 13, 1944. Lt. Radosevich gathered his nine crew members and the Lucky Penny soared toward France on its first mission — destroy platforms where the German army launched buzz bombs to London. The brass called this a "milk run,'' meaning it would be easy pickings compared to other targets. Only five hours, minimal opposition.

The Lucky Penny returned to Old Buckenham with 50 bullet holes. "They didn't hit anything important,'' Radosevich said.

Flying across the English Channel and into Germany and France meant enduring "Flak Alley,'' where antiaircraft guns peppered the sky. Often the B-24s flew so deep into enemy territory that fighter escorts had to turn back because they didn't have the same range. The bombers suffered terrible casualties. In three days alone over the Easter weekend 1944, the 734th Squadron lost 21 planes.

The Lucky Penny survived 13 missions before the crew earned a respite in Scotland. During that time, 10 other men took over the bomber. They were shot down and killed.

Radosevich returned to duty with another B-24, the Lucky Penny II. The crew would fly 32 missions, seven more than expected. They remained at Old Buckenham because the Allied invasion kept getting delayed.

Finally, on June 6, thousands of ships and planes headed toward Normandy. The Lucky Penny II pounded Omaha Beach to soften it for the landing. It returned to England for more bombs before heading back to France to drop them on St. Lo, headquarters of the Luftwaffe.

The crew survived several close calls, dodging an exploding B-24 on its wing over Berlin. On one raid over France, flak destroyed two of the plane's four engines, but Radosevich managed to coax it back over the channel to England.

After the final mission, the crew got out of the bomber, greeted by their commander.

"You're going home, boys,'' said Jimmy Stewart. Radosevich would later train a B-29 crew in Great Bend, Kan., assigned to prepare an atomic attack on Japan.

He was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses for heroism.

Before leaving England, Radosevich took his cocker spaniel over to a family he had befriended in Attleborough. They had a 4-year-old daughter who loved the dog, "so I knew she would be in good hands.''

Another crew took over the Lucky Penny II. They were shot down, taken prisoner.

After the war, Radosevich left the service and enrolled at Ohio State University. He married (Marilyn) and took a job as a quality control manager for North American Rockwell. They had a daughter, Debra, and Radosevich settled into an ordinary life, much like thousands of other men who had survived extraordinary battles. His mother and father, who had immigrated from Russia and Serbia, celebrated him home, along with his three brothers who had also fought — Mike (Navy), Walter (Marines) and George (Army).

He excelled at bowling and golf, and even played with a pretty fair amateur teen golfer from Columbus named Jack Nicklaus.

Nick and Marilyn eventually retired to Englewood, Fla.

Then one day about three years ago, they got a call from a woman in England. Jane Lane had been a 4-year-old in Attleborough in 1944 when a bomber pilot gave her family a black cocker spaniel named Penny.

Now, more than 60 years later, she had examined the collar that her mother kept as a souvenir. She noticed for the first time that the metal cylinder attached to the collar was actually two parts, screwed together. She opened the cylinder and out fell a piece of paper with Lt. Nick Radosevich's name and squadron. She tracked him to Florida.

"We were so excited when Jane said she was coming to visit,'' said Marilyn. But Jane died before she could make it.

Jane's cousin delivered the cylinder to Nick and Marilyn, and they donated it to the historical library at Old Buckenham.

• • •

Friday afternoon at his new home in Summertree near Hudson, Nick Radosevich, 92, slipped into his old flight jacket, which still fits. Marilyn's sister, had paid $425 for a ticket so he could fly on the last remaining operable B-24. The nonprofit Collings Foundation, which renovated the plane, would be offering tours and rides at the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport.

Word got around quickly that the old man with the wooden cane had flown during the war. Nick told his story to TV reporters and then climbed aboard Witchcraft. In tight quarters, he managed to pull himself past the 50-caliber waist guns and up some steps toward the cockpit. It is restricted to most visitors, but not this man.

Chris Bahan, 33, who helps fly Witchcraft around the country, helped Nick into the pilot's seat. Outside on the tarmac, Marilyn beamed as she watched her husband reaquaint himself with an old friend. He hadn't been in a cockpit in some 65 years. He sat there for a half-hour, explaining all the gadgets, recalling some battles.

"This is why we do this,'' offered Bahan. "We fly every day, and sometimes we think of this as just a job. But then you see a man like this come aboard, and you know he is the real thing. He went to war. He flew this plane.''

Nick and Marilyn strapped on seat belts and the B-24 roared down the runway, heading west over the Gulf of Mexico. A half-hour later, it returned to the airport.

Nick Radosevich beamed. Others surrounded him, wondering about such things as memories and emotions.

"I forgot how loud it was. That's why I wear these,'' he said with a smile, pointing to his twin hearing aids.

"This was a good plane. We did a lot of damage.''

TOPICS: Education; History; Military/Veterans
KEYWORDS: americanhero; b24; congratulationsnick; godsgravesglyphs; pilot; realman; vet; wwii
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God Bless You & Thank you for your service of this great nation!

1 posted on 01/30/2010 3:47:09 PM PST by greatdefender
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To: greatdefender

Awesome story..

2 posted on 01/30/2010 3:49:13 PM PST by maddog55 (OBAMA, Why stupid people shouldn't vote.)
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To: maddog55

Thank you Lt. Radosevich. Thank you for my freedom

3 posted on 01/30/2010 3:54:36 PM PST by John-Irish ("Shame of him who thinks of it''.)
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To: greatdefender

Got hard to read at the end, with the blurry vision and all...damned allergies.

4 posted on 01/30/2010 3:58:56 PM PST by JRios1968 (The real first rule of Fight Club: don't invite Chuck Norris...EVER)
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To: John-Irish

Semper Fi and Thank you Lt. Radosevich.

5 posted on 01/30/2010 4:02:40 PM PST by Dubya (JESUS SAVES)
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To: JRios1968

JRios1968 wrote: “Got hard to read at the end, with the blurry vision and all...damned allergies.”

..... Same problem.

6 posted on 01/30/2010 4:11:42 PM PST by Senator John Blutarski (The progress of government: republic, democracy, technocracy, bureaucracy, plutocracy, kleptocracy,)
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To: greatdefender

A truly Beautiful Picture of a GREAT AMERICAN HERO!!! Thank You, Sir! for Saving Our Great AMERICA!!

7 posted on 01/30/2010 4:13:02 PM PST by True Republican Patriot (May GOD Continue to BLESS Our Great President George W. Bush!!)
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To: Senator John Blutarski
JRios1968 wrote: “Got hard to read at the end, with the blurry vision and all...damned allergies.” ..... Same problem


8 posted on 01/30/2010 4:17:35 PM PST by Mrs.Liberty (Somewhere in Kenya, a village is missing an idiot.)
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To: greatdefender

Thank you very much Lt.Radosevich

9 posted on 01/30/2010 4:18:26 PM PST by muir_redwoods (Obama: The Fresh Prince of Bill Ayers)
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To: greatdefender
Thank you for posting this and thanks to Lt. Radosevich for his service to our Nation!

Lamh Foistenach Abu!
10 posted on 01/30/2010 4:19:10 PM PST by ConorMacNessa (HM/2 USN, 3/5 Marines, RVN 1969. St. Michael the Archangel defend us in battle!)
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To: greatdefender

In only a few years, all that will be left, are the stories. May we NEVER forget their sacrifice in our behalf. those who do, or were never taught, will very likely end up our enemy. Freedom and liberty, the most priceless gems known to humanity, and worth every sacrifice to obtain and maintain.

11 posted on 01/30/2010 4:19:57 PM PST by wita
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To: greatdefender

I never tire of these stories and the screen always gets blurred.

12 posted on 01/30/2010 4:22:20 PM PST by HANG THE EXPENSE (Life is tough.It's tougher when you're stupid.)
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To: onedoug

Blurry Screen Alert.

13 posted on 01/30/2010 4:25:17 PM PST by stylecouncilor (What Would Jim Thompson Do?)
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To: greatdefender

Thank you, Sir!

14 posted on 01/30/2010 4:41:15 PM PST by WellyP
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To: stylecouncilor


15 posted on 01/30/2010 4:41:44 PM PST by WellyP
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To: greatdefender

16 posted on 01/30/2010 4:42:16 PM PST by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
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To: greatdefender

I like to have brunch, lunch and dinner at a certain airport restaurant. It is right on the field overlooking the main ramp and runways. Every night there is a gathering of various “old timer” pilots and aircrews, the important people in my book. They have a guy playing the piano, they sing songs, talk story, and just appreciate that they are alive. It’s noisy but I like to watch them enjoy themselves because I know they’ve earned it. I’ve met some famous people there. To them, every pilot and aircrew member is part of the pack, young or old, and man do they have some stories to tell! Every now and then they even put on an impromptu air show of B-17, B-25, F-86, F-4, P-51, and many other warbirds. We had a wedding anniversary dinner there recently and it came with an impromptu air show lasting over 45 minutes at dusk with all kinds of warbirds flying in formations just feet off the deck. It’s a real tear jerker to hear an old-timer say something like, “I flew one of those. God rest the other souls who didn’t come back.”

17 posted on 01/30/2010 4:45:43 PM PST by CodeToad (If it weren't for physics and law enforcement I'd be unstoppable!)
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To: Senator John Blutarski; JRios1968
JRios1968 wrote: “Got hard to read at the end, with the blurry vision and all...damned allergies.”

..... Same problem.

Good Lord, it's an epidemic--happened to me, too.

18 posted on 01/30/2010 4:53:35 PM PST by exit82 (Democrats are the enemy of freedom. Sarah Palin is our Esther.)
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To: ConorMacNessa; WellyP

you are welcome! I like to pay tribute to these finest people who have fought & die to make America free. God Bless Them!

19 posted on 01/30/2010 4:54:20 PM PST by greatdefender (If You Want Peace.....Prepare For War)
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To: greatdefender

I’m reminded of a story Jimmy Stewart told about himself and Henry Fonda. They were roommates in New York when they were both on the stage. They argued constantly about politics, until one day they agreed their friendship would not survive if they kept it up. From that day forward, they never mentioned politics between them, and remained friends to the end. Stewart said they never once exchanged even a word about Jane Fonda’s shenanigans (treason).

20 posted on 01/30/2010 5:05:55 PM PST by Arthur McGowan (In Edward Kennedy's America, federal funding of brothels is a right, not a privilege.)
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