During World War II, U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Melvin Rector served as a radio operator and gunner on B-17 Flying Fortress bombers. He was a crew member of the iconic Memphis Belle, the first heavy bomber to compete its 25-mission tour of duty with its crew intact. Earlier this month, Rector left his home in Barefoot Bay, Florida to return to England for the first time since the devastating war. The veteran, now 94-years-old, wanted to see the country that he helped defend from Nazis and visit the Royal Air Force station Snetterton Heath in Norfolk, where as a member of the 96th Bomb Group flew eight combat missions over Germany during the final year of the war. The historic trip was organized by the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
“He planned it for like the last six months,” Darlene O’Donnell, Rector’s stepdaughter said. “He couldn’t wait to go.”
On May 6, Melvin stepped foot on British soil for the first time in 71 years and visited RAF Uxbridge in London.
From Fox News:
After Rector toured the Battle of Britain bunker, a command center where airplane operations were coordinated during D-Day, he told Susan Jowers he felt dizzy.
There, right outside the bunker, Rector quietly died on the soil where he risked his life to defend decades ago.
“He walked out of that bunker like his tour was done,” Jowers told Florida Today. “He completed his final mission.”
Even though Melvin never got the chance to see RAF Snetterton Heath again, Rector’s daughter, Sandy Vavruich, said “he couldn’t have asked for a better way to go.”
A special service was held in the U.K. with both U.S. and British military members attending the ceremony to honor Rector before his body was sent back to the United States.
Rector’s funeral will be held in the U.S. at the First Baptist Church of Barefoot Bay on June 9.
Thank you for your service Master Sergeant Melvin Rector.
BASE Jumper Through The Clouds