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Flight Plans Newsletter

World War II Airmen at Museum of Flight Dec. 12

Date: 
12/02/2009
Program with four veterans recounts air war over Europe and the Pacific
 
SEATTLE, Dec. 2, 2009
 
On Dec. 12 at 2 p.m., join the Museum to meet and hear from four WWII combat aviators whose experiences cover both the Pacific and European Theaters.  An audience question and answer session follows the program. The presentation in the William M. Allen Theater is free to Museum members or with admission to the Museum.
 
Navy Cmdr. Ralph E. Foltz was credited with five aerial victories, including two Japanese dive bombers in the famous "Marianas Turkey Shoot." As a Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Foltz was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for "heroism and extraordinary achievement in aerial flight as a Pilot of a Fighter Plane in Fighting Squadron Fifteen, attached to the U.S.S. Essex, in action against major units of the Japanese Fleet during the First Battle of the Philippine Sea, June 19, 1944. Executing vigorous counterattacks when our Fleet was subjected to numerous heavy enemy air raids, Lieutenant, Junior Grade, (then Ensign) Foltz destroyed two of the enemy dive bombers and assisted materially in the total destruction by his squadron of sixty-seven enemy aircraft."
 
Cmdr. Foltz was born in San Francisco where he attended City College. He retired from the Navy in 1970 and now lives in Pleasant Valley, Calif.
 
Navy Cmdr. Harry Ferrier's mother helped him falsify his birth certificate so the 16-year-old patriot could enlist in the Navy--enlistment age was 17--shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Six months later, the young radio operator and tail gunner in a Grumman TBF-1 Avenger torpedo bomber was engaged in the Navy's opening offense in the Battle of Midway. His aircraft, battle damaged and with one crewman killed, was the only TBF in his squadron to survive the attack. Despite initial loses, subsequent dive bombers succeeded in sinking four Japanese aircraft carriers. The Battle of Midway is regarded as being the successful turning point for the U.S. Navy's war in the Pacific.
 
Today, Cmdr. Ferrier is retired from the Navy and lives in Oak Harbor with his wife, Evelyn.
 
Col. Ralph C. Jenkins, USAF. (ret.) experienced the war over Europe from bases in England, and after D-Day, in France with his 510th Fighter-Bomber Squadron flying P-47s. Called Jenkins' Jerry Junkers, it was part of the 405th Fighter Group, 9th Air Force. Jenkins' squadron was involved in many of the bombing and strafing runs toward the end of the war that made the rugged P-47 famous. "Being shot down or surviving was mostly a matter of pure chance," wrote Jenkins. "We were constantly balancing on the fence between life and death: just a slight gust of wind, or even some stray prop wash, could decide your fate, in a large part because once an attack was initiated you had to continue on through flak-streams of it-and reach your target."
 
Col. Jenkins currently resides in Seattle with his wife of 66 years, Wisteria.
 
Capt. Clayton "Kelly" Gross is a native of Walla Walla, Wash. He joined the Army Air Force in 1942 immediately after Pearl Harbor and became rated as a pilot. He was sent to England as part of the "Pioneer Mustang Group" flying the P-51 Mustang .He is credited with 6 aerial victories including downing an ME- 262 the new German Jet (one of the first USAAF pilots to down this aircraft).  After the war he went to dental school at the Univ. of Oregon, graduating and practicing as a dentist in Portland. Among his decorations are the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with 15 Oak Leaf Clusters.

Gross is the author of "Live Bait" his memoirs of WWII, available in the Museum store.
 
The Museum of Flight is home of the American Fighter Aces Association, and holds their collections and archives. Visitors to the Museum can see an example of the type of P-47 Col. Jenkins flew, in addition to other World War II aircraft, in the J. Elroy McCaw Personal Courage Wing.
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The Museum of Flight is located at 9404 E. Marginal Way S., Seattle, Exit 158 off Interstate 5 (on Boeing Field between downtown Seattle and SeaTac Airport.) The Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $14 for adults, $13 for seniors 65 and older, $10 for active military, $7.50 for youth 5 to 17, and free for children under 5. Group rates are available. Admission on the first Thursday of the month is free from 5 to 9 p.m. courtesy of Wells Fargo. For general Museum information, please call 206-764-5720 or visit www.museumofflight.org.
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