He figured he’d RTB one last time, but didn’t quite make it:
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Melvin Rector long carried Britain in his heart after he helped defend it during World War II, but 70 years passed without him stepping foot in the country.
The 94-year-old finally decided to leave his home in Barefoot Bay, Fla., to visit Britain earlier this month. The National World War II Museum in New Orleans conducts a travel program through which interested parties can visit certain sites of the war. He signed up for one, in hopes of visiting the Royal Air Force station Snetterton Heath, in Norfolk.
He served there 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.
Read the whole thing…he got quite the sendoff before returning home.