100 percent graduation

A local movement is underway to ensure the area has a 100 percent high school graduation rate. The current list of supporters numbers 243. A special thanks to Schwan's, AirCorps Aviation, New Beginnings Re-Entry Project, Anderson Fabrics, Deerwood Bank and Security Insurance of Blackduck.

We will graduate 100 percent of our learners when we:

1. Give kids reasons to graduate.

2. Tell students the facts about what it takes to live after graduation.

3. Give them things to do around the house especially during summer vacation.

The D-Day 75th anniversary celebration is over but many stories about WWII remain untold. Here is a daring personal account by a B-17 pilot, which serves as a tribute to the skill and bravery of B-17 combat crews and to the durability of the plane itself. It is told by 1st Lt. John Raedeke, Air Corps pilot, on a Jan. 11, 1944, combat mission to Halberstadt, Germany.

"We took off at 0745 o'clock with a load of 2300 gallons of gasoline, 6000 pounds of bombs, full load of ammunition, and the usual weight of men and equipment. We joined the group formation at 1010 o'clock and flew into target without incident. We dropped our bombs at 1152 o'clock, everything was still in good shape.

"At 1200 o'clock we were hit by fighters, which stayed with us for one hour and fifty minutes. They attacked us from 5-7 o'clock position at first and gradually, as more enemy fighters joined, they attacked us from 3-9 o'clock positions.We were flying "Tail End Charlie". The fighters created much excitement among the squadron, resulting in more power being applied to the engines. About 12:45 o'clock more enemy fighters joined the attack and finally we were being attacked from all positions on the clock, high and low.

"The plane was vibrating and pitching unbelievably as a result of all guns firing, fighting prop-wash, and avoiding collision with our own as well as enemy planes. The sky in front of us was a solid mass of exploding 20 MM shells, flak, rockets, burning aircraft, and more enemy fighters. B-17's were going down in flames every 15 minutes and enemy fighters seemed to explode or go down in smoke like flies dropping out of the sky.

"The Luftwaffe attacked us in ME 109's, ME 210's, FW 190's, JU 88's, and some we couldn't identify. The enemy fighters made suicidal attacks at us continuously, coming within about fifty feet before turning away. It seemed that the greater part of the attack was aimed at our ship, perhaps for the following reason. Our ship was the only one in the group that was not firing tracer bullets and they apparently thought we had no guns or were out of ammunition.

"At approximately 1330 o'clock we were attacked by another group of enemy fighters numbering about forty which came at us again from 1200 o'clock position, level in formation pattern. Again, we saw that solid wall of exploding shells and fighters. This time we were flying #3 position in the second element of the lead squadron.

"As they came in, the top turret gunner of our ship nailed a FW 190 which burst into flames, nosed up and to its left, thus colliding with the B-17 flying #2 position of the second element on our right. Immediately upon colliding this B-17 burst into flames, started into a loop but fell off on its left wing and across our tail. We were really hit and we thought we had "Had It".

Immediately upon being hit by the falling B-17 we were nosed up and went into a loop. Pilot called crew at once and ordered them to prepare to bail out. Response was instantaneous and miraculously proficient. Not one crew member grew frantic or lost his head, so to speak. All stood ready at their stations to abandon the ship.

"As quickly as we were hit we engaged the A.F.C.E. (Automatic Flight Control Equipment) which was set up for level flying. Full power was applied with throttle and both Pilot and Co-Pilot began the struggle with the manual controls. It was noted at once that the rudder control was out because the rudder pedals could not be moved.

"In only a fraction of a second the ship had completed a beautiful loop and was now merrily spinning toward the ground, with five enemy fighters following on the tail. Although the spin seemed flat and rather slow it was vicious and we were losing altitude fast. As soon as we had completed the loop and had fallen into a spin the Pilot, having full confidence in a prayer, recalled the crew members and ordered them to stand by for a little while longer.

"After making at least two or three complete 360-degree turns, the ship finally swept into a clean dive at an angle of approximately 45 degrees from level. The I.A.S. at this time was approximately 280 M.P.H. The altitude was approximately 12,000 feet.

"At this point it was noted that one enemy fighter was still following on our tail. We were heading for cloud cover at an angle of approximately 75 degrees to 80 degrees from the level at a speed of about 400 M.P.H. indicated.

"We flew in the cloud cover for about 10 minutes and then came out above to check for more enemy fighters. Saw one fighter after several minutes at five o'clock position high so we ducked back into the clouds for about 10 minutes longer. Came out again and found everything clear. Rode the top of the clouds all the way back across the North Sea.

"During the violent maneuvers of the loop the left waist gunner, S/Sgt. Warren Carson, was thrown about in the waist of the ship resulting in a fractured leg. However, he did remain at his guns until the chances of more enemy attacks were nil.

"After we were well out over the North Sea the injured waist gunner was moved to the radio room where he was treated and made comfortable by the Bombardier who went back to assist. "The Co-Pilot reported that about 1/3 of the left horizontal stabilizer and elevator were off and that almost the entire vertical stabilizer and rudder had been sheared off but that all control cables were okay. It also seemed to fly quite smoothly in spite of the missing vertical stabilizer and rudder. It was therefore decided by the pilot that a normal landing could be attempted.

"Reaching the English coast we headed for our home field but the weather had closed in and the ceiling was getting lower as we neared our field. Finally, we were forced to fly at tree-top heights in order to stay out of the clouds, all radio equipment was out and we were not sure where the field was. Finally it began to rain, besides our other trouble, so we decided to land at the first field we found.

"The pilot ordered all crew members to prepare for a crash landing. However, the Navigator volunteered to remain in the nose of the ship to direct the Pilot and Co-Pilot in their approach to the field and a final landing.

"The landing was accomplished in the normal manner, taking advantage of a slightly longer approach. With the aid of the Navigator's directions we made a perfect landing. After setting it on the ground it was noted that the right tire was flat. It was also noted that the ship was almost dry of fuel.

That's the story. We now know from experience that a B-17 will loop, spin, pull out of a dive when indicating 400 miles per hour, fly without a rudder and very little horizontal stabilizer, and will land normally without a rudder and a flat tire added. The "guts," courage, and confidence displayed by the crew of this mission is highly commendable. The gunners shot down nine enemy aircraft and claimed to have damaged at least 10 more.

John Raedeke, my uncle, completed 19 missions and his plane was eventually shot down. He was reported missing in action on April 26, 1944. His mother later learned he was taken prisoner and was in a German prison camp until the end of the war. He left the Air Corps as a major and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Clusters.

After returning from the service, he married Miss Uruguay of 1953, Alicia Ibanez, and, coincidently, while I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uruguay, I regularly visited her mother. John Raedeke passed several years ago. His wife, Alicia, lives in California close to her three children. My Uncle Jack was my favorite uncle, a true war hero.

Riddle: Why did the frog go see the doctor. (Because he was acting jumpy.) I bet many of our World War II pilots were pretty jumpy when they encountered enemy planes.