For a kid who grew up after WWII in Seattle near Boeing Field and the Seattle Tacoma International airport and who loved to watch the planes land and take off, this project has been a great thrill.   Of all the aircraft I watched, the B-17 Flying Fortress has always been my favorite.

In the early 1950s, I could see many of the WWII airplanes parked at the south end of Boeing Field and my fascination continued.  Often I would ask my father, “What kind of plane is that?”  Even though my father had a medical deferment during the war, he was always able to answer my questions.  His knowledge of WWII aircraft was endless, I thought.  He and my mother even worked as civilian air spotters during the winter of 1942 on top of a fire lookout at Stampede Pass.  During those long days mom and dad were snowed in, Dad carved scale wooden models of many of the planes shown in his Aircraft Spotters’ Handbook.  Looking at these models as a child and hearing my father tell me all about the attributes of each craft, only added to my interest.

Once in a great while, I would even see a B-29 landing from the south on Boeing Field.  Later in the mid-fifties, I would occasionally hear a B-36 high in the sky.  The sound of their six engines pushing the aircraft from the rear was unmistakable.  Because they flew so high, it was nearly impossible to spot them from the ground.  I do not remember ever seeing one up close only as a tiny silhouette against the sky.

In 1962, during the Seattle World’s Fair, I was employed at Galvin Flying Service on Boeing Field.  Primarily my job was refueling any aircraft that ventured into our area of the field.  One of my fondest memories was seeing a P-51 take off from Boeing field to the north and pull into a vertical climb for many hundreds of feet before leveling off.  While working at Boeing Field, I often was a passenger with several co-workers who would practice touch-and-go landings during the long summer evenings; however, I never had any interest in flying myself.

In the early 1990s, my wife and I moved from Seattle to the small eastern Washington wheat town of Ritzville where I had the opportunity of buying and restoring my great grandparents’ retirement home.  Ritzville had always been like a second home for me as I spent much time visiting my grandparents and other relatives in Ritzville.  Because my great-great-grandparents and many other relatives settled in the area around Ritzville in the early 1880s, my interest in Ritzville’s history had also found a home.

When I was asked to write the story of Lt. Ralph Danekas, a distant relative, I couldn’t have been happier.  I could at long last combine my interest in WWII aircraft with my love for local history.  It has been distinct honor and privilege to get to know Ralph while conducting my many interviews.  To hear of his courage and skill while at the controls of the mighty Flying Fortress even after being severely injured on his sixteenth mission has fulfilled a lifelong dream.  Join me as history is told.


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This is the true story of a brave, young Ritzville man, Ralph Danekas, who enlisted in the army air corps shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. Ralph wanted to be a pilot and patriotism ran high in his family, so he applied for flight school for one of the big bombers he often saw flying over Ritzville as a kid in high school. He was told that flying a four-engine bomber was a tough job, but there was a war on the army needed pilots. Ralph was also told that many enlistees washed out during the rigorous training, but Ralph was determined to see it through to the end. Ralph chose the almost indestructible B-17 or “Flying Fortress” as it was affectionately known. and quickly advanced through the program. After graduation from the training schools, Ralph was sent to the European Theater of Operations and assigned to the 401st Bomb Squadron of the 91st Bomb Group at Bassingbourne, England.

Ralph flew a B-17G named “The Peacemaker” on fifteen missions through flak-filled skies and against some of the best fighter pilots that Germany had to offer. (The Peacemaker was the name painted the nose of his Flying Fortress and was known as “Nose- art”.) Each time the famous “Flying Fortress” returned to Bassingbourne without serious damage, however, the sixteenth mission was different. The events of Lt. Ralph’s final mission earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with oak leaf cluster and a Purple Heart. A fascinating read for students of:

  • World War II history
  • History of Ritzville, Washington
  • B-17
  • Flying Fortress

The book includes numerous photos, an index, and bibliography.

Additional information


Hardcover, Softcover