The Donald Duck

During World War II my grandfather Charles Hamner was an officer in the Army Air Corp, and he and his crew were based out of Kent in South East England. They flew a B17 nicknamed The Donald Duck approximately every other day for about three months during 1944.

My grandfather and some of his men in front of The Donald Duck. He is on the top left in the lighter-colored jacket next to two other officers. Enlisted men are kneeling.
The Donald Duck’s crew of ten posing in front of a different B17C. My grandfather is in the bottom row on the far left next to three other officers.

When my grandfather and his crew first arrived in England, they were shown combat mission films and were horrified by the carnage. The higher-ups asked for volunteers to fly two planes, not telling them what the mission would be. My grandfather and the other men that would be assigned to The Donald Duck volunteered because they figured it couldn’t be any worse than what they saw in the films. It was then they learned they would be flying west towards Iceland as part of the 8th Weather Squadron.

While my grandfather and his men did not see direct combat like their counterparts who flew east, their weather-related missions were not risk-free. My grandfather saw a total of two German planes from The Donald Duck. One of those planes was heading towards Ireland, and he speculated there was a secret German base there due to the Irish’s dislike of the English.

After flying for 500 hours, the higher-ups rotated The Donald Duck crew back to the United States. The volunteers who had made-up the second plane were not as fortunate. While on a weather-related mission, they didn’t follow some correct flying procedures that helped ensure their safety. A German plane surprise-attacked them. The American plane was shot down, and there were no survivors.