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.

An Interview With My Father

Back in June 2015 I sat down with my dad and asked him about his life, what he’s learned, and how he wants to be remembered.

Timeline Of My Father’s Life

Childhood

  • 1940 – 1945 = Early childhood in Shreveport during WW II, dad in Army Air Corp, flew B-17s out of England
  • 1945 – 1946 = Moved to College Park and Fairburn, dad starts with Eastern Airlines
  • 1946 – 1949 = Moved to New Orleans, attended Gentilly Terrace thru early 4th grade
  • 1949 – 1952 = Moved to Houston, attended Golfcrest 4th and 5th grade, Lora B Peck, 6th grade
      • First job – Paper route, summer between 6th and 7th grade
      • Cried when told we were moving to Atlanta, EAL closed base
  • June 1950 = Moved to Mountain View, California at start of Korean War, Dad flies air lift out of SF, start 5th grade there, only there for three months and then back to Houston
  • 1952 – 1953 = Moved to East Point, attended most of 7th grade at Central Park
  • 1953 – 1953 = Moved to Ardley Road, Atlanta; Finished 7th grade at J C Harris
  • 1953 – 1958 = Five years at Southwest High School, tennis team, VP of senior class, band
      • Meets Sue grocery store spring of senior year
      • Worked at Colonial grocery store starting summer before tenth grade until left for college, 
      • Also worked at concession stand at Art Theater, P’tree and 10th, summer before 10th grade

College

  • 1958 – 1962 = Graduated Washington & Lee, joined Phi Kappa Sigma, met some great guys and gals, and still see them annually except for one who has died, Ralph Wiegandt
      • Double Major – German and European History, 2nd Lt. commission thru ROTC

Army & Sue

  • 1962 – 1963 = Waiting to go on active duty, worked again at Colonial Stores
  • 1962 – 1972 = Married to Sue, Joseph born – 1969
  • 1963 – 1965 = Army active duty in Wildflecken, Germany.  Third Infantry Division,
  • 1965 = Came home on troopship, worked again for Colonial waiting to start law school, Internal Auditor

Law

  • 1965 – 1968 = Law School, Vanderbilt, was afraid reserves would be called up for Vietnam                                                        
  • 1968 – 2006 = Practiced law, mostly real estate
      • 1968-1974: Archer, Patrick and Sidener
      • 1974-1980: Hamner and Reeves 
      • 1980-1986: sole practitioner
      • 1986-2006: Levine and D’Alessio, purchased firm in 1988, retired 2006                                                                

Career & Mimi Hamner

  • 1972 = Met Mimi Tracy
  • 1974 = Dad dies at 53 years of age, cancer, June 30
  • 1974 = Married Mimi Tracy
  • 1974 -1976 =  Three motorcycle trips to the west coast, riding double, shipped bike home, flew home each time
  • 1976 = Built a house and moved to Fayetteville, still live in same house
  • 1978 = Michael born
  • 1980 = Kenny born
  • 1991 = Eastern goes bankrupt, tough time around the house as both of us had long time Eastern connections, Mimi there for 26 years   
  • 1991 = Mimi is hired by Delta, works there for 12 years, retires January 2003
  • 2003 = Both Kenny and Mike have graduated college and have jobs

Retirement

  • 2006 = Bill retires
  • 2006 – Present = Travel – I’ve been to about 56 countries and crossed the Atlantic about 40 times, Pacific 6 times  
      • RV
      • 18 Cruises
      • Passes 
      • Reading
      • Models
      • Family
  • 2010 = Mother dies, July 6, age 88