Monday, November 3, 2014

A Real Hero

Marvin Skubick

Cm:   The story behind the video - it's a good one.....

By Lon Horwedel
on July 03, 2008 at 11:19 PM, updated July 05, 2008 at 8:29 AM)

Daniel Skubick pushes his 84-year-old father, Marvin, back to the hangar at Willow Run Airport so the Yankee Air Museum's Yankee Lady can get fueled up for their flight on June 11.
Marvin Skubick hobbled his way to the edge of the hangar doors in the Yankee Air Museum at Willow Run Airport. It was a beautiful afternoon in early June and gleaming in the sun on the tarmac, just outside, sat the museum's World War II B-17 bomber, the Yankee Lady.
The sight of the giant silver bomber was more than the 84-year-old former Air Force pilot from Northville Township could take. More than 50 years had passed since he last flew a B-17; the reunion between plane and pilot was an emotional one.

His son, Daniel Skubick, quickly moved to his father's side with a wheelchair. The elder Skubick sat, and began to cry.
Based in Italy during World War II, Skubick had flown 35 missions in the skies over Europe between 1943 and 1945, but this flight was going to be just as tough. It was a family reunion of sorts. His children - son Daniel, a doctor in Philadelphia, and daughter Gail Grady, an elementary school teacher in the Ann Arbor Public Schools - had been trying for years to get their dad back aboard a B-17 through the Yankee Air Museum's Historic Flight Experience.
Skubick resisted until this winter, when he finally agreed.
Skubick said his change of heart started four years ago when his wife, Barbara, died of leukemia. They'd met in 1945 when she picked up the young pilot hitchhiking in Florida.
In January, finding himself a widower among the ever-shrinking group of aging World War II vets, Skubick made up his mind: If he was ever going to fly aboard a B-17 again, this was the year.
Now, less than an hour from takeoff, Skubick seemed to transport himself back in time as he barked out orders to everyone within earshot.
"Get me under the bomb bay doors," he told Daniel.
"The cowl flaps are open - make sure the cowl flaps stay open until we're in the air."
"Run up number one!" he shouted.
It was a side of their father that Daniel and Gail had not seen. Like a lot of WWII veterans, he didn't talk much about the war. His children knew he was a pilot, but the stories he began recounting while parked under the open bomb bay doors were as new to them as they were to rest of the small crowd gathered around the former pilot.
"Some of the missions were so rough," Skubick recalled, staring into the belly of the giant bomber.
"We had one mission .... It was Blechhammer (Germany). ... We got over the target and the colonel who was leading the run said he couldn't get fixed on the target and we would have to go over it again. ... And that just took the heart out of all of us."
Skubick buried his face in his handkerchief. "The flak was just terrible," he said, trembling. "It was ripping through the airplane. I didn't think we'd ever make it."
Now it was Daniel and Gail who choked back tears as they listened to their father pour out his soul from the same spot where 5,000 pounds of bombs once poured from the plane.
Strangers came up to Skubick to shake his hand and thank him for his service.
Between the tears and handshakes, Skubick told of several more missions, like the time his two right-side engines were shot out on Christmas Day in 1944, or the mission where the plane's bombs were frozen in place and wouldn't drop, forcing his crew to physically kick them out of the bomb bay doors over the Adriatic Sea so the plane could safely land.
The fuel crew arrived to gas up the plane, but Skubick was in no hurry to leave. The crew waited as he climbed out of his wheelchair to inspect the Yankee Lady himself.

His first order of business was the left wing, where he slowly ran his hand back and forth over the riveted edge. Skubick then ambled back to the tail of the plane. Daniel and the fuel crew patiently waited with his wheelchair near the front.
Now it was just Skubick and the plane. He reached up and ran his hand along the tail wing before taking a final glance at the sky. Satisfied, he called for Daniel to wheel him back to the hanger.
Over and over, Skubick apologized for his tears.
"I'm sorry," he said to no one in particular. "I had some terrible experiences, that's why I'm crying. ... But this airplane, this airplane brought us back!"
Ten minutes later, the Yankee Lady was loaded with fuel and ready for boarding. With help from Daniel, Gail and the seven others who were taking the flight, Skubick was ushered, with difficulty, down the long, narrow central walkway in the center of the plane, over the bomb bay, to his seat in the cockpit, directly behind the pilot.
When the 10 passengers were secure, the B-17 came alive. One by one, each engine fired to life with a burst of smoke and the low rumble of a large propeller. A few minutes later, the big plane lifted off the end of the Willow Run runway, headed for Detroit.
Skubick had been nervous the night before the flight. He had phoned Gail several times to tell her he was "scared stiff" and didn't know if he could go through with it. But now, cruising at 1,200 feet, Skubick said he felt the knot in his stomach begin to ease.
The flight would last only an hour, but it was a fulfilling time for Daniel and Gail to connect with a portion of their father's life they knew little about.
"I'm so proud of my father for what he did," Gail said later. "To be there, on that airplane, to see where he sat, to see what he did - it's pretty rewarding."
Skubick spent much of the flight explaining the ins and outs of the B-17 to his two children. When he wasn't talking, he was gazing out over the Michigan horizon. At one point, they flew through a small rain squall.
As the flight ended, the B-17 touched down as gently as it had lifted off, a much different landing than Skubick's war days, when he was frequently landing on makeshift runways.
"I didn't think (the pilot) would bring it down so smooth." Skubick said.
Before getting off the plane, Skubick climbed into the pilot seat so Gail could take his picture. Then, slowly, methodically, he was helped back through the plane to the exit door near the tail.
With two volunteers on each arm, Skubick was helped backwards down the ladder attached to the rear of the plane. He had no idea a that crowd had gathered on the tarmac waiting for his return. As he turned around to find his wheelchair, the crowd gave him an ovation.
The reception seemed to startle Skubick, who then was recognized for his service by the Yankee Air Museum - as it does all World War II veterans - in a little ceremony on the tarmac. He received a medal and a certificate.
"Thank you, people, thank you from the bottom of my heart," he said. "And if I say any more I'm going to cry again, and I've cried enough."
Fifty-three years after his last mission, Marvin Skubick had successfully flown his 36th and final mission. He was spent and wanted to go home.
With Daniel pushing his wheelchair and Gail by his side, Skubick never turned around as he left the Yankee Lady gleaming in the sun behind him.

Marvin Skubick is now 90 years old. He was born on March 24, 1924.  One of our bravest.


  1. It got dusty in here while reading that account ... got something in my eye...

    1. Happened to me too..... And he never looked back.