World War II veteran receives medal over 70 years later

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Ralph Branson
  • 121st Air Refueling Wing
Over 70 years ago, Staff Sgt. Jesse Reese earned a Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions in World War II. Today he received it during a ceremony held at the St. Joseph Family Life Center in Dover, Ohio.

Reese was a Tail Gunner assigned to the 337th Bombardment Squadron, 96th Bombardment group, near Hamburg, Germany. On December 31, 1944, his aircraft, a B-17 bomber nicknamed "Ole Skatterflak" was attacked and hit by 20 millimeter shells and subsequently forced out of formation, becoming a lone target for German fighters.

Four crew members were wounded and the aircraft was badly damaged, however Reese successfully repelled enemy fighters from his position as the tail gunner.

"Ole Skatterflak" made it across the North Sea and landed at Woodbridge Air Base, stopping just a few feet from the end of the three mile long emergency runway.

This was the crew's 35th and final mission and they were shipped home the next day. Due to a miscommunication, Reese didn't receive his air medal and it was not placed on his record. With help from the senior officer of "Ole Skatterflak", the Air Force approved his DFC in 2014.

U.S. Air Force Col. Jim Jones, commander of the 121st Air Refueling Wing, presented Reese with his medal .

"It is a real privilege to be a part of today, honoring Sgt. Reese and what he did 70 years ago, " Jones said. "His professionalism and airmanship are awesome."

Reese smiled a lot and said "It's been a great day." He expressed pride in being a member of the Air Force. "It was Army Air Corps then, but in my heart, I'm Air Force."