Folder 9: Ralph L. "Lee" Minker, Jr., January - May, 1945

Rattlesden Army Air Force Base, England

Note: Between December 24, 1944 and January 21, 1945 the Minker crew flew 15 missions to Germany in support of the Battle of the Bulge.  See the list of missions to understand the context of these letters.

(Click here for PDF format of this abstract)

On January 1, 1945, Minker was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant.

Date: Thursday evening, January 4, 1945 - view letter
Writer: Lee Minker  
Recipient: Edna Minker
Place: Rattlesden AAFB, England
List of names and addresses of family of the crew, asks mother to contact them.
Names: Mrs. Gordon B. Dodge, Mr & Mrs Wesley C. Pitts, Mr and Mrs. John Rosiala, Mrs. Elizabeth Shannon, Mrs. Olaf Larsen, Mrs. Zehora Shepherd, Mrs. Paul Trambley, Mr & Mrs. J. McKay. 

 

Telegram from Ralph L. "Lee" Minker, Jr. to his father, Ralph, Sr.

Date: Western Union, January 20, 1945  - view telegram
Writer: Lee Minker  
Recipient: Ralph L. Minker, Sr.
Place: Rattlesden AAFB, England
Due to number of missions during Battle of the Bulge, he has not written.  Showing concern for their anxiety, Lee assures his parents that he is fine. 

 

Date: Sunday evening, January 21, 1945 - view letter
Writer: Lee Minker  
Recipient: Shirley Minker
Place: Rattlesden AAFB, England
Shares information about the German counteroffensive and how pathfinder equipment assists in bombing through the clouds.  Connects with his sister and home by asking lots of questions. 

 

Date: Wednesday evening, January 24, 1945 - view letter
Writer: Lee Minker  
Recipient: Ralph L. Minker, Sr.
Place: Rattlesden AAFB, England
Describes bombing targets, role of pathfinder equipment.  Comments on the progress of the war. Extensive political analysis of the future: unemployment, regulation of business, assimilation of servicemen after the war, future of the military, post-war problems and foreign policy.  Sharing sports with his dad, comments on Blue Bombers and Blue Rocks. Frustrated with Army waste when 447th “stood down” for inspection by a major general. 

 

Date: Tuesday evening, January 30, 1945 - view letter
Writer: Lee Minker  
Recipient: Edna Minker
Place: Rattlesden AAFB, England
Expresses feelings about the war; not eager to face the enemy yet accepts the need to continue bombing to support troops on the western and eastern fronts. Went to London, saw several plays. Still trying to get 620 film, wants reprints of pictures he has sent home. Going to arrange a photo of the Blue Hen Chick [see scrapbook].  Letters received from home. 
Names: Mike Zagraphone, Bob Cassel

 

Date: Saturday evening, February 3, 1945 - view letter
Writer: Lee Minker  
Recipient: Edna Minker
Place: Rattlesden AAFB, England
Advice on the garden, welcomes the early spring weather at the base. Including news clippings of bombing, General [James] Doolittle visited the base.  Officers of two new crews moved into the barracks. [Two crews had been shot down.] 

 

Date: Monday evening, February 12, 1945 - view letter
Writer: Lee Minker  
Recipient: Edna Minker
Place: Rattlesden AAFB, England
Went to see Cambridge on his last pass.  Lists all the letters he has received and how important they are to him. Figures for 1944 income taxes, received a $16 raise as a 1st lieutenant, crew mentioned letters from Edna to their families. 
Names: Ed Lake, Howell Finn [Wilmington], & Ralph Lower [Dickinson College]

 

On February 27, 1945 Minker completed his tour of 35 missions and was awarded membership in The Lucky Bastards Club, (p. 57 of scrapbook).  While his crew came home, Minker signed on for a second tour to finish up the war in Europe.

 

Date: Sunday evening, March 5, 1945 - view letter
Writer: Lee Minker  
Recipient: Ralph L. Minker, Sr.
Place: Rattlesden AAFB, England
Spent the day writing letters. The crew has completed combat duty of 35 missions, has decided to stay, plan to be home for July 4.  Will be working in group operations.  Finds it hard write and to concentrate. Bombardier John Rosiala was wounded. Visited friend from Dickinson College who is recovering from a wound. 
Names: Bob Cassel [Dickinson College, Theta Chi fraternity brother], Dick Brown [Dickinson College]

 

Date: Sunday evening, March 11, 1945 - view letter
Writer: Lee Minker  
Recipient: Edna Minker
Place: Rattlesden AAFB, England
Good news about the war, recognizes effort needed to overcome the Axis.  Plans being made for Air Forces to participate in attack on Japan. Needs 620 film to take pictures of England in the spring. Movies he has seen. Pleased she has corresponded with family of his crew, hopes their friendship will continue after the war.
Names: Howell Finn [Wilmington], Ken Mayo [Dickinson College]

 

Date: Monday evening, March 19, 1945 - view letter
Writer: Lee Minker  
Recipient: Ralph L. Minker, Sr.
Place: Rattlesden AAFB, England
This description of a “typical” mission opens with supper the evening before and goes on to detail what he does throughout the next 24 hours.  Full of detail but not technical, the tone and poetic nature of the description progresses hour by hour to the skies over Germany and the grateful return home. 
Note: This is the longest letter from Lee in the collection.

 

First Lieutenant Ralph L. Minker was on leave for 30 days after completing his first tour of 35 missions on February 26, 1945.  He signed on for a second tour, then spent time touring the English countryside before returning to base.  The crew of the Blue Hen Chick all returned to the U.S.  The exact dates of the leave are not known; there are no letters between March 19 and April 25, 1945.  

Date: Wednesday evening, April 25, 1945 - view letter (difficult to read)
Writer: Lee Minker  
Recipient: Edna Minker
Place: Rattlesden AAFB, England
Flying fatigue and spring fever kept him from writing. Feeling the excitement from all the recent change: death of the president, end of the war in Europe is near, the fury of war in the Far East.  The base is now a training center. Refers to transition flying techniques which possibly were to prepare for the planned invasion of Japan.  His return date of July 4 will probably be postponed.

 

Date: Cablegram, April 27, 1945  - view cablegram
Writer: Lee Minker  
Recipient: Edna Minker
Place: Rattlesden AAFB, England
Letting the family know he is fine after not writing for a month. 

 

Date: Saturday evening, April 28, 1945  - view letter (difficult to read)
Writer: Lee Minker  
Recipient: Ralph L. Minker, Sr.
Place: Rattlesden AAFB, England
Asks about Blue Rocks and Philly Blue Jays. [Lee and his dad shared a love of sports throughout their letters.] Problems of leadership at Dickinson College. Definitely wants to return to Dickinson College. Reflective about the start of the United Nations.  Met a Wilmington boy in London.
Names: Bill Ulrich of Wilmington and Grace Church.

 

Date: Tuesday evening, May 8, 1945  - view letter
Writer: Lee Minker  
Recipient: Bernice Minker
Place: Rattlesden AAFB, England
The unmitigated joy of VE Day, “At Last!.” Recognizes how much he has missed as Bernice is now in the final days of her senior year of high school at Tower Hill. Training continues, critique of motion pictures he has seen and books read. 

 

Ralph Lee Minker was promoted to Captain on May 16, 1945

Date: Wednesday evening, May 16, 1945  -
view letter (difficult to read)
Writer: Lee Minker  
Recipient: Edna Minker
Place: Rattlesden AAFB, England
Wistful about spring at home as he discusses their garden. No news about redeployment, refresher training continues. Censorship is now lifted so he reports on his exact location.  Pleased she talked with Bob Cassel and Olaf Larsen. 
Names: Olaf Larsen – radioman on the Blue Hen Chick. 

 

Date: Thursday evening, May 24, 1945  - view letter
Writer: Lee Minker  
Recipient: Ralph L. Minker, Sr.
Place: Rattlesden AAFB, England
Reports rather casually that he has been promoted to captain, lists the battles of Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Germany. The “special mission” he mentions is probably Operation Chowhound which dropped food over Holland in early May.  Awarded Air medal and five oak leaf clusters.  Lee tells his dad what he wants to do upon returning, which reflects simple aspects of civilian life and he wants to see his girl. Talks about reassignment as the war is not over yet. 
Names: Julia B. Taylor [girlfriend]

 

Date: Sunday evening, May 27, 1945  - view letter
Writer: Lee Minker  
Recipient: Edna Minker
Place: Rattlesden AAFB, England
The spring in England reminds Lee of Wilmington as he focuses on plans to come home, but there are only rumors. He is sending home negatives of photos of London, crew, buddies. Report of a “Victory Tour” for ground personnel, low altitude view of bombing results. Lee’s growing sensibilities about war are seen in his poetic description of how the war has ravaged Germany.

 

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