||TEMOIGNAGES familles de l'équipage
BIOGRAPHIE du navigateur
RALPH D. MCKEE
19-09-1921 - 04-02-2012
McKee was born on September 19, 1921 in Southern Oklahoma. As was the case in most births in those days, he was born on
the farm. He submitted his application for Army flight cadet training on his
birthday in 1941 and was awaiting the official response when Pearl Harbor was
attacked. He was ordered to Tinker Field in Oklahoma City in order to take his
physical, which he passed, and then report for pilot's training. McKee passed a
2 year equivalent college exam for entrance into the pilot training program
even though he had only attended college for one semester at Southwestern Tech.
He was told to wait for call up and went to the post office on December 7th to
see if his call up papers had arrived. Later in the evening on that day he
turned on the radio and heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He
assumed that he would be called up for service immediately, but as it turned
out he was not called for duty until February 21, 1942.McKee's initial
assignment was to Santa Anna, California where his order for pilot's training
was ignored. He was selected for navigator training and he was sent to Mather
Field in Sacramento, California for navigator's training; he graduated there on
September 5, 1942 and was assigned to Salt Lake City to a replacement center;
from there he was sent to Boise, Idaho. In Boise, McKee was assigned to a heavy
bomber crew. For his second phase of crew training he was sent to San Antonio,
Texas and then to Rapids City, South Dakota. Fourth Phase training was at Smoky
Hill Field in Salinas, Kansas. McKee and his crew received their first aircraft
in Topeka, Kansas.His provisional group was originally assigned to North Africa
in Oran. After travels through South America, his crew left Brazil for their
destination of Bathurst, New Gambia [AnnotatorÂ’s Note: now Banjul, Republic of
The Gambia]. On the flight across the Atlantic McKee learned to trust celestial
navigation as it was his job to get his crew to their destination. From
Bathurst, McKee and his crew went to Marrakech, Morocco. His crew was
reassigned to the 8th Air Force in England. On the 22nd or 23rd of February his
crew arrived at Chelveston, England where they were absorbed into the 305th
Bomb Group.Part of the procedure in the 8th Air Force at that time was for a new
first pilot of a new crew to fly as co-pilot with an experienced crew in order
to break the new pilot in. McKee's pilot apparently left the group and his crew
was broken up; McKee was assigned to a crew that had already flown 7 missions.
McKee relates the story of how his new crew lost their original Navigator and Bombardier when they bailed out of their aircraft
after it was hit on a bombing raid over Wilhelmshaven, Germany.On May 17, 1943,
McKee and his crew went on a mission to Saint-Nazaire, France [the 305th Bombardment Group’s actual target on this date was Lorient,
France]. Over the target his aircraft was severely hit and four crewmen were
wounded. His pilot, Lyle Adams, was awarded the Silver Star for bringing his
wounded crewmen and shot up aircraft home safely. McKee was wounded by a shell
fragment in the back on this mission. After his recovery he went back on flying
status in June. Meanwhile his old crew [Adams’ crew] had
finished their 25th mission tour and rotated back to the United States.McKee
describes his final mission to Nantes, France on July 4, 1943 in which his
aircraft was shot down by German fighters
Ralph D McKee video, Interview, The National WWII Museum (2013)
Ralph McKee 90th Birthday Celebration
written by Helen McKee Duncan and Dianne McKee Rhodes, daughters of Ralph McKee
Helen McKee Duncan :
Dad,Granddad, Ralph, Mac, Little Pop, Uncle Ralph – however you know him is the
“rock” of our family.His discipline,strength of character, unwavering sense of right and wrong, conservative family
values, love of learning and love of God are traits which have distinguished
him throughout his life.These traits began developing as a young boy,
Dad was born September 19 1921 on a hard-scrabble Oklahoma farm to
Alma and Pearl McKee. His brother Leon was born 22 months later. Yes, he really did walk two and a half miles to and
from school in all kinds of weather. He loved reading, education and learning from early on to this day. How many people do you know who read the US
Constitution at least once a year and can still recite poems he learned in
elementary school? He has a prodigious memory and at 90 is still one of the
sharpest people I know.
The great depression startling in 1929 and Great Plains dust storms beginning in
1933 made farm life even harder than usual and helped shape the strong character
Dad became. His mother kept the family going during rough times by keeping a
garden, raising chickens and pigs, taking in laundry and selling eggs and
butter she churned by hand to buy staples for the family. She also encouraged
young Ralph to set goals and work hard in and out of school. He rewarded her by
being a great student, becoming the valedictorian of his high school class and
going to college.
His love and passion for flying began when Charles Lindberg’s solo flight from New
York to Paris was in the news. Although he was very young - this was the first outstanding event he remembers from his
childhood. His life long infatuation for “flying machines” was furthered when at age 13 he used a hard-earned dollar to
take a flight in an old, patched up, open-cockpit biplane at the 4th of July Rodeo in Canton, Oklahoma. On
that exhilarating ride, he decided one of his life goals was to become a pilot.
Many of you know of his exploits as an Air Force B-17 Navigator in World War
II. His plane was shot down over France and disguised as a deaf-mute by the French underground he walked over the
Pyrenees Mountains to Spain with fractured vertebrae. He participated in the Korean War effort as
well, flying B-29 missions from Okinawa. During his twenty-four year career in the Air Force, he flew whenever
possible, logging many hours of flight time and retaining his passion for flight.
At age 64 he decided to pursue his boyhood dream of “piloting” an aircraft and
soloed 6 months later. He spent many hours flying with his grandson, Chad, a
junior pilot. He later became certified to fly gliders and loved the freedom
this flying entailed. Glider flying was terminated when alone on a glider flight his plane met wind shear and crashed
in a swampy forest. He realized a medical condition of recurring blood clots might not mix well with being
stranded in a swamp after a crash landing. But Dad continued flying regular airplanes until he was well into his
eighties – though by then he flew with a safety pilot. He maintains his pilot’s license to this day.
He and his loving wife Elinor lead a very active life, working out at the gym,
taking driving trips across country, attending church, reading, and keeping
current on world events and living a rich and full life.
Dad at 90 years and going strong, you are my inspiration, my rock, my biggest
hero. Happy Birthday with so very much love.
Dianne McKee Rhodes :
When Helen and I talked about what we were going to say about Dad, she said, I’ve
done mine it’s called My Dad – the Rock. I said ”That’s what I was going to
say.” Now mine is going to be My Dad – My Hero, My Rock.
My father has always been calm, reserved and dignified. He speaks volumes about himself by his
actions. He always obeys the rules,never cusses and is honest to the nth degree. Integrity is in every facet of his life. When
I was a little girl many classmates had pencils from the AF base – but my Dad
would never even take a pen or pencil home that said “U.S. Government." Yes – he’s that honest!
He is a great role model for his children, grand-children and great
grandchildren. He actively contributes to the younger generation by giving Veterans Day and WWII talks to churches and
classrooms.His great granddaughter,Blair, calls him periodically to check on facts for school reports. He is truly a living representative of the
“greatest generation." We feel so blessed to have him in our lives.
Always so modest about his war experiences and accomplishments in life . . . and he’s
still getting awards at 90! He most recently received the French Legion of Honor Medal for his exploits in WWII. I’m sure few in the room even know he’s a
member of Mensa and a Master Mason.
When I was in the third grade he was in the Korean War. My mother said, “Your father loves his
country first because if the country is safe, his family is safe.
Last,my father is my hero because he looks so darn good at age 90!I’ll share his secret with you. He has had
numerous surgeries on his face to remove the skin cancers that are part of
being blued-eyed and fair skinned and being raised on a farm before anyone ever
even thought of sun screen.Dad calls all these surgeries his “GI Face Lift!A few weeks ago, he had another surgery and I told him that I knew he
was determined to look younger than Helen or me.
Happy Birthday, Dad. You have always been a father to be proud of – you are indeed my hero and my rock
|Ralph D McKee died on
February 4, 2012 (age 90)|
O B I T U A R Y
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Ralph D. McKee (age 90) died on February 4, 2012 at
Wuesthoff Hospital in Rockledge, Florida. He was born near Southard, Oklahoma.
5He came to Brevard Country in July 1958 from Montgomery, Alabama.
Col. McKee retired from the Air Force in 1965 after 24 years of service. He was a veteran of heavy bomber air
operations during World War II and the Korean War. His decorations included two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two
Purple Hearts, five Air Medals, Air Force Commendation medal, six campaign and
service medals and the French Legion of Honor. After retiring from the Air Force, he was engaged in various engineering
assignments on the Apollo and Shuttle programs for 31 years.
He was a graduate of Oklahoma State University, Florida Institute of Technology
and the Air Command and Staff College.
He was a member of Faith “Viera” Lutheran Church.
Other memberships include the Caterpillar Club, Military Order of the
Purple Heart, Phi Kappa Phi Honorary Society, American Mensa Ltd, AF&AM No.
418 – Oklahoma, F&AM No. 318 – Florida, Scottish Rite of Freemasonary, Azan
Temple Shrine, National Society of Professional Engineers, Florida Engineering
Society, Institute of Certified Professional Managers, Aircraft Owners &
Pilot's Association and the Soaring Society of America.
Survivors include his wife, Elinor S. McKee of Viera, daughters Dianne M. Rhodes (Don) of
Melbourne and Helen M. Duncan (John) of Coral Gables, granddaughter Shannon E.
Hill (Gregory), great-granddaughters Blair Alexandra Hill, Holland McKee Hill
and great-grandson, Gregory H. Hill, Jr. of Nashville, TN, daughter-in-law
Diane H. McKee of Jupiter and nephews, Dr. Larry L. McKee (Vicki) and Dr. Garry
L. McKee of Oklahoma City.He is predeceased by his son, Ralph D. McKee, Jr., Grandson, Chadley M. Rhodes and
brother Marion Leon McKee.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Florida Institute of Technology,
Chadley M. Rhodes Scholarship Endowment, 150 West University Blvd., Melbourne,
|itinéraire professionnel du Colonel Ralph McKee
Par la suite, Ralph McKee a accompli des missions de navigation sur B-29 dans le 370 BS, 307 BG durant la guerre de Corée, et un nombre de missions de formation de l'air et de recherche et développement jusqu'à sa retraite le 1er septembre 1965. Puis il a accompli un nombre de missions d'ingénierie soutenant les programmes Apollo et de la navette au Centre Spatial Kennedy.