Dick Kaminski, B-17 Aerial Gunner

Richard J. Kaminski, Sgt., B-17 Waist Gunner, United States Army Air Forces, Eighth Air Force, 94th Bombardment Wing, 457 Bomb Group, 750th Bomb Squadron, Station 130, Glatton, England. 15 Missions Jan. 1945-May 1945.
Dick Kaminski is a Past President of the 8th AFHS-Mn.
Dick Kaminski with The Joseph B. Maguire aircrew-(Middle Row Center)
There was an article in the Sun-Current newspaper about Dick.

Lakeville resident gets taste of father-in-law's World War II experience aboard restored bomber at Eden Prairie air show

By Joseph Palmersheim - Sun Newspapers

Published: Thursday, July 29, 2010 11:38 AM CDT
As the B-17 Flying Fortress gently banked over the sunny skies of Jordan, Mary Kaminski mustered enough courage to peer through an open hatch in the radio roof, and caught both the howling slip stream and a glimpse of something her father-in-law, Richard Kaminski, might have seen when he flew missions aboard the same type of craft 65 years earlier
Mary, a Lakeville resident, is a volunteer with Wings of the North, a local aviation history organization. She was able to ride as a passenger aboard the B-17G "Yankee Lady" when it stopped at the Eden Prairie AirExpo 2010, which Wings of the North helps sponsor. During a half-hour flight, Kaminski and 10 others on board the plane were able to move about the various duty stations, like the bombardier's station in the nose and the top gun turret behind the pilots.

"I always gave up my rides to other volunteers, and they forced me to ride this plane today," Mary said. "I'm glad they did. It was the chance of a lifetime."

When Richard Kaminski, who now lives in Richfield, first flew on board a B-17, the world's skies were clouded by war. As a 19-year-old, he flew 15 missions as a waist gunner (manning two .50-caliber machine guns in the middle section of the bomber) on "McGuire's Chophouse," a B-17 serving with the Eighth Air Force in England. The pilot's name was McGuire, and the nose art (the painted mascot on the plane) featured a brown shack above the name's yellow lettering. While the airplane itself was scrapped long ago, it lives on in a painting on Kaminski's wall.

The painting also features another B-17, "Stormy Weather," which was flown by Kaminski's brother, 1st Lt. Vincent Kaminski. Vincent was shot down and killed flying his 27th mission in May 1944. A framed Purple Heart hangs next to the painting on the wall. Like his brother, Richard hoped to be a pilot.

"I was drafted into the armored force, and decided that wasn't a place for me," Richard recalls. "I transferred into the Air Force ... and ended up in the gunnery program."

The Minneapolis native had never been on an airplane or traveled outside of the country before - but now, he was facing the prospect of doing both. More than 67 years later, his first glimpse of a Flying Fortress remains fresh.

"Fort Knox had an airfield, and all of a sudden, here comes this big monster B-17 coming in for a landing," he said. "Well, I thought that was the biggest thing I'd ever seen. It was really a thrill. When we got to ride it, it was really something."

After gunnery school, Kaminski was shipped to England in 1944 to join the 457th Bomb Group. Missions typically lasted roughly 9-10 hours, and Kaminski spent the time in a leather flying suit to stay warm. They didn't work too well at 65 degrees below zero, he recalled. As the war progressed, he ended up wearing electrically heated suit, boots and gloves.

Kaminski flew his last mission in 1945, and was discharged in November that year. Now, he is a past president and member of the 8th Air Force Association, which draws more than 100 members from across the state and meets for lunch at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Bloomington. He also shares his war experience at air shows like the Eden Prairie AirExpo.

"They ask how it was, how we could do it," he said. "When someone tells you to go, you go. Was I scared? Sure. Everyone was. It was quite an experience. I bombed Berlin three times, Nuremburg twice. I don't know if I ever hit anything when I fired the waist guns. You try, though."

Richard says he has diminished hearing as a result of his experience, went up in a B-17 10 years ago with his wife, who is also named Mary. Mary Kaminski (his daughter-in-law) gave up her chance to fly to allow the couple to take the flight.

"He was able to show her something he'd done in the past," Richard's daughter-in-law said. "It brought my husband and I to tears."

"It brought back lots of memories," Richard said. "I think about my service often, especially at air shows, when you see those things take off and land. I think air shows are important to keep that part of history alive. If we don't have them, all of that will be lost. Our people are dying off real fast - there won't be much left."

Kaminski said he hasn't been able to find any surviving members of his crew, but knows that the pilot and co-pilot have both died.

"This ride puts [his experience] in a different perspective," Mary said. "You appreciate what these guys did, but you don't appreciate it until you are physically in one of these aircraft. I looked down one of the waist guns and thought to myself, 'My gosh, he was shooting down other planes in here.' It was very touching."

Dick is also mentioned briefly in another article about riding in the B-17.