March 2015

Late last summer, I had the pleasure of corresponding with a descendant of one of my father’s crewmates on Mission 234 with a target of Memmingen, Germany. They had flown together in a plane named “The Flying Latrine.” This contact was kind enough to share information with me as well as a picture of one of the other men who had flown with my father, Sgt. George Lawson Ratje. Sgt. Ratje was a tail gunner on Mission 234. My father was a ball turret gunner.

The Flying Latrine

Crews did not always fly the same plane nor did the men fly with the same crew each time. However, I was kindly provided with a list of missions my father and members of the 2nd Bomb Squad flew as well as a list of each of my father’s missions. (These files are in Excel format.)

George Lawson Ratje survived World War II to return home. However, he had died 30 July 1950 in California.

George Lawson Ratje

All who were on Mission 234 over Memmingham, Germany were:

  • John F. Rice, Pilot
  • Grant W. Ramsey, Co-Pilot
  • Granville C. Egleson, Navigator
  • Charles T. Wright, Bomb/Togglier
  • Herman T. Butko, Engineer/Top Turret
  • Harold S. Barth, Radio Operator
  • Edward B. Mierzejewski, Ball Turret
  • J. J. Casey, Waist Gunner
  • R. L. Reynolds, Waist Gunner
  • George L. Ratje, Tail Gunner

I have news to pass along. Alexander Drabik, a Toledo-area World War II hero will be inducted posthumously into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame for Valor on April 24, 2015. The induction will occur at the State House Atrium in Columbus.

Sgt. Alexander Drabik

Sgt. Alexander Drabik

Alexander was of Polish descent. His parents were John Drabik and Frances Lewandowska.

Per the information I  have been given from the Holland Springfield Spencer Historical Society:

“Sgt. Alexander Drabik was born December 28, 1910 in a log cabin on Wolfinger Road to John Drabik and Florence V. Lewandowski. He attended Dorr Street School, in Springfield Township, and lived most of his live in Holland, Ohio on Dorr Street. He married Margaret Feeney, May 14, 1954 in Angola, Indiana. They had one daughter, Rita.

Sgt. Drabik entered the US Army in 1942, and was sent to Germany where he would make the decision that would propel him into the spotlight, something he was not used to. He was a tall, lanky, quiet, simple, shy man. In charge of a nine man unit, Co. A 27th Armored Infantry Batallion, 9th Armored Division, Sgt. Drabik at age 35  years old, was the first soldier to cross the Ludendorff Railroad Bridge, crossing the Rhine River on March 7, 1945. With no thought to his own life, he turned to his men and shouted: ‘OK, who is going with me? I’m crossing the bridge!’ Under heavy fire, they ran for their lives to the other side of the bridge, which was to be blown up in ten minutes.”

Sgt. Drabik was nominated to be inducted to the Ohio Military Hall of Fame by the Holland Springfield Spencer Historical Society for his valor. Crossing the Ludendorff Railroad Bridge, he led10 riflemen across the bridge, surprising Germans that they forgot to blow up the bridge. For this, he received the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism.

As the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Gen. Eisenhower said the capture of the bridge shortened the war by six months and possibly saved as many as 50,000 Allied lives. When Eisenhower became president, he invited Drabik and the 10 riflemen to the White House and told them he was forming the Society of the Remagen Bridgehead.

Drabik received a tribute in the Congressional Record in 1993 and was a commander of the now defunct Turanski-Van Glahn VFW Post 7372. There is now an Ohio Historical Marker located on Wolfinger Road where he was born. The marker was installed in 2011.

Drabik died 23 September 1993 and is buried in Resurrection Cemetery.