VIENNA It was on his 50th and last combat mission on Dec. 18, 1944, when Staff Sgt. Richard Kent Eichenberg, now of Vienna, came closest to death.
The U.S. Army Air Corps veteran was the togglier gunner on a B-17 bomber mission headed from Obertal, Germany, when a British Spitfire was seen coming out of the clouds toward his plane.
"We knew something was wrong because the fighter plane would not have gotten that far without refueling somewhere," Eichenberg said. "We immediately figured it was a captured plane being flown by the Germans as a decoy."
As he was firing on the plane, a FW-190 came into view and fired a 20 mm rocket into the nose of Eichenberg's bomber, exploding to the right of him.
"Blood flew over the nose of the ship," he said. "The navigator also was hit with the rocket. My guns were dangling out of the turret, quite useless, and so was I."
Read the full story in the Monday Tribune Chronicle as part of the weekly salute to local military veterans.