World War II Veteran Flies Again at Selfridge

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
Some 66 years after his last mission, Staff Sgt. Edward Lash was once again at the radio operator's controls, flying aboard a C-47.

"Words.... I am kind of at a loss," said Lash, 92, and a veteran of World War II. Lash flew aboard a C-47 owned by the Michigan-based Yankee Air Museum, during a flight from Detroit Metropolitan Airport to Selfridge Air National Guard Base. The C-47 flew to Selfridge to participate on Aug. 19 to in the base's air show and open house, Aug. 20-21.
The flight was arranged by Lash's son, Steve, in partnership with several members of the Yankee organization, as well as the aviation unit of the Macomb County Sheriff's Dept. Steve Lash flew with his father on the flight, which was piloted by Howard Rundell. Lash's other two sons, Edward and Matt were able to see their father on to the flight and then drove to the base to meet the plane when it landed.

Lash spent about three years on active duty with the Army Air Force in World War II. During that time, he flew on missions throughout the European Command with the 73rd Troop Carrier Squadron of the 9th Troop Carrier Group. During his time in Europe, Lash flew a variety of missions, including 32 flights to evacuate prisoners of war out of the combat zone. During D-Day, when thousands of American and Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy in France and met fierce opposition, he flew three sorties as his C-47 towed gliders to locations behind enemy lines.

"I couldn't see what was going on down on the ground that day. I was at my station and had no window. It was probably for the best. Before that flight, they had a minister come and to talk with us if we wanted, so we could make our peace with God. Everyone knew a lot of people weren't coming back that day," Lash said.

After the successful invasion, his squadron relocated from a base in England to a base on the European continent and continued flying cargo missions.

Today, Lash, who retired from a career as an engineer with an automotive supply company in the Detroit area, talks a bit more about his World War II experiences than he did when his kids were young.

"In the last five years, he's talked more about it. About seeing the flak in the air and recalling the guys he knew," said Edward Lash, his son.

"I have a tremendous amount of pride in my father and what he did. Him getting this flight is just a wonderful experience for the entire family," the younger Edward Lash said.
The flight to Selfridge "brought back old times," said the elder Mr. Lash. "I remember being in that aircraft and talking with my crew chief. We were a tight group back in those days."

The C-47 was flown by both the Army Air Force and Navy and continued in active service through the late 1960s. It was also flown extensively by American allies.
According to Rundell, missions towing gliders were among the most dangerous for C-47 crews.

"You couldn't maneuver when you were towing the glider. You were very vulnerable," he said. "Fortunately, the Americans owned the skies on D-Day.

The aircraft used to fly Lash for his remembrance ride is tail number 476716. It was assigned to Selfridge for a time in the 1960s. After being retired from service, it was operated by the University of Michigan to collect airborne data on research for the Department of Defense. It has been owned by the Yankee Air Museum since 1985.