World War II My Dad’s Service to our Nation

Undated picture but we think it was while he was a Lieutenant during the war, circa 1943.

This is a continuation of my husband’s parents and my dad’s Military Service during WWII. I actually started this blog, Lifetime of Forgiveness, in my dad’s honor and memory. Like so many who lose a parent, we don’t want to lose the good memories. One Uncle always refers to my dad as a war hero. This post is now to help honor that legacy!

Bill and my parents were raised during the great depression. We both heard A LOT of details about that aspect of their lives. Our parents were part of the GREATEST generation. But dad and my in-laws, Earl and Ruth Lees did not talk about their service in WW II.

My dad’s Service Record: Lawrence Rijnovan, enlisted on December 11, 1942, and was honorably discharged on May 19, 1944. He was 18 at the outbreak of the war and was 19 when he enlisted. My parents married on August 12, 1944. Lawrence had a brother 18 months older. Dad’s mom remarried years later, then had her only daughter, Eleanora. More on my grandma and precious aunt later.

Dad’s WWII Medals and Citations: Air Medal 2 times, American Campaign, European/African/Middle East 4 times, WWII Victory, National Defense, Armed Forces.

Display my nephew made of dad’s original medals, etc.

Dad went on to serve after the war as an Officer in the United States Air Force. He earned an Air Force Commendation in 1959. I found this .jpg with help from the 456th Bomb Group Facebook page. I’m looking for additional details on this and will post an update once found.

This first article is also in my first blog post which contains other information. Now it fits perfectly here with his military history. This was about dad’s 13th mission as a bombardier. WOW, talk about the hand of God protecting him and his squadron! Dad acknowledged God was with them and “saved” their physical beings during the war. Dad told me Jesus saved his soul when he was 12. He never lost his faith, but he struggled with living the way he knew God intended.

13th Mission Tries Bombardier’s Luck

Lt.Rijnovan 15th AAF in Italy – the number “13” almost caught up with second Lt. Lawrence Rijnovan, 22, of 1552 Wyoming St., Dearborn, bombardier on a B–24 Liberator bomber, and the fact that the assault on Linz, Austria was his 13th Mission didn’t help much.

“At “bombs away,” the lights on Lt. Rijnovan’s indicator panel blinked out – all but two. He tried to salvo the two bombs that had frozen to their shackles in the 40° below zero temperature but was not successful.

“Lt. Rijnovan rushed back to the bomb bay and saw the bombs armed and “ready for business.” He loosened the bombs with his fingers and “kicked them out over the target.”

“Lt. Rijnovan, a graduate of Fordson High School was a defense worker in Detroit factories prior to entrance into the Air Forces, on February 20, 1943. His wife, Dorothy, lives in Brownstown, Indiana.”

Transcription of the second news article about dad’s WWII service:

World War II combat crew reunites at Beach

“They flew 35 missions together over places like Vienna, Munich, Moosebierbaum, Odertal, Maribor, Linz, and Isarco Alps.

“Death danced among them, swiftly and randomly claiming airmen and other B -24 Liberators lumbering over oil refineries, railroad marshaling yards, and ordnance depots.

“This was 1944 in the air war over Germany in German-held territory was heating up.

“The skies were blanketed with flak from 88 mm anti-aircraft guns, and the closely stacked bomber formations were raked from above by ME109s and FW190s, German fighter interceptors sent aloft to knock them down.

“But pilot Bob Babcock and his 10-man crew made it through the war miraculously unscathed. Then each man went his separate ways for the next 44 years….

“They are an important part of that perilous time when 10 months of combat over enemies skies welded crewman of the 746th squadron of the 456th Bomb Group in the 15th Air Force together in a bond of brotherhood….

“….five of the survivors remembered with vivid detail a particularly close call. It happened during a February 7, 1945 bombing run over an oil refinery at Moosbierbaum, on the outskirts of Vienna. The target was heavily defended with anti-aircraft guns, and the gunners seemed to be at their best that day.

“We took a direct hit – a German 88 went right through our gas tank,” said the tall and still lanky Babcock. “The fuse apparently was not set off to go with that altitude.”

“The hit knocked out the right inboard engine of the bomber, cutting fuel to the adjacent outboard engine. Rijnovan recalls struggling up to the flight deck to see Badcock and the copilot fighting the controls to pull the plane out of a spin that plunged them from 22,000 to 13,000 feet. Using a backup system, the flight engineer rechanneled fuel to the dead outboard engine, enabling Babcock to restart it and re-stabilize the plunging aircraft.

“Babcock and his crew rode the severely injured bird back to base at Cerignola, Italy, virtually on a wing and a prayer.

“The feet of returning the crippled plane to base without loss of life won Babcock a Distinguished Flying Cross. Each member of his crew was awarded an air medal.”

CAPTION of bottom photo in the article: 1989 Reunion: James McKenna, Larry Rijnovan, Bob Babcock, John Toxey, Michael Patermostro

CAPTION of squadron: In 1944 men gathered for photo with airplane: Bombardier Larry Rijnovan, Co-pilot Arnold J. Rosemeyer, Pilot Bob Babcock, Navigator Leon Odell Kirk, Belly gunner James McKenna, Tail gunner Charles Foley, Flight Engineer Robert E. Andrews, Radioman Alfredo Montero, Top turretgunner Michael Patermostro, Nosegunner John Toxey

For now, this is all I have as I continue to dig for more information about my dad’s WWII service. I think the two newspaper articles paint a pretty remarkable picture of dad’s service.

I want to leave a final thought as I reflect back on my life with dad. I was daddy’s little girl, but as I became a teen and the Vietnam war heated up, my dad and I grew estranged. I was ripe for the picking by the anti-establishment fervor that was capturing teens at this time. (Now being shown in the movie, The Jesus Revolution) Since I have now researched and understood what it took for the greatest generation to fight for our country in World War II.

My dad did not escape what we now call Post-traumatic stress disorder. He used alcohol and gambling to help him cope. The GREAT news was that he was still able to enjoy a successful career as an officer in the USAF. He retired with distinction. My parents enjoyed their 50th anniversary and made it to 54 years when dad passed.

I finally grew up and learned to respect dad. I married, graduated from college, had a child (the only granddaughter who adored him as I did), and enjoyed a successful career. Dad and I reconnected with the birth of Jessica, so I now had more in common with him. I’ll never get back the lost years when we were estranged, but thankfully, God healed our hurts!

I love my dad and now understand all of his quirks and foibles. As we were grieving and talking to the pastor in preparation for dad’s celebration of life service in August 1999, us three daughters were asked about our best memory of dad. One sister said that he made sure we were raised to believe in Jesus. I could only say, AMEN!

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”

Exodus 20:12 NKJV

4 thoughts on “World War II My Dad’s Service to our Nation

  1. Debbie,

    Thank you for creating this lasting tribute to your Dad and my Papa. I have always felt proud of Papa’s service to our country. It took an immense amount of courage to do what he did in the war. He knew the risk and the odds of dying airman faced in the European theater of WWII. I have shared the story of Papa stomping the frozen munitions out of the shackles in the bomb bay. What many people don’t know is that he did this standing on a narrow beam, about 4 inches wide, which spanned the length of the bomb bay on the B-24; he did this to complete the mission. We all have many missions in life and writing this tribute to Papa is one of your many life missions. You are off to a wonderful start!
    Love, Steve.


  2. Debbie,
    This is a beautiful tribute to our dad. And I love Steve’s reply too.
    I’ve learned more about Dad’s war years reading this than I knew before.
    Thank you for putting your heart into this tribute.
    Your sister,

    Liked by 1 person

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