ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Ralph Goldsticker was 20 years old, living in University City and working as a clerk when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December, 1941.
He enlisted in the Army Aviation Cadet Crops, intending to become a pilot even though he'd never even been on a plane.
He'd seen them in movies and they looked glamorous. He eventually became a Bombadier aboard B-17's, nicknamed the “Flying Fortress.”
Two of the 35 missions he flew in 1944 came on D-Day, June 6.
Ralph and his crew spent more than 14 hours in the air that day--dropping bombs on sword beach in Normandy, France helping the allies win the most significant military battle in modern history.
"I was stationed right here in the plexiglass nose… in the lower turret," Goldsticker said, pointing at a picture of his plane. “I had two 50 caliber guns in the nose.”
On D-Day, Goldsticker’s crew took off from an air base in England at 2 a.m. Because of the vast number of allied planes employed in the operation, they had to fly north to Scotland just to get in formation.
Almost five hours after taking off, they finally approached the coast of France. Sensing the significance of the moment, Ralph tagged the pin he pulled from the first bomb he dropped on the beach just before 7 a.m.
“In fact, this is the pin from the first bomb I dropped,” Goldsticker showed News 4’s Steve Savard, during our conversation at his home in Creve Coeur.
His B-17 would take off again on mission number 2 in the afternoon. In that mission, they bombed German railroad lines behind the beaches. Goldsticker had a clear view of the enormity of the largest amphibious military landing in history.
“That afternoon, I could see the whole harbor…they had a tough, tough time."
Among the many awards and citations Goldsticker earned for his valor in World War II are the Legion of Honor for helping liberate France from Nazi occupation and the one he cherishes more than the rest--the distinguished Flying Cross.
“We aren't heroes...we're survivors."
Goldsticker says his D-Day missions weren't his most harrowing--or his most interesting missions.
After our interview, Ralph, who turns 98 in a couple of weeks, implored Steve not to make him out to be a hero. Our viewers can judge for themselves.
News 4 is on a mission to put those who served in the spotlight. You can nominate a veteran with a story to tell by filling out this form.