Patrick Martin’s hands wrapped around the wheel firmly, and his feet moved to familiar spots on the rudder pedals of the B-17G after climbing into the co-pilot’s seat and buckling in on July 15, 1994. The 72-year-old quickly glanced over the gauges, then at the horizon again, his instincts taking over as the plane soared over Oregon’s Coast Range.
He’s 22 again, and it’s April 11, 1944. Capt. Patrick A. Martin, United States Army Air Force, is on a final bombing run over Rostock, Germany, with the 335th Squadron, 95th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force.
Martin was bounced out of the service in 1954 due to a reduction of forces, something for which he never forgave the Army Air Force. A La Grande native, Patrick settled in Hermiston after leaving the service and went to work for Union Pacific Railroad. He retired in 1986.
Martin was able to relive to his first professional love — flying — thanks to family friend Barbara Hansen. Martin’s family wanted to get him in the air again after he was diagnosed in May of 1994 with inoperable cancer of the pancreas, and had decided with his wife Doris that he would forego chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Hansen helped line up a B-17G owned by Evergreen Ventures Inc. that was scheduled to appear at the 1994 U.S. Bank Rose Festival Airshow in Hillsboro. Sue Petersen, the coordinator of the World War II planes for the show, called Martin and asked, “How would you like to fly in a B-17 again?”
Evergreen pilot Bill Maszala watched Martin’s eyes as he took control of the plane. “You could tell he was back in time,” Maszala said.
After 5 minutes at the stick, Martin banked the plane around on a gentle 180-degree turn and gave the seat back to co-pilot Greg Klein, then stood behind the seat and watched every move the pilots made until landing.
“It was more than everything I wanted it to be,” Martin said, gazing at the plane once they were on the ground again. “It was just like something I’d done before. I recognized the feel of everything. My eyes went right to the gauges. I just know I could take it off and land it.”
Patrick Martin died May 20, 1995, at the age of 73.