Wednesday, August 1, 2007

"Ordinary Hero" Eddie Martens Makes a Crucial Decision Over London, 1943

In the summer of 1943, Lt. Edwin W. 'Eddie' Martens, had just taken off as the pilot of a B-17 bomber from his base at Podington, England. The 92nd Bomb Group's Podington base was northwest of London, and as Martens' plane, 'Berlin Special' began to climb to altitude, the bomb-laden plane suddenly caught fire.

Martens ordered the crew to bail out and prepared to do the same, envisioning the violent explosion that was imminent aboard the plane. However, as he prepared to jump, he noticed that the plane was flying directly over London. Recalling stories of burning planes crashing in London and killing innocent people on the ground, Martens' fought his way through blinding smoke and heat to reach the fire and beat out the flames. He then managed to land the plane safely at a nearby airfield, sparing the people of London.

Martens flew thirty missions over Germany, and after the war returned to his Nebraska farm, where he built an airstrip, restored planes, and taught flying.

Martens died June 10, 2007 at the age of 86.

The only photo I could find of Eddie Martens on the web shows him with one of his restored aircraft. Martens became a civilian instructor after the war and opened Martens Air Service in Grant, Nebraska. He restored and rebuilt old airplanes, and built new ones. He helped found the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 562, serving several years as president and vice-president. As a regular at local fly-ins, he won several awards for his work on a Waco UPF-7 that he rebuilt from a wreck.

1 comment:

Jamie Johnson said...

I grew up in Grant and had to interview an WWII vet for a history class. Eddie had taught my Grandmother how to fly and my Aunt is good friends with his daughter, so I chose him. He remembered the events of the war like it was yesterday. Always a gentleman, I admire Eddie and feel blessed to have interviewed him.