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WWII tail gunner David Hadsell lives on through family’s stories and veteran grandson’s memories

David Hadsell (Daily Messenger)
January 02, 2018

World War II veteran David Hadsell never spoke much about his war experience until his grandchildren began asking questions about it for school projects.

Hadsell was a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Corps, where he was highly decorated for flying 47 missions over the European Theater as a tail gunner in a B-17 bomber. He received numerous medals, including three Bronze stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross and unit badge, an Air Medal with three Bronze Oak Leaf clusters and two overseas bars.

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress (Wikipedia)

Hadsell’s grandson, Scott Hadsell, has been working hard to make sure his grandfather’s story is heard.

Scott Hadsell is the only other veteran in the family, and he recently told American Military News that his grandfather taught him a lot and helped him through the years.

“He helped me through a lot, and I just feel like there are so few from that era left when one dies, people should know part of their story and remember what happened,” he said.

“I was a bit of a history kid growing up and was fascinated by WWII and the Holocaust. So naturally, I wanted to learn more. I remember one time when I was between 6 or 8, my father, my grandfather and I went to an airshow in Batavia,” Scott Hadsell told American Military News. “There was an old B-17 all fixed up and fitted with everything. You could walk through and see everything and sit in the seats. My grandfather was a tail gunner, he was an excellent marksman, and from what I’ve heard, you had to be to be selected as a tail gunner. I have never seen a more happy and sad look on his face when he saw it and walked through. He sat in the seat and you could tell he felt almost young again. He stood by that plane telling us and everyone who would listen all about everything in the plane.”

In 2010, David Hadsell was interviewed by The Daily Messenger and shared some of the highlights of his military career.

Before going overseas, he told the Daily Messenger that he remembers being told by superiors: “About 13 percent of you have a chance of living.”

Those statistics didn’t change his commitment to serving his country. “I knew I had to do it and I did it,” David Hadsell had said.

David Hadsell had close calls on multiple occasions during his career as a gunner. “On two occasions, his entire crew, pilots and all other gunners were shot and killed, and he had to crash-land the plane to survive,” Scott Hadsell told American Military News. “One of those times a general was on board, and by landing the plane [my grandfather] saved his life, and that is what one of the flying crosses was for.”

A few years ago, David Hadsell’s family found a box in the attic with all his medals inside. They created a glass display of his memorabilia as a surprise.

David Hadsell passed away peacefully in November 2017 at the age of 95. The Hadsell family hopes that sharing his story will help keep his memory alive.