March 25 • 08:20 PM

WWII buddies top the news

Gunner Donald Dick of Imlay on front page of pilot's hometown newspaper

May 06, 2009
TRI-CITY AREA — This wasn't any ordinary reunion between friends. When Donald Dick of Imlay City traveled to Aiken, South Carolina last month, the 85 year-old made front page news.

The World War II veteran was there to visit fellow vet and best friend Ferrell Holley. The two were crew mates on a Mitchell B-25 bomber—Dick as tail gunner and Holley as pilot—and good friends ever since.

When Dick and family members—daughter Delma Robberstad, daughter-in-law Lori Dick and son, Dana—arrived in South Carolina to visit Holley, 90, and his family, the story landed on the front page of the Aiken Standard on April 11.

Ferrell Holley and Donald Dick entertained family members with war stories during their recent reunion in South Carolina in April.

Daughter Delma noted the story trumped the Masters golf championship in importance, printed above the masthead and big sports story.

They are the last two surviving members of the crew and spent time regaling family members with war stories.

"It was so much fun," Dick said.

"I'd start a story and he'd take off and finish it."

The two met in 1943. Dick laughs now when he says he didn't like Holley at first.

"He was an old Army guy with all those standards but he took a liking to me," Dick said.

"When he told me to do do something it was done. He became like my dad in a way."

Dick said Holley was always looking out for the gunner, five years his junior.

"He always wanted me to be up in the front with him," Dick said of the B-25s they flew in.

They were stationed with the 340th Bombardment, 487th Squadron with the Army Air Corps in Corsica. Their job was to take out infrastructure the Axis powers relied on including railroads and bridges, all while dodging anti-aircraft guns on the ground. Both men flew more than 60 missions each—all nerve-wracking.

The two men parted ways at the war's conclusion in 1945.

Dick, a native of Somerset, Kentucky, eventually made his way north to Michigan and became an electrician for Pontiac Motors. He's lived in Imlay City for 45 years. Holley returned to South Carolina to work in the family's hardware store.

Dick said the two, save for Christmas cards, didn't reconnect again until 1961 and thereafter at bomb wing reunions. Currently, they chat on the phone every Sunday.

Dick is excited he'll get to see Holley again soon.

"We're planning on another trip this summer," he said. A family wedding only an hour from Aiken will give them another chance to visit.

"I have to spend all the time with him that I can," Dick said.

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