Between 1944 and 1945, Danny Francisco flew 50 missions as a B-17 tail-gunner, one of the most dangerous jobs in the WWII Army Air Corps.
His plane was named the “Silver Dollar,” and it happened to be a lucky one. Even after seven bombings of oil refineries around Ploiești, Romania, it kept Francisco alive during the war, after which he lived a long and happy life.
Now 95 years old, Francisco likely never expected to return to the gunner seat, taking aim over Italy. But a chance encounter with a filmmaker’s father opened up the opportunity of a lifetime once more.
In the video by WARD, Francisco discusses the circumstances that led to his joining the Army. He was just 18 years old when he graduated high school and found himself fighting in Europe.
He talks about the draft dodgers who left for Canada before they could be sent overseas, and how he stayed to fight.
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Shortly after Francisco arrives on the tarmac, he climbs back into the B-17 for the first time in 75 years. The elderly veteran takes a seat in the radio room, and prepares for take off.
The propellers swing, the engines hum, and the bomber takes flight.
After a short run through the clouds, Francisco lands back on earth, still chipper from the exhilaration.
“Hi sweetie, did you have fun?” his wife asks. “Would you do it again?”
Francisco answers “Yeah” to both questions.
The veteran signed the bomb bay doors of the aircraft, honoring the 99th Bomb Squad he served in during WWII. His name, and the company he fought with, is indelibly carved in history.
“Seeing that B-17 is always a thrill,” he told the filmmaker.
Watch this emotionally charged flight in the video below.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.