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Memorial to B17 Crew; Siouxland man among honorees

Bob Christensen holding a photo of his grandfather left) and father (right)
Bob Christensen holding a photo of his grandfather left) and father (right)
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A Sioux City man is heading to the Netherlands, where a memorial honoring his father and other members of a World War Two bomber crew is being unveiled.

I spoke with Bob Christensen about his father and the other airmen who were shot down 75 years ago.

It's a story about a group of men who were truly members of the "Greatest Generation."

And whose bravery and sacrifice will once again be remembered later this month.

"This is Roger Christensen. Born 1920 to 1990," said Christensen, who recalls his father, Second Lieutenant Roger George "Chris" Christensen, an Iowa State graduate who joined the 8th Army Air Corps as a navigator in World War II.

"Within a year of entering the Air Force he was flying a B-17 across the ocean," said Christensen.

Now, Christensen is going to the Netherlands later this month, for a special ceremony honoring his father and the crew of his plane.

That's because on December 1st, 1943, his B-17 named the "Mission Belle" was shot down, crashing into the Lek River in the western portion of the Netherlands.

"He was on a mission to bomb a German factory for ball bearings and they got shot down, so they dumped their bombs," said Christensen.

Two of the 10 crew members died in the crash, one drowned. Roger, who was unconscious in the bottom of the plane, was pulled out of a small hole in the wreckage by a fellow crew member. The survivors spent two years as German prisoners of war.

"And so these are his forks and his cup of coffee. And they had to eat a lot of potatoes that were kind of old. Whatever happened to him in that experience, transformed him," said Christensen.

Years later the story of the Mission Belle would be published in two books: "Not Without Honor" and "We Knew We Were In For a Long Day."

"He was just one of those human beings that really had the best core values I've ever met of any man," said Christensen.

Now his father along with the other crew members will be commemorated at the crash site by the Mission Belle B-17G Memorial Foundation in Holland September 29th, another testament to a man whose was molded by the challenges he faced in war and in life.

"Being his son, I was mentored and modeled what it means to be a man of integrity," said Christensen.

The unveiling of the memorial will take place on September 29th in the Netherlands, which Christensen and his wife will attend.

Before that, on Monday there will be an exhibition about the "Mission Belle" including a presentation about the crew, their mission, the crash and their captivity.

being honored after their bomber was shot down during World War II.

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