Veteran Dwight W. Wait Jr., Atria Merrywood
Posted on April 8, 2014 by Taylor Rhea
First Lt. Dwight W. Wait, Jr. is a decorated veteran of World War II and resident at Atria MerryWood. He served as bombardier of a B-17G with the 94th Bomb Group in the 8th Air Force. Stationed out of Bury St. Edmonds, England, he flew 35 missions over enemy territory, including much of Germany. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with multiple oak leaf clusters, the highest decorations awarded by the U.S. Army Air Force. Although he was the oldest member of a 10-man crew, he is its last surviving member.
He and his crew barely survived on several of their missions as their planes sustained heavy damage from enemy fire. On one occasion, Dwight had just left his post having been summoned by the pilot to come to the cockpit, when anti-aircraft fire destroyed the nose of the plane where he had just been sitting. On another occasion the navigator, who sat behind Dwight in the nose of the plane, sustained near life-threatening wounds of his arm due to 50-caliber fire from German fighter planes. Dwight was credited with administering critical first aid. The navigator survived and became a successful attorney in Boston.
Despite the ground crew's remarkable ability to repair almost any damaged B-17 heavy bomber, one of Dwight's planes, which barely completed the return flight to England, never flew again. His greatest fear was flak (shrapnel coming from exploded anti-aircraft fire). He not only wore a flak jacket, but also placed one on the seat of his bombardier chair as well as one under his feet. To no one’s surprise, the crew named his plane “Flak Palace.”
His pilot, John Winslett, has written a lengthy memoir of the experiences of these airmen. A close family friend has edited it. Dwight kept a diary of all his missions, listing many well-known European cities, especially in Germany. He also kept all the letters between himself and his fiancé during these years.
It is fascinating to speak with Dwight as he recalls his World War II experiences. Once, when asked by someone as to how high they flew on a mission, he replied "Not high enough!” Dwight turns 96 years old this April.
– Dr. Dwight W. Wait, III (Son)