In this edition of A Veteran's Voice, we take to the skies over Europe during World War II. Keith Bratton, a pilot of a B-24 Liberator bomber, helped to deliver a crushing blow to Germany's war machine. The beginning of a flight career that started with planes and ended with missiles.
Keith Bratton is 98 years old. A lifetime of service and family aided by a sharp memory.
Bratton remembers enlisting in the United States Army Air Corps on April 12th, 1942. Following nearly 18 months of training in eight different locations, he was ready to fly B-24 Liberator bombers over Europe.
A 2nd Lt in the 395th Bomb Group, Bratton landed in Wales, England preparing for his first mission in support of the D-Day invasion. In all, Bratton flew 31 missions that included a close call with a German fighter plane. Hundreds of bombers would fill the skies in the late stages of the war and so would the anti-aircraft fire.
Keith would return home and became a flight instructor and got married to his wife Babs. But soon after the military came calling again asking Keith to fly in the Korean War.
When his service in the 61st Transport Carrier Group ended he stepped up to the C-124 transport.
He was part of a secret mission, constructing the first early warning system between Alaska and Greenland. This former Army Captain, now a Lt. Col in the Air Force was put him in charge of delivering the first ballistic missile nuclear warheads to positions in England.
The Thor missile was soon replaced by the Titan and Atlas Intercontinental missiles and that launched his career even higher as the ballistic missile staff officer at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
He ended 28 years of service in Missouri as the squadron officer for the 1st Strategic Air Division, overseeing the B-58 - the first supersonic bomber that never flew a mission.
Keith would lose his first wife to cancer but shortly after arriving in Bakersfield back in 2003 he ran into his 2nd wife.
More pictures, memories, and a simple mission: to keep flying high with his feet firmly on the ground.