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War Hawks recognize World War II hero

U.S. Air Force Col. Mike Manion, 55th Wing commander, introduces Gail Farrell, a 93-year old World War II and Korean War veteran who flew 21 missions as a tail gunner in the B-17 Flying Fortress, to more than 100 War Hawks assembled at the James M. McCoy Airman Leadership School Feb. 8, 2018. Manion, presented Farrell with an Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters; the European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze service stars; the American Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; and the Honorable Service Lapel Button, WWII.

U.S. Air Force Col. Mike Manion, 55th Wing commander, introduces Gail Farrell, a 93-year old World War II and Korean War veteran who flew 21 missions as a tail gunner in the B-17 Flying Fortress, to more than 100 War Hawks assembled at the James M. McCoy Airman Leadership School Feb. 8, 2018. Manion, presented Farrell with an Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters; the European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze service stars; the American Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; and the Honorable Service Lapel Button, WWII.

Chief Master Sgt. Brian Kruzelnick, 55th Wing command chief, thanks Gail Farrell, a 93-year old World War II and Korean War veteran who flew 21 missions as a tail gunner in the B-17 Flying Fortress, for his service after a medal presentation ceremony at the James M. McCoy Airman Leadership School Feb. 8, 2018. Col. Mike Manion, 55th Wing commander, presented Farrell with an Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters; the European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze service stars; the American Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; and the Honorable Service Lapel Button, WWII.

Chief Master Sgt. Brian Kruzelnick, 55th Wing command chief, thanks Gail Farrell, a 93-year old World War II and Korean War veteran who flew 21 missions as a tail gunner in the B-17 Flying Fortress, for his service after a medal presentation ceremony at the James M. McCoy Airman Leadership School Feb. 8, 2018. Col. Mike Manion, 55th Wing commander, presented Farrell with an Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters; the European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze service stars; the American Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; and the Honorable Service Lapel Button, WWII.

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Gail Farrell, a 93-year old World War II and Korean War veteran who flew 21 missions as a tail gunner in the legendary B-17 Flying Fortress, was recognized for his service by Team War Hawks at the Offutt’s James M. McCoy Airman Leadership School Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018.

Col. Mike Manion, 55th Wing commander, presented Farrell with an Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters; the European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze service stars; the American Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; and the Honorable Service Lapel Button, WWII in front of more than one hundred 55th Wing members.

“It’s an honor to be able to recognize a true American hero,” Manion told the audience. “He was part of the mighty 8th Air Force flying daylight precision bombing missions over Germany and saw some of the most intense fighting of the last few months of the war.”

The Colorado-native, who grew up in Kansas and now resides in Papillion, voluntarily-enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1943. After completing basic and aviation training and armament and gunnery school, Farrell was assigned to the 379th Bomb Wing in England where he and his crew mates flew their 21 missions over a desperate and capitulating Germany.

After the Nazi surrender, Farrell’s crew returned to the United States to undergo training on B-29 Superfortress bombers for use in the Pacific.

However, prior to his deployment, Japan surrendered, and he was discharged from active-duty along with millions of other service members.

The former NCO was recalled to duty during the Korean War as a commissioned public affairs officer from 1951-53 before returning yet again to civilian life. His association with the Air Force was rekindled in 1960 when he was hired as the associate editor of Strategic Air Command’s official magazine, the “Combat Crew,” where he worked until retiring in 1982.

Asked by local media what finally receiving the medals he earned meant to him, Farrell replied, “It’s a recognition of my career and for all the men who didn’t come back.” he said. “To me, that's what it means.”