by London Westley
A wise man once told me “True greatness is what you do with the hand you’re dealt.” ever since I first heard that quote, I’ve always had difficulty finding a real life example of it. However, I found what I consider to be the perfect example in a young man named Bernard Mcgrattan.
Born in New York in 1920 to a mother who died in childbirth and a father who, not being able to support the newly born Bernard and his two older siblings, took the job of a Chicago bellhop, young Bernard grew up in a modest apartment in the city’s uptown neighborhood. When war was declared by the United States in 1941, Bernard volunteered for the rarely volunteered for U.S Army Air Corp.
In the Air Corp, Bernard joined the 335th fighter squadron of the elite 4th fighter group. There, he excelled, becoming a double ace by scoring an 8 ½ kill list in the months of March, April, and May of 1944, attributing greatly to the record of the 4th fighter group, one that still remains unchallenged to this day, in addition to being awarded the prestigious distinguished flying cross with two accompanying oak leaf clusters.
One June 6th, the day of the famed invasion of Normandy, France, Bernard, now promoted to section leader, was chosen for one of the most difficult tasks a fighter pilot could undertake: Bomber escort.
Bomber escort was a job synonymous with difficulties. Not only must pilots endure the seemingly endless bombardment of German anti aircraft fire, but also must engage in intense aerial dog fighting with the Luftwaffe, who’re formed of early versions of jet engine aircraft that are piloted by men who have kills listed in the 120’s.
Despite the challenges that faced him, Capt. Mcgrattan preformed his duties the way a member of the 4th is expected to: with great skill and deadly efficiency until he was fatally shot down over small town of Ruen.
Fortunately, Bernard’s legacy didn’t stop at his D-day service. To his family, he left a son of the same name, to his squadron, he left a left a major contribution to their untarnished record, and to me personally, he not only left an example of what an Air Force officer should be, but also a shining example of how to make true greatness out of the hand you’re dealt.