Everett Fitchlee's World War II military service will be honored by area veterans and service organizations on Nov. 19. The Niagara History Center is co-hosting the gathering from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Lockport Elks Lodge on North Canal Road.

Fitchlee, aged 96, will be honored for his service flying 30 combat missions as a gunner in the 390th Army Air Corps. 

A lifelong Niagara County resident, Fitchlee joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in March 1943 and was sent to Curtiss Wright Co. in Glendale, Calif., for engineering and gunnery school. After additional training he was assigned to the 390th Bomb Group as the gunner of the top turret on the new B-17 bombers, known as the Flying Fortresses.

Tech Sgt. Fitchlee earned a Purple Heart while on his fourth bomber mission, on Oct. 16, 1944, when he was hit in the back by shrapnel from a German 88-milimeter gun. Following surgery, Fitchlee was given the piece of shrapnel that was taken out of his back and still has it today. Although the injury wasn’t life threatening, Fitchlee spent several weeks in the hospital before returning to active duty. He continued as a top gunner for the rest of the war.

In December 1946, Fitchlee married his high school sweetheart, Ruth Behm, in Lockport. They had three children, Leonard, Gary and Nancy. Fitchlee retired from Harrison Radiator Division in 1982, after 36 years of service.

Besides the shrapnel taken from his back, Fitchlee kept the small silk American flag from his escape kit and later donated it to the 390th Memorial Museum in Tucson, Ariz. He also was active in the 390th Bomb Group reunions that took place between 1979 and 2012.

The gathering to honor Fitchlee is open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, call 434-7433 or email info@niagarahistory.org.

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