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B17 Gunner Remembered On Veterans Day
Airman Arthur L. Tucker is among those Riverbank residents who gave their lives in defense of this country and will be remembered on Tuesday when this community marks Veterans Day.

A turret gunner on a B17 Flying Fortress, he died in 1943 at the age of 25 when his plane was shot down on its 18th bombing mission over Germany.

His name is not among the six local fatalities commemorated with bronze plaques on the veterans' memorial wall outside the Riverbank Community Center but it should be, officials said.

Riverbank generally does not have a parade and City Manager Rich Holmer said the community has no plans for a ceremony at the memorial this year. So local veterans will sell poppies in town and go over to Escalon on Nov. 11 to join the parade there, said Allen Trawick of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars.

There is quite a story, however, to Arthur Tucker's death according to his brother Preston, who also served in World War II and was this city's fire chief for many years.

Arthur worked in a body and repair shop in Modesto after leaving high school then joined the Air Force right after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was trained as a ball turret gunner and in 1943 sent to England to join the 381st squadron flying out of Ridgewell Air Force Base.

The German fighter planes, said Preston, used to attack the bombers head-on despite the risk of collision. Their pilots knew the B17s were well protected except at the nose that did not have many guns firing straight ahead. That design fault was remedied in the later model B29.

On one mission, Preston Tucker said, a fighter attacking head-on collided with his brother's bomber. The German plane hit one engine of the four-engine bomber, "somersaulted over the top and went down."

The American pilot, however, managed to nurse his severely damaged plane back to England.

"They flew low over the Channel, throwing out everything that wasn't fastened down to lighten the plane and retain altitude. The pilot crashed landed and everybody survived," said Tucker.

On their 18th mission, however - bomber crews were required to fly 25 missions before being sent back to the United States - Arthur's plane was again attacked by fighters and shot down.

"There was a crew of 10. Four of them were able to bail out and survived although they were taken prisoner. And six died with the aircraft."

Arthur was Preston Tucker's older brother. Their sisters also contributed to the war effort. One named Lena worked in the shipyards in Oakland and the other joined the Women's Army Corps or WACs.

Preston Tucker joined the Navy and served two years. He was based in Oahu, Hawaii at the headquarters of Admiral Nimitz who commanded the Pacific Fleet.

It was an interesting job and less hazardous than his brother's. As a radio operator he got to hear many of the communications that passed through headquarters.

"Do you realize, it's been estimated the U.S. had 18 million men and women in uniform during World War II and we had military bases all over the world," he commented.

The memorial plaques at the Riverbank Community Center commemorate George H. Bates, PFC Marines and Homer Damirgian, Ensign USNR who died in World War II and Kenneth L, Breshears, SPC Army; Donald L. Chaney, SPC Army; Mario A. Cisneros, PFC Army; and Jimmy D. Jordan, PFC Marines, who all perished in the Vietnam War.

City officials said after the 2007 ceremony they knew of at least one other serviceman besides Arthur Tucker who had lost his life in World War II and planned to add both their names to the wall. The other one was Vic Johnson.

Preston Tucker said he believes there are two others yet unrecognized, Floyd Osgood, who was killed during the D-Day landings in France and Waymon Luton, who also served in the Army.