NewsTribune photo/Jeff Dankert Jack Rosenkranz prepares to take a ride in a Grumman TBM-3E Avenger at the Peru airport. Rosenkranz of Winneconne, Wis., was an Avenger turret gunner during World War II and was invited to Peru to take a ride in a restored Avenger.
When Jack Rosenkranz served with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific during World War II, he manned a turret gun in Grumman Avengers flying off of carriers. He served from 1942 with the carrier USS Yorktown and then the USS Franklin until the war ended in 1945. Rosenkranz never rode in or saw an Avenger again. Until May 5. Rosenkranz, now 90, learned of the restored TBF-3E Avenger at the Peru airport and that owners Brad and Jane Deckert of Eureka enjoy giving rides to veterans who flew in these torpedo bombers. So Rosenkranz of Winneconne, Wis., came to Peru on May 5 with his children, Amy and Rob, and took a ride back in time. “This brings back so many memories, good and bad,” he said before the 15-minute flight. During bombing runs close to the Japanese mainland, seated in an Avenger on the deck of the USS Franklin, Rosenkranz watched a Japanese fighter come in low and drop two bombs directly on the carrier’s deck. “And of course that was it,” Rosenkranz said, waving his hand and ending the story. This well-documented attack on March 19, 1945, set the ship ablaze, sent men overboard and left casualty estimates of 725-800 killed and 265-490 wounded. The Deckerts invited Rosenkranz to sit in the gunner’s nest. Remembering its tight quarters — cramped and facing-rearward — Rosenkranz let his son, Rob, take the gunner seat while Rosenkranz sat between his son and Brad Deckert, who pilots the plane. After the flight, he stepped out, walked along the wing, stepped onto a ladder and hit solid ground again. He turned with a big grin to the small crowd and said, “Now I’m 19 again. 1945 was the last time.”
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