An American Family in World War II by Sandra O’Connell

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

I can recommend this delightful new collection of evocative family letters & memorabilia, maps & photos, of a Wilmington, Delaware son's journey ('41-'45) from Dickinson college boy to seasoned pilot & group leader in his B-17G Flying Fortress dubbed the Blue Hen Chick in the 8th Army Air Force, 447th Bomb Group, 709th Bomb Squadron out of the Rattlesden base in Suffolk, England.

Charmingly sewn together by a narrative which expands on both of what was happening in America & what Ralph's family wrote they were going through on the Home Front & what he was doing, both as a pilot & a youthful Yank tourist in war torn London. Only with his father did he share a little of what his 67 missions entailed.

A deeply absorbing tribute to The Greatest Generation and the families who supported them.


Rattlesden: Suffolk County, East Anglia, England, United Kingdom - 9 miles SE of Bury St. Edmund, is a village and civil parish of 900 souls in the Mid Suffolk district.  Located 4 miles west of Stowmarket, the parish also includes the hamlets of Hightown Green and Poystreet Green.  It's large and ancient church, St. Nicholas, dates from the 13th century and incorporates many additions and changes from over the centuries.  In 1975, the historic core of the village was named a "Conservation Area" by the District Council under the guidelines of English Heritage.

The village and the surrounding area, like much of East Anglia, was a hotbed of Puritan sentiment during much of the 16th and 17th centuries.  In 1634, a local wheelwright, Richard Kimball led a relatively large company from Rattlesden to the Massachusetts Bay Colony as part of the wave of emigration that occurred during the Great Migration.

During World War II, Rattlesden was the site of a U.S. Army Air Force 447th Bomb Group, heavy bomber base known as RAF Rattlesden.  The site is now used by the Rattlesden Gliding Club.

Reviewed by: Dave Brown (2010)

Author's Synopsis

An American Family in War II is the story of a young B-17 pilot, his parents and sisters, captured in the extraordinary collection of 800 letters that tell the story of one family's daily struggle to keep faith and hope alive.  Starting in February 1943, Lee Minker writes from eight different U.S. Army Air Corps training camps, the voices of the family come from mother's kitchen, dad's office, Shirley's dorm room, Bernice on the front porch. The letters capture daily events as they happened; race riots, theft at the rationing board, black-outs, military stalemate in the Pacific and Europe, the lonely holidays and missed birthdays.  And then, the conversation gains new tension as their son and brother leaves for a base "somewhere in England."  

Unlike any other story of World War II, An American Family is the diary of an entire family from February 1943 to the end of the war.  Eighteen year old Lee Minker's letters contain complete detail of the rigors of pilot training, as he progressed through flying the Piper cub at age 18 to taking command of a B-17 crew just after his 20th birthday and then flying missions 37 missions over Nazi Germany.  The letters from the homefront nurtured and sustained him, all the while leaving a highly detailed record of life in America, totally changed by war.  This is our history, as people lived it, their voices poignantly speaking to us.  The timeless correspondence of the five members of the Minker family will resonate not only with those who remember those years, but with those separated from loved ones in war zones today.