Wednesday, November 10, 2004

'Woody' Wodrich, 89, was
gunner on Flying Fortress


Lives remembered

By Rebecca Goodman
Enquirer staff writer

After Maurice E. "Woody" Wodrich survived 50 combat missions as an aerial gunner on a B-17 bomber - without suffering a scratch - he figured he was so lucky that he might as well volunteer for another 50.

His luck held - in that his World War II commander refused the offer. The odds of becoming a casualty increased with every mission. That Mr. Wodrich survived 50 was astounding.

As the United States pauses to remember its veterans this week, Louis A. Wodrich of Las Vegas will lay to rest his uncle, who died Nov. 1 of congestive heart failure. The service will be today at Spring Grove Cemetery.

Mr. Wodrich, 89, spent most of his life in Cheviot. He moved to Las Vegas three years ago to live with his nephew, after his health began to fail.

He was born in Cincinnati on Aug. 15, 1915. That summer, French, British and German airplanes were locked in deadly battle above the trenches of the Western Front. The stalemate was ended after American troops entered the Great War two years later. An even greater war awaited Mr. Wodrich.

During his teen years, Mr. Wodrich attended a vocational school that became the old Central High School. He boxed as an amateur at Williams Gym in Price Hill. By the time he graduated, the grip of the Great Depression was tightening. He was lucky to find work as a mechanic at Stephens Auto Repair on Harrison Avenue. By the end of the 1930s, tensions in Europe had heated up again.

Mr. Wodrich joined the Army Air Corps in November 1940 - more than a year before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. When war came, Mr. Wodrich was at Allbrook Field in Panama City, Panama. He was soon sent to Europe.

"He was a B-17 gunner and an official aerial photographer," his nephew said. "I've got a lot of the photographs he took. He had three crash landings but was never injured. He always thought he was pretty lucky - that's why he thought he could sign up for another 50" missions.

Mr. Wodrich saw combat in the Po Valley, the Rhineland, the Balkans and northern and southern France. He became part of the 2nd Bomb Group, 429th Bomb Squadron, 15th Air Force. The 15th, established on Oct. 30, 1943, was assigned to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. By December, it was in Bari, Italy.

"He flew several missions over the Ploesti oil fields," his nephew said. Mr. Wodrich received an Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, among other citations.

He was honorably discharged when the 15th was deactivated on Sept. 15, 1945. After the war, Mr. Wodrich got a job with the U.S. Postal Service. He retired as a training manager in 1977.

He was a life member of Cheviot Lodge No. 140 F&AM, a member of Norwood Chapter 193 RAM, and a charter member of Miamiview Golf Club.

His wife of 48 years, Norma Brommer Wodrich, died in May 1996. In addition to his nephew, survivors include a stepdaughter, Joyce McFarren of Denver.

The funeral is 10:30 a.m. todayat Gump-Holt Funeral Home, 3440 Glenmore Ave. Entombment will be at Spring Grove Cemetery.

Memorials: Monfort Heights United Methodist Church, 3682 West Fork Road, Cincinnati 45247.

E-mail rgoodman@enquirer.com




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