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March 20, 2023

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Off Beat: Glacier kept bracelet safe for decades after B-17 crash

By , Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

See the story of WWII tail-gunner Don Millar’s final mission:

Not all the B-17 losses we suffered during World War II were a result of enemy fire.

Steve Memovich’s bomber was eaten by a glacier.

Memovich, who died June 9, was one of many local airmen who were part of the bombing campaign against the German war machine.

Another veteran of that effort, Don Millar, was profiled Sunday in The Columbian. Millar’s last mission ended when his B-17 was shot down on April 5, 1945.

Memovich — who was a friend and business acquaintance of Millar’s — also was the subject of a Columbian story. That was back in 2004, after Memovich opened an oversized envelope that had been delivered to his Vancouver home.

He found a case containing a silver bracelet with his name, his Army serial number, and an inscription: “Always Yours, Marilyn.”

See the story of WWII tail-gunner Don Millar's final mission:

Memovich was wearing that bracelet when his plane crashed on Sept. 16, 1944. According to our story, the 10-man crew was scheduled to fly from Iceland to a base in Scotland, but a blizzard knocked them out of the sky and onto Eyjafjallajokull Glacier.

All 10 airmen walked away from the crash, and Memovich went on to fly 35 combat missions. After the war, he came home to his wife Marilyn and practiced law in Vancouver for 35 years.

The wreck of their Flying Fortress was covered by snow and ice — entombed in the glacier — until a shepherd stumbled across a scrap of aluminum in 1991. As the glacier receded, and as local residents started to scrape away at the ice, more remnants of the accident were recovered. They included that silver bracelet.

Steve and Marilyn (who died in 2011) visited Iceland in 2004. Local residents helped Steve get back on Eyjafjallajokull Glacier, but his return trip there wasn’t as harrowing. The Memoviches got to ride in a search-and-rescue vehicle.

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.

Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter