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Wyman Galbreath, Rescue Pilot


Wyman Galbreath graduated from Enderlin High School in 1940. He attended the Wahpeton School of Science where he enrolled in Aviation Mechanics. In 1942, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. By the spring of 1944 he was piloting a B-17 heavy bomber. He expected to be sent to England, but in a surprise move the Air Corp picked him for the newly formed 4th Rescue Squadron of the 20th Air Force, based in the Pacific. Instead of bombing the enemy and taking lives, Galbreath’s job was to save lives. He flew a B-17 rescue plane that had a large lifeboat slung under the bomb bay. Their job was to fly the B-29 flight paths to Japan and rescue flight crews that ditched in the ocean. He would drop down as close to the downed aircrew as possible and jettison the life boat, which was well supplied with food and water to sustain the survivors until rescue.

Galbreath piloted 12 such missions over Tokyo Bay and the Sea of Japan. He was lucky not to have encountered the enemy in any of his missions, but the Japanese weren’t the only adversary. His other enemy was the weather. During his last mission, Galbreath’s plane had to fly through a thunderstorm. In a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, his plane was struck by lightning, which caused an explosive burst of static over his earphones that permanently damaged his hearing. Wyman’s days as an Air Force pilot were over.

Galbreath had dreamed of being a commercial pilot, but those dreams were now dashed. However, on this date in 1946, another dream was fulfilled. After being separated by a world war and half the world, Wyman Galbreath and high school sweetheart, Doris Groth, were married. They settled on a small farm near Enderlin to raise a few cattle, hogs and chickens. And they also raised 6 children. Despite his inability to hear, their small farm grew into a large and successful operation.

In 1986 Wyman Galbreath was named Ransom County Man of the Year. He passed away at the age of 90 in 2013.

Today’s Dakota Datebook was written by Scott Nelson

Sources: Wyman Galbreath’s obituary. 4th Rescue Sqd. info searches.