Elden S. Ward was a radioman and gunner on a B-17 of the Fifteenth Air Force, stationed in Fogia, Italy. While on a mission, a P-51D Mustang escort flew near enough to Elden’s bomber for him to to capture an epic shot with his small Kodak Brownie camera. Years later, upon close inspection of the photo, his son discovered that the plane, named Meatball Rap, was flown by Tuskegee Airman Charles Lane of the 99th Fighter Squadron. In fact, the two men had lived near each other in Omaha, NE after the war, and never knew of one another and their once close encounter.
Many times, Elden had told his family that the P-51 fighter escorts were the reason he was able to come home from the war. The family remains appreciative of the efforts and sacrifices of the Tuskegee Airmen.
The top photo in the collage is the picture snapped by Elden Ward from his position within the B-17. Elden is pictured bottom left, and Charles bottom right, next to his plane Meatball Rap.