Re: The evocative column Why that plane is here by Bob Cox (Free Press, July 24).
As most Winnipeggers know, the story of Andrew Mynarski's selfless act of trying to save a comrade on a doomed Lancaster bomber is a timeless saga that resulted in the bestowing of Canada's last Victoria Cross in 1946. That it took so long to recognize this extraordinary act of valour was due to the unusual circumstances that occurred on the night of June 13, 1944, coincidentally the 13th operational flight of Avro Lancaster VR-A, flying in support of the Normandy landings.
With the stricken bomber on fire, tail gunner Pat Brophy was trapped in his turret. When the order to bail out was given, only mid-upper gunner Mynarski was left on board. He crawled through flames to try to rescue his friend, using a fire axe and finally his bare hands before being brusquely waved off. At the rear door, he paused once more, as was his nightly habit, to salute, and call out: "Good night, sir" before plummeting to a fiery death. Why anyone knows this, is that because, by a miracle, Brophy survived the crash and destruction of the Lancaster and eventually returned to England via the resistance underground to meet up with his astonished crew-mates who had long given him and Mynarski up for dead. When pilot Art de Breyne put in for a medal, the request was held up because the Victoria Cross was never awarded without two or more witnesses to the action. But Brophy insisted Mynarski deserved the honour. The medal would also be given to a "non-com," although that was quickly rectified as a posthumous rank of "pilot officer" was awarded. Ultimately, the last VC of the Second World War was presented to Mynarski's mother on Oct. 11, 1946, in Winnipeg.
Today, a group of interested community leaders has been collecting funds to build a memorial to his memory. The Mynarski Statue Fund, under the auspices of the Air Cadet League of Canada (MB Inc.) has raised $30,000 to date. A new documentary film is also being shot in Winnipeg and Alberta that will feature the story of North End boy Andrew Mynarski whose deed should not go unrecognized.
To donate to the Mynarski Statue Fund, phone 294-2289 or write to Box 11011, Winnipeg, MB, R3C 2W2.
At the end of a tour of the Avro Lancaster bomber at the Western Canada Aviation Museum today, I was part of a group listening to one of the tour guides that travels with the aircraft. The tour guide (who was from southern Ontario) shared that it was his first time to Winnipeg and then went on to comment on how friendly everyone in Winnipeg was and that the motto "Friendly Manitoba" on our licence plates was indeed accurate. Perhaps due to light rain falling at the time, one of the locals in the group then replied that the weather here was such that it was either raining or snowing. Another in the crowd then asked if the visitor had experienced our infamous mosquitoes yet.
It's no wonder Winnipeg has a certain reputation. If we keep dwelling on the perceived negative aspects of the city, we have only ourselves to blame if that reputation is propagated. When someone compliments Winnipeg, we need to accept it and promote the city and all its various attributes, not put it down.