The Author
Ralph Lee Minker Jr. Ralph Lee Minker Jr.

Ralph Lee Minker Jr. was 18 when he entered the U.S. Army Air Corp cadet training program in 1943, the first step in becoming a B-17 pilot with the Eighth Air Force. From flight training bases all over the country, he wrote to his parents and two sisters about flying: the Piper Cub, the Stearman, the AT-17, BT-17, and finally the B-17 known as the "Flying Fortress." His 300+ WWII letters form a complete record of growing up in those fateful years as he became one of the youngest commanders flying missions over Germany during the Battle of the Bulge. The crew completed their tour of duty with 35 missions in February 1945; Minker signed on for a second tour flying until the celebration of V-E Day. With great foresight he shipped all of the family letters home to Wilmington, DE. He came home in September 1945, returned to Dickinson College, graduating in 1947. Ordained a Methodist Minister in 1952, Rev. Minker served nine churches in Delaware and Maryland before retiring in 1990. In 2003 the U.S. Air Force celebrated his service as pilot of the Blue Hen Chick by naming a C-5 Galaxy Spirit of the Blue Hen. In 2005 Ralph Minker was inducted into the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame. Diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1995, he was active in planning An American Family in World War II. He passed away on August 5, 2008 leaving a legacy in his WWII letters of duty, honor, and courage.

Sandra O'Connell, Ph.D. Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell, Ph.D. and Ralph Minker were married in March 1980. In 1994 they discovered the box of more than 800 WWII letters Ralph had exchanged with his parents and two sisters. Reading all of the letters aloud re-created those years on the WWII homefront as well as the air war over Europe. Donated to the Delaware Historical Society in 1999, the family correspondence is the basis for An American Family in World War II. Editing the correspondence, researching and writing about the homefront and his missions over Germany to create An American Family in World War II became a five-year project. Sandra has also written articles for the magazine America in World War II and The Eighth Air Force News. She frequently does presentations for aviation museums, schools and other venues sharing the lives of families on the WWII homefront, pilot training, and the days of a young combat pilot flying missions over Germany. Her passion is to tell the story of the sacrifices an entire generation made for the freedom we have today.

Harry Butowsky, Ph.D. Harry Butowsky

Harry Butowsky, Ph.D. has had a long career researching and writing about World War II. He is a retired historian and web manager for the National Park Service History Program in Washington, D.C. The author of five National Historic Landmark Theme Studies, his work includes WWII Warships in the Pacific as well as sixty articles on military, labor, science, space, and constitutional history. Dr. Butowsky completed the primary research for two National Historic Sites: the Brown v Board of Education National Historic Site and the Opana Radar Site on Oahu, Hawaii. Dr. Butowsky, whose Ph.D. is from the University of Illinois, teaches History of World War I and World War II at George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. Talking about the Minker collection of WWII letters, he told a reporter, "I was immediately blown away by not only the amount of material but by the quality of the material. This was an archive I had never seen before." During the development and writing of An American Family in World War II, Harry and Ralph became cherished friends as they traced the missions and the course of the war together.

Reader Reviews

An American Family in War II … is a great and compelling read. There is no better way to step back into the time and bring it to life, with all the hopes and fears and love between family members right there on the page.

— Senator Bob Dole

Every aspect of this book is outstanding. The editors' exceptional knowledge of the time period lends the book a great deal of credibility.

— Writer's Digest

This volume is a rare piece of American history... the words hold validity for America and the free world today.

— Eighth Air Force News

Every family with a loved one now serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, or in training for such duty, will recognize the emotion in the lines the Minkers wrote to each other.

— Wilmington News Journal

A deeply absorbing tribute to The Greatest Generation and the families who supported them.

— Military Writers Society of America

This book combines the powerful with the intimately human. I laughed, I cried, and mostly, I savored the experience. Well worth the read.

— Fred G.

For me, the best part of the book was the view it gave me of those who were waiting at home.  Thank you again for writing such a great book!

— Navy Veteran