ATHENS, TX (KLTV) - The small piece of metal that Floyd Offhaus has saved for almost three-quarters of a century, is a daily reminder of the hundreds of pieces of shells that could have killed him in World War II.
As a B-17 pilot who flew 32 bombing missions over France and Germany in 1944 and 45, Offhaus' plane was hit many times with deadly Flak from German anti-aircraft shells and fighter plane bullets.
"Two of those missions I didn't make it home...I got shot up," says Offhaus.
When Flak took out Offhaus' right engine during a bombing mission over Germany, he had to slow his plane down to be able to control it. That meant that his plane would soon be left behind the other planes in the squadron, and that German fighter planes would soon be closing in for the kill.
"I saw a cloud bank," says Offhaus.
Offhaus headed for the cloud bank and got there just in time to be hidden from the German fighters. Although his plane couldn't make it back to home base, it did make it across the channel and land on an English airstrip.
"The next time it happened to me, we were shot up in two engines," remembers Offhaus.
Nursing his plane along, Offhaus was once again able to make it across the English Channel, and land on a British airstrip, although the landing was a rough one without brakes.
"I was so damn glad to get back to something solid," says Offhaus.
The distinguished Flying Cross and other medals round out Floyd Offhaus' eminent military record.
Drafted into the Army Air Corps in 1941 as a private, Offhaus was honorably discharged in 1946 as the war ended.
"I did my duty as a soldier and that was it," says Offhaus.