More than 60 years since his military service during World War II, First Lt. Frank Colella was finally given the awards he was due.
In a ceremony held on Tuesday at his home in La Cañada, Colella was presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross and two Air Medals -- honors he should have been given in 1944.
According to Colonel Scott Grundahl, who conducted the ceremony, the Distinguished Flying Cross is one of the highest honors an aviator can receive. The medal was authorized by the Air Corps Act in 1926 and recognizes heroism and extraordinary achievement in an aerial fight.
Col. Grundahl said the ceremony was important in order to "set the record straight with the Air Force, Lieutenant Colella and his family" as well remind everyone of the "courage and heroism that was needed to fight and win WWII."
Colella enlisted as a private in 1940. He spent 2 ½ years in the infantry and 2 ½ years in aviation. After completing his pilot training in Douglas, Ariz. and learning to fly B-24s, he served in the 44th bomb squad in the 8th Air Force.
Col. Grundahl commended Colella for his professional competence and devotion to duty. Colella served his country by leading strategic bomb missions over German-occupied Europe while facing hazardous conditions. His squad completed more than 340 missions and dropped almost 19,000 tons of bombs. This air power campaign was essential to "defeating the Axis Powers and the ability of the Germans to wreak havoc," said Grundahl.
Colella said the missions "were an adventure" and recalled the fact that "it took teamwork to keep the bomber in the air."
"We can all benefit from seeing what it means to be courageous and devoted to freedom," said Grundahl.
The Congressional Office of David Dreier also presented Colella with a Congressional Certificate of Recognition.
After leaving the Air Force in 1945, Colella became a Documentation Officer for the UN in New York. He worked in Public Relations at LA County Medical Center before coming to La Cañada in 1959 to work at JPL as the manager of public affairs. He retired in 1988.
Although his medals were awarded more than half a century late, Colella said, "It was worth it to have family and friends here today." 20051222irv93wncPhoto by Kathleen Fischman(LA)POSING WITH HIS AWARD -- Colonel Scott Grundahl presents Frank Colella with two honors at Colella's Belita Lane home Tuesday afternoon.