John Corrigan, 91, holds a photo of himself with his flying crew in front of a Lancaster bomber during the Second World War. His wife, Elsie, right, nominated him for a Bomber Command Bar, which he will receive today from Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan.
Today, the 91-year-old Kelowna man will get another medal relating to his service in the Second World War.
And while the person doing the presenting is of a somewhat lesser public stature - Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan - there's every chance the event will mean more to Corrigan than the occasion in which he received the DFC.
Nearly eight decades after the war ended, Corrigan and other members of Bomber Command are getting the recognition they're due in helping to defeat Nazi Germany.
It's a shame the honour comes long after many who served in Bomber Command have passed away. But it's better late than never in the view of Elsie Corrigan, who submitted the application for her husband of nearly half-a-century after the Bomber Command Bar became available earlier this year.
"That terrible documentary really did a number on the reputation of Bomber Command," says Corrigan, referring to a controversial 1992 CBC production, The Valour and the Horror.
The show claimed the British High Command deliberately targeted German civilian populations during the war, with a bombing campaign that used an early version of napalm to inflict maximum damage on non-military installations, killing 600,000 people.
The infamous show was the subject of inquiries by both the CRTC and the Senate. Vets even tried to sue the producers for $500 million in damages, a claim that was dismissed in the courts.
Although the Ontario Court of Appeal rejected their claim for damages, it did note the crews of Bomber Command were simply obeying lawful orders, and that, in any event, they were "participating in acts of war that were neither war crimes nor crimes against humanity as defined in our courts."
Nevertheless, a succession of Liberal federal governments never saw the need to create a medal specifically recognizing the efforts of Bomber Command in helping end the war.
Earlier this year, Queen Elizabeth opened a Bomber Command Memorial near Buckingham Palace. And Canada's Conservative government created the new Bomber Command Bar, about 1,500 of which have so far been distributed to vets.
"It's about time all these boys get an honour like this," Corrigan says. "Practically every other branch of the service has already got their own medal."
John Corrigan volunteered in 1942, when he turned 18. He completed three back-to-back tours on Royal Air Force Pathfinder squadrons, serving as a navigator.
Remarkably, given the high mortality rate of all air force crews, his only brush with death came during a rough landing back in England after his plane was shot up over the English Channel.
The out-of-control plane veered off the runway and knocked over a farmer's outhouse. "A tough-looking woman came hurtling out of the farmhouse," Corrigan
recalled years later in a book titled Flight Into Darkness.
"Her vocabulary was diverse and colourful and she barely drew a breath as she said what she thought of pilots who could not land on their own airfield without knocking over her personal biffy."
Corrigan went on to serve in the military until he retired as a wing commander in 1973. He now lives in a care home and has some days when he imagines he's back in the war. But he also has many good days, like when he learned his daughter Catherine, who serves in the Royal Canadian Navy, had been promoted to captain.
"He was very proud, of course, but also a little worked up because captain is higher than wing commander, so now his daughter outranks him," Elsie said with a laugh.
Cannan will present Corrigan with a Bomber Command Bar this morning at Orchard Manor at 11 a.m. Part of the citation he'll read to Corrigan includes this passage: "Canadians everywhere will forever remember the sacrifices and achievements made in the name of peace, freedom, and democracy."