Much has been made about Herman Molen’s military life. But on Tuesday, a day after he was laid to rest with full military honors at age 88, his daughter Jo Ann Molen remembered him as a father, traveler and talker.
While stationed in Germany during the 50s, Ms. Molen said her father took the family around Europe and shared the fairy tales and history of places such as the Black Forest and Berchtesgaden. The family continued to travel upon their return to Texas.
Ms. Molen said she remembers her father’s interaction with influential Texans and the host of people he knew “in little offbeat out of the way places” around the country.
Molen, who died June 28, studied to be a Baptist preacher after high school and remained a theologian, gardener and “natural country boy.
“I knew him as daddy,” she said. “He was a card, a jokester and a country bumpkin. I am going to miss him.”
Molen survived wounds received during air battles over Europe and 19 months in German prison camps during World War II.
War veteran and long-time friend Willard Ward, who flew missions with Molen aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress, said the two experienced “some good times and a lot of rough times together” during the war.
The two men were wounded during an attack by German fighter planes. The B-17 was riddled with bullets and on fire. Ward tended to Molen’s wounds while injured himself, Molen said in a previous interview.
Molen recounted how his height cramped him in his gunner position and made him sit crooked. His cheek and forehead were sliced by shrapnel that likely would have killed him had he been sitting upright, he said.
The remainder of the trip to a friendly air field was as harrowing as the firefight, Ward said. The plane landed in time for the crew to evacuate and watch it burn at the end of the runway, he said.
In the years that followed the two reunited on several occasions and talked by phone often, Ward said. He said it was “luck” to have crew members such as Molen. It was like family, he said.
“We were just like brothers,” Ward said.
Staff Writer Jacque Hilburn-Simmons contributed to this report.