Senator receives shadow box in honor of brother

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Hailey Haux
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James presented a shadow box to Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, March 20, in honor of his brother, Cpl. Jesse Hatch, who died Feb. 7, 1945, during World War II.

Corporal Hatch, a Pennsylvania native, served as a turret gunner as part of the 451st Bombardment Group of the 725th Bomb Squadron. His unit was tasked with bombing raids which struck the hearts of Nazi Germany and also targeted critical enemy assets in Austria, Poland, Italy and Romania.

After his first mission on Jan. 4, 1945, Hatch wrote home saying, “It wasn’t a snap I’m telling you. You really gotta hand it to their flack. They hit our ship six times with flack. But we got back.”

Unfortunately, Feb. 7, 1945, the ‘flack’ proved intense and accurate as Hatch’s crew flew their 186th, and final, mission. They were struck by anti-aircraft fire which caused a mid-air collision. Hatch and his crew lost their lives that day, making the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms of many.

“No words and commemorative items, no matter how special they will be, can ever soothe the pain of losing a brother,” James said. “We all know that, but we also know that his sacrifice is absolutely not in vain. Jesse’s courage, selflessness and dedication are an inspiration to all of us seven decades later.”

A shadow box is an enclosed or framed box with a glass front, usually containing an insignia, medals, ribbons and ranks among other memorial items. This particular shadow box included a photo of Hatch and his crew, his aerial gunner wings, his Air Medal, a folded American flag and much more.

“I was only eight when it happened,” Senator Hatch said. “My brother was a humble young man and, overall, a very good person. He loved airplanes and was very happy to be a nose gunner. I am very moved by this and I know my sisters are as well.

In addition to honoring corporal Hatch, the event paid tribute to all of those who have served and sacrificed through the generations. James explained the 451st BG lives on today as the 451st Air Expeditionary Group in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Senator Hatch also spoke about the sacrifices and commitment of all of our military service members.

“I can’t begin to tell you how deeply indebted we feel toward folks in the military who have sacrificed so much and will sacrifice so much for our country,” he said. “I love the military. I love what you men and women do for our country and I am going to always be there for you, you can count on it. Just know that this family is very grateful, I am very grateful and I want God to bless you all. Thank you so much.”