There were five children in the Updike family. Selma was the oldest, then Henry, Earl, Lloyd, and the last and youngest was Dorman. Information about his early years was given by Earl's widow, Enid, of Van Wert. Dorman was 12 years younger than Earl, which means he was born in 1924. The family lived in Missouri, and came to Iowa when Dorman was about six years old.

They first farmed near Pleasanton, then moved to a farm near Leon. The children were educated in Decatur County. Dorman married Marjorie Jones when they were quite young and they became the parents of seven children.

The only other information available before his enlistment in the Army Air Corps, is his employment for Glen L. Martin Bomber Company in Omaha, Nebraska. In that occupation, he assembled warplanes until he enlisted in 1942, which was very early in WWII. A newspaper article was discovered in which Dean Bohn, a staff writer for The Saginaw Michigan News, interviewed Dorman. The clipping was incomplete but some details were gained from it. Dorman was with the 388th Bomb Group, 45th combat link, in the 8th Army Air Corps. He soon made technical sergeant.

He told about the time he served as the flight engineer and top turret gunner: He said they flew shuttle raids over Germany from Thetford (England) to Kiev, Russia (now Ukraine). Their sleep schedule was a few hours when they reached Russia, while the planes were refueled and rearmed." On his 59th mission October 23, 1943, something exploded in the bomb bay. Dorman and the tail-gunner were the only two survivors. They parachuted to escape.

Dorman remembered his companion was an American Indian from Oklahoma, and his first name was Bruce, but he didn't remember his last name. Too much time had intervened. Dorman described their eventful journey after they landed. Being the plane's flight engineer, it was his job to know where they were. In preparation, he had grabbed maps to aid their escape and discovered they were just outside Leipzig, Germany. He had sustained flak wounds to his back and had to rely on the tail-gunner's strength to help him during their ordeal. Updike and the tail-gunner went due west, to Belgium.

He told how they holed up in the daytime and walked at night to avoid being seen. They realized how obvious they would be in their uniforms, so they stole and wore civilian clothes. They also avoided towns, because the Allies had bombed those towns. They were the enemy, and the Germans would kill them without giving it a second thought.

They hid in haystacks and old buildings and ate whatever they could steal from German storm cellars — mostly sauerkraut, rutabagas, turnips and potatoes. Dorman was quoted as saying "It was pretty hard to live on vegetables that long, but it kept the body together. We lost a lot of weight."

They had one meal of meat. They constructed a snare and caught a rabbit. They knew they couldn't cook him because a fire would give them away, so they ripped him apart and ate him raw. In their state of hunger, Dorman said it tasted wonderful, as good as any meal he had ever eaten. "It may be revolting to think about it today, but it was great then."

They entered Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge, one of the most fierce battles of the war, as they endured the enemy' fire as well as the hunger and bitter cold with inadequate clothing. They were encouraged as they saw American planes dropping paratroopers. By this time gangrene had set in Dorman's back, and he was unable to keep up with Bruce, who was scouting ahead, then coming back to get him, The two of them walked together 550 miles, and the day before Dorman intercepted the U.S. Army, Bruce was killed by a German forward patrol. Later, Dolman was able to pick up the body of the tail-gunner, so he wasn't left flying there.

When Updike finally reached an American unit, he discovered they were in bad straits. The Germans had the unit pinned down for nine days without supplies, Five more days went by before a tank unit broke through. When he finally reached an Army hospital, surgeons cut out the gangrene and performed spinal fusion on Dorman's back.

Years later, he had left the war but the war hadn't left him. He told, "A lot works on your mind when you're dropping bombs from 35,000 feet. These were innocent civilians we were killing. It eats on you. It eats on you still, I don't care how old you get. Those civilians over there are like we were here, innocent of war but caught in the middle. I wouldn't want to go through it again."

After the war, Updike was a truck driver and owned a heavy diesel truck garage in Nebraska until he retired. At that time, he sold everything, bought a camper, and he and Marjorie traveled the country for the next 20 years.

Four years ago, (their daughter) Pegley asked her parents to move to the Saginaw area so she could look after them in their twilight years. The move was instrumental in how Updike eventually opened up to tell his story.

His war experiences as Flight Engineer Dorman T. Updike had consisted of 59 missions between Thetlord, England, and Kiev, Russia (now Ukraine), bombing towns and factories throughout Germany. He flew on four B-17s, known as the Flying Fortress. Germans shot down one plane over the North Sea where he was rescued after 90 minutes in the water. On his last mission, Germans shot down his plane near Leipzig , Germany. After he was wounded, he traveled due west to hook up with American forces in Belgium during the Ardennes Offensive —commonly known as the Battle of the Bulge.

Dolman passed away in Michigan, in 2008, at the age of 83. His body was cremated and the family will gather for a memorial in Minnesota in the summer of 2008.



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Last Revised June 14, 2015