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Grandfather inspires ACE Marine's art, life

13 Dec 2002 | Sgt. Zachary A. Bathon 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Since the beginning of aviation, art has always played a major role in identifying different aircrafts. Whether it was a painting on the nose of an airplane that reminded the crew of their mothers or girlfriends back home, or a paint scheme that made the entire plane resemble a certain animal, art has always been used to give a certain airplane its own identity.

For one lance corporal with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), the artwork on the side of his CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter is a tribute to the man who has been the greatest influence in his life - his grandfather.

But there is more to the story. The painting on the side of Lance Cpl. Daniel T. Yorba's helicopter was designed to resemble the artwork on the B-17 Bomber his grandfather, Former Army Air-Corps 2nd Lt. Bernardo Yorba, flew during World War II.

"I never actually got to see a picture of his artwork, but I designed mine from what he told me about his," said Yorba, a CH-46 crew chief. "What he had was a girl sitting on a (.50 caliber machine gun), so that is what I made, and added some more things that were important to me."

The design, a huge star that features a girl sitting atop a firing .50 cal adorned by the American and Prisoner of War flags with "Smiling Through" across the top was the result of a year and half of planning.

"I wanted to wait until I finally got my own aircraft," said the Juneau, Alaska native. "Once I finally got my name printed on the side of one of our airplanes, I put my artwork on it."

"The name of my airplane is 'Smiling Through', the same name as my grandfather's," said Yorba. "He named his plane that because he said when you are going through the worst of it, you have to keep a positive mental attitude.

He was always positive, even after spending time as a P.O.W."

Yorba said his grandfather was shot down while flying a combat mission over Germany in October 1943.

Bernardo Yorba was not assigned to the group mission that day, but went up as a spare to cover any aborts.  Unfortunately, another B-17, "Our Mom" aborted that day due to engine problems, and his grandfather's crew took over their spot. They were to be the only plane shot down that day.

"Even after that, he could still never swear about the Nazis," said Yorba. "That was the kind of man he was, and I have tried to model myself after him."

"He used to tell me stories about flying and that's when I decided to become a crew chief," he said. "I know he was in the Army Air-Corps, but I didn't think the Army would offer me what I wanted, so I joined the Marine Corps."

After going through a long period of schooling, Yorba ended up with HMM-263 just before the unit started the Predeployment Training Program with the 24th MEU (SOC).

Currently, Yorba and "Smiling Through" are in support of Operation Enduring Freedom aboard the USS Nassau (LHA-4). He said his favorite thing from the deployment so far, was extracting some members of the MEU's Reconnaissance and Surveillance Platoon from a mountaintop at sunset during the MEU's recent exercise in Djibouti, Africa.

"I had a lot of fun in Kosovo too, said Yorba. "Giving candy to the children was a blast."

With those memories to look back on and the chance to make a lot more in the future, Yorba said his grandfather would be happy with him.

"Sometimes when I'm flying and really enjoying the view and the experience of flying, I think about my grandfather doing the same thing when he was flying," said Yorba. "I think if he were here right now he would definitely be proud of me."