Veteran Royal Canadian Air Force Sgt. Rudolph Faessler of Aldergrove marched to the legion cenotaph on Monday morning, surrounded by a host of comrades and applauding crowds. (Sarah Grochowski photo)

Aldergrove veteran pilot recognized by the Queen

Rudolph Fassler began as a naive farm kid who watched jets soar high over his farm

Monday morning’s Remembrance Day service brought out over a dozen World War veterans in Aldergrove – one of them was local retired Sergeant Rudolph Faessler.

Faessler, a survivor of two plane crashes, was 17 when he first enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1954.

As a sheltered teenager from Bridge Lake, B.C., whose parents both migrated from Switzerland, Faessler lived on a farm with no connection to the outside world, other than a battery-operated radio.

When he was around 10 years old, during World War Two, Faessler was enamoured by the hundreds of Air Force planes that whizzed above his families’ rural farmhouse.

“And every once and a while one of these fighter jets would whiz by,” he said. “I thought to myself then, ‘oh boy I want to fly those one day’.”

Joining the Air Force made that possible, along with thrusting Faessler into a world of new discoveries, including the French language at basic training at Saint-Jean Garrison.

“Most of the time, you join the Forces and then you went to Quebec. On the train there I fell asleep and woke up to an employee speaking only in French,” Faessler said.

“I was so worried that I’d taken the wrong train and instead arrived in France.”

He also learned of hockey.

The only sport-like activity he ever was aware of was the spear fishing he did in his youth, catching fish from under the frozen lake with an old pitchfork.

READ MORE: Langley veterans and families grateful for the gift

Faessler went on to serve for 28 years as a flight engineer and second pilot, four of those being in Germany as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces during the Cold War.

NATO was facing off against a possible Soviet threat from behind the Iron Curtain in what was then the USSR.

By the mid-1950s, it is estimated that 10,000 Canadians were stationed in France and West Germany.

“I was lucky,” he said. “I joined up just after the Korean War and before the war in Afghanistan.”

Faessler recalls being tasked with the transportation of a nuclear weapon on certain flights and prepping the aircraft for the possibility of an order of unleashing the device on Russian-occupied territory.

“We had the atomic bomb on the airplane every day just waiting to go. We would fly under the radar and over rivers and into Poland or Hungary,” the veteran explained.

“We had two minutes to get it in the air because we thought the Russians would be there that fast,” Faessler explained, noting it was an automated flight system that would have launched the bomb while flying upright at approximately 2,000-feet in the air.

“The bomb itself was only as big as a grapefruit but the entire thing was maybe the length of these two tables end-to-end,” Faessler pointed out.

“I imagine now that bombs are much worse.”

RELATED: Aldergrove seens Centurion tank, tears, and war veterans march

The veteran saw unspeakable horrors during his deployment overseas, including several prisoner of war camps with visible signs of mass casualties.

“There was a room full of bones,” Faessler explained seeing inside a dormant concentration camp.

Faessler was awarded a rare Order of the Military Merit (OMM) medal in 1977 – the second-highest order administered by Canada’s Governor General on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II.

The medal was created to recognize soldiers who have surpassed their call of duty.

Faessler was awarded the honour for the 11 years he dedicated himself day-and-night to evacuating the critically-injured from Coal Lake, Alberta to a hospital one hour away in Edmonton.

He was on call from spring until end of summer each year.

“Anytime – day or night – I would fly them to Edmonton,” the veteran said, making mention of the upkeep required on his aircraft.

He grew accustomed to witnessing passengers injured within inches of their life due to circumstances such as car accidents, stabbings, and shootings.

Faessler was flown to Ottawa and presented with the prestigious OMM blue cross by then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau on Dec. 12, 1977.

The hospital gave him a large set of carved wooden wings as a thank you when he wrapped up his work there.

It was the staff who recommended him for the medal which now rests above his heart next to his 25 years of service medal.

Faessler still lives in Aldergrove with his wife, their two adult daughters, two parrots, and a cat named Tommy.

In his spare time, the veteran volunteers at the Greater Vancouver Zoo and has done so for many years.

READ MORE: More Canadians plan to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies this year

 

Just Posted

Lost wallet and fake gold: con artist strikes in Langley

Police issue warning about ‘Dubai gold’ con game

WEATHER: Rain and wind expected in Langley

Temperatures will remain steady Wednesday, reaching a high of 8 C

GREEN BEAT: 12 days of climate action

Langley Advance Times columnist David Clements does a parody of the 12 Days of Christmas

Gus Hartl of Aldergrove Credit Union named Langley’s Good Citizen of the Year

Raised in the Fraser Valley, Hartl has supported sports teams, charities, and scholarships

Langley Advance Times Community Calendar: Dec. 11, 2019 edition

Community Calendar published in Wednesday print edition while Arts Calendar is in Friday’s

‘A loud sonic boom’: Gabriola Island residents recount fatal plane crash

Area where the plane went down is primarily a residential neighbourhood, RCMP say

Thunberg ‘a bit surprised’ to be Time ‘Person of the Year’

‘I could never have imagined anything like that happening,’ she said in a phone interview

B.C. patients wait 41% longer than national average to see a walk-in doctor: Medimap

The longest wait time was found in Sidney, B.C., where patients waited an average of 180 minutes

10,000 affordable rentals a year needed to tackle Metro Vancouver housing crisis: report

The report focused on building government-funded housing, rather than relying on the private sector

Toronto Raptors, Don Cherry top the list of Canadians’ Google searches in 2019

‘Champions’ was the theme of the last year, Google said

Tavares scores twice as Maple Leafs earn 4-1 win over Canucks

Vancouver sees two-game win streak snapped

UPDATED: No survivors in Gabriola Island plane crash: RCMP

Coroner confirms multiple fatalities after small plane goes down Tuesday night near Nanaimo

VIDEO: Harbour Air makes history with first electric aircraft test flight

Successful flight marks first of its kind in the world

The Grinch who Stole a Hedge: Security camera captures Chilliwack tree theft

RCMP arrives as person calmly walks away with tree in downtown area

Most Read