Nebraska Family Remembers Fallen Brother

Posted at 3:55 PM, Mar 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-26 17:58:07-04

A Nebraska family feels some closure today, remembering their army brother whose plane was lost more than 60 years ago.

"I just barely remember him, but I do remember the air force driving up to our house in Preston, and that's when we found out about it,” said Betty Massey.

She was only 8 and sister Patsy Mandery 4, when they lost their older brother 19-year-old Corporal Bernard Portrey during the Cold War.

"I was only 4, but he's still my brother,” said Mandery.

Corporal Portrey was one of 10 children born and raised in Preston, Nebraska.  Dennis Portrey was 12 the day his brother left to join the army.

"My mothered hollered and cried and said to 'come back 'cuz I'll never see you again.' Well, that's what happened,” said Portrey.

In 1950, Corporal Portrey was in Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska.  A last minute cancelation allowed him to get on a flight two days early that would lead him home.  It was thirty below when the military transport, a Douglas c-54 Skymaster, took off for Great Falls Air Force Base, Montana.  Two hours into the flight, the plane made its last radio contact. Neither the plane nor its 44 passengers and crew were ever found.

“I just remember my dad going up to Alaska to get his stuff,” recalled Mandery.

Saturday, at the SAC Museum in front of a C-54, 67 years later, the remaining Portrey siblings received an Honor and Remember flag to commemorate their brother's sacrifice.

"Just too much. Overwhelming,” said the sisters.

With a long history of military service, the family couldn't be happier.

"Long overdue.  Long overdue. I'm proud of all my brothers,” said Portrey.


The Honor and Remember flag is given to families who lost a loved one during military service.  Corporal Portrey’s flag was sponsored by Spartan Nash Foods.