Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Edward Carl Martensen, 1923-2013

WWII airman later served 28 years as city firefighter




Edward Carl Martensen, a World War II airman who flew 70 missions as a gunner aboard a B-25 bomber over targets in Europe and later served 28 years with the Toledo Fire Department, died Friday at Flower Hospital.

Mr. Martensen, 90, died from renal failure, said his daughter, Karen Sue Martensen.

The West Toledo resident was drafted into the Army and assigned to the Army Air Corps, serving from 1943 to 1945, when he mustered out as a technical sergeant.

His missions were primarily flown over France, Germany, and Italy.

He was awarded a Purple Heart for a broken wrist he suffered in a fall from an airplane while unloading bombs, his daughter said. He also was awarded an Air Medal with six oak-leaf clusters.

When he initially began flying in the Mitchell medium bomber, crews were allowed to return home after 35 missions, but the number was increased several times until 70 became the new limit, his daughter said.

Ms. Martensen said her father only began talking about his war service toward the last five years of his life. One of the experiences he tried to describe involved dropping incendiary bombs and witnessing the result below.

“That one really haunted him. When they would drop the phosphorus bombs, they would look out the window and see the horrific scene,” she said. “He didn’t say much about it ... and then he would just stop talking about it.”

After the war, Mr. Martensen worked for Bunting Brass and Bronze and National Supply before taking the test to become a firefighter.

“He always wanted to be either a fireman or a policeman,” his daughter said.

“The fire test came up first.”

Part of the appeal of being a fireman was to keep the adrenaline rush that he experienced during the war, she added.

He is the last surviving member of his academy class of 1952, she said.

Mr. Martensen was born Jan. 20, 1923, to Emil Carl and Mary Catherine Martensen.

His mother died when he was 2 and his father soon left the family picture, leaving his grandparents to raise him.

He began his career at Station 2 and served at stations 1, 18, 12, and 4, from where he retired.

“He truly enjoyed the job and its camaraderie, the work itself,” his daughter said.

Two years ago, Mr. Martensen attended the city’s annual memorial service downtown to honor the four firefighters fatally injured during the Anthony Wayne Trail explosion in 1961.

Mr. Martensen was off duty that day in 1961, but he knew or worked with the men who were killed, his daughter said.

During the ceremony, Fire Chief Mike Wolever, who’s now retired, approached Mr. Martensen to recognize him for his service. The two had never served together, she said, and Mr. Martensen was surprised by the recognition and the memorial token he was given.

“He was so proud of that,” she said.

After retirement, he began working as a maintenance man for a nursing home, fixing plumbing, patching plaster, painting, and other chores.

He was self-taught in those crafts, she said.

He married the former Alma Marie Kramp in 1945, and the couple were married 43 years.

When his wife died in 1987, he began going to the Eleanor Kahle Senior Center, where he became a regular, often spending hours shooting pool with his friends, his daughter said.

“That became a very important part of his life,” she said.

“He spent many, many happy hours there.”

He joined St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church shortly after the death of his wife, and became active in its “Feed Your Neighbor” program until his health began failing.

Mr. Martensen is survived by his daughter, Karen Sue Martensen and son, Burton Martensen.

Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Blanchard-Strabler Funeral Home, where the Last Alarm service will be conducted at 7 p.m.

The funeral will begin at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday at the funeral home and proceed to St. Catherine of Siena for a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m.

Memorials are suggested to the Eleanor Kahle Senior Center.

Contact Jim Sielicki at: or 419-724-6050.

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