"Everybody's got his own story." That's what my Grandaddy, Leon Bucy, told me. He was a World War II veteran, born in Paris, Tennessee on June 5, 1923. He was drafted into the Army Air Corp in January of 1943. At age 19, he was attending basic training in Miami, Florida. From there he was sent to aircraft mechanic school where he learned to work on P-38 and P-40 aircrafts. One day he noticed some men that were about his age and they were all Staff Sergeants and Tech Sergeants. He was very curious about how they achieved those ranks so quickly. When he asked he was told that they were all aerial gunners. He then went to his Sergeant and volunteered for gunnery school.
During his flight physical, he was told that he was too light to be a gunner. That's when he started drinking milkshakes and eating more in an effort to gain weight. After all his effort he returned and was told that he still didn't weigh enough to be a gunner. The sergeant at the hospital that day asked him if he really wanted to be a gunner. He was very sure so the sergeant erased his height and made him one inch shorter. By doing this, his weight was then high enough. He trained to become a tail gunner. The crew's turret ball gunner didn't like flying in the ball. Once they arrived in England, Granddaddy swapped positions with him. Because they were already in England he was given a quick lesson on the operation of the ball turret. They were stationed at Ridgewell Air Base.
He flew 35 combat missions. His plane was named "Hell's Angel." They flew as air support for the D-Day Invasion. He said the ships stretched from one side of the English Channel to the other. They flew low at about 9,000 feet for the grand support mission. The actual D-Day invasion was scheduled for his birthday, June 5, but was delayed to June 6 due to bad weather. He flew other missions over Germany including one over Merseburg. The Meresburg mission was the one he dreaded the most. It ended up being the one where their bombadier, Roy Drummond, was killed. He was filling in for their usual bombadier. This was the only crew member they ever lost in combat. Granddaddy said, "You figured you would live together and if need be, die together." On one mission, a piece of shrapnel lodged in the track of the ball turret rotator just inches from my grandfather's head.
He said they would go to towns around Ridgewell during their off time. Many times going to places like Cambridge to try and forget the war, at least for a little while. He spoke of being able to hear the German V-1 flying bombs going over and one time hitting near their barracks. He could also hear P-51 Mustang pilots trying to shoot the bombs down.
They had successfully completed 34 missions. While taking off on their last mission, the 35th, they lost an engine and then another engine began failing. Thoughts of crashing on their last mission after all they had been through scared him. Fortunately they were able to make an emergency landing and later finished their last mission.
He was shipped back to the United States on the USS Uruguay. This ocean passenger liner had been converted to carry troops. The ship was in the head of the convoy. He was honorably discharged at St. Petersburg, Florida in July of 1945 at the rank of Staff Sergeant. He returned to Tennessee. He kept in contact with the members of his crew over the years. Three of the ten are still living. They are the pilot, Floyd Metts, the navigator, Jimmy Gray, and my granddaddy, Leon Bucy, the ball turret gunner.
My grandfather sacrificed what most men who go to war have to sacrifice. He was separated from his family and friends with the fear of never returning home to see them again. I am proud of my Granddaddy for being one of the brave men who went and fought on foreign soil for our freedom. He showed great bravery while overseas. He said, "I was scared every time we left the ground." But he got over it and did it for you and me and our freedom. My granddaddy is my hero and I'm happy to be telling his story.
Page created by Ellen Taylor; text used with permission