During World War II, Leroy Hewit served his country as a member of the United States Army Air Forces. He was a bombardier with the 15th Air Force aboard a B-24 and flew missions out of Italy.
Leroy described a typical mission as follows: “You got up in the morning at 2 o’clock, you briefed, you got into the plane, you flew for 8 hours, you came back if you were lucky, walked off the plane, you walked past the girls who were sitting there with booze, we had a couple of shots of booze and then we went for debriefing.”
In order to be sent home, each crew member had to complete 35 missions. On Leroy’s 11th mission, his plane was shot down and he bailed out near Budapest. He made his way back to Italy eventually and would complete an addition 24 missions giving him 35 and the right to come home. He received minor injuries during that 11th mission earning him the Purple Heart.
During one of the more memorable missions in March 1945, Leroy’s crew was breaking in a new gunner who was on his first mission. Leroy saw the gunner firing at something off in the distance, but something didn’t seem right. The gunner was firing on fighter aircraft he believed to be the enemy when in fact they were their escorts. The “enemy aircraft” was the famed Tuskegee Airman. Leroy would go on to say that they were wonderful pilots and that they never lost a single plane when escorted by them.
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