A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to visit the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum just north of Savannah, Georgia. This was to be a day trip for my brother-in-law and I. Our wives were to enjoy yet another day at the beach and out shopping in and around Hilton Head Island, SC. Paul and I took advantage of a “guys’ day away” from the blazing sun and too much sand in our swim suits. But I digress …
While at this museum I asked the docent — a retired Colonel from the US Air Force — about the research library that was upstairs. His eyes lit up when I mentioned that my uncle had served in the Mighty Eighth. His eyes saddened and mine teared up a bit when I commented that I’d never met this uncle since he was shot down over Germany during World War II. But then he encouraged me to visit the research team upstairs and to learn more about this not-so-distant relative.
So what did I learn?
M/Sgt George A. Lesko was a senior non-commissioned officer responsible for several aircraft. He was mainly a part of the ground crew responsible for preparing the bombers for daily missions over enemy territory. He flew one — and only one — mission as the Top Turret Gunner in a B-17. The record states: “Shot down by fighters and crashed SW of Ulm, GR on the return from a mission to Landsberg am Lech, GR on 18 Mar 1944 in B-17G #42-31966. KIA.”
We will never know why he chose to man the twin .50 caliber machine guns that day. Was he checking out the aircraft in-flight? Did he volunteer to take the seat of another crewman? Did he step up because he wanted to experience for himself what a combat mission was like over Germany?
This we do know; he completed his mission and died a hero.
On a related note … I recently attended the 35th reunion of the West Point Class of 1979. While at the Academy, I enjoyed catching up with many of my classmates. We told a few tall tales; reliving our experiences from time spent at the Academy and also while serving in the Army. More importantly, I had a chance to speak with today’s cadets. I am certain that they too — like my Uncle — will do their duty. God bless them and may God show mercy on those who doubt the resolve of today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marines. “Bombs away.”