Author Topic: <<S>> Homer “John” Luke  (Read 53 times)

Offline Arlo

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<<S>> Homer “John” Luke
« on: April 23, 2020, 04:42:44 PM »

Laura Hillenbrand posted on FB Yesterday at 4:12 PM:
In August of 2018 I traveled up into the Washington State hills, down a bumpy, winding one-lane road in thick trees, to a tiny grass airstrip cut out of the middle of a forest. There, in a little room in a hangar by this unlikely airstrip, I met history, in the form of a smiling, gentle, humble man named Homer “John” Luke.

Mr. Luke was ninety-five years old. As a twenty-one-year-old, he was the ball turret gunner in the belly of a B-17 bomber called the Nine-o-Nine, fighting Hitler's Luftwaffe in the flak-blackened skies over Europe. It was perhaps the most dangerous job for American servicemen in World War II. It is said that on every mission, the men faced a one-in-ten chance of being killed. A tour was composed of twenty-five missions, making it statistically unlikely that airmen would ever see home again. When the crews gathered for pre-mission briefings, they were told where to fly and what to do; when they returned, there would be a bottle of bourbon on the table, in honor of all the eleven-man crews that did not come back. In one raid of B-24 bombers, 54 planes were lost, killing 532 men.

Mr. Luke, who watched his best friend go down when his plane was hit and split in two some ten feet away, made it through a staggering thirty-five missions, went home, and married his sweetheart. His beloved Nine-o-Nine survived an unimaginable 140 missions, believed to be the most in the entire 8th Air Force. Luke earned the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Oak Clusters, and a European Theater ribbon.

I spent some three hours talking with Mr. Luke that day, and many more hours on another visit in the fall. As he spoke, his listeners gathered in rapt silence and goosebumps, spellbound. Some stories were hilarious: On the long missions, his crewmen would pee through the bomb bay doors, which would promptly freeze shut. Many were terrifying: His crew flew only daylight raids, giving the Germans ample time to see them coming and fill the air with artillery shells and the dreaded Messerschmitt BF-109 fighters, whose pilots were so brave and skilled that they flew directly through the tight formations of American bombers, making it impossible for Luke and his fellow gunners to fire on them lest they shoot down their own planes.

On June 6, 1944, Nine-o-Nine soared over a storm-churned English Channel to support the landing troops on D-Day. Luke sat in his cramped turret under his plane, looking out over the supreme moment of the 20th century. Below him, thousands of ships crowded the channel, bound for the greatest invasion in history. The sea was pitching so high some of the ships were foundering and breaking open. The rest pushed on.

The breakers on Normandy approached, and Nine-o-Nine blazed low over the landing forces. Luke saw LSTs spilling men onto the beaches, and in the cliffs above them, hundreds of German pillboxes pouring bullets down onto them. As he fired into the pillboxes, trying to protect the Allied men below, history turned in Luke's hands. More than 4,000 Allied servicemen would die in the sand below him that morning, but the survivors made it up the cliffs, stormed the pillboxes, and began the long march to Berlin and the defeat of Hitler. Among the men marching east in the bloody months after that day was my father.

John Luke died peacefully this morning. He was ninety-seven years old. You didn’t know him, but you owe him everything.

Thank you to David Mackintosh and Rod Luke for the photos.

Um, it's Guthree ;)

Offline APDrone

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Re: <<S>> Homer “John” Luke
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2020, 05:37:48 PM »
APDrone XO 306th BG Fortress Europe

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Offline Nefarious

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Re: <<S>> Homer “John” Luke
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2020, 06:54:14 PM »
 :salute :cheers:
There must also be a flyable computer available for Nefarious to do FSO. So he doesn't keep talking about it for eight and a half hours on Friday night!

Offline FBDragon

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Re: <<S>> Homer “John” Luke
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2020, 10:03:45 PM »
 :cheers: :salute :salute :salute
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