Harold's Boys

The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Autumn 2008 | Go to article overview

Harold's Boys


On the morning of June 26, 1944, 2nd Lt. Harold Leazer took the controls of his B-24 liberator as it lifted off from its base in Cerignola, Italy. His bomber was part of a 500-plane raid against Axis oil production facilities near Vienna. Since the Allied landings at Normandy earlier that month, the United States Army Air Force had made it an urgent priority to cripple the refineries that kept the German war machine humming.

By this time, Leazer had completed fourteen missions and like other American pilots he looked forward eventually to completing his fiftieth so he could return to the States. "Another week has passed and all we can say is that it's a week nearer the day now that we'll be home again," he wrote his parents back in Remington, Virginia. "Really I'll admit that I've had enough of this life and I'm ready to come home. The life isn't too hard [but] it's the fact that all this conflict is so uncalled for and no one wants it."

As Leazer's B-24 approached its target in Austria, heavy antiaircraft fire bracketed the plane. Flak knocked out an engine and cut off the interphone system. As the damaged bomber drifted away from the rest of the formation, it became easy prey for enemy fighters. Hit by cannon fire, the B-24 erupted into flames after the oxygen system ignited. …

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