Etched in Glenn Lacy’s memory is May 8, 1945. That’s the day World War II in Europe ended following Germany’s surrender. At the time, the 24-year-old native Texan was stationed at Lavenham Air Base in England with the U.S. Army Air Corps.
Glenn recalls a huge celebration was held in a nearby British town to mark the occasion. The British people invited the ‘Yanks,’ as they called them, from all the nearby bases to share the momentous milestone. Glenn feels fortunate to have been part of the unforgettable, high-spirited gathering despite the years of strict rationing.
Meanwhile, on May 8, 1945, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who had led the country and its Allies through the treacherous war years, greeted the crowds at Whitehall in Central London. They, too, celebrated with joyful relief.
A Child of the Great Depression
World War II represents a truly pivotal time in Glenn’s life.
He had volunteered to serve his country in 1940 when the clouds of war had only begun to gather. Glenn chose to enter the service because he saw it as an opportunity to better his life and enhance his future. When the results of an aptitude test showed he could be trained as a mechanic, Glenn was elated.
Born in 1920, Glenn was the seventh of 11 children. He remembers his first home, a dilapidated three-room farmhouse southwest of Weatherford, Texas, that was not much more than a shack. It had no indoor plumbing or electricity and certainly no central heat or air conditioning. It was cold in the winter and hot in the summer.
Glenn’s parents were hardworking sharecroppers. They moved from rented farm to rented farm, bravely attempting to wrestle a living from the land while half starving in the process. During the lean years of the Great Depression, there was little food on the table or clothes on the backs of Glenn and his family.
To break out of the poverty of his youth, Glenn was determined to graduate from high school and somehow learn a skill or trade. Because he couldn’t start school until after all the farm work and cotton-picking was done in late November or December, he needed to work extra hard at his studies.
During his junior and senior years, Glenn stayed with his grandmother. He tried to arrive several weeks early to pick enough cotton to earn money for school clothing and expenses. If he was lucky, he had a little left over, very little, to tide him over during the school year.
Glenn (back row, second from right) is pictured on his Senior Day in May 1938, at a park near Mineral Wells, Texas. Despite the obstacles he had to dodge to obtain a high school diploma, Glenn graduated as salutatorian of the class. However, there was no way he could afford to attend college.
Instead, Glenn found work in a clothing factory in Fort Worth.
The U.S. Army Air Force’s recruitment ads caught his attention.
Glenn never regretted his decision to join and undergo the extensive training aimed at maintaining the safety and dependability of America’s aircraft.
Putting His Mechanical Skills to the Test
Glenn was assigned for 14 months as an aircraft ground crew chief at an airfield approximately 60 miles north of London and 35 miles south of Cambridge, England.
He ensured that the B-24 Liberator and B-17 Flying Fortress planes assigned to him remained airworthy. These long-range, four-engine bombers bombarded Germany, playing a significant role in the Allies’ victory.
For the first three months, Glenn maintained a B-24 before the more efficient B-17 replaced it. That aircraft earned the distinction of dropping the most bombs of any single aircraft type during WWII. Glenn is pictured above adjusting the carburetor of the number two engine on a B-17.
With the help of two or three mechanics, the planes that Glenn maintained flew numerous daytime combat missions over Germany. None of them crashed and, more importantly, no American crewmembers on the planes he maintained lost their lives. Sadly, others in his group were not as fortunate.
None of the aircraft Glenn serviced experienced mechanical problems that forced an unscheduled return to the base, either. Glenn achieved an impressive 75 missions flown without a turn-back.
To prepare their plane each day for its mission, Glenn and his crew would arrive at the hangar at about 4 a.m. and follow a strict protocol before the aircraft was deemed ready to fly. When the aircraft returned from a mission, Glenn would be debriefed on its mechanical performance.
Fortunately, the aircraft he was responsible for never sustained enough flak damage to sideline them.
After 30 or 35 missions, aircrews would rotate back to the U.S. and another group of aviators took their places. Glenn and his crew got to know them all and establish meaningful bonds.
While London was in constant imminent danger from German buzz bombs and V-2 rockets, Glenn’s more remote countryside location was spared those vicious air attacks.
Two Brothers Meet in Britain
While stationed in England, Glenn (at right in the photo above) had an overnight visit from his older brother, Turner, who was serving in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps. Although in England for only a short time, Turner made a point of meeting his brother. In the picture, kneeling beside the nose wheel, Glenn is explaining to his brother some of the maintenance issues the aircraft commonly faced. When the war ended, Turner was stationed in France.
The brothers didn’t catch up with each other again until after they both returned home.
In July 1945, the U.S. Army Air Corps began sending its personnel home to the U.S. with a warning. They would likely need to regroup in the not-too-distant future for the greatly dreaded invasion of the Japanese mainland.
When Glenn and his aircraft maintenance crew flew back to the U.S., the trip took three days and two nights. The first night they stayed in Iceland and the second in Goose Bay, Labrador. The journey terminated at Grenier Field near Manchester, New Hampshire, where Glenn had done part of his training after volunteering for the U.S. Army Air Corps in December 1940.
Glenn had been among the passengers who were onboard the same B-17 that once had been assigned to him.
When the U.S. Army Air Corps dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945, Glenn was on rest and recuperation leave – R&R. Following that devastating action, the Japanese surrendered on Sept 2, 1945, ending the war in the Pacific.
From Wartime Mechanic to American Airlines Third Pilot
At 25 years of age, Glenn was discharged as a Master Sergeant, returning to civilian life on Aug. 25, 1945. Five days later, he began a 41-year career with American Airlines in Fort Worth, Texas. After three and a half years as a mechanic, he began flying as the third pilot-flight engineer.
Glenn calls it a privilege to have flown in that capacity on his favorite aircraft, the Boeing 747, for approximately one year.
The highlight of Glenn’s career, though, was the day he and his son, Glenn Jr., a former U.S. Navy pilot, who also had joined American Airlines, were members of the same crew. In the photo above, Glenn Sr. (left) and Glenn Jr. (right) were co-pilot and flight engineer, respectively, on a flight to London, England.
Glenn Jr. also flew as co-pilot on his dad’s last flight in March 1987, again to London and back. Their wives accompanied the two aviators. Glenn Sr. had married Helen in 1943 before he was sent overseas. Unfortunately, she died in 2001.
In 2015, Glenn and his son returned to Lavenham, where he had been stationed during World War II, for the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe. While he couldn’t be in England at the 75th observance, Glenn was there in spirit.
P.S. If you are interested in reading more of my World War II profiles of veterans and women who waited for them on the home front, check out “Veterans’ Voices and Home Front Memories” on Amazon.
Read more stories about heroes:
Read more about our traditions:
Thank you for visiting my blog today. Please use the share buttons below to share with your friends. If you haven’t subscribed to my blog, use the form below.
- Every Day is Memorial Day for Wayne Givens - May 26, 2023
- A Woman Ahead of Her Time - May 5, 2023
- Spring in an Old Texas Cemetery - April 21, 2023
THANKS, ELAINE, FOR WRITING THIS STORY OF A GREAT CREW CHIEF OF B-24 & B-17’S. THAT’S A PRETTY GOOD RECORD TO NOT HAVING ANY MISSION ABORTS ON HIS AIRCRAFT.
EVEN GREATER TO GET TO FLY WITH HIS SON ON HIS “FINI” FLIGHT.
I VISITED LAVENHAM WHILE I WAS ON ROTATION TO MILDENHAL RAF FLYING THE C-130. LAVENHAM IS A UNIQUE VILLAGE BECAUSE IT’S THE TOWN THAT THE DITTY “THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN WHO LIVED IN A CROOKED HOUSE & WALKED A CROOKED MILE.”. THE HOUSES HAD BENT OVER TIME DUE TO THE USE OF GREEN LUMBER & THE SWELLING OF THE GROUND AROUND THAT AREA. THE PUB IN TOWN STILL HAD THE SIGNATURES OF THE USAAF CREWS ON THE OVERHEAD BEAMS–PRETTY COOL TO SEE.
THANK YOU GLENN & YOUR SON FOR YOUR DEDICATED SERVICE.
GLEN R. CERNIK
LTC, USAF, TX ANG ret.
What a great story you have shared about Lavenham, Glen! Thank you. We will ask Glenn Lacy if he remembers the crooked streets. I bet your comment will bring a smile to his face.
Thank you Elaine for a wonderful recap of Mr. Glenn Lacy’s service during WWII. The stories of former wars should serve us as a reminder of the sacrifice our parents endured. My dad and mom are both gone but instilled in us a strong respect for our servicemen and women. Thanks to both of you for making that time and service come to life in this article. Gesine
Thank you, Gesine. Living through the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 crisis is giving me a better fundamental understanding of what our parents and grandparents lived through in World War II, whether they went to war or waited on the home front. The duration of that unstable period was measured in years. It also reminds me of how the Great Depression impacted so many people’s lives because so many were willing to work, but there was not much to be had. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.
Elaine, thank you for writing Glenn’s inspiring story of his service in World War II. I wonder if he met my Uncle Allen Brandes, a member of the Army Air Corps. He joined early in the war to teach other soldiers to fly.
Thank you, Glenn, for your Service
Donna Brandes Bridwell
Thanks, Donna. I am glad you found Glenn’s story inspiring and it reminded you of your Uncle Allen Brandes. Do you recall hearing where he was stationed?
I would like to personally thank Mr. Glenn Lacy for his unselfish and willing decision to join the other brave men of World War II who fought for America’s freedom. I was born in 1943 while my oldest brother, Walter L. Starks, (US Army) was serving in Germany. He left college to join the service because he knew it was his duty. He was MIA for awhile until the Red Cross located him in an Italian hospital only days before his feet were scheduled to be amputated. He had been found crouching in a snow bank while spying on German troops and hearing their plan of attack. The Red Cross had him moved to another site and he was able to keep both feet but was unable to remain in “active” duty. He returned home safe with both the Purple Heart and the Silver Star and the rank of Captain. He remained in the Army Reserves, was a graduate of the War College, commanded Fort Polk and retired from the Army Reserves as a Major General. My middle brother joined the Army right out of high school and he was stationed in the Pacific, He spent most of his service in Okinawa and Guam. He had a similar experience as the Lacy brothers. One day he “ran into” a group of Sea-Bees(sp?) and one was our mother’s younger brother, his uncle. He often said it was perhaps the best surprise of his life as they hugged and cried together. Thankfully, they both returned home safe. Both my brothers arrived home in 1945 to meet their new sister. I am proud to have grown up in a family and a town where the military was always looked up to and appreciated and where we reverenced the American flag. Thank you, Mr. Lacy, for playing such a part in our freedom.
What moving family stories you have shared with us, Brenda. Your family’s record of service is to be admired. No wonder you have such high regard for our military. I’m also glad that Glenn’s meeting with his brother, Turner, reminded you of a similar meeting between your brother and his uncle. Thank you and your family for the service they willingly provided to the U.S. and thank you so much for sharing your memories with us!
Thank you, Mr. Lacy for your service to our country. I read with much interest THE GREATEST GENERATION by Tom Brokaw about the servicemen who served during World War II. As I read that book, I felt that I was reconnecting with my father, Kervin Giese, who was serving in the Philippines at the time of my birth. He never wanted to talk about the war, or his experiences. That always made me sad. I see now that was quite common. But truly, my generation has received a wonderful legacy from that greatest generation – one of peace and prosperity and longevity. We need to keep these stories alive. Kay Giese Marburger
Kay, your thoughts about the wonderful legacy left us by The Greatest Generation – one of peace and prosperity and longevity – is beautifully worded. Thank you for honoring your father’s service, as well as thanking Glenn Lacy for his. May peace and prosperity and longevity continue!
Elaine, this was a wonderful life story recalled by Glenn Lacy through your interview. I was probably only about 6 years old when WWII began, but I remember all my uncles coming home with their uniforms, not really knowing what war was until many years later. My dad had three brothers who were in the army in Europe and my mom had four brothers who also served. One of my brothers and I had our pictures taken with a couple of them when they were home (on furlough, maybe?) Mom’s sister’s husband also went to Germany for the war. All my uncles came home safely, but not all the men in our small towns were not as fortunate! Dad was not called since he stayed home to help his widowed father with the farm work, plus he was married with a baby girl (me!) That’s what I was told many years later.
Memories of your uncles who served have stayed with you through these years, Barbara, and that is a very special way to honor them and their service. Thank you for sharing your story and also for recognizing Glenn Lacy!
A life well lived and a legacy fulfilled – and passing it on to a new generation.
Jeanie – a life well-lived, indeed. Glenn is a delight and I am honored to have had the opportunity to learn his story and share it with future generations. Thank you for your feedback!
What an inspiration. I am thankful to have met Glenn multiple times and to able to learn and hear about his wonderful long life he has lived. Such a great story.
Thank you for your service Glenn!
Thank you, Connor, for your comment. Yes, Glenn is an inspiration. He’s also a very modest man, truly a sterling example of The Greatest Generation!
Thanks to Glenn for your service. Our nation’s freedom is due to the sacrifices of dedicated people like you!
What a wonderful story, Elaine.
Thanks, Bev! Praise coming from you means a great deal to me. You are so right about Glenn and his generation. They did make sacrifices and we still enjoy the fruits of their contributions with regard to acting in the ‘greater good.’
So many stories about events of WW II will never be told, so good for you for capturing this one. It seems that no other event has dominated our interests and imaginations more. I wonder what stories will evolve from our current situation which is its own tragedy.
Like World War II that affected the whole world, the COVID-19 crisis will produce many stories. Some of them heartening but many of them very sad. The aftereffects, or perhaps shock waves would be a better description, will linger for years. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, Linda.
I’d like to thank my Uncle Glenn and all those who served our country ! Elaine, thank you for writing this great story. It makes me very proud. Since I was very young I have always loved to hear stories of my uncles and aunts, as well as my mother and father. Even though life was pretty tough on them while growing up, they overcame those obstacles and through more sacrifice and hard work, protected our country and came home to raise a family and be successful in business.
I truly believe all their sacrifices throughout their lives made them very tough and resourceful.
Thanks again to all our veterans, and thank you, Elaine, for writing this story.
David, it was an honor to hear your Uncle Glenn’s story. I was so impressed with his determination and belief that he could do whatever he put his mind to through hard work and dedication. Instead of being bitter and considering himself a victim because of the challenges he faced as a youth, he used those experiences as a benchmark to create a better life for himself and his family. I can certainly appreciate what a role model he is for your family and all who know him! Thank you for putting me in touch with your Uncle Glenn!
This was a great account of Glenn’s experiences as an aircraft mechanic in WWII. I can imagine what an honour it was to meet him at such an age of 99 years. Thank you for sharing, Elaine.
Thank you, Bonnie. I have wonderful news! When Glenn turned 100 years old earlier this month, his community celebrated with a 100-car drive-by parade, as he sat on a dining room chair on the lawn in front of his Keller, Texas, home. He also received hand delivered congratulations from the U.S. Navy, the branch of the service in which he served. Glenn was moved by the outpouring of love and respect. Wasn’t that a special moment in time?
I just found this as I was looking for information on Glenn Lacy. He is my great uncle. I am very proud of all he did and have been in contact with him lately, now at 102.
Hi Deborah! So glad you found my post about your Great-Uncle Glenn. He is a sterling example of The Greatest Generation – an inspiration for us all.