Tuesday, March 14, 2017

WW2 Fallen - Leo Eminger, B-17 Navigator

Lt. Leo Eminger, B-17 navigator, flew into Oahu
at the same time as the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

UPDATED 9/24/2017

Seventy-five years ago today newspapers across the country ran headlines like US Destroyer Sunk: All of Crew Lost and Reds Capture More Stalingrad Forts. At home the favorite song was I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo by the Glenn Miller Band. Folks were going to the movies to watch Cary Grant in Talk of the Town or Humphrey Bogart in Across the Pacific. That Thursday night, families could tune into their radios and listen to Amos and Andy or Kraft Music Hall with Bing Crosby, Mary Martin, and Victor Borge.

September 24, 1942 was also a day that would see the demise of at least 73 Americans who died serving their country that day. One of them was Leo Eminger.

Leo M. Eminger never had a chance to reach his 100th year birthday this year. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.

He was born on March 14, 1917 in New Mexico. His parents were both born in Missouri. His father was a railroad welder and later a farmer. Leo had two older brothers and three older sisters. He had a twin sister named Cleo. 

On December 31, 1940 Leo joined the Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet. He had completed four years at New Mexico State College and was working as an actor (if that is possible to work as an actor). He became a first lieutenant.

Lt. Eminger was a navigator on one of the B-17s that landed on Pearl Harbor at the same time as the December 7, 1941 Japanese surprise attack. One of the reasons the Japanese surprised the Americans was because those who raised the early warning were told by mistake that it was this flight of B-17s.

During the war he served in the 42nd Bombardment Squadron, 11th Bombardment Group. On September 24, 1942, Lt. Eminger's B-17, named Bessie the Jap Basher, was on a mission with three other bombers to attack surface ships at anchor in Shortland Harbor. His plane was badly damaged when attacked by around 20 Zero fighters. Bessie limped away for another 290 miles but ditched near Guadalcanal. The pilot and one other airman swam ashore but later died. The other men on the plane, including Lt. Eminger never made it. The plane's wreckage was found a couple of years later, but no bodies were found.

For more details see Pacific Wrecks.

Divers have found the remains of Lt. Eminger's B-17. This is the cockpit.

Thank you Leo for your sacrifice. Let's Earn It for Leo.

On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!

Follow on Twitter @ww2fallen100
Join public Facebook group WW2 Fallen 100

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