The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

May 16, 2014

Conneaut World War II pilot ready for bomber flight

CONNEAUT — Nearly 70 years since his last mission, World War II bomber pilot Charles Marcy of Conneaut is preparing to return to the skies in familiar surroundings.

Weather permitting, the 93-year-old Marcy will board a B-17 bomber at a Youngstown-area airfield for a 45-minute flight. The bomber is attending an airshow and the trip was purchased by a family friend.

“It’s excting,” Marcy said earlier this week.

Dave Irish, a member of the Conneaut High School class of 1970, made the arrangements. Irish is a classmate of Marcy’s daughter, Shelley Warren. Knowing Marcy’s military background, Irish contacted Warren via social media with his offer.

“I saw an advertisement in the newspaper and the idea just popped into my head,” he said.

Irish is a former Navy flier now living in Cortland, a short distance from the airfield. He was happy to put Marcy back in a bomber.

“Chuck is greatly respected in Conneaut,” Irish said. “A lot of people know what he did (during the war).”

Lt. Charles Marcy is no stranger to the warplane, flying more than two dozen missions over Hitler’s Europe in a B-17 Flying Fortress.

His last mission came in April 1944. Marcy was at the controls of “Hey Mabel,” named after his mother.

“The crew named the plane,” he said. “I found out mom had been sending cookies to the enlisted men on the crew.”

“Hey Mabel” was flying in formation and headed to Europe when German fighter planes swooped in. Crew members were injured by 20mm shells, including Marcy, who lost two fingers on one hand and suffered other wounds. The crew safely bailed out, and Marcy wound up a captive.

“I woke up in a German hospital,” he said.

Over the next year, Marcy would be transferred to other POW camps in Germany. Close friendships were forged in the camps, and each man coped by sharing a special talent with his fellow POWs. Marcy, who attended embalming school, gave anatomy lessons.

“The bad part was you were a prisoner, but the guys you met were all types of people,” he said.

Marcy’s final camp was liberated in 1945. In total, he spent one year in captivity.

Marcy had no particular love of aviation when he signed up for the duty. Money, not aviation, was the motive.

“Pilots got a $500 a year bonus,” he said. “I had no interest at all in (flying).”

When training in the Midwest was done, crews flew their own planes to bases in England. En route, Marcy made a slight side trip — to Conneaut. Marcy buzzed his house with the bomber, much to the delight of his mother and the amazement of the rest of the town. He made a few passes before continuing his journey.

“It’s a big plane, 90 feet long and a 110-foot wingspan,” he said. “We had to go into Springfield, Pa., to complete our turn-around. The whole crew was leaning out the windows and waving. I kept my hands on the controls.”

Marcy, who earned a Silver Star and other medals, said he often thinks of those combat missions decades ago.

“In bed, when I’m half awake and half asleep, that’s when the memories come — some good, some not so good,” he said. “But I didn’t lose a single man.”

Marcy expects more memories when he steps into the bomber tonight, but he will fight the instinct to enter the cockpit. “I can be content to be a passenger,” he said, smiling.

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