Johnson City, TN (WJHL) — By some estimates, less than five percent of the Americans who served in the military in World War II are still alive in 2017.
One of them is Charles McCoy of Johnson City.
At 93, he’s still in great health. He golfs, and he enjoys time with his friends and family.
And if you’re lucky, you can get Charlie to talk about himself, specifically about his service in World War II.
“I was 19 when I joined,” McCoy said.
Barely out of high school, Charlie McCoy found himself on a B-29 bomber on his way from Johnson City to the other side of the world. By that point, the end of war was in sight, and McCoy was anxious to be part of the action.
“That was 1945, and we were a replacement crew.”
Was he scareed, I asked?
“No, we weren’t scared,” he said, laughing. “Until we found out they were shooting back at us.”
Based in Saipan, Charlie McCoy and his crew flew 13 bombing missions over Japan.
On the night of July 7, 1945 in the skies over Japan, the bomb trap doors on the B-29 didn’t work. Aborting the mission wasn’t an option. So McCoy and another airman grabbed a screwdriver and flashlight.
“While he held a flashlight, I took the screwdriver and tripped the lever in the bomb shackle which released the bomb,” McCoy said . “And we had to do this 20 times. ”
That act earned him a Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for Heroism award. Lost in the paperwork after the war – McCoy finally got his medal in 2009 after someone realized the oversight.
Like many veterans of World War II, McCoy seems more anxious to talk about the lighthearted moments, the times that made him laugh.
“Another officer and myself – we bought a monkey on Saipain with a bottle of liquor,” McCoy said, chuckling at the thought of it. “Of course when I left Saipan, I had to leave the monkey over there. I couldn’t bring him back.”
He’s honest about the fact that his mission in the final days of the war was to destroy, to be part of a boot-on-the-throat moment that proved once and for all who had won the War. But that destruction, he believes, helped lead to the Japanese surrender that ended World War II.
“Our generation, when we came along, we had a job to do and we did it,” McCoy said.”
Do you know a living veteran of World War II who can share his or her story of service? Send their name, background information, and contact information to email@example.com or call 423-434-4502.
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