Loy L. Julius
397th Bomb Group, 596th Bomb Squadron
| A product of a humble beginning, Loy Julius
was born on a farm near Cherokee, Iowa on July 2, 1920. He was the third
of seven children born to German and Scottish immigrant parents. His
primary education, first through eighth grade took place in a one room
school house, with one teacher and eight students. Loy completed eight
grades at the little country school. It looked as if his formal education
was over as there was no high school close enough for him to attend and no
transportation. That next year, although the Great Depression was
essentially over, the family had been hit hard and lost their farm. They
moved to Cherokee in search of work and some way to support themselves.
Loy was 14. Franklin D. Roosevelt had just taken office and he was tasked
with rebuilding the economy. One of his first social programs was the WPA.
Jobs went to families who were hit hardest by the depression. Loy’s
father, John, had a 4th grade education, but he was determined to take
care of his family; he went to work for the WPA building roads. This move
opened the door for Loy to attend high school; it also opened his eyes to
the world. He soon learned of the connection between education and money.
Loy set simple goals that defined his entire future: He wanted to earn a
letter sweater from the University of Iowa and he wanted enough money to
buy a car. He worked hard in high school, excelled on the wrestling team
and built the foundation for a shot at the University of Iowa. During his
senior year, his wrestling coach wrote a letter of introduction to the
wrestling coach at the University. A local banker took an interest in his
future and offered a small loan to help with tuition. Loy had never been
to Iowa City, but with an old suitcase of his belongings, Loy left his
family behind and hitch-hiked 270 miles to Iowa City, and the beginning of
the rest of his life. Loy worked two jobs to pay for room, board and his
“banker” loan, made the wrestling team and by his third year he was a Big
Ten Champion, Captain of the wrestling team, he was ranked fourth in the
nation, was an All American and had three Iowa Letter Sweaters. The car
would have to wait.
After the infamous 7th of December 1941 Loy’s priorities shifted, first he had to finish his degree, and second he made a vow to join the Army Air Corps to defend his country. In December of 1942 he received his induction letter, packed up his old suitcase and headed off to the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center. This time he traveled by train.
After sixteen months of basic and flight training and just a few “Texas corn field landings” Cadet Julius was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps and received his Silver Wings. He then sent his final money order paying off the school loan from the banker who believed in him. It was August, 1943. Although his goal and his training was to fly fighters, Lt. Julius was needed to fly the B-26 Marauder. The Marauder was a twin engine and had a reputation for being difficult to fly. The B-26 was lovingly referred to as The Widow Maker or The Flying Coffin, at its best, A One Way Ticket. Once again, the old suitcase was packed, Lt. Julius headed to Florida and Louisiana for six months of pre-combat and B-26 training. It was then and there that his crew was selected and he was assigned to the European Theater and the 397th Bomb Group. It was February, 1944.
With approximately 600 hours of total flight training, Lt. Julius and his crew picked up their new B-26 Marauder from Hunter Field, Savannah, Georgia; with a wing, a prayer and hopefully good tailwinds the five new fly-boys deployed for England and the 397th Bomb Group. Due to the distance limitations of the Marauder, even with the extra bombay fuel tanks, in order to cross the Atlantic they ferried all Marauders via the Southern Route: The first stop was Homestead, FL for a final check before leaving the mainland; then on to Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Brazil for two fuel stops; then comes the big one, Wideawake Field on Ascension Island, an isolated volcanic island in the middle of the Southern Atlantic, with a short runway a hot meal, and a cot if you make it; Lt. Julius and his crew were spot-on; next stop was Accra and Roberts Field in Southern Africa, then west to Dakar; next they negotiated the Marauder through the Taza Gap of the Atlas Mountain Range in North Africa, flew over the Sahara, landing in Marrakech, French Morocco. After three days in Marrakech, waiting for favorable tailwinds and the weather to clear, Lt. Julius got a call at 3:00 A.M. to get up, get out and get off. At 9000 feet and 200 mph the crew of five headed north over the ocean for nine hours, being careful not to impose upon the neutral airspace of Spain and Portugal. Their next stop was to be St. Maugan, Newquay, Cornwall, England. Heavy cloud cover had demanded Lt. Julius fly instruments for the 1800 mile leg over the ocean, and as they approached the coast of England, it wasn’t getting any better; mid-morning the crew radio operator gave Lt. Julius the heading for St. Maugan. Twenty minutes from the field Lt. Julius turned on the radio compass and received a new heading, sending his Marauder off course and up the coast of England over the Bristol Bay. The investigation would later show that the radio compass had been faulty and had they stayed on their original heading they would have landed at St. Maugan. Nevertheless, they were unknowingly on their way to Wales. Cloud cover prevented them from any visual identification of land; fuel was low. Lt. Julius then switched on his IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe signal) and per protocol made three 360 degree circle maneuvers. The procedure was meant to alert the English Air Force to a lost plane. Once the Brits received the distress signal they were to respond by sending a fighter plane to escort the B-26 home safely. None showed. The crew was off course and lost. The weather was worsening and fuel was dangerously low. Lt. Julius was left with no alternative but to seek a place to land. Circling back to the coast he found a narrow stretch of sand, that he had spotted earlier; Lt. Julius alerted the rest of the crew that they would be landing soon and to brace for impact. Unable to judge the sturdiness of the sand he concluded that he could not put the wheels down and risk flipping the aircraft. With the help of his co-pilot, he shut down his engines, feathered the props, and glided his way into a wheels-up, belly landing on a narrow beach somewhere. The crew of five climbed out of the no longer air-worthy B-26. Loy still considers it the best landing he ever made. The cross-Atlantic trip had taken about two weeks; they traveled over 10,000 miles on their journey to join the war effort.
Soon after landing on the beach, a crowd of
locals welcomed him to Wales. At least they were no longer lost. Lt.
Julius phoned his contact number in St. Maugan, and was ordered to stay
put, “enjoy a cup of tea,” and wait for the arrival of the investigative
crew, a US Captain and a British Air Marshall. When Lt. Julius inquired
about the unanswered IFF, they stated that due to the weather, they
decided it was better to lose one plane than lose two, but they were
thankful that the crew survived; they needed them. Thus began Lt. Julius’
tour in Europe. It was March, 1944, and Lt. Julius was just 18 months past
his College Graduation.
For the next 14 months, Lt. Julius flew 65 combat missions, moved his base of operations several times within England, and after D-Day, to two temporary fields in France. The 397th Bomb group was known as The Bridge Busters of the 9th Air Force. Their mission was to destroy the German Army’s transportation routes, means and methods. The average mission was three and a half hours and targets were in either France or Germany. It’s difficult to express all that flashes through the mind of a “fly-boy” before a combat mission; you suspect that mortality and honor are there, but The Mission was number one. The Planes and crews were assigned per mission, always changing; on occasion, it was the Missouri Mule.
Although D-Day was his most historically famous mission, Lt. Julius has a more memorable mission: On December 23, 1944, the now 24 year old, flew his 57th combat mission; it was during the Battle of the Bulge; the pre-dawn briefing labeled it a milk run; they were to sever a railway bridge at Eller, Germany, a vital link in the enemy's supply line across the Moselle River. Lt. Julius was flying one of the three window aircraft in a loose formation, slightly ahead of and below the main bomber formation. They were responsible for tossing bundles of chaff from the back of the plane (strips of metal intended to jam German radar and prevent detection of the bomb group). In a matter of moments the routine mission turned horribly wrong. The squad was ambushed by FW190s, German fighter planes. The lead window ship and the right wing were hit and went down. Lt. Julius’ aircraft was hit by flak and German fighters were on his tail. The top turret gunner on his crew knocked down one fighter and hit another probable; all three gunners were wounded; Lt. Julius’ was the sole window ship left, out of the sight of the U.S. P-51 fighters meant to protect him. He strained the guts of his bomber, searching for the main formation. He finally found what was left of the group and with throttles full forward he limped home, no hydraulic fluid, three wounded crew, a huge gap in his fuselage and no landing gear. Once again, Lt. Julius was left with no alternative but to perform a crash landing. That day ten Marauders and their crews were lost, but the mission was a success, the bridge was destroyed, and all in Lt. Julius’ crew survived. The 397th Bomb Group was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for severing the vital supply line at Eller.
On June 6th 1944, D-Day, Lt. Julius flew two missions. A typical briefing did not usually warrant the presence of a General, but on this day General Anderson briefed the Group. There was rain and fog at 3:00 A.M., however postponing the mission was not an option. The Navy ships had already left the coast of England and were headed across the channel to Normandy. The Bomber formations had to be tight, 18 planes to a box, 216 aircraft in skillful formation on a dark and rainy morning. Their target was to take out the German artilleries and munitions that were dug in on the French coast, and to prepare the site for the Allied landings at Normandy; flying low and perpendicular to the beach they did significant damage to the enemy force. The Marauder group is said to have leveled everything on the coast of France. Although there is no official record of how many lives were lost, we know that there are twenty-seven war cemeteries that hold the remains of over 110,000 dead from both sides. Loy Julius was just short of 24 years old.
While on an R&R at Bournemouth, England he met his future wife, Anne, who was there on holiday. She said he was a good dancer and stole her heart. After his 65th mission he and Anne were married in London; Lt. Julius received orders to return to the U.S. via troop carrier, and his bride followed a few weeks later. Loy had traveled thousands of miles, survived 65 combat missions, made history and experienced history being made in just two short years. That simple goal of an Iowa Letter sweater set his life in motion and in a direction that his family could not fathom. He finally bought that car, a 1940 Ford sedan. He named it Shasta, shasta have oil and shasta have gas, and did Shasta ever need new tires!! All the U.S. manufactured rubber was going to the war effort, so tires for automobiles were sparse, at best.
After a short rest and recuperation on Miami Beach with Anne, a newly civilian Loy went back to the University of Iowa on the G.I. Bill and was accepted into The College of Dentistry. After four years he graduated with his D.D.S. and headed to Brooke General Hospital at Fort Sam Houston, Texas for a Dental Internship. And so his peacetime career began. Captain Julius was 30 years old.
During his thirty plus year career in the U.S. Air Force (USAF), Colonel Julius was assigned to Randolph Air Force Base, the U.S Air Force Academy, Osan Air Base in Korea, Francis E. Warren Air Base, Luke Air Force Base, and Travis Air Force Base. He fathered five children, and from what Anne says, is still a good dancer. In 1974 when Colonel Julius was tasked with the management of the Air Force dental clinics in the Pacific, out of Clark Air Base in the Philippines, he decided it was time to pack up that old suitcase for the last time and retire from the USAF.
Among his many decorations and awards are The
Distinguished Flying Cross, The Air Medal with Twelve Oak Leaf Clusters,
The Meritorious Service Medal, The Air Force Commendation Medal, The
Distinguished Unit Citation and The Legion of Merit.
Loy and Anne left Omaha and headed to sunny California where he spent the next 27 years perfecting his golf game and, with Anne’s help, tending to his large garden and orchard. It was always a labor of love, canning and freezing the valuable crop; it was a trip back to his roots in Iowa. And when the family gathered for birthdays, Loy and Anne served up the best of home-grown produce, along with fiercely competitive game nights.
Loy is finally retired, retired and currently lives with Anne in Anthem, AZ, near his son and two of his daughters. His life’s narrative has produced 5 children, 6 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren, so far. He stays 94 years young by walking, swimming, biking and dreaming of that seventh hole-in-one.
We all thank him for his gift of service to our Country.