Sergeant Thomas M. Levenduski
8th Army Air Force, WWII – Europe, B17 Tail Gunner, Air Medal
Honoring – Sergeant Thomas M. Levenduski – MZHS “Hero of Air Power”
Sgt Thomas M. Levenduski, son of Paul and Gertrude Buskirk Levenduski of Weedville, was born in Baumertown in 1925 and got his diploma from Jay Township High School. During his senior year, Tom caught the aviation bug and enlisted in the Army Air Forces. Soon, Tom was off to AAF basic training at Keesler Field, Biloxi, Mississippi looking forward to the aviation experience whatever it may be. He wanted to fly and the AAF accommodated his desire by sending him to aerial gunnery school in Las Vegas. During crew training at Alexandria Army Air Base in Louisiana, Tom was designated the tail gunner on the B17 crew piloted by Lt Ernest Warren. His brother Paul also enlisted in the AAF in June, 1944, and was to be a B24 ball turret gunner. But fortunately for Paul, the war was over before he left the States.
For Tom, he was trained to be a B17 aerial tail gunner. Some considered the tail gunner as perhaps the most important gunner on the B-17. He protected the rear quarter of the plane. Tail gunners also had a rough and somewhat lonely existence while in the B17. Their compartment in the rear of the plane was one of the tightest next possibly only to the ball turret gunner position. The gunner sat on a modified bicycle type seat in a kneeling position for the majority of the 6-9 hour mission. The tail was drafty and the gunner had to constantly battle with fighting off frostbite and clearing the windows of frost.
Tom’s crew was assigned to the 708th Squadron (447th Bomb Group, 8th AAF) at Rattlesden Airfield near Bury St Edmunds, England in February, 1945. During March and April, the 447th continued its bombing missions against targets in Germany until the war ended. When asked about his toughest mission, Tom stated they were all tough. But he especially remembers the flak from the German anti-aircraft guns over Berlin and one other instance where the flak hit the tail section right next to him. Luckily it didn’t explode; otherwise Tom may have flown from the tail himself to a devastating landing on German soil. During these 2 months, the 708th squadron didn’t lose a plane- a remarkable achievement. Tom noted with admiration how good his air crew (especially the pilot, co-pilot, and navigator), and ground crew “we couldn’t fly without them” were. Lt Warren wanted to make sure each crew member knew how to handle flying the B17. Tom had a chance to be at the controls of the B17 -what an experience that would be!
After 17 missions (five of those being buddy missions with other crews), the war came to an end, and thankfully so did Tom’s combat missions. Tom fondly remembers flying on such B17s named “Fuddy Duddy”, “Milk Wagon”, “Miss Spent Youth” (see its nose art above) and “Bloated Body” to name a few. After V – E Day, Tom remained in England for a couple months, returning to the States in a B17 in July. There would be another 10 months of non-flying duty before he was honorably discharged in May, 1946. However, Tom didn’t qualify for the “Lucky Bastards Club” because it required 30 missions to be completed.
When Tom returned to Baumertown he found time to further scratch his flying itch and obtained his private pilot license in the cherished Piper Cub. Tom married Anna May Amoriello of nearby Hollywood in August, 1950. He settled down to the typical American life style of those days with his wife Anna, began his work career where he retired from the Airco Speer Company in St Marys, and raised 2 sons with subsequently grand and great grandchildren. Tom’s hobbies and interests have included his family, sports, hunting, and photography. And Tom now enjoys working as a security guard.
For his meritorious service, Sgt Tom Levenduski was awarded among other campaign ribbons and medals, the Air Medal with 2 oak leaf clusters, the Victory in Europe medal, and the WW2 Victory medals. It is with pleasure that the Mt Zion Historical Society honors Sgt Tom Levenduski as one of its “Heroes of Air Power”. For Tom, he was just doing what was expected; for us he is a hero doing extraordinary deeds.
Lest We Forget…