LUTZ, Fla. (WFLA) – Charley Barr, a 95-year-old veteran from Lutz, remembers the horrible cost of World War II.
Lt. Barr of the 8th Army Air Force flew on bombing raids over Germany. He was a navigator on a B-24 Liberator, a long-range bomber.
“I got 24 missions,” Charley remembered. “We had an Air Medal for every four missions.”
Charley Barr still has navigator charts and maps he used to guide his aircraft to targets like railyards and enemy airfields.
The B-24 flew at only 28,000 feet, making it vulnerable to German anti-aircraft fire.
“We did lose a couple of planes in our squadron,” Charley recalled. “They were good friends, never saw them again. Just accepted it, it’s war, we’re gonna lose some friends.”
Bomber crews suffered about a 46% death rate. Roughly 75,000 members of the Army Air Force were killed, wounded or taken prisoner during World War II.
Enemy fire, he said, hit his plane.
His most terrifying moment was returning from one mission, unable to lower the landing gear.
“We flew around the base there, I don’t know for how long and could see the ambulances and the medics that lined up all down there,” Charley explained.
The survivability rate on aircraft coming in without landing gear was not good. As the plane went in, the landing gear came down.
On a trip to London, V-2 rockets hit the city. Too close for comfort, he recalls.
As the war wound down, he spotted a German jet fighter buzz the formation of bombers in which he flew. It swooped in and was gone.
Charley was in his barracks at his base in England when Germany surrendered. He still holds the May 8, 1945 edition of Stars and Stripes with a headline in bold print announcing: “GERMANY QUITS.”
“Everybody went crazy. I think maybe we had a bottle of some kind of booze, there was like a toast to those who did not make it back,” he added.
This hero is more than modest about his role in the war and as a member of America’s greatest generation.
Charley Barr admits he was very lucky and very fortunate.
Even though the war, he says, is now a haze, one sight still stirs emotion.
“After the war, my wife and I took a trip over to Europe and went to Normandy and saw all the tombstones,” Charley explained, his voice now quivering. “I cried, it’s awful.”
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