Colonel (Ret.) John Udy was born March 20, 1921, in Plymouth, Utah. At 21 years old, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Udy enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, serving as a B-17 bomber pilot during World War II. He flew 35 missions over Germany while on active duty. Udy and his crew embarked on an unforgettable mission on Christmas Eve 1944. The target was a factory over Koblenz, Germany. Udy’s aircraft was hit by flak during the mission, which damaged the No. 1 engine of the B-17.
“The engine oil was leaking over the top of the wing,” Udy recalled. “With all the oil gone from the engine, it seized up and broke the crankshaft gear. The prop kept spinning and sparks were coming out of the damaged engine. I had the crew prepared to bail out.” Udy kept the B-17 high in the air to ensure the aircraft made it safely across the English Channel. “Back in England, the fog was so thick we weren’t able to land at our base in Deenethorpe, so we ended up landing at an airfield used by the Canadians,” he said.
Udy served a long, distinguished career, retiring from the Air Force Reserve in 1981.