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Leo Makelky

Staff Sergeant (Sep.) Leo Makelky was working for Douglas Aircraft in California when he heard about the attacks on Pearl Harbor and instantly knew what he had to do. With the hope it would finally be his chance to get up in an airplane, the World War II veteran enlisted in 1943, one of the most difficult times for aircrews in the war. Although the missions were almost put to a stop because so many had been lost, the threat did not deter Makelky from following his dream to fly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Aaron D. Allmon)

Staff Sergeant (Sep.) Leo Makelky was working for Douglas Aircraft in California when he heard about the attacks on Pearl Harbor and instantly knew what he had to do. With the hope it would finally be his chance to get up in an airplane, the World War II veteran enlisted in 1943, one of the most difficult times for aircrews in the war. Although the missions were almost put to a stop because so many had been lost, the threat did not deter Makelky from following his dream to fly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Aaron D. Allmon)

Staff Sergeant (Sep.) Leo Makelky was working for Douglas Aircraft in California when he heard about the attacks on Pearl Harbor and instantly knew what he had to do. With the hope it would finally be his chance to get up in an airplane, the World War II veteran enlisted in 1943, one of the most difficult times for aircrews in the war. Although the missions were almost put to a stop because so many had been lost, the threat did not deter Makelky from following his dream to fly. After requesting to be an aerial gunner, Makelky was put on a fast track, landing a seat at the bottom ball turret of the B-17 Flying Fortress. Despite the constant threats and high number of lost missions, Makelky and his crew represented the “Mighty Eighth” during the crucial years of the war. "Every time we came back, we just told ourselves one last time," said Makelky. "We just kept saying that until we were finally finished." While each aircrew was required to do a total of 25 missions, usually not making it beyond 11, Makelky's crew continued on missions until finally, after their 35th successful mission, they were sent back to safety in the United States. He was honorably discharged shortly after in 1945. He currently resides in Minot, North Dakota.