WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The story of Boyd C. Fox, Jr. and his brave WWII service all started to come to light when his granddaughter asked him to speak to her class.
His own daughter, Lana Miller, had no idea what all her father had endured so she stood at the back of the classroom and learned so much.
She said that was in the mid-90s, and it was that day when she started to really find out what all her real-life hero had been through.
Fox was the only classmate to pass the exam for aviation cadet training.
At the beginning of 1943, he got orders to report for duty, and the young Army cadet was greeted by the old-timers, who offered a not so warm welcome.
“Look, civilians,” Miller said. “Or you are not going to like it here!”
Miller read excerpts from ‘Friendly and Enemy Skies’, a book Fox agreed to document his story in, after a B-17 pilot reached out and asked him to do so.
“Turns out they were on several missions together,” Miller said.
Miller said her father is a very humble man.
“He’s never been one to talk about the war until he started writing his story,’ Miller said.
Page after page of that special book helped her learn far more about her hero’s journey.
“April 15th, 1944, I received my wings,” Miller read.
Shortly after that, Fox was on his way to England, and then just nine days later, the B-17 co-pilot was on his first mission.
“It took six hours and 50 minutes of fly time, we encountered flak, exploding shells,” Miller read.
Fox documented they had to ensure the Bombardiers could hit their targets, and he also wrote about the second, third, and fourth missions.
He then mentioned how the fifth mission never got off the ground.
“Our engineer said the bombs fell through the bomb bay doors, they are still on the ground, we cut the engine, turned off the engines and everyone started running,” Miller read.
In the book, Fox mentioned that could have been a sign of their soon to be foiled luck in the air.
“I found his mission and his crew,” Miller said.
Still on what was considered their fifth mission, the crew of the ‘No Comment Needed” once again encountered flak.
“Their bombing raid was over Hamburg,” Miller said.
They completed the bomb drop, and thought they were in the clear, when the tail gunner noticed puffs of smoke.
That’s when Fox said he alerted the pilot.
“He immediately peeled out of formation, gave orders to the crew to prepare to bail out, we dived the plane to lose altiutde, and at the same time tried to blow the fire out and tried to get back over land,” Miller read.
Fox said the fire was near the gasoline tanks so their only choice was to bail.
“Instead of bailing out in the North Sea, which they knew would be a death sentence, they turned the plane around and flew back into Germany,” Miller said.
Fox said to be safe he went out of the hatch feet first.
“The wind rushing under the wings, swung my body parallel to the wing,” Miller read. “I was surprised I could hold on, as easily as I did, perhaps I was much more stronger than usual, because I was so frightened.”
Fox and the others were reported Missing in Action.
They were taken as prisoners of war.
Fox and the crew didn’t have coats or shoes.
“The Red Cross provided him with a toothbrush and paste, razor, overcoat and shoes, underclothes and one set of GI clothes, the shoes and overcoat were much appreciated, because he was only wearing the heated insulated socks, that the pilots wore,” Miller said.
Fox even saved a picture, that was taken inside the German prisoner camp, and all the documentation on the form is written in German.
In the photo on the prisoner of war form, Fox is wearing the coat the Red Cross gave him before they took him on a long trek.
“Then they were moved to Wetzlar,” Miller said.
Buried in her Father’s papers were details about his journey for the five months he was held captive.
He said they really got on the move, as allied forces moved in.
“They force-marched then through winter blizzards, from Spragen to Sprimberg, approximately 47 miles,” Miller said
It took them one week to make that trip.
“They would take off their wet socks, lay them across their stomachs, inside their shirts, hoping it would dry the socks enough to put them on later,” Miller said
She said they moved the prisoners in 40 and eight box cars.
“The box car would hold 40 men or eight horses,” Miller said.
She said her father’s time in captivity finally ended in Moosburg.
“They were then held in a prison camp, until General George Patton, liberated the camp, April 29th, 1945,” Fox said.
The aviator was brought home on a Liberty Ship.
“Exactly 51 years ago tonight, I was a POW, Miller read.
While he was being held prisoner, Fox’s fourth grade teacher wrote him a letter, but it never made it.
Her family found it decades later, so they sent it to Fox.
“We were all just absolutely amazed, that this letter, that he sees it for the very first time 51 years later,” Miller said.
Fox wrote his beloved teacher a letter back, and all about that same time he was documenting his life for the book.
It was written by a pilot, who was part of the same bomb group he belonged to, and was on that fateful mission, where’s Fox’s plane went down.
“Dad’s story starts here,” Miller said.
Miller even has the claim for benefits filed by her father for his time of imprisonment.
“A whole $175,” Miller said.
She says her Father always put aside the time he spent in war and says one of her few memories of him ever talking about being in a prisoner of war camp, was when he mentioned he would never go hungry again.
Fox enjoyed 70 years of marriage to the love of his life Margaret before she passed.
His beloved wife got the honor of finally pinning on the medals, her husband earned decades before.
“It’s just been thrilling to see him get the recognition for the things he has done for the country,” Miller said.
She said the once young aviator, went on to farm and run cattle, until he retired not too long ago.
He still lives in Plains where he recently celebrated his 98th birthday.
“Makes me very emotional, and thankful he did come home,” Miller said.
Miller said the process to get Fox his medals really started rolling after she wrote a letter to Senator Jerry Moran.
She said the principal at Plains Elementary at the time, Kyle Griffiths, was a history buff, and helped coordinate a big assembly for the presentation.
She said many veterans came and her father loved having all the school children there.
Miller said she thinks her Dad finds it important that the younger generations understand what they endured.