WWII pilot returns to skies

Nearly 70 years since his last mission, World War II bomber pilot Charles Marcy of Conneaut got a chance to return to the skies in familiar surroundings.

The 93-year-old Marcy boarded a B-17 bomber on Friday during the Thunder Over the Valley air show early event for a 45-minute flight. The bomber, on loan from the Yankee Air Museum in Michigan, attended the airshow and the trip was purchased by a family friend.

“It’s exciting,” Marcy said last week as he anticipated the ride.

Dave Irish of Cortland, a member of the Conneaut High School class of 1970, made the arrangements. Irish is a classmate of Marcy’s daughter, Shelley Warren. Knowing Marcy’s military background, Irish contacted Warren via social media with his offer.

“I saw an advertisement in the newspaper and the idea just popped into my head,” he said.

Irish is a former Navy flier.

“Chuck is greatly respected in Conneaut,” Irish said. “A lot of people know what he did (during the war).”

Lt. Charles Marcy is no stranger to the warplane, flying more than two dozen missions over Hitler’s Europe in a B-17 Flying Fortress.

His last mission came in April 1944. Marcy was at the controls of “Hey Mabel,” named after his mother.

“The crew named the plane,” he said. “I found out mom had been sending cookies to the enlisted men on the crew.”

“Hey Mabel” was flying in formation and headed to Europe when German fighter planes swooped in. Crew members were injured by 20mm shells, including Marcy, who lost two fingers on one hand and suffered other wounds. The crew safely bailed out, and Marcy wound up a captive.

“I woke up in a German hospital,” he said.

Over the next year, Marcy would be transferred to other POW camps in Germany. Close friendships were forged in the camps, and each man coped by sharing a special talent with his fellow POWs. Marcy, who attended embalming school, gave anatomy lessons.

“The bad part was you were a prisoner, but the guys you met were all types of people,” he said.

Marcy’s final camp was liberated in 1945. In total, he spent one year in captivity.

When Marcy arrived at the air show on Friday, the veteran was greeted by representatives of the Yankee Air Museum, Irish said.

“I don’t think a single person involved with the flight did not come up to Mr. Marcy and thank him for his service,” Irish said Sunday evening. “Everyone there knew what he had done (as a soldier) and they understood exactly who he was.”

Irish said that Marcy exhibited some of the same attitude that helped him survive during as a POW.

“We had to work ourselves forward during the flight because we were seated near the back,” Irish said. “But Mr. Marcy never complained about anything. At one point, I leaned over to him and said, ‘I know you want to see the cockpit,’ and he didn’t just say, ‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘Hell, yeah.'”

Irish said that Marcy was unable to make it into the cockpit he once manned during the flight itself, but that he was able to take a peek once the plane landed at the air base.

But even just to take flight one more time was a powerful experience for Marcy, who Irish said was obviously overcome by emotion.

“I could see (during the flight) that the experience was taking him back (to his days as a pilot) and I swear I saw a tear coming down his cheek,” Irish said. “And I’ll have to admit, I turned away from him and I had a few tears myself as a fellow pilot.”