Local veteran shares experiences serving in WWII


Wayne Lesher is 95-year-old World War II veteran. 

“I was raised in East Lansing and then I went all over since then, but I always came back to Lansing area,” Lesher said. 

Wayne was a sophomore in college at Michigan State when he enlisted in the United States Army Air Force. 

“I signed up to be a pilot and anyway I ended up as a navigator. I had my choice pilot, bombardier or navigation and I ended up choosing navigation,” Lesher said. 

For three years he was a navigator on a B-17 bomber out of Italy. 

“There’s stories with everything you know, about even flying across the ocean,” Lesher said. 

Lesher says during that time, seven planes flew as a squadron. Each of those planes had ten men.

“The day we arrived a whole squadron had been shot down. All 70 men were gone and that was our introduction to war,” Lesher said. 

In total, he flew 35 mission. 

“I was wounded once, our pilot was wounded twice, and our tail gunner was killed,” Lesher said. 

Lesher received a purple heart after a knee injury he got from a piece of shrapnel. 

“A lot of things happened to me in combat, maybe a little more than the average person,” Lesher said. 

He calls them close calls. 

“One time there were 30 holes in the plane just around me and none of them hit me. Once, I had a table I worked on, a piece came through there and my maps went flying all over. I talked to a navigator once who said Geez and I flew in a plane that had a big hole right in my table and I said oh yeah I says I was there when it was put there,” Lesher recounted. 

He considers himself to be one of the fortunate. 

“Of course, a lot of the guys you know got killed or wounded or prisoner. I was…. yeah I don’t know what you call it I was pretty lucky,” Lesher said. 

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