On Sunday, December 7, 1941, John Bozek, then a high school senior in Detroit, heard the famous radio announcement of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The next day he and some buddies headed straight for the federal building in downtown Detroit, intent on enlisting in the military. Stay in school, boys, a recruiter advised them. Their day would come.
Immediately after high school graduation, John joined the Army Air Corps and trained as a flight navigator attached to the 450th Bomber Group, 723rd bomb squad, stationed on the Adriatic coast of Italy.
He experienced no fear of being shot down until his third mission, when he looked down at the targeted bridge in Yugoslavia and saw the flames belching from the barrel of a German anti-aircraft gun. “It seemed to be pointed right at me,” he recalls. “All of a sudden, I became a convert to the idea that, yeah—I could be killed here.”
That was in late 1944. He would go on to complete a total of 50 bombing missions, navigating B-24s to and from military and industrial targets in northern Italy, Germany, Austria and Eastern Europe.