Leonard Wood (previously reported as Wesley) Opie was a member of the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force in WWII. He came from a farming family in Trivoli, Peoria County, Illinois.
Leonard’s father was Chester Arthur Opie (1893 – 1981) and his mother was Annie or Anna M. Opie (born 1898). Both Chester and Annie were born in Illinois. Annie’s parents were both born in Germany, and they immigrated to America before her birth. Chester’s father, Charles “Fremont” Opie, was born in Indiana, and his mother, Anna, was born in Illionis.
Leonard was born on September 14, 1921 in Peoria County, Illinois.
In 1930, the Opie family lived in Trivoli, Peoria County, Illinois. Chester’s parents lived next to Chester, Annie, and their family, which consisted of son Leonard (eight years old at the time of the census) and daughter Miriam (five years old). Chester was a farm laborer.
In 1940, the family still lived in Trivoli. Chester, wife Annie, son Leonard (18), oldest daughter Miriam (15), youngest daughter Barbara Jean (9), and Chester’s mother Anna all lived together. Chester’s father had died in 1939. Chester was still farming, and Leonard, at eighteen years old, worked on the farm.
On October 17, 1942, Leonard enlisted in the Army Air Forces. After training, he found himself designated as one of the two flexible (waist) gunners on the James Joseph Brodie crew. Leonard was assigned to the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated July 26, 1944.
Once arriving at the 384th’s base in Grafton Underwood in England, Leonard discovered that missions were conducted with only one waist gunner on each crew. The other waist gunner of the Brodie crew was Harry Allen Liniger. On the crew’s first three missions together on August 7, 1944, Liniger was selected to be the the waist gunner on the crew. Leonard did not fly his first mission until August 11 and was finally able to fly with the Brodie crew while Liniger sat out. Leonard also flew the next two missions with the Brodie crew, leaving Liniger back at the base.
By the Brodie crew’s next mission, though, Liniger was back on the crew as waist gunner, leaving Leonard off the crew. Leonard only flew those three missions with the Brodie crew, the last one being on August 24, 1944. His record with the 384th ends there. He is not recorded as flying with another 384th crew. He may have been transferred to a ground crew with the 384th or he may have been transferred to another bomb group.
Leonard did return home after the end of the war, though. On May 13, 1946, he married Hattie Ellen T. Todd (1923 – 2010) in Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas. Twenty-eight years later, on May 20, 1974, he died in Longview (Gregg County), Texas.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015