Dorothy and Leo’s Story

Dorothy and Leo’s Story

stardust

“Stardust” last flight before being modified for daylight bombing, August 1944

Dorothy and Leo’s story begins around 1944. Leo was an Airplane Engine Mechanic serving in the 15th Air Force, 353rd Bombing Group, in North Africa. The 15th Air Force operated out of the Mediterranean, while the 8th Air Force was based in England. In August 1944, his B-17 “Stardust” was returned to the US to undergo modifications for daylight bombing.

Dorothy worked at the Continental-Denver Modification Center. The Center was one of several sites around the US to which the Army Air Corps sent its planes to receive post-production modifications for specialized combat roles. Dorothy and her crew received “Stardust” to modify it to conduct precision daylight bombing.

tradition

Dorothy (second from right) and her crew at the Denver Modification Center

The ladies had a tradition. When they finished working on a bomber, each woman wrote her name and address… and even sometimes her bra size… in pencil on panels inside the airplane. The men who received the bombers then played a little game to find the names hidden inside the plane. Dorothy wrote her name and address on “Stardust.”

a strange coincidence

“Stardust” was returned to Leo’s squadron in 1944 and he found Dorothy’s name and address inside the plane. He was surprised to see that she lived only a few blocks away from his mother in Englewood, Colorado. In his first letter, he asked Dorothy to drop in and say hello to his mother, as she was all alone with no husband and all of his siblings were fighting the war.

romance by correspondence

Dorothy replied to his letter and did, in fact, meet Leo’s mother. Thus began an epic correspondence that has unfortunately been lost to the ages. Only one letter remains, dated June 14 [1944], Foggia, Italy.

June 14 [1944] Foggia, Italy

My Dearest Dorothy

Well honey, I’m sorry I didn’t write last night, or the night before, but I’ve been so busy that I just didn’t find the time to write sooner. I received on letter from you last night dated the 3rd. I didn’t get any mail the night before, or tonight.

Well, we finally got the last plane finished tonight. Now, all we have to do is wait for them to leave. I’m so darn tired of working on the hot [illegible] that I don’t think I ever want to see another one.

They had a meeting here yesterday and told everyone to get things cleaned up here and prepare to leave by the 25th. I think they expect to pull out of here by then. We had to pull down all our wooden [illegible] and any wood we had in our tents, like floors and doors and it had to be done by Saturday. I think morale went up 100% hearing that. I think I’ll be home by the 15th of July. Maybe, I sure hope so.

Hey, I sure wish you were here last night. I worked on the line until pretty late and coming in the moon was out and all the stars. I so wish you had been with me it’s a nice walk from the line to the area at night when the dust isn’t blowing. I sure miss you darling. I guess I’m still in love, huh? Oh well, it won’t be too long before I can see you again and I think I’ll be out of the Army too.

My former CO, a major, came back from the States today and when I was talking to him, he asked me if I ever met the girl who wrote her name on the airplane. You see, he was the pilot assigned to the ship. I told him about you and showed him your picture. He said you were swell and said I’d like to put a story about it in the paper back home (I talked him out of that). Well, I think I’d better close now. I’ll write tomorrow night and I hope to hear from you Darling.

Lots of love as always. Leo XXX

wedding and end of war

Dorothy and Leo on their honeymoon, Estes Park, CO August 1945

Dorothy and Leo married on August 11, 1945. Just a few days later, the Japanese surrendered, thus ending World War II. Leo processed out of the Army in 1945, but went back in 1947 to serve during the Berlin Airlift. They lived in Englewood, Colorado for most of their lives.They had five children, 12 grandchildren, and numerous great-grandchildren.

Leo passed in 1986 and Dorothy followed in 1995.