Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Navy Veteran Lee Laz, who served as a bomber pilot in the Pacific Theater and received a Navy Cross during World War II.
Lee Laz was born in Chicago in 1923. While attending North Central College, Laz began the Civilian Pilot Training Program and learned to fly. When he entered the Navy in 1942, Laz had over 100 flying hours. He served aboard USS Wasp, piloting the Curtis Helldiver SB2C dive bomber.
In 1944, Laz began serving in the Pacific theater. He flew in many of the major battles in the Pacific. Some of these include the Marianas campaign, the invasion of Saipan, and the liberation of the southern Philippines. Laz also flew in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. He landed a direct hit on the Japanese destroyer, the Yamato, and received a Navy Cross from Adm. John McCain for his actions.
Overall, Laz flew 65 missions. He traveled as far south as the equator and as far north as Okinawa. His most frightening mission was at Manila Bay when his plane was under attack and the wing started burning.
In addition to a Navy Cross, Laz also earned a Distinguished Flying Cross, two Air Medals, a Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon, a Philippine Presidential Citation, a Philippine Liberation Medal and a WWII Victory Medal.
After the war, Laz went back to Illinois and completed his degree in Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Illinois. He continued to fly private planes. He also raised his own family.
Laz passed away in 2014.
We honor his service.
More of his story can be found at http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/story/loc.natlib.afc2001001.29212/
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Graphic artist: Jessica Hunsinger