Almost 80 years ago, Dallas resident John “Lucky” Luckadoo flew 25 missions as a B-17 bomber pilot in the U.S. Eighth Air Force during World War II, serving against heavy odds but with a determination to defeat Nazi Germany. Today, the veteran pilot of the legendary “Bloody Hundredth” 100th Bombardment Group has one more mission: He aims to establish a national “Home Front Heroes Day” to honor Americans who have supported the military in years past and present. A resident of Presbyterian Village North, a premier senior living community in Dallas, Luckadoo recently hosted a Home Front Heroes celebration on May 9, which he hopes will inspire others to join his cause and host similar events in their communities.
“There are numerous holidays, special days and events honoring veterans, but there are none acknowledging the people on the home front who do their duty, too, and I hope to change that. During my time in the service, the people back home made tremendous sacrifices which boosted our morale,” said Luckadoo. “While we were in England, we faced terrible odds and lost airmen almost every time we flew, and it wore on us. Every B-17 that went down took 10 men with it who were captured, killed or declared missing in action. In October 1943, we flew a mission over Bremen, Germany, and lost seven planes and 72 airmen. A mission over Berlin lost 15 planes. We needed the support of the people back home to help us fly the next mission. Our military today needs this same level of support, too.”
The Home Front Heroes event created for the residents of Presbyterian North Village included the presentation of colors by the Franklin Middle School ROTC Honor Guard, after which Dallas City Council member Adam McGough presented a proclamation from the mayor and Dallas City Council. The Presbyterian Village North Singers performed “God Bless America.” Several residents, including Luckadoo, talked about home front experiences, including Dorothy Bolden’s account of her and 10 young classmates saving a soldier’s sugar beet crop when he was away at war; Joyce Forney’s recollections of working on the family farm while also serving as a nurse’s aide at a local hospital; and Esther Moffitt’s remembrances of graduating from high school and working at a military research facility.
World War II home front memorabilia was displayed, including the following: 48-star flag, son in service flags, victory bond magazine cover, magazine with victory garden article, ration stamps, aircraft factory service certificates, vintage radio, war bond folio, air warden armband and more.
Service on the home front during World War II meant participating in a number of volunteer efforts such as neighborhood “scrap drives” to collect brass and copper to make artillery shells, as well as abiding by government-managed rationing of food and durable goods such as tires. Americans grew “victory gardens,” lived in shared homes, abided by “black out” restrictions in coastal areas, and hosted events to encourage purchases of war bonds. Millions of Americans flocked to factories to manufacture war materials, including women who replaced men serving in the armed forces, which gave rise to the cultural icon known as “Rosie the Riveter.”
Reflecting back on his service during the war, Luckadoo says he was indeed a lucky man. He was a member of the first crew in the 100th Bombardment Group to complete 25 missions. The group, which was based out of England, was nicknamed The Bloody Hundredth due to its tremendous losses. The odds of bomber crews surviving the war were daunting, and the average pilot only completed an average of 11 missions. The average crewman only had a one-in-three chance of completing 25 missions before the addition of regular fighter escorts helped raise the odds. Half of the U.S. Army Air Force's casualties in World War II were suffered by Eighth Air Force, with more than 47,000 casualties and over 26,000 killed. The 100th Bombardment Group itself lost 785 men who were killed outright or missing in action and 229 aircraft which were destroyed or rendered unsuitable for flight.
“For more than 50 years, I couldn’t talk about the war. I wanted to forget it. No one who goes to war comes back the same,” said Luckadoo. “But I got an invitation to speak at an event, and my late wife encouraged me to talk. Now I have this last mission to make Home Front Heroes Day a holiday, and I also want to construct a memorial to The Bloody Hundredth here in Dallas. I don’t know if I’ll live long enough to see it all happen, but I’m going to do what I can while I can.”
“Lucky is a hero in every sense of the word and taking on this tremendous mission to institute a national holiday is truly remarkable,” said Bryan Cooper, executive director of Presbyterian Village North. “Helping to bring Lucky’s mission of a Home Front Heroes Day to fruition would be the best way to honor him and all those who have served before and after him.”