Remember the coach who flew 30 missions
The NFL season starts today, and many of us will be watching Tom Brady and the Bucs play the Cowboys on Sunday night. I understand that they played a game on Thursday, but I can't get used to that yet. Maybe I will eventually, but I still think of Sunday as pro football day.
It's also September 11, and talking about heroes is a good thing today. We remember a big hero named Coach Tom Landry, who was born in Mission, Texas on this day in 1924.
On the field, Tom Landry's numbers were second to none. Landry led the Cowboys to five Super Bowls and won two. He coached his last Cowboys game in 1988, but he is still a legend around here. If you travel from Dallas to Ft. Worth, you will be on Tom Landry Highway, or the portion of I-30 that connects both cities. I know of one school named after him in the area and a new stadium in his hometown.
Tom was inspired to join the armed forces in honor of his brother, Robert. Robert Landry had enlisted in the Army Air Corps after the attack on Pearl Harbor. While ferrying a B-17 over to England, Robert Landry's plane had gone down over the North Atlantic, close to Iceland. It was several weeks before the Army would be able to officially declare Robert Landry dead.
Tom Landry began his basic training at Sheppard Field in Witchita Falls, and his pre-flight training would begin at Kelly Field, located near San Antonio, Texas.
Tom's first experience as a bomber was a tough one. A few minutes after take off, Landry realized that the pilot seemed to be working furiously, and it was then that Landry had realized that the plane's engine had died. Despite this experience, Landry was committed to flying.
At the tender age of nineteen, Landry was transferred to Sioux City, Iowa, where he training as a co-pilot for flying a B-17 had begun. In 1944, Landry got his orders, and from Sioux City he went to Liverpool, England, where he was assigned to the Eighth Air Force, 493rd Squadron in Ipswich. Landry earned his wings and a commission as a Second Lieutenant at Lubbock Army Air Field, and was assigned to the 493d Bombardment Group at RAF Debach, England, as a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber co-pilot in the 860th Bombardment Squadron.
From November 1944 to April 1945, he completed a combat tour of 30 missions, and survived a crash landing in Belgium after his bomber ran out of fuel."
Wonder how many people knew that story of service and valor? I did not. It was not until he became gravely ill that I read about his life and realized that this man Landry was a war hero as well as a famous coach. Maybe this is why he handled adversity so well. I guess that you would if you were flying one of those B-17s and fighting to survive every minute.
Landry died from leukemia in 2000.