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Do You Really Know Your Neighbors?

| July 3, 2019 | 0 Comments

Last month I was reminded that we may not really know our neighbors.  And, whose fault is that? 

How many of us actually take the time to say good morning to the people who live next door, or even around the block from us.  I would guess not many.

Fortunately, one of my neighbors who lives in the Presidio Hills area told me about a very significant accomplishment of a neighbor who lives a block away.  Ironically, I have seen him on walks during the day. Yet, I had no idea who he was and where he lived.  Now I do.  And, I feel so fortunate to have been introduced to him. 

His name is Tony Bezer and he is 94-years young.  That alone is an accomplishment.  However, he is also the recent recipient of the French Legion of Honor Medal to World War II Veterans. This is considered France’s highest honor to foreign nationals.  Tony Bezer has earned that honor.

It was my special privilege to spend a late afternoon with Bezer to talk about his time in the military and his experiences as a second lieutenant who flew in B-17 bombing missions over France and Europe during World War II.  The B-17s were targets of anti-aircraft fire and often returned with engines destroyed and anti-artillery holes all over their planes.  On one mission two engines were destroyed.   

Though I found it very shocking and terrifying, Bezer seemed to take it in stride. He also reminded me that the planes he flew in were constructed to be light and quick, which meant, they didn’t provide much protection for those inside the planes. 

Bezer was a bombardier. According to an article in a newspaper (circa 1943-1944) that he provided me, “Over 70 tons of high explosives have been unloaded on German military and industrial targets by Second Lieutenant Tony Bezer, 23, of Aberdeen, Washington.”

The article added that Bezer had taken part in bombing attacks on oil refineries at Merseburg and Ludwigshaven, ordinance depots at Berlin, and railroad marshalling yards at Hamm. Bezer was also quoted, “The bombing attack on oil refineries at Ludwigshaven was an especially rough mission. One of our engines had to be feathered after it was hit by flak. We had over 30 holes in our plane.”

Bezer also explained to me that to protect himself from “flak” that he wore a flak jacket.  He said he would often “sit on the jacket” to protect his legs from being hit by flak. To explain, this is a form of body armor designed to provide protection from case fragments from high explosive weaponry, such as anti-aircraft artillery.

I think my mouth dropped open when I realized what he was telling me.  In other words, he was a sitting target.  That’s because Bezer would be sitting in the lowest section of the airplane to sight and release bombs. 

I asked if he ever felt overwhelmed by what he was doing, the magnitude of his role.  He said he was chosen for this position after taking a psychological test.  He demonstrated the ability to handle this extremely challenging responsibility. 

So what did he do to escape, relax?  He liked to dance. 

Bezer shared stories of people he met who helped him to find solace during war torn times. He spoke of an “R and R” trip to a French country estate.  He said he enjoyed swing dancing to big bands at the opera house.  The music and the dancing helped him to forget where he was and the tasks of his military position. 

Bezer’s calm demeanor and gentle style made me realize that he must have been an amazing young man.  He was so young, in his early 20s, when he assumed this extremely important and challenging military position.  And, he is here to talk about it.

Without doubt, Bezer is fluent with knowledge of World War II. He gave me a first-hand glimpse of what he experienced and what it took to survive that life-altering journey. 

I am extremely grateful for the time we spent talking about his past and for allowing me to read and enjoy the many books, news articles and photos that are memorabilia of his World War II experience. What a life he has lived.

Thank you, Tony Bezer, for sharing your life journey and allowing me to get to know my very special neighbor, the recipient of the French Legion of Honor Medal. 

Tony Bezer (left) receives the French Legion of Honor Medal from The Honorable Christophe Lemoine, Consul General of France.

Category: Local News, Other

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