JOHNSON CITY, Tenn (WJHL) — Last week, a Tri-Cities World War II veteran celebrated a big milestone. Charlie McCoy of Johnson City turned 99 with a big bash hosted by family and friends.
But while McCoy was surrounded by loved ones, in one sense he stands almost alone.
McCoy is one of the few living Americans who took part in the bombing of Japan in an all-out effort to end World War II in the Pacific.
“We had to do what we did to win the war,” McCoy said.
Despite the passage of so many years, Charlie McCoy vividly remembers the transition from Science Hill High School into the Army Air Corps.
“Right after we got out of high school, we knew what we were going to do because this was in the early part of the war,” he said.
After training, he was shipped off to the Pacific Theater where American forces were trying to rebuild after an overwhelming show of force by the Japanese military. Assigned to a B-29 bomber, he and his crew flew 18-hour missions with one main goal – to bring Japan to its knees.
“Cities (in Japan) that made parts for the war effort, we started burning the cities down,” McCoy said.
But not all missions were about destruction. Part of his job was to get supplies to American soldiers in prisoner-of-war camps in Japan.
“We’d drop supplies down 250 feet, and we’d push them out of the back door of the plane,” he said.
Then, McCoy recalls the B-29s started dropping something else.
“We dropped the leaflets warning the women and old people and children to get out of town that night because there won’t be a city to come back to,” he said. Those leaflets were a foreshadowing of what was to come: the U.S. dropping an atomic bomb.
“We got word that one of the planes, one B-29, had dropped a bomb equal to 300 or 400 B-29s, and we thought – there’s no way…. it can’t be,” he said. “This was the atomic bomb.”
Soon, Japan surrendered. The war was over, and McCoy was on his way back home to Johnson City. For service to his country, the United States awarded Charlie McCoy the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for Heroism Award.
While McCoy and his crew members made it home from the war, he’s keenly aware that he’s the only one to make it to age 99.
“I’m the last crew member on our plane that is still alive.”
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