This past Christmas, Bluefield College alumnus and Bluefield, West Virginia, native, Fred L. Troy had no trouble finding a gift for his children and grandchildren.
He gave them the gift of his legacy, a memoir of his experiences in World War II.
“From time to time, I’d get inquiries from the kids about what I did during the war,” Troy said. “So, I sat down with a yellow pad and started writing.”
The result: “Grandpa Troy’s World War II,” a book that chronicles his experiences from training to combat in Europe to his return home.
The 76-year-old Los Alamitos, California, resident self published about 50 copies of the memoir. He sent copies to old friends and acquaintances from the war and surprised his family with copies on Christmas. And, it’s a big family, too, with six children and 15 grandchildren.
Troy signed up for military service in 1942 not long after earning his associate’s degree from Bluefield College, “because,” he said, “they would have drafted me anyway, and I might as well have served in the branch I wanted.”
Troy joined the Army Air Corps, which later became the United States Air Force. He entered and completed flight school at several military bases in the Southern states before eventually earning his commission to Europe as a second lieutenant.
“It was always enjoyable coming home,” said Troy about his last visit to Bluefield after flight school, “but this time was quite somber, realizing that my next assignment would be overseas and combat.”
He was stationed first in Italy as a B-17 pilot, where he would fly 35 missions involving bombing targets in Germany and Austria. His first mission, he recalls, provided a wake-up call for the 21-year-old.
“I looked down at the ground and saw the many flashes,” Troy said, “and realized they were guns shooting at us, trying to kill me. My immediate reaction was one of anger, and I thought that dropping the bombs would not be enough retaliation. I wished I could throw something more out of the window at them.”
In quick order, Troy was promoted, eventually reaching the rank of captain. He also earned the Distinguished Flying Cross Medal, but above all he’s grateful for the mere fact that he survived.
“The incidents are still fresh in my mind,” Troy said about the many close calls. “It was a vivid period of time. Everybody wanted to go. It was such a patriotic time and necessarily so, because it was a very serious war.”
Troy returned home from active duty in 1945 and went back to college, earning his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech in 1947. He went on to work for General Electric in New York before moving to California in 1953, where he went into the semi-conductor industry.
Today, the semi-retired Troy is a real estate broker and an inaugural member of Bluefield College’s Golden Graduates Society. He stays active playing tennis and golf and keeps in touch with his old college classmates and war colleagues attending reunions each year.
After surprising his family with the book on Christmas, his wife, Carolyn, surprised him by printing an additional 40 copies for a staged, private book signing at the Book Connection in Los Alamitos.
“As far as I’m concerned,” Troy said, “the book was a success.”
Original content from John Latchem of the Los Alamitos News-Enterprise