Leo Gray Red Tail P-51 Pilot

Discussion in 'General Flight Jacket Discussion' started by B-Man2, Nov 22, 2017.

  1. B-Man2

    B-Man2 Active Member

    Messages:
    863
    It was about 4 years ago that I first met Leo Gray, a gentle and wonderful WWII veteran and a Red Tail pilot. Leo and I sat beside each other at a militaria show in Pompano Florida. For 2 days Leo and I had the opportunity to talk about life. Sure, I was interested in his time as a Red Tail and his WWII experiences but Leo had completed his pilot training late in the war and had entered the European Theater as the war was in its final phases. He told me about some of the missions he flew and what it was like to be in the drivers seat of a P-51 Mustang as a very young man. He then showed me his photo as a young pilot that someone had posted on the web. He looked like a teenager barely old enough to be in the military, but there he was in one of the hottest fighter planes of the war. He told me he had returned home from the war and like most vets got married, started a family and tried to find his place in a constantly evolving landscape that was the US after WWII. He elected to remain in the military reserves and continued to serve for a number of years, but it wasn't until later in his life that the notoriety of being a Red Tail caught up to him. There was much more to that discussion but Leo was all about life and we enjoyed just sitting around talking . That was during the time that he wasn't signing autographs or sharing a war story with an eager listsener or a militaria collector. Once he finished Leo and I would continue talking about life. Our families , grand kids , and on a funnier occasion we even shared the names of our urologist. ( no need to go down that road any farther). I attended that show a few more times over the years where Leo was the guest of honor along with a woman who flew as a WASP and Carl Muscarello the man who claimed to be the sailor kissing the nurse on VJ Day in Times Square NY. Each time Leo and I saw each other we parked our chairs next to each other and talked. Not about the war or the Red Tails, but about life and what was going on . He was in his early 90s and still sharp as a tack.
    About a year ago I moved from Ft Lauderdale to Jacksonville FL and never had the opportunity to attend the militaria show again. I would often think about Leo and promise myself to try to reach out and contact him. Time and the everyday hum drum of my life caused me to break that promise for which I now deeply regret. While looking thru some articles about the Red Tails this week I came across Leo's obituary. He passed away last September. It was a fine obituary to a wonderful and a gentle man. Leo would have been humble and probably would have said it made to much out of nothing...but that was Leo.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2017
  2. B-Man2

    B-Man2 Active Member

    Messages:
    863
    IMG_6332.JPG IMG_6331.JPG
    Leo Gray
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2017
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  3. falcon_ib

    falcon_ib Member

    Messages:
    56
    Location:
    California
    A great tribute B-Man, thank you for sharing.
    I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing Les Williams years ago, he was a Tuskegee Airman bomber pilot. He trained in B-25's (said he was too tall for a fighter plane cockpit!) but the war ended before the bomber crews saw combat. He used the GI bill to attend Stanford where he was one of two black students in 1947, and he built and ran a dance studio in the SF Bay Area for 25 years. Incredible how much these men had to overcome in their lifetimes, and the obstacles that continued to face them even after the war. May their legacy live on.


    Evan
     
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