GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Even at age 93, World War II veteran Boyd Nedry can clearly recall the few years that would shape his life forever.
Nedry says he was there two years, four months and eight days. His uniform is still hanging down the hall and his medals are not far away in the same room, more than 70 years later.
It started in 1943 when Nedry was called to serve his country in the middle of his senior year of high school in Lake City.
That call landed him in the jungles of the Philippines as an engineer gunner for the 5th Bomb Group in the 31st Squadron in the South Pacific. His job: monitoring instruments and gasoline consumption on a B-24 Liberator as it left and returned from missions 12 hours away.
Nedry says at the time he didn’t realize just how crucial his role was. His crew was assigned to wipe out enemy landing strips and oil refineries. Since B-24s can fly over 1,000 miles, the missions were dangerous and many didn’t make it back, crashing into the sea instead.
Nedry also was in charge of taking photographs of their missions. His black and white collection of pictures captured nearly 50 missions accomplished and friendships forged in sweltering heat, torrential rains and knee-high mud, confined to a tent in the jungle.
The thought of heading home was always top of mind for Nedry. When he was hit with shrapnel after being shot by enemy gunfire, he kept it secret to ensure his flight home wasn’t delayed. To this day, that shrapnel remains lodged in his side.
When Nedry finally returned to Lake City, he didn’t know it would be two more years to recover from combat fatigue.
“You’re just plain tired out. You give it your all,” he said.
Nedry left Lake City to adjust to civilian life, making his home in Grand Rapids where he married and raised six kids.
His advice to young people today: enlist in the military and see the world, then you’d know this is the greatest country in existence.