Dakota Datebook

LeRoy Nayes

Thursday, March 2, 2017

 

LeRoy Milton Nayes was born on this date in Fingal North Dakota in 1923.

LeRoy attended rural school and graduated from Fingal High in 1941. He started that fall at the Agricultural College in Fargo, but in December 1942 he entered the Army Air Force and received his Officers commission as a 2nd Lt. in 1944. Shortly thereafter he joined the 15th Air Force in Italy as a Navigator-Bombardier on B-24 heavy bombers.

On December 14th, while on a bombing mission to Linz, Austria, Nayes’ plane was struck by anti-aircraft fire and two of the four engines were knocked out.  The crew had to parachute over enemy territory in northern Yugoslavia, landing in the Sava river.  Several of the crew drowned, but Nayes and 3 others were picked up by Yugoslavian civilians on a raft and stayed with them for 6 days.

They were able to contact the anti-German partisan forces led by Josep Broz Tito and evaded the Germans for the next month. On Christmas morning, LeRoy awoke to what he thought was gunfire and thought they were being attacked by German forces.  Unknown to Nayes, the Yugoslavs celebrated Christmas with fireworks, much like we do on the 4th of July.

Nayes and the rest of his crew, protected by the partisans, finally made their way to an emergency air strip in late January 1945.  They were flown back to Italy on a C-47 where LeRoy spent time recuperating in a hospital.  Nayes made it back to his base and flew 12 more missions before the war in Europe ended.  The last several missions they did not carry bombs, but dropped food and supplies into Prisoner of War camps.

Nayes was discharged from the Air Force in December of 1945. He returned to North Dakota, went back to school in Fargo, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture.  He married, started a family and farmed near McClusky until 1954 when the family returned to a farm near Fingal.

In 1956 LeRoy was recruited to work for the Farmers Home Administration of the USDA, which began a 27 year career administrating loans to farmers in North Dakota.  He was the head of the Farm Loan Division for 10 years until he retired in 1983.

LeRoy Nayes passed away on March 23rd, 2014.

 

Dakota Datebook written by Scott Nelson

Sources: Visit with Nayes in 2009, Nayes 2014 obituary, book, “Bombardier” by Philip St. John

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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