Charles J. Lee, National Junior Commander, Eastern Zone. Actively served AXPOW for many years. In 1998-99 I served as National Junior Vice Commander, and was reelected for 1999-2000.
I served in World War II, the 8th Air Force, 96 BG., 337 Sqd. Our plane, a B17 Flying Fortress named Smokey Stover, Jr., was shot down on our sixth bombing mission, on May 12, 1944. I was interned in Luft IV and I for just over a year.
A total of 26 aircraft took off from a base south of London, and only 12 returned. Our plane was hit and going down. I'd been shot in the head, shoulder, back, and wrist. The pilot rang the bell for everyone to bail out; however, I had been knocked down to the floor of the plane and was unable to get up. A fellow airmen got me up and out of the plane. That airman was Rufus Ward, and he saved my life that day.
But as he got ready to jump himself, he noticed another incapacitated waist gunner and the ball turret gunner. He aided each of them in putting on their chutes, and they all bailed out together at around 1,500 feet above the ground.
I've been a Life Member of American Ex-Prisoners of War since 1976. I served also as a National Director for three years; National Chairman of the Publication Committee; Budget and Finance Committee two years, Ways and Means Committee three years. I also served one year on the following committees: Membership, Investments, Grievance, Suggestions, Andersonville, and Audit Committee. I have received three National Membership Awards. I have also served as Department Commander of Tennessee for two years and Chapter Commander one year.
I have been a member of the American Legion, DAV and VFW for over fifty years. I am active in civil and community affairs, serving my second term on the Monroe County Commission. I am also a fifty-year Masonic member.
I am proud to tell my POW story to civil and youth groups. I will continue to support the goals and objective of the AXPOW organization. I feel that my business experience enables me to work within our organization to take the AXPOW into the next century.