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Honoring Their Sacrifice: Bill Mizera

Bill Mizera of Johnson City was on the recent Honor Flight to see the Washington D.C. war memorials, but the real reason he went was to honor his brother.
Bill Mizera of Johnson City was on the recent Honor Flight to see the Washington D.C. war memorials, but the real reason he went was to honor his brother.

The war memorials in Washington D.C. were created to help honor people like Korean War veteran Bill Mizera of Johnson City and his two brothers who served in World War II.

Mizera left for Korea seven days after he got married. The 20-year-old Army corporal and gunner was in Korea for about a year and a half, toward the end of the conflict.

Much of the work was done at night, and even when you weren't on duty, there were no guarantees.

"They put me on sniper duty and put me on days, which was terrible. That way you'd be up all day and then you would get into your bunker and get a little bit of rest and there would be a 100 percent alert and you'd be out there again, so you'd be up maybe 36 hours or maybe more," said Mazera.

In one instance, the enemy was going after a U.S. patrol and the outpost was hit hard. One soldier was wounded and couldn't be gotten to right away. The decision was made to go get him early in the morning instead of with the cover of darkness, which took the Chinese by surprise.

"That's where I had to take a machine gun out there and my squad leader from Syracuse, he was the one who got the fellow and put him on his back and carried him all the way back to our outpost."

The soldier survived. Once the peace agreement was reached, Mizera had to patrol the demilitarized zone where tensions were still high.

Mizera's service landed him on the Honor Flight trip to Washington D.C., but the real reason he wanted to go was to honor his brother, who has a remarkable story.

Mizera had two brothers who served in World War II. His younger brother was Louis.

"He flew 24 missions and during those missions he had his hands frozen. He had lightning hit the airplane where he got burned. When he had his hands frozen he was at his machine gun at 30-thousand feet, there as sub-zero freezing weather and his heating went out. He got frostbite on his hands and never stopped firing trying to keep the German Air Force away from the flying fortresses."

Mizera says after Louis's 25th completed mission, he was scheduled to go home. Tragically, he never made it.

Louis's plane that he had flown in had been decommissioned. He switched to another plane called Big Red for his 24th mission.

"They went down over France and he was one of the three people that didn't get to bail out of the airplane. He was 19 years-old at the time and it was his final mission. That really played a toll on my mother."

Mizera was only 12-years-old when Louis was killed on March 27, 1944.

There had been an electrical fire in the plane.

It turns out that Louis suffered a broken back and was found by some villagers in France. They took him to a hospital, but by the time he got there he had passed away.

Louis and the three other men who died that day from the Big Red's crash are still remembered in the French village where it happened.

There was a young man who saw the crash that day. He rode his bike over to see what happened. The experience stayed with the youngster, because eventually he became a doctor and wrote a book about the airmen who defended France.

Villagers also put up a memorial 50 years later to honor the men aboard Big Red. Louis's name is on it.

"He was my hero," remembered Mizera. "He was one of the main things that pushed me to apply for this thing when they accepted Korean veterans for this Honor Flight, because I thought to myself this is where he should be."

Bill Mizera and his wife just celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary.
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