Leroy Calvin “Buddy” Sugg was born June 14, 1920 in Huntsville, Alabama. His parents Harry and Mildred were both born in Alabama. His father worked as a merchant in a general store. Leroy had one older brother. He graduated from Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, Tennessee. By the time of the 1940 census, Leroy’s parents had divorced and he was living with his grandparents in Huntsville and working as a salesman.
Leroy enlisted in the Army Air Forces Aviation Cadet program in January of 1942, about six weeks after Pearl Harbor, and upon graduation in September 1942 received his pilot’s wings and a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was assigned to the 423rd Bomb Squadron of the 306th Bombardment Group (Heavy), Eighth Air Force, which was based at Thurleigh, England and flew B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers. Lt. Sugg completed 25 combat missions over France and Germany as a B-17 co-pilot and pilot between March and July 1943, earning a promotion to 1st Lieutenant in May.
One of his missions was particularly harrowing, and earned him a mention in the New York Herald-Tribune and by Andy Rooney in the Stars and Stripes. On 17 April 1943 Lt. Sugg was co-piloting B-17 42-5714 “Old Faithful” on a mission to bomb the Focke-Wulf fighter plant at Bremen, Germany, a mission for which he was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. His DFC citation reads in part:
“For extraordinary achievement, while serving as a co-pilot of a B-17 airplane on a bombing mission over Germany, April 17, 1943. During the bombing run, enemy fighter planes attacked in unusually large number, completely disabling two engines and partially disabling a third engine by cutting the power controls causing this engine to set itself at an insufficient speed. Displaying great courage and skill, Lieutenant Sugg located the severed ends of the throttle controls and operated them by hand until his hands became so raw he could no longer maintain a grip on the cables. He then rigged up a temporary rope cable from the engine to the cockpit so that the pilot could adjust the speed of the engine. Throughout the entire return flight Lieutenant Sugg rendered invaluable assistance to the pilot and aided materially in the safe return of the airplane and crew. The courage, skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Lieutenant Sugg on this occasion reflect the highest credit upon himself and the armed forces of the United States.”
Lt. Sugg was also awarded the Air Medal and four Oak Leaf Clusters. Upon completion of his 25 mission tour of duty, Lt. Sugg returned to the States in August 1943. He served as an instructor at an Army air base in Salina, Kansas for several months, and then was able to spend two weeks leave at home with his family before reporting to the Clovis Army Air Field in New Mexico. There he served as an instructor pilot on the new B-29 Superfortress aircraft, which had only been in operational use for a few months and were prone to engine fires.
On 2 June 1944 Lt. Sugg was piloting B-29 42-6375 on a night combat training mission when engine #4 suddenly caught fire while about 20 miles from the base. Once he determined that the fire could not be extinguished, he ordered the crew to bail out, and remained at the controls until all of the crew had safely left the plane. By the time that he was able to bail out, the aircraft had lost enough altitude that his parachute did not open in time and he fell to his death, just ten days short of his 24th birthday.
Leroy Calvin Sugg is buried in Maple Hill Cemetery in his hometown of Huntsville, Alabama.
Thank you Lt. Sugg for your service and your sacrifice, you will not be forgotten.
This story is part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (see www.storiesbehindthestars.org). This is a national effort of volunteers to write the stories of all 400,000+ of the US WWII fallen here on Fold3. Can you help write these stories? Related to this, there will be a smart phone app that will allow people to visit any war memorial or cemetery, scan the fallen's name and read his/her story.